Saturday, July 26, 2014

Why I Don't Use Shampoo ... And Rarely Use Soap

Yep, you read that right. I, like many others, no longer wash my hair with shampoo and no longer use conditioner to keep it hydrated and static free. Unlike most people, I also almost never use soap or cleansers on my body, and never use it on my face!

I tried to go No Poo many times in the past seven years, and I failed every time. It didn't matter how much time I gave the experiment (the equalization hypothesis), if I had stripped my hair first (the detoxification hypothesis), or if I had been using silicone free natural soap-based shampoos (again, detoxification). Each time I ended up with a head full of greasy hair and the lack of will to continue.

But let's back up. Why did I want to give up shampoo and conditioner?

1) I suffered from itchy scalp and scalp rashes, but didn't have dandruff or signs of a dry scalp.
2) I wanted to reduce the chemicals that I put on my body.
3) I wanted to stop using product on my hair to style it.
4) I wanted my hair to be lower maintenance.
5) I wanted my hair care routine to be more environmentally friendly.
6) I wanted to save money.

In the past I have tried baking soda washes with apple cider vinegar rinses (multiple times), baking soda with herb rinses, and baking soda with lemon juice rinses. I tried tiny amounts of baking soda mixed with water, as well as baking soda mixed at a paste consistency.  I've tried clay washing with Terressentials products, washing with honey, washing with salt, washing with clay I mixed myself, washing with egg yolks, washing with a soap nuts solution, and even making a soap-based natural "shampoo".

Some things worked okay; the egg yolks weren't too bad but I no longer consume or use eggs, and it was pretty expensive since organic fed pastured raised eggs from a friend were $6 a dozen. Washing with clay made me even itchier, so I had to ditch that.  Soap nut solution spoiled almost overnight and didn't do a good enough job to make it worth my while to make a new batch every time I needed to clean my hair. Baking soda at a paste consistency broke my hair off :(

I have fine, thin, straight hair. When clean it is very shiny; it floats in water and doesn't absorb water or oil easily. When I was a teenager it had to be washed daily or I would look like I had laid my head in an oil slick; once I got older I got to a place where I could wash it every other day as long as I wore a ponytail on the second day.

A couple of months ago I decided to give No Poo another go, this time going to the extreme and attempting water only washing. The time I spent washing my hair without anything but water taught me a few things. I learned to not care so much about whether to nor my hair looked oily, because I had committed to this and what other people thought about my hair really didn't matter. I learned how nice it is to not need shampoo, conditioner, or product while traveling. I realized that I do not have an overly oily scalp - my hair simply doesn't absorb the normal amounts of oil that my scalp produces. I learned that boar bristle type brushes and 100 strokes make my hair look even greasier. And finally, I learned that water only washing doesn't work for me because my hair is never going to absorb the oil. That beautiful, shiny, virgin cuticle is not absorbent.

During the first month I did a honey wash one day, and the reduction in oil down my hair shaft was minimal and not worth wasting the honey on. I tried a clay wash after three weeks and was far too itchy, so I went back to water only.

After a month I decided to try baking soda with an ACV rinse again (I was going to have a date weekend and wanted my hair to look pretty.) It was okay, but still kind of oily, and very oily the next day. I thought that was it, but somewhere in all the blogs I read I saw that someone mentioned not using the ACV on the roots, only the ends. That went against what all the other blogs were saying, that I needed the acid all over my head to balance out the base of the baking soda, but I decided to try it anyway.

Voila! For the first time in six weeks I had shiny, clean hair, so clean that it was a little flyaway and staticky. But it was shiny, shiny like I had used Breck or Pantene or whatever shampoo is supposed to make your hair the shiniest.

So this is what is working now: I wash with about 2 T. baking soda dissolved in 2 C. of water.  I pour half of it over my head, scrub all over (just like with water only) then pour the rest over and scrub again.  I rinse it really well, then apply a very dilute ACV solution to my ends only, then rinse again.

My goal is to see if I can use less of the baking soda mixture, so I will work on that over the next month, taking it down to the minimal level. I already learned that using more will make my scalp really itchy.

With this system I have crazy clean shiny hair the first day, almost too clean to do anything with. I can clip my bangs off my face with barrettes, but it won't hold a ponytail. The second day I still have clean hair, but it is more manageable. The third day my hair is clean enough that it looks fine in a ponytail. Now that I don't care so much about what other people think I could continue to ponytail it for a few days, of I could wash it if I want shiny hair again :)

Okay, if you made it this far you're probably here to find out why I rarely use soap. In my pursuit of No Poo stories I read about a few people who don't use soap, and I thought, why not give it a try? I already use the oil cleansing method for my face, so I wasn't afraid I'd get weird breakouts or anything. Actually, I already only used soap on my feet and armpits, and a Weleda cleansing cream everywhere else, so I gave those up. Now when I bathe or shower, I use the washcloth that I wiped the oil of my face with to gently exfoliate my body, I use it to scrub my feet vigorously, and then I rinse. Amazingly, I have less body odor than ever before. For the first time ever I can use a crystal deodorant and not stink. And my sensitive, rash prone skin is the clearest it has been in years. The little red bumps are gone, and my skin is so silky soft, without the need for lotions or oils.

(TMI alert: yes, I wash my lady parts with water only. I've done so for a couple of years now, after developing a mild, but painful condition called lichen sclerosis, which seems to be attributed to both my fluctuating and ever lower hormone levels along with my over active immune system. After trying several treatments I remembered my grandmother saying that women should never use soap down there and she was right.)

So now I use soap on my feet only if they are visibly caked with dirt (like after being at a race all day) and on my arms if I have used sunscreen and want to get the zinc oxide off my body.

Do I stink? I am obsessive about it and as far as I can tell, I stink less. Husband says I don't stink, and he is willing to stick his nose against my scalp, pits, and feet.  Best friend has also smelled my hair and feet and says I don't stink. But the best evidence was last weekend, when my SIL gave my a big, long hug and said to me, You smell so good! I explained what I have been doing and she was flabbergasted, trying to find out if I had used scented lotion or anything like that.  Nope.  Scented laundry detergent? Nope, I use Seventh Generation Free and Clear (although I want to make my own). So she said, Well you must just naturally smell sweet!

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