I began my no-shampoo journey on a Wednesday. If we hung out now, two weeks on, you wouldn’t know it to look at my hair. Those I have told have only ever reacted with surprise, which has been an encouragement. Colleagues still hot desk next to me. One asked to touch my shampoo-free locks (“it just feels like hair!” Yup.). My husband hasn’t recoiled at any point. Thus far, it seems to be going ok.
I feel the change myself. As the days since the last wash increase there is a slight irritation at my roots; a desire to untie my plait and scrub at my scalp. But it’s definitely liveable with. So, despite my hairdresser’s doubt (more on that in the next post), I’m going to be carrying on.
So why am I giving up shampoo? I don’t recall when I first heard about the world of ‘no poo-ers’ (a label I’m not quite ready to adopt yet) but I began to think about it seriously when I started watching Lucy AitkenRead (aka Lulastic)’s YouTube channel. I knew she hadn’t used shampoo in over five years but never really considered following her down that road. But as I watched the videos and heard more, I kept thinking, “her hair looks great. Maybe I should do this.”
So I started to read more about how shampoo strips our hair of sebum (the oil your scalp produces), which means that our hair overproduces it. The aim of going no-shampoo is to get to the point where our hair produces the right amount of sebum to keep our hair healthy (with a bit of help from infrequently used natural shampoo alternatives) but without looking like we dipped our scalps in grease.
And this knowledge – that my hair could be mostly looking after itself – left me feeling incredibly discontent. We were already using a pretty environmentally friendly shampoo so while environmental concerns about chemicals are a reason to go no-shampoo, it wasn’t my primary one. It was a fundamental principle that I was using resources that I didn’t need to. My hair could, for the most part, look after itself. There was a simpler way to live. The fact that it’s both thrifty and more convenient (not being tied to an every-other-day routine) are added bonuses.
So, armed with Lucy’s book (because I wanted all the information in one place – I definitely recommend it) and a decent hairbrush (because it’s essential for distributing the sebum down your hair shaft), I started.
And it’s been fine. I’ve enjoyed the element of experimentation in trying different alternatives on my hair. The ingrained perception that soap suds equally cleanliness has been challenged by this approach. And I’ve discovered that brushing your hair every night is incredibly therapeutic. You see, I have dragon hair; it does not want to be tamed. So in the past I let it run pretty free, just combing conditioner through it in the shower. This is the first time in my adult life that I’ve regularly brushed my hair. And I’ve come to find it incredibly relaxing to spend ten minutes systematically working through each section of my hair, tending to it, taking my mind out of the busyness of the day and just concentrating on the task at hand.
I’m writing this two weeks in, still definitely in the ‘transition phase’, and still proudly participating in the world – even if my hair doesn’t smell lavender fresh anymore (it could if I wanted it to, with the help of lavender essential oils. I just haven’t felt the need to). I’ll keep you posted.
For those who are interested, here is what the first two weeks looked like. Lucy outlines a suggested six-week plan in her book, which I’ve found really useful (though, as Lucy says clearly, it’s not a guaranteed guide as every head of hair is different).
The first two weeks of no-shampoo:
- Instant deviation from Lucy’s plan (*shakes head at self*). I should have washed my hair with bicarbonate of soda and conditioned it with apple cider vinegar, but I’d brushed my hair the night before, so it felt and looked ok. So I didn’t wash it. It felt like the right thing to do, but did my disobedience left me a little disquieted.
- The bicarb and vinegar wash I should have done the day before. The biggest surprise was that it brought back the curls of my early 20s (and before I stopped using a curling mousse with dubious ethical credentials). I loved it. Then I brushed my hair that night, and everything got a bit more 80s.
- Brush. But I should be clear, you don’t just run the brush through your hair a couple of times and off you go. Lucy has a whole video about it; essentially you need to brush your hair in sections, making sure that the sebum is distributed down the hair shaft.
- I should have just brushed it. But I washed it with bicarb and vinegar because I was going to a party and wanted those curls back. So another deviation from the plan (whilst fastidious at work, I seem to descend into random acts of disobedience in gardening, cooking, and now shampoo-quitting).
- Brush. Lucy’s plan suggests alternating water washes and brushing, but as per her advice elsewhere, I forewent the water washes because our city has hard water which plays havoc with your hair.
- Brush. It felt a bit claggy (not a word. Should be.) but it looked ok.
- Egg wash. The protein in egg is really good for your hair, and it’s a two-in-one shampoo and conditioner which makes it a speedy alternative. I was a bit paranoid about this one. Did I smell of egg? Was I imagining it? Did the bathroom smell of egg? I forced a smell check on my husband, who confirmed that it was fine *relief*.
- Brush and first headscarf day. Ah the headscarf – best friend of every person going through ‘the transition’. And irony of ironies, I got the most compliments for my hair that I have ever received at work. Those that I let into the secret that it was covering up were incredulous: “9 days! I had no idea”. I have to admit, I felt pretty smug.
- A panic wash with bicarb and vinegar because I had a trip the hairdressers booked in (I’ve saved the full story of this fateful trip for the next post).
- Bicarb and vinegar.
Today’s soundtrack: Will Reagen & United Pursuit // Tell All My Friends