My friend informed me of her new beauty regimen — or lack thereof — after an unusually lengthy separation because of our hectic schedules (it’s a lot of work being so glamorous). At first, I thought she was two steps shy of running off and living in a hippie commune, but to my surprise (horror?), I discovered she’s not alone.
As more American women seek a back-to-basics personal care routine, some are joining the “No Poo” movement where they forgo the time-honored tradition of sudsing up. And this isn’t just a brief respite or the old tip to skip the ‘poo every other day to give dry hair a little boost – we’re talking a complete lack of traditional shampoo…forever.
Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean these women have completely given up on caring for their hair, or that they’re walking around looking like Mary-Kate Olsen or the teenager that missed the personal hygiene lecture in health class. They may not stand out from the crowd at all. In fact, many continue to wash their hair every day — but using a homemade concoction of natural ingredients instead of a ready-made, store-bought product.
So why do these women choose to cut traditional shampoo out of their lives?
Ingredients found in most shampoos act as surfactants, which, according to No Poo enthusiasts, strip away the natural oils (sebum) from your hair. So while they may produce that squeaky-clean feeling, it means needing to reintroduce moisture to restore balance by using a conditioner (which may contain chemicals of its own).
Some No Poo-ers say that after time, abrasive, chemical-based ingredients inhibit the natural functions of the skin of the scalp by actively disrupting the natural oil production process. They assert that regularly removing all of the oil off of the skin disturbs the natural pH balance, and as a result, the brain sends a signal to begin producing even more oil. So, according to this line of thinking, if you already have greasy hair, you may be only encouraging the problem further by lathering up with traditional shampoo.
No Poo members seek to combat this assault by using homemade hair care remedies, usually made with baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and/or castile soap.
However, some experts say the use of these seemingly-safe, natural ingredients may not be the best answer for treating your tresses. As vice president and chief formulator for Essential Wholesale and its lab division Essential Labs, Kayla Fioravanti formulates thousands of natural, organic and pure cosmetics and personal care items. She asserts that surfactants are in no way bad for the hair or scalp, and that some of the alternative ingredients used by No Poo-ers are not necessarily good for the long term.
“Shampoo and conditioners are pH balanced for the scalp and hair,” said Fioravanti. “Replacing shampoo with ingredients like vinegar, castile and baking soda is going to the extreme, because they all have radically high or low pH balances. Occasional treatments with vinegar or baking soda are good, but not as a replacement for shampoo. Long term use of high pH causes the cuticle cells of hair to swell up and get rougher which can leave your hair looking dull and lifeless.”
As with all major life changes, many No Poo-ers report an adjustment period, where they need to forge through up to a week of greasy-feeling hair as the scalp “regulates” to its new surfactant-free cleansing routine. Passionate No-Poo-ers who make it past this stage say their hair feels just as good — if not better — than it did when using traditional shampoo.
Still, for some, the No Poo lifestyle is just too far of a departure from the norm, and they abandon their poo-less existence after a short period of time. For my friend, that was after a few months, when she said her hair felt too greasy (after a stage of feeling amazing), and she simply couldn’t deal with it anymore. She fell off the wagon and embraced shampoo.
As for Fioravanti, she believes people should respect each individual’s personal pooing preference.
“My feeling is that everyone should find the right lifestyle choice that works for them and not “poo poo” those who chose to use or not use shampoo.”
Cover Image (Suds) – Neil Hoskins; Gold Shampoo – Peter Ong; Shower – Garann Rose Means; Lemon Juice – sanja gjenero Vinegar – Stock Xchng member johannalg