Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sans Shampoo

Many of you may have probably heard about the growing trend of ditching your usual shampoo routine. When I say the "usual shampoo", I'm referring to those with sulfates, a surfactant in tons of products that people are becoming wary of for various reasons, including damage to your hair (they say it's too drying and strips too much moisture and necessary oil) and environmental/health effects.  My self-centered, narcissistic self is more interested in the part about damaging my hair as opposed to chemicals seeping into my body through my scalp. Meh.

Granted, people have been using sulfate shampoos for who knows how long and it hasn't been a catastrophe, so it's not the biggest deal, but I just find it interesting.  I have so few hobbies, I gotta find something to occupy myself.

Anyway, people are turning to a few different solutions, including one or more of the following:

1. Shampooing less often (2-3 times/week as opposed to every day; although you can, and if you're like me and my oily scalp you should, still rinse your hair very well with water every day)
2. Using a sulfate-free shampoo
3. Going much more natural, and in addition to shampooing less, replacing any manufactured shampoo with a baking soda wash and apple cider vinegar rinse

I've gone through a few stages to transition away from washing my hair every day with regular, sulfate shampoo.  It was really hard to break the routine because A. routines are comforting and B. I was very worried about an oily, smelly scalp.  

My first step was to switch to a gentler shampoo, Johnson's Baby Wash.  I mean, they use it on babies, right? It's gotta be gentle.  And it did feel like it stripped my hair less than traditional shampoo.

Then I saw that it also had sulfates, which, yes of course I could have discovered if I had actually read the label before purchasing.  I transitioned to using it only every other day to every three or four days.  The other days of the week, I just rinsed my hair really well with water.  I would say the first few weeks I did the "rinse with water" stuff, my hair did go through a greasy period--it wasn't awful, but I did tend to wear my hair up to keep everything neat and not offensively blowing its scent in every which direction.

After the greasy period, my hair/scalp settled down. It's kind of amazing, actually.  Unless I exercise (ha!) or spend lots of time outside, just a really good water rinsing is sufficient and my hair no longer suffers from the greasiness/smelliness that it would have previously.  That or my olfactory nerves have accustomed themselves to a persistent shtank and I have no idea that I smell.  But I think Kevin would tell me.  Actually I know he would.

The other main difference is that my hair felt softer.  I can't say I experienced other life-changing developments with my hair, but for me the ease and convenience of not shampooing every day was kinda nice.  Because, say it with me, I'm lazy.

Now that I was just rinsing my hair with water most days of the week, I got curious about the whole baking soda/apple cider vinegar thing.  You can read more details at tons of places on the internet including here and here (and I particularly like this one "journal" by someone trying different variations), but the basics are: rinse your hair very well with water, massage a paste/solution with baking soda and water into your scalp, letting it sit for a few minutes, and rinsing very well.  Then do a final rinse with an ACV/water solution to return the pH balance to your hair and close the cuticles.

I was fascinated by this, and tried it a couple of times.  Everyone will have something different that works for them, but the first time I did this I followed one person's advice and made the baking soda/water mixture pretty thick, and it was way too drying for my hair.  A watery solution would have been better.  The other tip is not to focus the ACV rinse on your scalp, and to rinse REALLY super fucking well afterwards because the residue can be irritating, not to mention, um, you will smell like ACV.

While I really like the idea of a natural, cheap way to clean my hair, after the novelty wore off, I kinda thought making this solution each time would be a hassle.  Some people make bigger amounts and put them in squeeze bottles that they keep in the shower, but I gotta admit, I didn't find that aesthetically pleasing.  

 See? This just doesn't scream relaxing shower-spa time to me.

I know that's a really petty reason not to go forward with the baking soda/ACV routine, but there it is.  I also missed the nice smell of regular shampoo (I did see some suggestions about putting vanilla extract or other oil into the ACV rinse but doing that didn't make a difference for me, all I could smell was ACV).

Anyway, so then I turned to finding a sulfate free shampoo that I like. But what to choose?

Ooh the possibilities! I ended up buying the Alba based on scent (it was $6.99 at my local store, not $9.49), but haven't used it yet. I read in some places that it can be a bit drying (WTF) but I'm hoping it won't be a big deal because I won't use it every day. And son of a BITCH it does have some kind of sulfate. Not the main kinds used in traditional shampoos but still WHAT is my problem can I READ??

In any case, Alba or not, I understand that this may not comport with the folks who are ditching traditional shampoo partly because they don't want to participate in this kind of consumerism, but I'm just not there yet.  In other news, I am trying to reuse plastic wrap to be more environmentally conscious. Aren't you proud of me.  I make up for my consumerism by being weird and dirty.

Have any of you tried a sulfate-free shampoo, or any other non-traditional hair routine? What's your favorite hair product or secret?


  1. You're making me want to change my routine! BTW, just as a random aside, my father in law is a pediatric allergist, and he says that one of hte top reason why he sees new babies in his office with allergic reactions is because their parents use johnson and johnson baby wash/shampoo, and that shit is loaded with harsh perfumes and stuff that is really not gentle to babies at all.

  2. I tried the ACV rinse.... after using my regular sulfate-rich shampoo and conditioner... but it DOES seem like my hair is softer! more full of life! don't hate me because I'm beautiful!

  3. HAHAHA. I have to laugh because I love the way the Alba shampoo smells, but I was going to tell you that it does indeed have some sulfate in it. But, glad you figured that out. :) I've never gone the sulfate-free route, but if I do, I'll let you know what shampoos I find.

  4. I dunno, I have a really oily head. I don't know if this will work for me!