Wednesday, March 21, 2012

no poo part two

Who knew.  Who knew we didn’t need shampoo? 

I discovered the “no poo” movement about a month ago, when I posted Olivia’s complaint that our environmentally friendly shampoo wasn’t cool enough for her green-sparkly-coconut-‘poo toting friends at the pool.  Searching the internet for a cooler ‘poo, I stumbled upon “no ‘poo.”

Many years ago, I had a chronic chapped lip problem.  No matter how careful I was to keep my poor dried and cracked lips protected, they didn’t improve.  I blamed the sun, the wind, the cold, my thyroid, my diet, whatever.  Then one day a friend blamed my Chapstick.  “Don’t put that crap on your lips!” she said diplomatically.  Really?  "Use Trader Joe’s or Burt’s Bees," she added.  I obdiently switched, and wouldn't you know, problem solved in a matter of weeks.  How infuriating!

The first rule of marketing is supposed to be:  make people think they need your product.  It’s not supposed to be: sell a product that will make people need your product.  That’s what happened with my lip balm. It provided temporary relief, but the more I used it, the more I needed that relief. Many hand lotions do this too, drying out your skin with alcohol, causing you to need more lotion in the long term.

I already had concerns about the harsh ingredients and plastic containers associated with shampoo, but I considered it a necessary evil.  Now I’m finding out it’s like lip balm with bubbles?  Since shampoo strips your hair of its natural oils, your head responds to shampoo by stepping up the oil production, making your hair greasier, causing you to shampoo more frequently. 

Take it out.  Put it back.  Take it out.  Put it back.  Everyday.   

Meanwhile, your scalp's on overdrive and you're buying shampoo like it's bread or eggs.  What a dirty little game!  Annoyed, I decided to break the cycle and see what happened. 

There’s no sense in the blind leading the blind, so I’ll tell you straight up, if you want some decent directions about how to proceed with no ‘poo, check out  Musings of a Kitchen Witch, or Simple Mom.  If you want still more directions and some interesting history about ‘poo in the Victorian era, check out Great Grandmother’s Kitchen.  If you want to hear some bumbling tales of trial and error, don't go anywhere at all.

To restore balance, and to give my poor confused scalp a rest, I resolved to start by washing with warm water only.  I admit, I didn’t see the point of using the baking soda.  I imagined it to be a sort of token cleaner, like chicken soup for a cold (useful, but no silver bullet). 

The first day was sort of ok.  The second day was sort of not ok.  The third day, my hair felt thick and weird.  By the fourth day…you know that expression “mop of hair?”  Yeah.  Somebody was looking into the crystal ball of my future when they came up with that one.  Only make it a heavy, dirty, straggly mop.  Probably smelly too.  Thank god it was the weekend.  I looked like I’d just walked out of a swamp.

Then I thought sort of moronically, “maybe I should try the baking soda after all…” 

So I mixed a tablespoon of baking soda with a cup of warm water and dumped it hopefully over my head. 

Magic.  I could tell instantly that my hair was clean.  Not token clean, or kinda clean.  Really clean.  In fact, so clean I only used it every other day.  Problem solved!  But then my hair, which is thin and fine, quickly became dry.  Not only that, it filled with static.  Lots of it. Like you'd stuck my head on the end of your pencil and spun it around kind of static.   Seriously.

Enter:  vinegar.  Vinegar smells, but only when your hair's wet.  Also, you can steep herbs in it for a nicer aroma (can you plunge a coconut in there? Olivia would be thrilled!).  I perused my spices with interest: What to smell like today?  Rosemary? Maybe some lemon basil would be nice.  Then I wondered, what did I have for dinner last night? Do I smell like curry?  Can you use lemon basil after eating curry? 

I took a culinary risk and went with the basil.  However, I didn’t have a fine enough strainer, so the pieces slipped right through.  When I held my “strained” vinegar up to the light, bits of green swirled all around.  Hm.

I figured, between the swamp head, the grease, the baking soda, the static, what were a bunch of basil leaves?  So I stood in the shower, feeling a little bit like an Easter egg, and dumped the lot of it over my head.  I guess I'm giving new meaning to the term "flower child."

But it worked! My hair came out smooth and silky—even if I was picking basil out of it all day.

That was several weeks ago, and despite my less than graceful beginning, I’m finally in a routine. My hair feels thicker, needs less styling and less “product” (as the beauty aficionados say).  I wash it every other day (never could get away with that before), and it’s clean. The patches of dry skin I used to have above my ears (sorry, yuck) have cleared up.  It’s been a month and a half and I’d say I’m off shampoo for good. 

But here’s the really exciting thing.  I didn’t even try to persuade Olivia, and the unintended reverse psychology of that worked wonders.  Under no pressure, she got curious, called me “so weird,” then promptly converted herself.  As for her friends at the pool, it turns out no ‘poo is cooler than nerdy ‘poo any day.  Again, who knew?

I’ve yet to convert the men in the house.  They don’t know it yet, but that’ll happen as soon as that obscene bottle of Head and Shoulders they have towering in the shower runs out.  They hardly have any hair so the transition should be uneventful.  I hope so anyway, because “no poo part three” doesn’t have much of a ring to it at all. 


  1. You might never be able to convert the men in the house--my hubby will actually make his own trip to the store and buy the combination body wash/shampoo stuff...

    But I'm glad its working for you, and that your daughter is cool with it!

  2. I will let you know what happens. they kind of know it's coming. but clearly i'm clueless about what anywone is willing to tolerate. i never thought olivia would go along with it! maybe it's gareth who really needs the sparkly stuff!

  3. Deb, I've been meaning to try no shampoo for a while now, and reading your blog has inspired me to give it a try! Also, I've been thinking about toothpaste. Have you every tried making your own toothpaste? Apologies in advance to Olivia and Gareth . . .

    1. scb, you always make me laugh. i have been thinking about toothpaste too. in fact, when i stood in the shower on the first day with a squirt bottle filled with bs water, I wondered, "what else would this clean?" but i do like my dr. bronner's soap. but the toothpaste: i knew someone in college who brushed his teeth with baking soda. he just poured it over his toothbrush. he was a scientist and said toothpaste is poison. let me know if you make your own. it couldn't be worse that the stuff i already make those poor kids use!

  4. Hey Deb!

    I actually use plain baking soda, too! Tastes nasty until you get used to it, but my teeth are whiter then they've ev been....just be sure and brush gently if you try, as it's more abrasive.

    1. alright - that motivates me. the baking soda is already in the bathroom - i'm going to try it tomorrow. soon you'll find me in there scrubbing the grout with it too! (just as long as I use separate toothbrushes!).

  5. I am beginning to experiment with no-poo. I will be back with what happens. Also, we now use cloth napkins at dinner, which is when we used to use the most paper. What will you take from me next?

  6. We made up a batch of tooth powder--just Bob's aluminum-free baking soda with several drops of peppermint oil. Tried it on the girls this morning, and they both claim to like it. I was expecting more of a fight, as they had been using "silly strawberry" flavored stuff from Tom's of Main, but no! Whew! Also, No-poo = no problems so far. Viva la Baking Soda.

    1. glad to hear it! gareth hates our Tom's toothpast so much, he just might be willing...

      i wonder where you get peppermint oil? i'll look around.

    2. Just caught this...if you have't found any already, you can get food grade peppermint oil at a good grocery store--in the same place where they have vanilla and other flavorings.

  7. Barb Chartier RaudonisOctober 29, 2013 at 11:05 PM

    Hahaha! Just noticed the date of "thalassa's" posting (7/6/12!) regarding food grade peppermint oil. My suggestion would be to get an oil referred to as "Therapeutic Grade Essential Oil" from a reputable health food store. Simply put, the difference is night and day. "Food Grade" is specifically for that.....eating in food. The purpose of a Therapeutic Grade Essential Oil is to actually holistically "treat", or have medicinal benefits to it. This quality of oil is not to be confused with other essential oils that simply smell good and are usually very inexpensive. Remember...that kind has NO medicinal/health/healing qualities to it whatsoever. When dealing with oral health care, you have natural and "unnatural" (?) mouth bacterias that you want to clean and keep under control. You want to prevent cavities and periodontal diseases from happening. Food Grade OILS will NOT do that for you. Essential Oils will NOT do that for you either. You HAVE to buy Therapeutic Essential Oils. Do your research in finding companies that produce quality oils. So far I've dealt with "Young Living" and "Aura Cacia", however I know there are many more. One easy way to distinguish a reputable company is that the prices of their oils should be in a wide range. (ex: Rose, Basil, and Orange shouldn't all be the same price.) Sorry about the rambling......if you haven't already found this information out, I hope you've gotten something out of what I said. I just LOVE essential oils and the healing benefits they have, but people also need to know what to look for. Not all oils are created equal. P.S......I also LOVE your site/blog! Your writing style is hilarious and so free flowing!!! Keep it up and thanks for the extra laughs along with tips on going no-poo!