Heard of the ‘no poo’ or ‘no shampoo’ movement? People across the world are dumping store-bought shampoo and conditioner in favour of making their own. Why bother? To free yourself from daily hair-washing; to reduce the toxic load on your body and on the planet. And to save money. Aspen Aman investigates…
Why would anyone want to give up shampoo? What’s wrong with shampoo? This is a good question, especially for anyone who’s already using organic and cruelty-free products in an effort to be as ‘green’ and eco-conscious as possible. For a start, the environmental impact of going shampoo and conditioner-free is a compelling reason, since the product going down the drain is just baking soda and vinegar as opposed to a cocktail of chemicals that they need to be removed at the waste treatment plant in order for the water to be released back into the environment – this process takes huge amounts of water, not great when you live in a desert that already has huge challenges with water scarcity. Then there’s the bazillions of tonnes of plastic waste generated by our global obsession with daily hair-washing.
Believe it or not, a large no-poo movement is already gaining traction all over the world. These people have opted to forego shampoo and shampoo, instead making their own hair wash and conditioning products from the traditional cleansing ingredients your great-grandma used to use like baking soda – aka bicarbonate of soda, water and vinegar. You’ll spend as much in a year as you would on one bottle of organic shampoo.
Apart from the environmental reasons, many ‘no-poo’ or ‘shampoo free’ converts also believe it’s better for your health. Anything you put on your skin and scalp gets into your blood stream within seconds and from there it can be taken through your organs to every part of your body. That’s why pregnant women stop dyeing their hair – for fear of their unborn child being harmed by colouring chemicals.
Why else would you try no-poo? Some no-poo-ers say their hair got healthier, fuller and more vibrant than it was when they removed the artificial (and toxic) chemicals. Some people experience reduction of dandruff, psoriasis and other scalp issues when they go no-poo. Others report improved hair growth and reduced hair-fall since the scalp and hair follicles become healthier when chemical-free.
We’re not going to pretend it’s not a challenge initially though. It takes at least 30 days for your hair to adjust to not being stripped of all its natural oils every day so for a while it will still pump out excessive amounts of oil – you’ll get the greasies in other words but it’s ok, there are natural remedies. Of course, if you try no-poo and don’t like it, go back to your commercial shampoo.
NO POO STARTER KIT
So you’re thinking about giving no-poo a try? Here’s what you need:
• Baking Soda (any brand will do) • Distilled White Vinegar (fine/oily-prone hair) • OR
• Apple Cider Vinegar (curly/ dryness-prone hair)
• Castile Soap (can buy at the Organic Supermarket)
- A squeeze-bottle or old shampoo/ conditioner bottle for baking soda/ water cleanser
- A good spray bottle for vinegar rinse
- Measuring cup and some measuring spoons
- A funnel for putting baking soda into squeeze bottle
Other Helpful Stuff
- A ‘before’ picture showing the condition of your hair
- Bathroom-safe (i.e. BPA-free plastic) storage containers for your baking soda and vinegar mixes
- Spices like cinnamon sticks, star anise and/or vanilla pods for vinegar rinse
- Essential oil (for very dry, not oily, tresses)
The Basic Cleansing Formula (your homemade shampoo)
5. As a general rule, people with oily or fine hair won’t need to apply the vinegar rinse to the roots – especially during the greasies detox period. Use a spray bottle to spritz the vinegar rinse exactly where it is needed. Too much vinegar solution equals heavy, greasy hair at this stage of the process.
6. Use the DIY dry shampoo as a touch-up later in the day if your hair is just too oily to tolerate. Cornstarch is better for light coloured hair while a cocoa/cornstarch mix is better for darker hair. The cornstarch/cocoa is a 1:1 ratio.
7. Experiment: You’ll need to note (mentally or by writing down your notes) how your hair is reacting to the baking soda/water cleanser and the vinegar rinse – and just give yourself a few weeks to get through this stage by playing around with the solutions and the dry shampoo.
CHEMICAL NASTIES IN YOUR SHAMPOO/CONDITIONER
A brief overview of some of the most commonly-used chemicals in commercial shampoos and conditioners.
• Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate, a.k.a. SLS and SLES: These are the foaming agents that make you think your hair is clean even though the foam does not do any cleaning. SLS/SLES have been linked to carcinogenic activity in the body and can also cause genetic mutation, skin/eye irritation and disruption of the body’s endocrine system.
• Parabens: This is a whole family of chemicals ending with the suffix ‘paraben’. Parabens have been described as “estrogen mimicker” which means that they send signals to the body that is similar to estrogen, which can lead to hormonal imbalances in women and men as well as increased risk of some cancers. Look for methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben or any other chemical ending in ‘paraben’.
• Quaternium-15: A preservative that releases formaldehyde into the body. Quaternium-15 is linked to cancers like leukemia and is also an allergen and can cause contact dermatitis.
• Fragrance: While this sounds harmless enough – even appealing – the catch-all phrase ‘fragrance’ or its even nicer-sounding cousin ‘parfum’ covers over 4,000 different chemicals used in personal care products. Many of these are petroleum- based, have been linked to cancer and can cause rashes/allergic reactions and headaches.
• Methylisothiazolinone: This unpronounceable ingredient is often shortened to MIT on a label. It has been shown to cause neurological damage – especially in fetuses – and has been linked to Alzheimer’s.
For specific information on what toxic or otherwise harmful chemicals are in your favourite personal grooming products, consult the Skin Deep Cosmetics database by the Environmental Working Group at www.ewg.org/skindeep.