Monday, February 12, 2007

Gonna Wash that 'Poo Right Out of My Hair

Please see the updated post by clicking on health at the bottom of this post, and finding the new article.


There’s this line in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales about the Pardoner’s smooth hair that drips down in curls, and another about how the cook has a festering sore. Maybe I was smoking too many funny cigarettes in high school, because for many years I not only conflated the two characters, but I grossed out their appearances: I imagined there was a Chaucerian cook who was so disgusting that all the food he cooked was contaminated by his hair that was dripping with greasy, yellow oils and his sore that squirted puss. And sorry to say, this improperly combined, gross, imagined image is the only memory of the Canterbury Tales I took off with me, into later life.

It has come up because I’ve always had a friend or two who has decided to stop using shampoo, or to skip multiple days of shampooing. “Shampoo is just a capitalist consumerist conspiracy,” my friend Winona used to scoff during college. In Houston, my friend Chuck would say a little more humbly, “I find that if I don’t wash my hair, I don’t need pomades.”

For most of my life, I was terribly jealous of the likes of Winona and Chuck. Of people who could skip a day of washing their hair without looking like my nightmarish Chaucerian misread.

What I learned over the years, though, is that no matter what kind of shampoo I have used, throughout my life my hair has behaved more or less the same: it is thin; when shampooed daily, it is thin and brittle; when not shampooed, it looks like I put olive oil in my hair; also, it won’t grow past a certain length; it is flyaway and it never looks healthy. All these facts about my hair lead me to believe I was just another white girl with terrible, mousy, broken hair. Since I’ve read so much about the dangers of the toxins in shampoos, I was forced to buy super expensive shampoos (my favorite: Aubrey’s Organic Baby Shampoo).

and if it won't clean your hair, you can always make a volcanoAnd then, about a month ago, I read this article on “No-Pooing” – a name, I confess, I totally disdain. The writer I first read washed his hair with a baking soda solution, and conditioned it with Apple Cider Vinegar. Since I like mixing things together, and there is really nothing I can do to my hair to make it worse, I delved into this No-Pooniverse (can. not. resist. stupid. word. jokes. sorry. ch.).


No-Poo Log, 2007:

#1: I washed my hair with 1 T. of baking soda dissolved into ¾ cup of water. As per the directions on the sites, I really massaged the solution into my scalp by first massaging around the crown, and then in the center of my head. I used no conditioner.
Result: Very clean, very manageable hair, slightly dry, though.

#2: I read that most people just mix baking soda into a hand paste before using. I tried this. And I also rinsed with 1 T. Apple Cider Vinegar and 1 Cup water.
Result: Hair was oilier than usual, but not gross with oil. It was sort of an interesting texture that held curl, and didn’t look brittle.

#3: I washed with the baking soda paste, again. I read that vinegar rinse should only be used on the ends of hair, and this time, didn’t wash my scalp area with it.
Result: A little less oily than before. I was not completely satisfied, though I already preferred this hair to shampooed hair, because my hair started feeling like, I don’t know, hair. I realized that my old hair felt more synthetic or something.

#4: Some people No-Poo by just skipping shampoo, but using conditioners.
Result: My hair was way too oily. The woman who suggested this was African American, though, and a lot of people on her site found it worked for them. Maybe it just doesn’t work on super fine hair.

#5: For about a week, I tried washing with varying amounts of the baking soda paste, and started skipping the vinegar rinse. I always needed 1 Tbs of Baking Soda: ½ I rubbed onto the top of my head, the other into the back.
Result: Varying degrees of hair feeling more oily than I had become accustomed to. Never hair I could go more than a day without washing, but hair that was much more manageable than it had ever been, previously.

#6: I washed with a lemon juice rinse (1 T Lemon Juice in 1 C water).
Result: Made my hair extra oily, again. But I was starting to worry because I felt like even when my hair felt more oily, it was also drying out the ends of my hair more.

#7: It occurred to me that my hair was the least greasy the day I mixed a T of Baking Soda into ¾ cup water. I had been assuming the paste was strongest in eliminating oil, but decided to test the assumption.
Result: Lo and behold: in the less concentrated version, my hair wasn’t oily at all. When I awoke the next day, even, it wasn’t oily. I didn’t have to wash my hair that day when I showered!

#8: I started using less and less Baking Soda in the ¾ cup of water.
Result: My hair needs about 2 t. full – 1 T. full dries it out.

#9: My hair was not oily everyday, but for the first time in my life, I worried it was overly dry. So I started using the vinegar rinse, and I added some rosemary essential oil – which strengthens and darkens hair.
Result: Voila! Hair not dry, not oily. But I can’t use this vinegar every day: more like every three days.


There are a few really fabulous No-Poo sites out there. My favorites are BabySlime, and Motowngirl.   Pioneer Thinking offers various hair/skin recipes.  The No-Poo sites explain how there is a long process of figuring out what your hair needs: clearly, I’ve found this to be true. It has been enjoyable, though, experimenting. Now I keep a water-proof container filled with baking soda, a teaspoon, and a measuring cup in the shower.

BabySlime has a lot of recommendations for different rinses. I’m about to mix up a gigantic batch, so I won’t have to make a hair rinse every day. Even on days I don’t use vinegar, I’d like my hair to smell of something, so I’m experimenting w/different essential oils. Daily I’ll use that rinse, and some days I’ll add some vinegar or lemon juice.

And I love washing my hair. Because 2 t. of baking soda a day costs less than half a penny. Because when you actually massage your scalp with baking soda, or with rosemary oil in water, it tingles. Because even though I was totally screwed by shampoos for most of my life, at least I figured it out. Because my hair used to be this terrible, sad fate I would be sealed with forever, and now it is this fabulous, shiny, manageable cool-person hair.


GreenDaddy said...

I love this post. My favorite part is the unstated implication of the volcano picture, which is that you don't mix the baking soda and vinegar. You use them one after another. Unless, that is, you want a little volcano in your shower.

I've been waiting for MaGreen to complete her first experiments before I try myself. We'll see how it goes for me.

MaGreen said...

oh yeah. i meant to write that the good thing about trying no-poo is that if it doesn't work, at least you have lots of baking soda and vinegar to make explosions of frustraitions with, whereas, if your $17 fancy-schmancy shampoo goes wrong, you have only your humiliation at having ever spent so much on shampoo :(

Jessi Louise said...

Inspired by your reference to the BabySlime site a while back, I tried the baking soda washing a couple weeks ago. I went for about 5 days using varying amounts of baking soda, when suddenly I had flakes in my hair. So I've gone back to shampoo for a bit, but I do plan to start the process over again. Maybe I was using too much baking soda.

MaGreen said...

oh, you know, i read that if that happens you should wash every few days with white vinegar and water...that baby slime link to pioneer thinking, on the bottom of her page, tells the amounts.

chuck said...

o, ma green! you and your verbal gags! (i like the Pioneer Thinking site -- check out recipes for "colognes".)

Henitsirk said...

I had a friend who swore by this concept, in particular for curly hair. She was a pharmacist and had actually tried to concoct her own shampoo from scratch before hitting on this method.

I liked the volcano picture too!

sean said...

About 6 months ago, after many dandruff treatments: hot oil, pyrithione zine (head and shoulders), neutrogena clear, baby shampoo.

Nothing worked until the day, I doused my head in pure vinegar for a few minutes (not for the weak of heart). It cured the dandruff and itch problem, cleaned my hair, and gave it a very smooth texture.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you shared all of your "permutations" for various methods! I'm 46 and have always been a greaseball ... my DAD is almost 80 and is still a greaseball, too!

I've tried the basic 1 T BS and CAV water all over and the oil was much worse. I was considering quitting and using my JASON Tall Grass S&C, but found your various trials ...

So, now, 1 tsp of BS with a smidgen of CAV on the ends only are doing great!! PLUS, the method of running a couple of washcloths from the roots to the ends while in the shower, 100 times on each side, is helping, too.

If I can just hang in there and get past the greasies ... but the new amounts/methods are a GREAT help.