I wrote in Small Life, Slow Life: Becoming Hippie-ish, Part 1 about how I’d gone crazy for fermenting things and was even making my own sauerkraut.
Since then, said-sauerkraut has come out from its ferment-y dark place and was totally delicious!
I hinted at the end that I’d tell you about the time I gave up shampoo…permanently.
Yep, folks – I said it. I no longer wash my hair with shampoo. Though you might have an image of me now with crusty hair in knotted clumps, the truth is that my hair has never looked better!
True story – I had gorgeous, pin-straight hair as a kid. In my teenage years, my hair changed to look a bit more like my dad’s – thick and wavy. I’ve recently embraced my hair’s wavy texture, though I spent years and years flat-ironing my hair down to make it look like my childhood hair. (We always want what we don’t have. Just learn to like what you’ve got!)
But when my hair started to get wavy in my teens, I also started to have some trouble with it that I’d never had before. One winter, so much hair started falling out that we got my thyroid checked. As I got older, my hair seemed to get more oily each year. I know there are people in the world who only have to wash their hair once a week, but I was definitely not one of them!
For the last several years, I’ve used paraben & sulfate-free hair products with organic ingredients. I even paid a pretty penny to have these products shipped to Japan when I lived there. Still, my hair seemed plagued with problems. After a day of not washing, my scalp would get itchy. Though I’ve never had flaky dandruff, scratching my scalp would reveal a whitish gunk that really grossed me out. (Sorry, but I made a promise to be transparent in this blog – icky or not!)
Once I began eating Paleo-ish, I spent a lot of time listening to Diane Sanfilippo’s and Liz Wolfe’s Balanced Bites podcast. They talk a lot about food and lifestyle choices, and Liz mentioned one time that many hair products (even organic ones) contain gluten and other additives, and that these ingredients seriously mess with the pH of our scalps. (Our skin is the largest organ we have, and the number of chemicals in most shampoos is really terrifying – you don’t want this stuff getting absorbed!)
This was news to me! I had no idea hair products contained gluten, but because I can be gluten sensitive sometimes (and only sometimes; gluten intolerance is a serious thing – I avoid gluten by choice and not necessity), I checked my shampoo and…what do you know…
…GLUTEN! And tons of herbal oils that Liz said could really confuse my poor scalp.
It was then that Liz told the truth about her own hair: she does not use shampoo.
Even I gasped. This, for me, was too hippie-ish. I wasn’t ready.
For a few months, I continued to have my itchy scalp and oily hair while Liz talked about how healthy and shiny her hair was. One day, after seeing a sheen of oil on my head just twelve hours after washing my hair, I was finally fed up and decided to listen to little ol’ Liz.
The No ‘Poo Method
Liz affectionately calls this hair method the “No ‘Poo Method.” You can read about her trying it out here, and her results are here. She got this method from another health blogger, who got it from another. It’s all over the internet if you’re curious. You can see some before, during and after photos of the No ‘Poo Method here.
The No’ Poo Method requires stuff you have around your house already and you’re not going to believe what it’ll do for you hair.
What you’ll need:
1-2 tablespoons baking soda
1 tablespoon high-quality raw apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
To make the shampoo, add 1-2 tablespoons of baking soda to 1 cup of warm water. Swish around until the water is cloudy with the dissolved baking soda.
My hair gets really dirty and is also quite long, so I use 2 tablespoons. I’ve read that many people can get away with a tablespoon or less just fine.
Alternatively, you can add some baking soda to a bowl and add a tiny bit of water until it makes a paste. You can apply this paste right to your high-oil or extra itchy zones. Be careful, though – the baking soda can be harsh, so apply it to your hair gently to avoid breakage.
Once in the shower, you’ll slowly pour this mixture over your head and gently massage it in with your hands. Let it sit for a minute while you shave your legs or do other stuff (just make sure you give your eyes a splash of water so you don’t get baking soda in them).
Note – at this point, your hair will NOT feel good, especially the first time. My hair totally felt like hay. Don’t worry – the vinegar will fix this part.
To make the conditioner, add 1 tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar to 1 cup of warm water. That’s it.
After rinsing your baking soda “shampoo,” pour the vinegar mixture over your head. Again, wipe your eye area before opening and do whatever you have to do while the vinegar does its thang for a minute. It will smell really strong, but don’t worry – your hair won’t smell like vinegar once it’s dry. I cross my heart!
Your hair will not feel as silky soft as it does after regular conditioner, but it will feel nice and smooth and most importantly, free of gunk that is totally messing up your head.
Note – I was using pasteurized apple cider vinegar for the first few weeks, until I went back and read that raw vinegar is better. As soon as I switched, I noticed a huge difference. All of the itching went away and I could go several days without washing my hair.
Once you’re out of the shower, towel dry your hair and style as normal. I still do everything to my hair that I always did – let it air dry, or dry it and curl/flat iron it. It behaves totally normally and I’m convinced it looks even better. Vinegar has long been used as a treatment to bump up hair’s natural shine.
And now for a flashback to the myspace days, please enjoy these lovely camera phone photos:
Your hair may feel funky for the first wash or two. Or three. For me, my hair felt back to normal after the second time I used the No ‘Poo Method, but I’ve read that it can take people up to three weeks for the pH balance of their scalp to normalize. Certainly be patient, and in case you think it’s not worth it…
…I can’t even tell you what a difference this has made for my head. I’m telling everyone about it! True, I do get weird looks from time to time – I think some of my co-workers think I have crossed into Hippieland, never to return. But you will really save your scalp a lot of trouble, PLUS you won’t be contributing to all the plastic bottles in landfills, AND this method costs under $3 a month to do!
Win/win situation? I think so!
Some people use the baking soda paste I mentioned earlier to brush their teeth (Julia Roberts famously does this) or apply it under their arms as a deodorant. I am NOT there yet. Maybe one day. But for now, I’m just sticking my toe in the hippie pool, okay?
If you’re wondering what else you can do with the fancy apple cider vinegar you got, Sarah Wilson has five great solutions! But really, only four apply to you since you’ll already be using it on your hair.
No ‘Poo, No Good?
If you use this method for a month and you’re still suffering a dry, itchy or flaky scalp, candida could be the culprit and it’ll be time to really examine your diet. Candida is a kind of yeast that lives naturally in our bodies, but can get out of control and cause a whole host of symptoms – everything from fatigue to the shakes to intense cravings. Candida die-off can be a real pain in the butt and I’ve personally gone through it myself.
Dandruff or a yeasty scalp is often a candida issue and can be solved with diet. It’s definitely worth looking into. A doctor can easily test for candida overgrowth.
Well, how about it – was this entry too hippie-ish for you? Worry not, because Friday it’ll be time once again for links and other beautiful stuff. But word on the street has it that I’ll be posting an entry soon enough on my kombucha-making adventure. After that, I promise to take a break from the hippie stuff for a while!
Take care, my little hippie princes & princesses!