If you haven’t already heard: me and shampoo broke up. It was a hard decision, but it was for the best. Definite irreconcilable differences. I’ve been jabbering away about this “no-pooing” thing for a while now, and I hope you’ll indulge me for just one more day. This post is a follow-up to Monday’s post.
I’ve compiled a list of questions that I’ve been asked over the last 4-5 months since I became a shampoo quitter. If you have a question that you don’t see answered here, feel free to post it in the comments, and myself or a fellow no-pooer can jump in to try and help (or at least point you in the right direction).
Here are the posts I’ve done on the topic thus far:
I’m Quitting Shampoo for a Month (and you can too!)
DIY All-Natural Dry Shampoo (2 Ingredients!)
I Haven’t Shampooed my Hair in 4 Months (no-poo update)
How to Get Started in the No-Poo Hair Care Method
And now, on to the questions at hand:
Q 1. How does your hair get clean without shampoo?!?
A. Most no-pooers start with baking soda and vinegar (ACV or distilled white vinegar). I use BS+DWV, and am enjoying it. I started out with ACV, but was told that the DWV is often better for those who tend to struggle with greasy hair.
Q 2. Does no-pooing get your hair as clean as conventional shampoo?
A. Yep, it totally does! Not a hint of dirt or grease anywhere… it’s squeaky clean!
Q 3. What’s the big deal about conventional shampoo, anyway?
A. Our scalp produces natural oils to make our hair shiny and strong. Inevitably it gets dirty (sweat, dirt, greasy hands going through it, etc.) and needs to be cleaned. The common modern solution to this is a shampoo manufactured with a cocktail of toxic chemicals that strip every last bit of oil and dirt away.
Obviously, more products are then needed to add moisture, shine, shaping, body, fragrance, curl, etc. Most people need to wash their hair every single day because their scalp is over-producing oil in response to having it all stripped away every morning.
Do you suppose the shampoo companies are happy about that? You bet your a$$ they are. The more shampoo you buy, the more $$$ in their pockets. Furthermore, once you’ve used shampoo for long enough (I used it for the first 30 years of my life!), your hair inevitably starts to need special treatment and expensive products to tame, moisturize, encourage hair growth, etc. My hair has historically been a lovely combo of frizzy and untameable to grease-ball city within hours. There was no middle ground. Fun, eh? (Shocker: my hair experiences zero frizz now, and has started to show a natural curl/bounce at the ends that had never really been there before!)
There are two things to note here: 1) the claims on your shampoo bottle are 99% bogus, and 2) the cause of most of these problems is usually the harsh chemicals in the shampoo itself!
Photo credit: D. Sharon Pruitt via Flickr CC
Q 4. What did people used to do before shampoo was invented? Weren’t they dirty and stinky all the time?
A. Well, our standards of personal hygiene have inevitably changed. The rise of the beauty products mega-industry in the 20th century has caused a bit of an obsession with being squeaky clean at every moment of every day. Our ancestors may not have been quite as obsessed as our society certainly is, but they weren’t walking around smelly all the time, either.
This post that I found gives some insightful quotes from 17th and 18th century publications on standards and practices of personal hygiene. The key is that their hair wasn’t getting greasy fast like ours because their scalps weren’t trained to over-compensate in oil production!
Q 5. Does your head smell gross?
A. Nope. You can come over and smell my head if you want. (Unless you’re a creepy stalker. You’re gonna have to just take my word for it.)
Q 6. Can people tell that you don’t use shampoo?
A. Absolutely not. Every person that I’ve told has been shocked as they looked at my hair and wondered out loud why it still looks normal and clean. It’s pretty amusing.
Q 7. How long is the dreaded transition period? Is there a trick to make it go faster?
A. For me, it only took a couple of weeks. It really depends on a lot of factors, so it’s hard to give a definitive answer… but for most folks it’s between a week and a couple of months. Beyond that you may want to do some playing and tweaking to your routine, but in general your hair is clean and lovely for at least a couple of days after washing. I told you my trick for a shorter transition period in this post.
Q 8. How often do you wash?
A. Again this totally depends. I go four days between washes, and can leave the house with confidence each and every day. I have to definitely wear my hair up (usually a sock bun) with my DIY dry shampoo in my roots by the last day, but it’s totally doable, and I’m confident that no one notices or thinks anything of it. Many people can go a week or more between washes.
Q 9. I’ve heard that no-pooing damages your hair over time. Is that true?
A. I have heard people say that using baking soda damaged their hair (a popular health blogger wrote about how this method damaged her hair). I’ve been at this for 4 months, and have not experienced that in the slightest. I do honestly think that my hair is healthier than it’s ever been right now.
If, down the road, I see some damage, I’ll reevaluate my method. I think this is one of those case-by-case things. My hunch is that those who tend toward greasy hair (like me) the baking soda is great, but those who don’t may be more at risk of the damage. Baking soda does a great job of busting the grease, and for some it may be overkill. This is corroborated by this doc in the No-Poo Facebook group.
Q 10. Are there no-poo alternatives to baking soda and vinegar?
A. Yes! There are tons! If you don’t want to use the baking soda + vinegar method, there are tons of other things to try. In the facebook group, I’ve seen people talk about experimenting with all sorts of things: castile soap, kombucha, coffee, egg, honey, tea, clay (rhassoul and bentonite), lemon juice, and more.
Photo credit: D. Sharon Pruitt via Flickr CC
Q 11. What about using… nothing but water?
A. Yep, this is a legit method that many people use! Lots of folks transition to this after using other no-poo methods for a while. Remember that shampoo wasn’t invented until very recent history, and people managed to stay clean. A basic soap and water was sufficient for centuries, and it still does the trick today.
Q 12. Is there a middle-ground between conventional shampoos and no-pooing?
A. I’m glad you asked! There totally is some middle ground. If you totally don’t want to try out the no-poo method, you could always try “low-poo”, which is a term used by no-pooers to describe some shampoo/soap options that do not contain the toxic chemicals that conventional shampoos have.
There are lots of options, but the easiest way to find out if something is “low-poo” is to check the ingredients. Some of the biggest red-flag ingredients that I avoid are:
– Sodium Laurel (or Laureth) Sulfate
There is also a doc in the facebook group with tons of info on low-poo alternatives.
Q 13. I feel like my hair is getting greasy every month around the same time… could it be…?
A. Yes, your hormones affect every part of your body, and many women report that they find their hair to be greasier in the days leading up to menstruation.
It makes sense, right? Everyone knows that women struggle with acne breakouts around that same time. Well, our hair is affected as well. Just use some extra DIY dry shampoo and things will calm down soon. Don’t freak out and think that no-pooing is suddenly not working for you, as I did. Ahem.
Q 14. What if I have especially hard water or soft water?
A. Different water types can make finding your no-poo groove challenging, but it can be done! I haven’t yet dealt with these situations personally, but many in the No-Poo Facebook group have, and they have the resources you need to figure out a solution that works for you.
Q 15. How long do I have to try this for to see if it works?
A. Please don’t be that person that washes once or twice with BS+ACV and then declares that no-pooing “doesn’t work for them”. It takes patience and a bit of sacrifice at first.
Like I said in How to Get Started with the No-Poo Hair Care Method, the transition period was drastically shortened once I bit the bullet and endured a longer time of greasy hair. Once you hit that hard reset button on your scalp’s oil producing cues, it really gets you through it quickly instead of dragging it out for months.
I would say to try it for 8 weeks, and if you see no improvement in the transition period, try something else. Start troubleshooting at 4 weeks if you see zero improvement (assuming you are going 4+ days between washes!)
Q 16. What’s your long-term plan?
A. I’d really love to get to the point where I am using water-only. My own daughter (she’s almost 4) has only ever washed her hair with water, for the most part. Technically, we use bathtub water which has about a tablespoon of castile soap (for the whole tub), but it’s so diluted that it still counts as water-only, in my un-official opinion. I really think that water-only is the most practical, simple, and least high-maintenance solution, and I’d love to finally get there.
Q. 17. What happens if you use shampoo during your no-poo journey?
A. I actually did this – when my life was topsy-turvy in March and April this past spring, I used shampoo one day when I was literally too stressed out one morning to rush downstairs and refill my vinegar and baking soda. Instead, I used my old shampoo, which was a low-poo, organic, natural one. I went back to BS+DWV no-pooing 4 days later, and it made no discernible difference.
Now, if you are going to use your regular ol’ toxic ingredient shampoo, especially in the middle of your transition period (a critical time!), then I would suspect it may be more of a setback.
Q. 18. Can I still use styling products?
A. You can if you really want to, but they usually contain not-awesome ingredients… and they contribute to a ton of build-up that you’ll have to get out every time. It would make things pretty high-maintenance. There are lots of recipes out there for DIY hair products made from natural ingredients – I would start there.
Resources for further help:
No-Poo & Low-Poo Hair Care Group on Facebook (with almost 10K members! Super helpful!)
The Ultimate No-Poo Troubleshooting Guide by Almost Exactly
No-Poo Update: Some Additional Tips for Going Shampoo-Free by Becoming Peculiar