As a result of countless allergist appointments this past year, I’ve been on a mission to reduce/eliminate chemical products from our home. My allergist makes a big deal about this and says she’s seen lots of success from patients who follow her advice and start using natural products, from everything to household cleaners to make-up to toiletries to laundry detergent.
It only took me a couple of grocery store trips buying “green,” natural products to realize I needed to find an alternative if I wanted to spare our family budget, so I began to research homemade solutions. This opened up a new and fascinating world to me. I had no idea how many household products you can make yourself with very simple ingredients like vinegar or baking soda or water. I had no idea how empowering and addictive it would be to take control of these areas of my home.
It’s been a fun experience and, while I think a lot of different factors are involved, this has been the most allergy-free year of my whole life. So I’m motivated to keep at it.
I started out last year with a natural shampoo recommended by my doctor (it was very disconcerting to read “formaldehyde-free” on the bottle), but like I said it was pretty pricey. In my research I kept coming across people who decided to stop using commercial shampoo because of the amount of chemicals the scalp can absorb. Tsh Oxenreider wrote about it in the book I keep bugging you about, Organized Simplicity. Then my mother-in-law loaned me the book, No More Dirty Looks: The Truth About Your Beauty Products, and I was further by this idea of going “shampoo-free.”
My final step was to check in with my friend that cuts my hair. She works at an upscale salon downtown so I was embarrassed to even broach the subject of using something homemade to clean my hair, but right away she responded, “Girl, you should totally do it. Using commercial shampoo — even the nice stuff — is basically like putting Ajax on your hair.”
She introduced me to a coworker who had been shampoo-free for a year, has gorgeous long wavy brown hair and told me she washes her hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar once a week. That was it. I decided to take the leap.
We traveled so much this past winter that I marked my start date (or I guess my stop date) for April first. I learned that your hair takes a good month to transition to life without shampoo and that it can be pretty oily and limp in the meantime (fun, right?).
So I started and it was a little rough going at first. It not only took my hair time to adjust, but after a life of wanting squeaky-clean hair, it took me time to adjust to the feel of it not being freshly washed. Here’s a blog post about what I use as a cleaner (I also use her homemade face wash recipe), but the basic idea is that you combine baking soda with water in a squirt bottle and squirt it onto your scalp, working it into the roots and down to the ends of your hair, then rinse. You condition with a combination of water and apple cider vinegar. My hair tends toward the oily side, so I only condition once a week or so.
I have used hair gel or mousse for forever because my hair is curly/wavy, so I researched a natural alternative and came up with pure Aloe gel. I get a big bottle from Whole Foods for $9.99 and the just finished the first one so it lasted nearly four months.
It took my hair closer to six weeks to transition to the new routine (it was just about the time I thought, “I really cannot do this anymore . . .”), but once it did, it returned to its normal state. Only it was better. Because I’ve always had to wash my hair daily, without fail, or it gets very oily. Supposedly our hair wasn’t made to be washed every day, and what shampoo does is strip the scalp of its natural oils and make it produce even more oil and need to be washed more often (very clever move by shampoo companies if you ask me).
Now I can easily go 2-3 days in between washing, and from what I’ve heard, I can keep extending the time if I want. However, it’s difficult for me not to wash my hair every time I go running, so I doubt I’ll make it to a week between washing.
It’s been almost four months now, and I’m very pleased with the result. My hair has completely adjusted and feels normal. I will say that I’d hoped my hair would look Pantene-ad smooth and shiny (although now I know it’s chemicals that make it look that way), and that hasn’t happened. I don’t think going shampoo-free has improved the appearance or styling of my hair (still definitely gets frizzy in the humidity), but I do think it feels much healthier.
I really can’t see a reason to ever go back to using shampoo, in fact, I don’t even think about it anymore. I’ve traveled several times now with the new routine and it worked great — I just take along a little box of baking soda to mix up a new solution as needed.
This may sound strange, but another benefit of my experiment is that it’s made me exponentially more laid back about my hair in general. It was funny — from time to time through my six-week transition period I’d ask a couple honest friends and my husband to tell me how awful my hair looked, and, get this: they hadn’t even noticed.
The whole experience taught me an important lesson: No one is really interested in my hair. I may be obsessing over a bad hair day and chances are no one ever thinks about it. And so I feel very free at this point in my life to have average hair and expend my energy worrying about other things.