Monday, March 8, 2010

How to get your hair to look like a shampoo ad.... without the shampoo!

First off, I want you to picture a shampoo hair model. Think of the last Pantene commercial you saw... the lady with the thick shiny hair magically waving in slow motion in the air as she struts down the street, every strand shining like gold or copper in the sun while a bunch of guys in suits stop and stare. Or think of the hair celebrities flaunt as you're trying to check out at the grocery store. OK, now imagine someone told you that model or actress stopped using shampoo a year ago. "WHAT??? Ewww!"... is it? I second ago that was the most fabulous hair you could imagine! Sounds impossible, but it's not. Over the last couple of weeks I have been experimenting with the Curly Girl method, also affectionately known as the No-'Poo method.

Now, WHY would I even consider such a thing? I'm really not naive enough to think I could stop washing my hair and no one would notice. I'm a fan of personal hygiene. I don't want to stink. The truth is, I fell into the no 'poo method without meaning to. As most of you know, I try to do things the "natural way" as much as possible, so when I ended up with an extreme case of dandruff this fall, I was hesitant to use medicated shampoos. A bottle of Suave was the beginning of my dandruff misery, so I first switched to an all-natural organic shampoo. This made an incredible difference in my hair texture, but my scalp was still in ruins. Before I headed out to by some T-Gel, I searched online for natural remedies. I found several that I could try from ingredients in my kitchen, so I started testing.

1. Olive oil. At my next shower, I took about 1/4 cup of olive oil and a comb and massaged my scalp and combed for about 15 minutes. Conclusion: REALLY hard to wash out, messy, and didn't seem to make any difference. I have since learned it should have been hot oil, but I was ready to try something else.

2. Baking soda. I made a paste from about 1/4 cup baking soda and 1/4 cup warm water from the shower. Mix it up and apply it to the scalp, massaging vigorously particularly in heavy dandruff areas. Baking soda is highly alkaline, so especially in hard water conditions it must be paired with an acid or your hair will end up feeling gunky and unwashed. So, after this wash I used....

3. Apple cider vinegar. I mixed about 1/4 cup ACV and 1/4 cup warm water and poured it over my scalp and massaged it in gently and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes. Both the baking soda and apple cider vinegar methods were recommendations for dandruff, and needed to be paired together to work properly. The soda exfoliates and removes dirt and excess oil and the vinegar balances pH, soothes the scalp, and works as a natural conditioner.

4. Herbal tea. This same shower I decided to go for the gusto and try another ingredient: peppermint tea brewed just like I was going to drink a hot cup, but instead left to cool a bit, poured over the scalp, and left to sit for 5 mins. I read that herbal teas were excellent for hair, adding nutrients and repairing damage. Finally, I washed with my organic shampoo and called it a day.

My conclusion after this shower.... meh, it worked a bit, but wasn't terribly impressive. I decided to try it again after noticing a few less flakes, and my scalp was again a bit clearer. Each shower seemed to heal my scalp a little more. But then two things happened: my husband decided to try my scalp experiment instead of buying T-Gel, and my daughter squirted the rest of my organic shampoo down the drain.

I casually mentioned to my husband as he headed to the shower with his vinegar, baking soda and tea, that I read this weird method where they skip shampooing entirely. I think it appealed to his scientific nature and he came out a while later announcing he had gone without shampoo. I felt his hair.... perfectly normal, actually. Smell... just a tiny trace of vinegar if you stuck your nose right in it. Interesting. A week into this method and he still looked good... and smelled good too since he took to finishing with peppermint tea!

I, on the other hand, was onto new hair woes. My organic shampoo was down the drain thanks to a four-year-old who was playing "clean the shower" with it. Months ago I had used and loved Giovanni's Triple Tea Tree Treat or whatever it's called, so I had a bottle under the sink to use when my current shampoo ran out. It's all-natural, but not organic. Alas, my love for it died that first shower when my skin started itching everywhere it touched, likely a reaction to the essential oils which I tend to be sensitive to. So the next shower I took the plunge and skipped shampoo for the first time. I did my scalp routine: baking soda deep massage, rinse well (because you don't want to become a human volcano experiment when mixed with the next ingredient), vinegar soak, rinse, tea soak, and rinse. My reaction? Wow. My hair felt AMAZING!

It has only gotten better since!!! I haven't "washed" my hair in a day and a half and it looks and feels softer and cleaner than it normally does straight from the shower! My scalp is nearly cleared up and no longer itches. I looked in the mirror this morning and thought... whoa, is my hair shiny??? It has amazing body, a nice natural sheen, and apparently can go for days without feeling dirty. Why did I not know about this before?

How does it work? Or more importantly, why do you not end up a stinky grease-head after a few days? It turns out that it's the shampoo that causes your hair to become oily after a day or so. Shampoos, like most soaps and detergents, are particularly good at removing oils. In this case, it strips all the natural oil from your hair and your scalp produces extra oil to make up for it. Left alone, your scalp will balance out, providing just enough oil to keep your hair healthy and beautiful. This means most people have a "detox" phase for a few days before the gorgeous hair kicks in. Also, many shampoos have silicone in them which gives an artificial shine but coats each strand of hair and causes build-up over time. The no 'poo method allows the silicone to sluff off and lets your hair shine on its own.

It seems to me that the use of baking soda and vinegar is more often called "no 'poo" while using conditioner to clean hair called "curly girl" but they seem somewhat interchangeable. Anyhow, another way of doing this (which I haven't tried) is buying a nice, silicone-free, preferably natural conditioner and using this as your shampoo. This method works mainly on friction, so working the conditioner into your scalp in a circular motion and working it into the hair for a period of time is essential. The moisturizing properties of conditioner don't have to fight shampoo, so it leaves your hair feeling very soft. This method might take longer for your hair to adjust to, but again, I haven't tried it.

I gave you the amounts of baking soda and apple cider vinegar I use for scalp recovery, but from what I've read, most people use considerably less of each for day-to-day use, even down to a tablespoon. That's my favorite thing about the no 'poo method... it's SO cheap and it's all stuff I already had in my cupboards... you can't get more DIY-happy than that!

Give it a try! You know you want to.

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