A Poo-Less Life: Would you Stop Shampooing your Hair?

shampoo gold“You’re going to think I’m crazy, but I’ve stopped shampooing my hair.”

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?

shower shampooIngredients 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.

lemon juiceHowever, 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.”

vinegar bottleBut what do those who no longer “Lather, Rinse, Repeat” think about their poo-less ‘do?

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

  • ray

    I too decided to go poo-less! But i did continue conditioning my hair about every other day. Also i did a weekly deep conditioning mask. I noticed my hair being incredibly less frizzy, shinier, and just more healthy looking after just a couple weeks. It has now been 3 months since I last shampooed my hair and frankly in the last few weeks my hair has taken a turn for the worse. It has begun to get it's frizz back and according to my hair dresser, it's a breaking catastrophe. I am very glad that I went poo free and I do recommend that people should try it! Although I now am left wondering what next to try. I suppose all good things must come to an end at some point.

  • selene

    Oh i also stopped having to use all the expensive products..I never use anti-frizz serums anymore because my hair is constantly moisturized, I don't find a need for v05 treatments anymore, and now i only use a very very small amount of the thermal protection from the heat, tho i am sure i don't need it as much now. It's no wonder companies try to keep this on the down-low…I've saved a fortune! However I did loose a little volume because all the moisture weighs my hair down a little bit but for me that's a good thing because it means it's healthy

  • SelenM

    Well I nearly stopped shampooing when my hair started breaking. My hair smells lovely but everyone knows what works for them. I guess people who have hair that can tolerate shampooing everyday think this is insane! and disgusting!…but the truth of the matter is if your hair was breaking or in terrible shape especially to a women, it's depressing and brings you down wouldn't you try everything? My hair is very curly and frizzy…NOT just wavy and messy…NO! my hair is frizzy! always has been…if i wear it curly it looks horrible and very unprofessional. After i graduated and began my professional job I began having to roughly blow dry and straighten and styling my hair every other day and because of the products i used to supposedly 'protect' my hair from damage i HAD to shampoo it….well my hair started breaking and i had to do something fast! went to professionals took pills the works…then i started hearing about no shampooing and the truth was my hair was breaking because it was constantly dry and never even with treatments, it never had the chance to re-gain moisture. Long story short I now only shampoo a tiny bit on my scalp every other day then "wash" my actual hair with conditioner twice and i only shampoo once every week or two..my hair is strong, smells great and i guess i found what works for me. Hopefully this will help someone having the same issue.

  • http://lizerk.livejournal.com Liz Erk

    "No Poo" = "Pee Yoo" in my book. I can't even imagine what your "friend" must have smelled like! The alternatives you listed basically sound like the making of a bad salad dressing.

    Give me my Herbal Essences any day of the week! I'd rather my hair strip than stench.