Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Coming Clean

My "Dirty Little Secret"
I have been trying to figure out when it's appropriate to share my "dirty little secret," and I have decided to just "come clean" and make it public knowledge to all three or so of the my regular readers (and anyone else who happens to read this). I haven't shampooed my hair in 7 weeks. There I said it. Okay, there have been two trips to the salon where my hair was shampooed by my stylist (despite my telling her both times that I had just washed it), but I personally have not used shampoo in 7 weeks. Before you get grossed out, let me explain that I am still washing my hair, just not in a "conventional" way. Aside from my husband's initial comment, "Your arms are getting tighter around that tree all the time," nobody has said anything. Maybe they haven't noticed a difference, even though I have. I suppose that is good since I have been trying to appear to be a "normal" person, however, I am really hoping to start getting some compliments soon because I want to share my "no 'poo" success.

A Seed is Planted
Sometime over the summer, my friend Jenifer announced on Facebook that she had stopped using shampoo. I had never heard of such a thing, so admittedly, I thought it sounded a bit odd. However, she is a very green person and I respect and admire that about her, so the idea stuck with me. Then, when I read that Green Grandma (one of my favorite new blogs) was also no 'pooing with positive results, I felt like it was time to give it a try.

I didn't even realize a person could wash her hair without shampoo, and since it had taken years of trial and error to find the commercial products that give me the best results, it was natural to have some reservations about ditching my Pantene. My biggest fear was that I would look like a greaseball and that was not going to be okay since I was just getting started with my chocolate business and I figured that people wouldn't want to eat or buy food from someone who looked like she hadn't showered in awhile. So I asked Jenifer for some advice, which she quickly provided. She joked that pony tails were her best friend for the first few weeks, which I can understand. And not to be shocked if my hair gets flakier. That's just the scalp getting back to normal (more on that later). Mostly, she gave me some reading to check out, and this helped me understand more about no 'pooing before I jumped in with both feet. Here is another blog that Jenifer suggested, and I found to be quite informative.

My other concerns were pertaining to the vinegar rinse. I worried that vinegar isn't the best smell on earth, and what if my hair ends up smelling like it? Jenifer assured me that rinsing helps get rid of the smell, and by the time my hair is dry, it will not smell like vinegar. And she's right. Also, most of the websites I looked at (including Green Grandma's) said to use apple cider vinegar and I only had distilled white vinegar in the house. I asked if this was okay to use, and Jenifer said yes. It's what she uses. I asked about the difference and she suggested that it was personal preference (and budget) comparing apple cider vinegar to sirloin and distilled white vinegar to hamburger.

Debunking the "Squeaky Clean" Myth
I'll let you in on a secret that the shampoo companies don't want you to know. Washing with shampoo, especially as frequently as they have led us to believe is necessary for clean hair, is actually bad for your scalp. It strips it of natural oils, which causes the oil glands to kick into overdrive, which is turn means that we have to wash our hair more often to keep up with the excess oil that is being produced. Your hair does NOT need to "squeak" to be clean. That is marketing, pure and simple, and most of us have bought into it for years because we didn't know there was an alternative.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat -- No Thanks!
Getting away from using shampoo is an eco-friendly choice. The amount of energy used to produce and package baking soda and vinegar is much less than what is involved in creating shampoos and conditioners. Using commercial shampoo guarantees that you will use commercial conditioner, because shampoo is so harsh, you will have to add moisture. Shampoo is essentially detergent. Detergent is not really good for your hair, and I assume this means it isn't good for the environment either since shampoos are filled with chemicals to do everything from produce extra suds (completely unnecessary for cleaning hair) to preserving the shampoo and preventing growth of bacteria (nice to know you aren't using bacteria-laden shampoo, but doesn't it make you wonder why this is needed in the first place?) to making it smell nice. In other words, by using shampoo, you are massaging chemicals right into your skin, which is your largest organ. Scary, huh?
    In addition to saving me money by passing on the shampoo, my scalp is now healthier. I wouldn't be surprised if my overall health is better, too, given the toxins that are in that Pantene I was using. (Check this list of shampoo ingredients to avoid if you want to know more about your current shampoo.) I don't wash the kids' hair all that often since it doesn't really need it, but I am considering transitioning them over to no 'pooing. The biggest concern that has kept me from doing it is the vinegar rinse. I am afraid they will fight me on this because it doesn't smell fruity like what they are used to, and if it happens to get into their eyes (which, face it, it very likely will), it will burn. However, after learning more about the chemicals used in shampoos and how the FDA does little to regulate them, I may have to change this how we wash the kids' hair. The Suave Kids shampoo they currently use has the same bad ingredient as Pantene: sodium lauryl sulfate. When it comes down to it, exposing them to toxins is a much greater concern than the temporary stinging in the eyes, especially when the FDA is not going to protect consumers from known carcinogens.

    My Wash Routine
    When I began no 'pooing I tried to go 3 or 4 days between washings like Green Grandma, but it just didn't seem to work and I wasn't all that happy with how I looked. (My pony tails look like weird stubs, not really cute, so I really wanted to avoid that option.) At this point, I am washing every other day, which is half as often as I used to wash when I was using shampoo. Online, you will find many different variations of how to no 'poo. This is mainly due to the fact that everybody has unique hair, so your washing needs may vary from mine. It may take a bit of trial and error before you get it figured out. Here is my routine:
    1. Before washing, I brush my hair and scalp well. This is actually very new to me. Having curly hair has meant that I formally did not brush it since it would create frizz and damage the hair. I haven't noticed any damage, and since I am washing immediately after, frizz isn't a concern. The brushing helps distribute the natural oils before washing. Note: Natural bristle brushes are recommended, although I haven't purchased one yet.
    2. Next, I add 1/2 tablespoon of baking soda to a measuring cup and get in the shower. (Initially, I used a full tablespoon, but I have tweaked it to fit my needs.) I fill the rest of the measuring cup with warm water, and mix the baking soda in with my finger. To wash, I just pour small amounts at a time all over my scalp, gently massaging as I go. I then rinse out my hair as usual. 
    3. In place of conditioner, I use about 1/2 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar (again, I started out with a full tablespoon, and I have tweaked the amount as I've gone along). I pour it into my measuring cup, and then fill the rest with warm water. I pour this mixture over my entire scalp, and then wait a few minutes before rinsing it out. Since I am only washing every other day, I use this time to shave my legs, which works out nicely. Lastly, I rinse. Note: Since I'm on a "hamburger budget", I've been using the distilled white vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar.
    4. That's it. I let my hair air dry, and I no longer need to use styling products to make my hair behave.
    Ready for My Close Up
    My naturally curly hair looks different depending on what point in the "wash cycle" I am at, but it's actually more predictable now than it ever has been before. I've always joked that my hair has a mind of it's own, which I am sure other curly-haired people can relate to. Now, I know that it will be curlier on the days I wash it -- really nice, almost controlled looking curls that are soft, shiny, and very nearly frizz-free. (And believe me that last detail is enough to convince me this no 'poo business is a good thing that I am doing for myself. I never would have guessed I would have such beautiful hair without the use of styling products considering that I was never able to get it to behave with any of the commercial products that I have tried over the years.) On the off days, it loses some curl, but it is fuller than before and it looks nice when I finger comb it and fluff it out.  

    I have never been as happy with my curls as I have since I gave up shampoo. I think my hair is beautiful, and honestly, I don't know if I have ever felt that way before. The funny thing is, I am not buying expensive salon products-- just plain old vinegar and baking soda: safe, cheap, and effective. What more could I ask for from a shampoo and conditioner?
    {I washed my hair the day of this photo.}

    {See how happy I am with my hair?}
    {Close-up of hair on day after washing.}

    {Best bed head ever.}

    By the way, stay tuned to the blog for an upcoming review and giveaway of the book Vinegar Fridays by Green Grandma. Vinegar has more uses than you can even imagine, so I can't wait to share.


    1. Awesome blog Meg. I have been using organic shampoos for years, but they are not as pure as this. I am going to give it a try!!

    2. Since it's been a few weeks, I may have glossed over a bit of the initial yucky hair days. They aren't that bad, and it passes, but do know that it's a process to get your scalp back to normal. I hope that you will not get discouraged; just keep at it for a few weeks before you decide if it's worth it to you or not. :)

    3. I have natural curly hair that is past my shoulder. I was surprised to hear that you don't need any other products! I'm so stoked to give this a try. I spent a weekend with my vegan brother in law and his wife and we are converting to clean living hands down, immediately. I've spent the night researching and looking up make up, cleansing and food recipes for everything possible. So glad you came up in my search!

      1. Hi Kelly, thanks for stopping by. I have actually been meaning to post an update on this... Two weeks ago, I went to get my hair cut (and admittedly I had let this go far too long), and I had to lose about 3 inches due to damage. It was way, way too dry at the ends. So, I am still washing with with baking soda, but currently I am experimenting with different conditioners since 2+ years of vinegar was not quite cutting it for me. I still can get away without styling products, though. I will add a new post once I determine which conditioner works best for my hair. I hope you have great success with your lifestyle makeover!

    4. I was worried about that and today made this one...

      1. Well, I hope it works for you. :) What does she use for a conditioner then?

    5. Hi Meg. I wanted to thank you. Your face washing method helped me a lot.. I had what I thought was eczema starting on my hands and feet.It had spread up my legs and arms, My hands had little sores/cracks all over them. It became very painful to use shampoos and soaps. That is when I found your blog. I have since started using evoo and baking soda for washing all my skin. I have been washing my hair with baking soda and water. but just learned from you what I missed was probably the vinegar rinse. My hair is dry, so I have concerns about that. It may be that shampoo was the culprit. I will be trying the vinegar rinse tonight. I will let you know. thanks again. your blog made it much less painful to wash. I have found that the culprit for my skin condition was soda. I have cut back on that bad habit. and have become mostly soap free.

      1. Wow, Jackie, that sounds very painful! I am glad you are finding some relief for your dry skin. Shampoo could potentially be drying since it is essentially detergent with unneeded chemical ingredients. I would not be surprised if you have a sensitivity to fragrance as well. As far as dryness in your hair goes, I hope the vinegar rinse will help! For me, though, this became too drying after no 'pooing for over two years. I have personally just switched to an organic shampoo as of this morning, so I am hoping that will help with that. It looks like I am due for an updated post on my beauty regimens... Thanks for stopping by!

    6. I tried the vinegar rinse. It left my hair a little oily.. That was something I had never experienced.. will keep trying it. I have always been leery of fragrances. I have had a person walk by and I started coughing. I worked in a call center for several years. It was a problem. I try to go scent free whenever possible. I am looking forward to hearing about your experiments on dry hair.
      I am wondering if you know, or might know where to ask, since I am using baking soda and evoo even to wash my hands, and then rinsing well. Is this safe, germwise? I was brought up on wash your hands with soap and water before handling food and things of that nature.

      1. When I was using the vinegar rinse, I always followed with straight water, to make sure it rinsed clean. There is definitely a transition period while your scalp adjusts to your not constantly bombarding it with detergent, which was stripping the natural oils. This makes your glands go into over-drive for a little bit. If you are interested in no 'pooing, you will have to give it a few weeks before you decide if it is right for you.
        I don't currently wash any part of my body with baking soda -- switched to the organic shampoo that went along with the conditioner earlier this month. As far as killing germs, I have no idea. It used to be accepted that soap and water was good enough and then antibacterial soap came along, and that was the one to have. For my family, I buy liquid soap that is NOT antibacterial because I am concerned about the triclosan that it contains. (I also want to avoid fragrance and parabens.) I am NOT a doctor, or skin care specialist, though, so you might want to ask an "expert" for an opinion before making a decision about what is safe for you. Best of luck!