Monday, May 23, 2011

The No-Poo Experiment

For the past 3 months, I have been toying with the idea of going no-poo. For those who don’t know, no-poo is a method of cleaning and conditioning your hair using only baking soda and apple cider vinegar.
Stay with me. I’m about to go all dirty hippy on you.
I’ve been finding good deals on my regular shampoo and conditioner, but I always had a  nagging feeling that it wasn’t good putting all that cetyl alcohol and sodium laureth sulfate on my body and down the drain into the water supply. I’ve only used natural bath products on my children since they both have extremely sensitive and dry skin, but used conventional drugstore products for me and my husband because they are much more affordable. 
I started hearing about no-poo a year ago.  First, there was this article on  Then was a buzz on some of the blogs and message boards I frequent, and at that time, I kind of thought that was a whole new level of eco-crazy and I could never go there.
I’ve gone there.
Unlike many of my zany ideas, I actually put some time and thought into this before trying it out. We’re talking about my hair, after all. There was a time in my life that I would recoil in terror if anyone suggested letting a product that cost less than $20 a bottle touch my lustrous mane.
Anyone who saw me at the grocery store today knows I have nothing to lose (truly, I was a horrifying sight in sweatpants, glasses, and a free-with-purchase headband).  I’ve been steadily increasing the time in between washes, from 2-3 days after a blowout to up to 7 days. Yes, 7. I will say that I have very thick, fairly dry hair, so my hair often looks better on day 2,3, or even 4, than it could possibly look on day 1. 
After all the hemming and hawing over whether or not to try no-poo, actually executing it was ridiculously simple. I bought a gallon of apple cider vinegar for $2, scrounged up some baking soda from the pantry, and gave it a whirl. Here’s how to do it:
Before showering, brush and massage your scalp vigorously to loosen up the dirt and oils.
Mix 1 tbsp of baking soda into about a cup of warm water to form a paste. I just brought a cup of baking soda with me into the shower and filled up the cup there. Slowly pour it over your hair in sections - front, back, and both sides. Massage it into your scalp really thoroughly.
Rinse really well. Make sure there is no baking soda left near your scalp.
Slowly pour 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar mixed with 1 cup warm water over your head, the same way as the baking soda mixture.  This is your conditioner and will balance out the basic baking powder.
Day 1: Executed above plan after the kids went to bed. My hair feels about the same as it normally does after I wash, blow dry, and straighten, except maybe softer. I didn’t use any straightening lotion like I normally do so I hope it stays frizz-free tomorrow. The forecast is calling for rain.
This is my hair the evening of Day 1. Not too bad so far.

Day 2: Things are not going well. It doesn’t help that it has been raining for oh, a month straight. My hair never performs well under these conditions. Regardless of the weather, though, I washed my hair only a day and a half ago and it feels greasy and dirty already. It’s also frizzy, but that’s probably because of the weather. 
I’m going forward with this experiment, even though the preliminary results are not promising, because I have heard from various people that if you keep with it, eventually your hair “gets used” to natural cleansing methods. And also because, let’s face it, this is the most attention my hair has gotten in a while.
Day 3: Ok, things aren’t going well here. I just “washed” my hair using the baking soda and vinegar method, and I’m not feeling good about it. Not only does my hair feel greasy and dirty, my face feels like it’s about to break out. I’m am this.close to caving in and just working up a big lather of cetyl alcohol and sodium laureth sulfate and all those other nasty things in commercial shampoo.  It doesn’t help that I was too lazy to blow dry, and now my hair is a wavy, kinky mess. I’m not sure how much longer this experiment is going to last.
Day 4: I felt extremely greasy this morning so I just rinsed with the apple cider vinegar, then blow-dried. My hair looks noticably  dirty.  I have to go out today, so I'll throw my hair up in a clip and hope no one notices.  Nobody says anything, but maybe my friends are just too polite to tell me the truth about my new ‘do.  Also, my face is starting to break out from all the oil.
Day 5: My resolve is waning. I will wash my hair today, with the most detergent-y shampoo I have, and work it into a big, thick lather.  I feel guilty for caving, but it’s taken me thirty years to perfect my hair-care ritual. I’ll have to find other ways of being green and frugal than going “no-poo.”

Looking back, I'm glad I tried it. It's always good to get out of my comfort zone and try new (to me!) ways of doing things. After all, women have been washing their hair for thousands of years, and we've only had shampoo as we know it for the past 75 years.   The failure of this experiment just strengthens my resolve to search harder for coupons and deals on more earth-friendly shampoo formulations. 

What new green ideas have you tried lately?  


At May 23, 2011 at 8:34 PM , Blogger Claire said...

Sarah, I love hearing about your experiment! When I saw you today I almost said something about how great your hair looked -- today was post-shampoo, wasn't it? Way to get in touch with your hippy self, though.

At May 23, 2011 at 9:50 PM , Blogger Sarah said...

Wow -- I thought the humidity was making my hair crazy today. :) And yes, it was post-shampoo. I also realized that my 2 baking soda washes rinsed out all my from-a-box haircolor. Fail.

At May 24, 2011 at 12:35 AM , Blogger Amy said... least you are brave enough to try it! I've never worked up the nerve and I have fairly easy & thin hair.


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