I don’t use shampoo. I don’t use conditioners. To be honest I don’t use any hair products, and yet my hair looks, feels and simply is much healthier than when I did.
Hard to believe? There’s more! You see, my crazy practice is slowly spreading through our family.
Why Go Shampoo Free?
First, let me explain why I don’t want to use a commercial shampoo ever again.
1. Shampoo is a detergent.
If I asked you to dilute some of your dish washing liquid and use that as shampoo you would most likely refuse. Yet when cosmetics companies do almost exactly that, with addition of some perfume you most likely don’t question it.
They have very similar ingredients and generally do exactly the same thing – strip the hair (or dishes) from dirt and oil. Now, even though we tend to believe nowadays that it’s the oil that is making our hair look bad, in reality the natural oils make hair strong, soft and shiny.
First they have to be given a chance to do that. And since commercial shampoos strip the oils off completely and in addition block the pores, resulting in the scalp receiving the wrong signals and overproducing oil as a result.
This results in you having to wash your hair more and more often, and having to use additional hair products, like conditioners, to counteract the detergents harshness and deal with the hair dryness and likeness to tangle. A costly, short-lived fixed that adds yet another layer of unnecessary coating on the hair and additionally makes it a double dose of chemicals.
2. Shampoo contains some scary chemicals.
Most shampoos contain either sodium lauryl sulphate or sodium laureth sulphate (SLS) which are eye and skin irritants. At a high dose SLS is simply toxic, and should be avoided.
In products like shampoo, it is of course very diluted and the manufacturers’ studies indicate that it should not have any negative effect for the human body. A lot of this has to do with how briefly SLS is in contact with our skin (through which it can get absorbed) – since generally we’ll apply the products and rinse them shorty after.
While that is most likely true for any given product containing SLS, these studies do not take into account effects of multiple products being used together or how these products react with any other chemical substances we may be putting on our skin, like creams, hair sprays etc.
Personally, if I can avoid exposing my body to things that can potentially harm it, I do it. Especially if there is a lower risk, more frugal, less expensive and generally more convenient alternative.
3. My hair had to be washed often, was dry and tangly
After being washed, my hair would look great for a day or two. Then it quickly turned into a oily nightmare if left unwashed. It was also very prone to getting tangled and any amount of conditioners or other fancy products didn’t really help. When combing, patience was the way to go. And now I know, that it was the constant washing and comb-fighting that made my hair weak and rather thin.
The Alternative to Shampoo
There are three great frugal products that will do the job.
Water actually does most of the job. It removes all the dirt from your hair and scalp. How well it works will depend somewhat on the hardness of the water, i.e. it’s easier to clean your hair with softer water.
When you go shampoo free for a long time you may find that water is all that you need to keep you hair healthy and clean. I’m not at this stage yet, but I plan to get there!
Until that happens though, a bit more is required to cleanse hair in full.
Bicarbonate of Soda
This very mild alkali is also known as Sodium Bicarbonate or Baking Soda (not to be confused with Baking Powder!). It dilutes in water very easily and is used to easily and gently remove any chemical coating of your scalp or hair.
To start with you should try using a solution of 1 tbsp of Bicarbonate of Soda + 250ml of warm water (1 cup). If, like me, you have long hair , you may want to double this (so 2tbsp BS + 500ml W).
I use a small funnel to help me get the BS into an old water bottle, then I fill the bottle with warm water. A quick shake will mix the two together.
Right after I step into the shower I slowly pour half of the content on my head. I ignore the hair and make sure the solution reaches every part of my scalp. This is quite easy to do when you still have dry hair, since any spot you missed will be… well, dry. I massage my scalp for 1 min, using the reminder of the solution wherever needed. Afterwards, I thoroughly rinse my scalp and hair with water.
If you have short hair it may be easier for you to take 1/2 tbsp of bicarbonate of soda into palm of your hand. Turn it into a paste with a bit of water. Massage it into your scalp, then rinse.
Apple Cider Vinegar
To restore skin’s natural pH after using bicarbonate of soda you should use a solution of 1 tbsp of Apple Cider Vinegar and 250ml of water (1 cup). Simply apply to your scalp and hair and let it be for 15-30 sec, then rinse.
Besides balancing pH, ACV has several other great benefits. It will make your hair softer and bring out the healthy shine. It also detangles the hair and seals the cuticle, which is why I no longer have problems with combing my hair out.
If you are afraid of your hair smelling of vinegar rest assured that there is not even a hint of the smell left on your hair after you rinse it. Plus, you can always add a few drops of essential oils into the mix.
If you are ready to try this you should be prepared to go through a 2-5 weeks of transition period. This time is needed for you scalp to adjust and start producing less oils, after the build-up of chemicals is washed of the hair and skin. It’s also a time for you to find out what amount of bicarbonate of soda and apple cider vinegar solutions is right for your hair.
To begin with use the standard 1tbsp + 250ml ratio and use the solutions to wash your hair every 3-4 days. In between use water only. Your hair may look not it’s best for a time. But if you stick to it the natural balanced will be restored and you will be able to enjoy your hair.
With time you will be able to increase the amount of days between washes. I’m at 6 days now, up from the original 4 and aiming for 10 by the end of the year.
This is how my hair looked this week:
Frequently Asked Questions
My scalp is very dry, what can I do?
Firstly make sure you’re not using too much bicarbonate of soda. If that’s not the case try adding 1 tbs of olive oil to the AVC solution.
Will my hair smell of vinegar?
No, AVC does not leave your hair smelly. In fact this method will leave your hair smelling “fresh” and otherwise odourless.
Is there anything I can add to make the solutions and/or my hair smell great?
Add a few drops of essential oil to either solution.
I have oily hair, what can I do?
Use lemon juice instead of ACV. Or apply ACV only to the ends of your hair. That said, I would highly recommend using the ACV (or lemon juice) solution on your scalp at least every 4th wash.
Does this work for all types of hair?
Yes! It works for all types of hair.
Does it work if my hair is coloured?
Absolutely! It works just as well on coloured hair and in contrast to normal shampoos it will not strip off the colour.
I have hard water, what can I do?
The solutions work in hard water. You may want to use more solution though ( keep the 1tbs to 1 cup ratio for bicarbonate of soda though!).
You can also use boiled water in your solution
There is a lot of information out there. Read more here:
- Babs wrote a very detailed and informative article on Babyslime.
- Allyson has a great post illustating the transition period.
- Tsh on the Simple Mom Blog. Read her story and advice.
So let me know what you think or if you have any questions!