How I Quit (Mostly) Using Shampoo
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First off, the obvious question which many of you will probably ask is...
WHY would I quit using shampoo.
Back when I began my ‘year of healing’ (which was brought on by a persistent rash on my chin, and a decrease in overall health), I looked at every possible cause of my skin problems. The visible rash was only part of it— my scalp and face itched and burned, and my hair had gradually gotten brittle and sad looking. I thought part of the problem might be the body products I was using. Living in Argentina, it is impossible (as far as I can tell) to find truly organic body products. The only ‘natural’ brand that is available in Argentina, Weweda, still isn’t all that natural compared to the organic shampoos you can get in the US.
In my research I came across this interesting bit that claimed that most hairstylists and hair gurus don’t even use the body product and shampoo lines they promote. They know that shampoo isn’t good for hair.
So, in addition to a great many dietary changes and experiments, I started looking for homemade natural shampoo solutions. I tried a variety of ‘recipes’ that I found online, none of which worked well for me. (Things like coconut oil might work for some people, but putting oils on my hair was pretty gross.)
I also tried going totally ‘nopoo’ as they say, just quitting shampoo entirely. That was really hard. I tried to do it gradually, increasing the length of time between washes bit by bit. But no matter what after about 10 days I could always smell my hair. Ew. That was not going to be a long term solution.
Then I started using baking soda and apple cider vinegar, which actually worked pretty well. I kept two condiment squeezy bottles in the shower: one with about a tablespoon of baking soda dissolved in water and the other with about a tablespoon of ACV in water.
I would squeeze the baking soda solution over my scalp, hair, and body and rub it in before rinsing off. Then I’d do a rinse with the vinegar, which left me feeling squeaky clean. ACV is also a great hair detangler.
I persisted with that regimen for many months but found that after a while the vinegar caused my brown hair to turn brassy. I also got tired of the vinegar smell. It didn’t linger on me throughout the day, but was pungent for washing. However, using baking soda alone didn’t work well— it left my hair so dry and matted feeling that it was virtually unbrushable.
I also didn’t like how the bottles of homemade solutions got cold and were a shock to warm skin in a hot shower. And I wasn’t willing to make a new batch every night. (Things can only be so difficult!)
Around this time I discovered a type of soap which has turned out to be really great for my skin. It’s the Tea Tree Oil Soap by Soapworks. I have friends bring me bars from the US and it has become my daily body and hair care product. I discovered that I could use it on just my scalp most days to keep me feeling clean, which allowed me to stop using shampoo almost entirely.
These days I still use just the tea tree oil soap each night on my skin and scalp. I put the soap on my fingers and sort of rub it in around the edges of my hairline and into my scalp, only at the base of my hair. Not a lot, just enough to lightly degrease my skin (which has always tended to be on the oily side). Then I rinse my hair thoroughly all the way through to get any of the dust from the day loose.
(After this, I often do a lemon juice rinse on my skin, but not on my hair. I tried that and, as you might expect, it was drying and lightened my hair.)
I go six nights like this and then wash my hair with Burt’s Bees Shampoo and Conditioner on the seventh. (I like the Very Volumizing line.) I can stretch it even longer than a week, but usually stick to that routine. My hair never feels or looks gross and dirty (believe me my husband would- and has- told me). I think that on the whole my hair is much healthier; probably because I’m no longer stripping out all of the natural oils every night.
Oddly, the day I think my hair looks the worst is after I wash it.
I do have to bring the Burt’s Bees shampoo from the US, but since I only use it once a week, a bottle lasts close to a year. Which is a giant cost savings at close to $8 per bottle. You, of course, could choose whatever soap and shampoo products you liked best, I'm only sharing what works for me (and I don't get anything for promoting these products).
Often I think people start with getting healthy inside- switching to natural and organic foods- and then they add in healthier and more natural products on the outside. I used to be religious about washing my hair, and used the sodium lauryl sulfate commercial products for many, many years. When I was younger and oilier it was okay; however, as I approach 40, keeping to a simple and more natural body routine seems to be helping my skin and hair stay healthy and hydrated.
By the way, quitting shampoo didn’t get rid of my face rash and wasn’t the cure for the burning scalp sensation (more on that in another post), but I am still glad I made the switch to a much more ‘natural’ and low maintenance body care program which includes (almost) quitting washing my hair with shampoo.
If you are ready to try quitting shampoo, give my technique a try and let me know how it works for you!