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.