Thursday, February 2, 2012

no poo: green tween dreamin'

I don’t know what Olivia enjoys more, synchronized swimming or the post-practice locker room takeover that occurs when she and her friends head off to the showers.  I never knew that hair washing and brushing could be so entertaining!

The drawback to these festivities, however: Olivia has discovered that our shampoo is “not cool.” 


She wants to know why we can’t have something purple or green that is thick, glittery and coconut smelling.  Something magical, that invigorates, lengthens, strengthens and soothes, all while oozing with foamy suds. 

I buy Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle.  Colorless, nearly odorless, moderately sudsy and ridiculously named.   Yet, it’s free of the dreaded sodium laureth and sodium lauryl sulfates (SLES and SLS) that we should all strive to avoid.  These detergents appear in most cleansing products:  from car engine de-greasers to shampoo.  They hurt your skin, eyes and liver.  They kill fish. 

Why let my kids put that stuff on their precious little moppy heads?  Why let it slither down the drains of our small house to infect the big picture beyond? 

When they were younger, I made these decisions with the confidence of a dictator who had absolute authority over his or her subjects.  Sure, I encouraged the kids to exercise their autonomy.  I let them choose their snacks, for example. The dirty little trick, of course, was that I filled the cupboard and refrigerator with the healthy options from which they chose.  They didn't know any different. 

As a parent, you have a lot of control in those early years.

Then your 11 year old comes home one day and says, “Mom, why is all of our stuff so weird?”  You note the hint of despair in her voice.

What to do?  I don’t want to make her stand out.  When I was her age, my classmates bullied me for my failure to wear pantyhose and Levis (not together).  I remember my mother saying, “I’m not letting a group of 11 year old girls tell me how to raise my kids!” 


Which side of this impossible coin am I on?

First, I should be clear that nobody is bullying Olivia about her shampoo.  She just wants to show up at the party with a colorful cool smelling bottle of fun to share, just like everybody else.  I think a lot of grownups can relate.  Who wants to bring a thin and light colored PBR to the party when everyone else is drinking pints of thick and foamy Guinness? 

So, I do what I always do.  I talk her to death about it.  You know, the eyes, the liver, the fish.  She gets it—of course, but it doesn’t solve her problem. 

She bends anyway:  “It’s fine, mom,” she says with resignation.  “I’ll just use the ‘Tea Tree TINGLE.’”  We laugh at how completely dorky that sounds. 

She doesn’t know it, but I consider bending too.  She’s so agreeable that I feel bad for her.  Could I find something more fun to buy? 

I go online to check it out. 

Poor child.

About 5 seconds of research shows me that while I’ve spent years tingling it up at shower time in my Trader Joe’s-induced Tea-Tree-oblivion, a “No-Poo” movement has erupted all around me! 

Apparently, to avoid other chemicals such as the parabens (preservatives) that appear in most cosmetics (including my shampoo) lots of folks just rinse with warm water.  Others use baking soda and vinegar a few times a week (are we trying to make a volcano or wash hair? No wonder the movement is "erupting.").     

Can I send Olivia off to the pool with an orange box of Arm and Hammer and a bottle of vinegar in her shower bag?  Maybe a packet of ranch dressing mix to spice things up?

No.   Unequivocally, no.

Or maybe?  Am I really going to let those 11 year old girls tell me how to raise my daughter?  Ahem.

No.  But also No.  Somehow, I have to hold the line.  After learning about No-Poo, my commitment to remain SLES and SLS free feels more like a moderate compromise than an austere mandate.    

So we talk…AGAIN. 

I give a shampoo-version of my “be a leader” speech:  “What if, instead of acting envious of your friends’ shampoo, you nicely explain that you like your own shampoo because it’s good for the environment?”  I caution against shampoo-bashing which would surely incite a locker room brawl. 

“Maybe the other girls will ask you about it.  You could tell them about how some shampoos hurt your eyes.  How some kill the fish.”

“I could say I use it for the beavers!” she exclaims. 

Why didn’t I think of that?  Olivia is obsessed with beavers.  

“Yes! Then maybe, instead of you begging me for beaver-killing shampoo that smells good, they would go home and ask for your kind of shampoo!  Ooh! Not only would you be “normal,” you would have “led” your friends to create a cleaner environment!” 

I’m really excited now, but Olivia has returned to reality.  “OK mom," she says with eyes rolling.  "I guess everybody has a right to be dreaming.” 

If she only knew about the baking soda.     


  1. Omg this made me laugh very hard. Especially appreciate the PBR reference, although PBR doesn't kill fish :) when I first read No-poo I didn't get the uh, sham-poo play on words and kept waiting for you to make a horrifying connection between tj's tea tingle &constipation ... Ok then I got it. Enough said. Finally, should I even mention here the bubble berry blue goo that was just added to our kids' bathroom lineup? Think this house may need a tea tingle transformation. Seriously, made me think.

    1. bubble berry blue goo. oh god, i know exactly what you mean!

  2. LOL!!

    I actually do the baking soda and vinegar thing...and was thinking about doing a blog post on it.

    But my kids, I just rinse with water, and about once a month wash with 'poo. Baking soda hurts if you get it in the eyes, and they already don't like shampoo for that reason...

    Oh, lol...I can just see this in 10 years, my daughter is going to want glittery purple shampoo that smells like bubble gum or something.

    1. Hi Thalassa, encouraging, because your hair looks very clean and healthy in the pic! I actually checked your sight before I published this to see if you had any good advice. i was going to link to you. if you do post about the baking soda, here is what your 'poo using readers are going to want to know: do i have to go into quaranteen during the "transition" period? because my hair will be SO greasy when I first stop (i think). how will i appear in public without looking horribly unkept? should i buy a hat! :) does your hair smell like vinegar (do we have to do the vinegar part?). would love to see a post on it! and yes, i'm sorry, but your daughter will definately someday want the's hard. deb.

  3. Well, I've actually gone no 'poo more than once (not sure if the pic is no 'poo or not, but my hair pretty much looks the same, lol) my experience is not super radical and life changing. BUT I can say that this last time I switched I found a much better (at least for my hair) way to do it. And no, there was no quarantine! I'll be getting around to a post sometime later this week or next...if my cold and my kids cooperate!

  4. Oh my. I am trying to live more thoughtfully and with purpose. I realize that what we spend our money on greatly influences how our government is run. Also, I do believe all the new chemicals used today are having dire consequences. So thinking I am all progressive and such, we joined a CSA and a co-op. I am trying so hard to only buy all natural products for our skin and lips. I am trying to make the switch to only Tom's toothpaste. I am contemplating trying to buy only fair trade chocolate. The coffee switch on that front was easily as pie. So now, I read this post and I feel like some craze dumb consumer! I have so much more to learn! And I don't know if I can give up sudsy, fun shampoo. For sure my teenage son won't let me deprive him of zit soap stuff. Sigggggggggghhhh. Always more to do. Thanks for making me think about another way to help clean the earth and ourselves.

    1. I think it sounds like you're being a really smart consumer - I buy fair trade coffee, but I hadn't even heard of fair trade chocolate - i'll have to look for that! it's all a process, we can only do what we can do. I try to make changes, get used to them, then make some more. Otherwise, it's totally overwhelming!

  5. So funny, Deb! I didn't know about the no-poo movement. I buy as much as I can from the natural sections of stores ( has a pretty good selection), and my favorite shampoo & conditioner is BWC's lavender highlander. And right now my daughter is using Jason's Kids Only shampoo & condr, which smells pretty nice. I think these are free of most of the nasties you mentioned, but there's still a long list of ingredients. Still... I can't imagine putting baking soda & vinegar in my hair! In my laundry, sure, on my sinks, definitely. But my hair? I just don't see it happening... LOL.

    1. i'm still telling myself i'm going to try. i don't have good hair anyway - could it get worse? we'll see! if you get a wild hair (pun intended) about it, check out thalassa's blog, Musings of a Kitchen Witch (link in comments here). she posted about how she does it and how it works, etc. In the meantime, i'm going to check out thanks!