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Superhero by night. Writer by day. Photographer at weekends.

Why I’m giving up shampoo

So many people have been asking about my hair that I figured I just had to blog my efforts to quit shampoo and go suds-free.

OK … that’s not true. I work from home, so no one sees, cares or asks about my hair – but I’m sure they’d ask if they could see me, if only to snap me out of this latest folly: giving up shampoo for a month.

Why, just why?

Like most fads, I have reasons which seem compelling yet sound strangely bogus. The short story is, my hair was really damaged. At one point it was drier than Jack Dee’s wit, and twice as tangled – I couldn’t even run my fingers through my hair, let along a brush.

I tried fixing it with coconut shampoo, coconut conditioner and coconut oil, and was on the verge of either shaving my head or putting the tropics out of business. So, I asked the internet and the internet said … buy a clarifying shampoo.

That struck me as odd. Why is the answer to most ‘problems’ often to buy yet another product which does the same job but is somehow magically different? Feeling stingier than usual, I kept looking – which is when I stumbled across the ‘no-poo method’.

The no-poo method

Look, this is serious business, so I’m not even going to make a constipation joke. Instead, here’s what the no-poo (that’s ‘no shampoo’) method involves:

  1. Stop using shampoo
  2. Carry on with your life.

Depending on who you ask, there’s a whole lifestyle shift involved between steps 1 and 2 and (of course), other specialist and pricey products you must buy. As I couldn’t even be persuaded to stump up for clarifying shampoo, obviously I’m not buying those things.

Serious heads-up: giving up shampoo doesn’t mean giving up washing, showering or personal hygiene. We’re talking avoiding unnecessary chemicals, not bringing back the bubonic plague. Giving up shampoo also means you’ll have to up your hair care in other respects, unless you like being covered in dandruff and shame.

Why it’s harder than it looks

Sheep with very woolly face


Giving up shampoo isn’t for the faint hearted: it may only take a couple of days before you look like you’re wearing an otter-pelt toupee. The point of shampoo, after all, is to get rid of dirt, odours and grease – and you’ve just decided you don’t need all that consumer crap.

The theory, however, is that if you persevere past this point, your hair balances out. A couple of weeks after ditching harsh, drying shampoos, your hair stops pumping out oil and comes to a self-cleaning, healthy, shiny, glorious equilibrium. It doesn’t smell dirty, it just smells ‘human’ (I worry that’s a euphemism for dirty, but I guess I’ll find out). At the same time, you spend less time and water in the shower, and have less plastic to recycle. Take two bottles into the shower? Try none and I’m on board!

All of that appeals to me, plus less consumerism, stepping off the beauty marketing machine (which, if you’re a woman means – whatever you’re doing – you’re doing it wrong), lower cost and fewer chemicals. And … because lazy.

How to stop washing your hair

There are a couple of ways to go shampoo-free, although it probably depends who you ask.

The first is the ‘water way’, which is simple: whenever you wash your hair, you just stick with water. Some folk carry on using conditioner; others say anything more than triple filtered, Alpine-pure H2O is a moral and spiritual abomination, but I guess you takes your choice.

The second is a half-way house where you replace a weekly (or less often) shampoo with a baking powder paste, and your conditioner with a cider vinegar rinse.

As I have no real clue what I’m doing and hate beauty regimens, I’ve opted to use the water method plus baking powder and vinegar once a week when absolutely necessary.

Some bloggers have also recommended:

  • A boar bristle brush, to distribute natural oils along the hair shaft. This sounds good in theory, but as someone with wavy/curly locks, it sounds like an invitation to fuzz. I’m sticking with my paddle brush.
  • Dry shampoo: this seems counter-intuitive to me, as I don’t want to load my hair up with more gunk. If you want to avoid the chemicals, you can replace your dry shampoo with baby powder (for light hair) or cocoa powder (for dark hair).
  • Commercial ‘no shampoo’ shampoo … no thanks.

What I’ve found

You want to keep brushing your hair thoroughly and regularly – just don’t go nuts over it. I do mine twice a day, once in the morning and either in the evening or just before I wash it. Brushing helps keep your scalp clean, and shift any build-up or loose hairs.

Whether you wash your hair with water or kitchen ingredients, get your fingers up in there, just as you would if you were shampooing. The massage action’s good for your scalp, plus it’s another shot at loosening up / washing away dead skin, dirt and debris.

During its greasier stages, you’ll want to keep your hair away from your face, especially while you sleep – no one likes being basted in their own fat. I guess.

I’m about a week in to the experiment and, to be fair there are better experiments you could run, like finding a cure for cancer, or testing people’s moral limits. That said, the results have been pretty intriguing so far. I have zero tangles, I haven’t been as greasy as I’d feared and, aside from smelling of vinegar after a home-made conditioning rinse, my hair already looks to be in much better condition. It’s no longer an arid wasteland, anyway, and that’s an improvement. One week down, just three weeks of hats and up-dos to go!


Words: my own. All rights reserved: no copying, pasting or re-using without permission.

Shaggy cow: George Hiles via

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