Who knew that something so innocent would stir up such controversy!
Despite my preference to avoid conflict and step aside when matters of particular ‘female interest’ spark a viscous feline-like brawl, I couldn’t withhold my inner cat woman from getting her claws out and having her two cents worth. Especially pertaining to a particular topic so close to my heart. And oh the timing of it all just when I have been experimenting with such a project myself. So I felt compelled to shed some light on the situation.
Not to worry, I keep my nails finely manicured so there won’t be too much scratching.
A simple process of washing one’s hair, or more accurately, not washing one’s hair in the conventional sense, has turned into a scandal, or so it would seem. The original interview with a fellow natural living blogger, Jacquelyn Byers from Little Owl Crunchy Momma, aired over on the Huffington Post but was followed up with less than stellar commentary by the ladies on the US ‘Today” show. Not that I hold much respect for these self-coined ‘journalists’ sitting perfectly prim and proper in front of the camera nit-picking at the world around them while they slosh themselves on wine… but that segment just brought them to an all new low! Coming off as airy, judgmental and down right rude, they were quick to dismiss the personal experience of Jacquelyn about her lifestyle choice to not wash her hair with commercial shampoo.
Whilst there were a lot of supporting comments in response to Jacquelyn’s story and the whole ‘no poo method’, there was certainly no shortage of other reactions like “gross”, “ewww” and “nasty.”
Look, I don’t blame people for thinking these things. I really don’t. There was once a time many moons ago when I would have had the same reaction. You can hardly blame someone who’s grown up and been led to believe their whole life that there’s only one way to do something and if you don’t do it that way, then you must be wrong. Thank good gracious gummi-bears we at least have the internet to open our eyes to the very fact, that there are other ways to live your life. The variance from culture to culture, and even person to person, as to what constitutes ‘good‘ personal hygiene is so far off the charts, that you’ll find it hard to pinpoint a general rule of thumb without bias.
For me, I hardly see how applying butt loads of chemicals to your body is considered any more hygienic?
We were created with everything we could possibly need to function as human beings as provided by nature. Our modern lives have tainted this Utopian image and so yes, with the number of pollutants and environmental toxins in the air these days, a little more care and attention may be required to maintain a ‘socially accepted’ standard of personal hygiene.
I thought this was the perfect opportunity to dig deeper into the world of ‘no poo’ living and hope to the heavens above, I come out the other side with hair intact and a head still screwed on. Save me now world for if somehow, by ditching the toxic chemicals from my daily beauty regime, I allow my head of hair to revert back to its original state of homeostasis and natural health, then I may need some social rehab.
My Experience with the ‘No Poo Method’
I’ve actually been experimenting with the ‘no poo’ method for some time now much to the amazement of those around me who wouldn’t have known either way. I previously was using an organic and natural shampoo product, but I felt that I could go one step further. I’ll continue to experiment more over the next few months to see what is working and what isn’t but for now, my routine essentially involves ditching commercial products in favor of these simple ingredients:
For me this is great because these ingredients are easy to get a hold, cheap, safe to come in contract with for your body and way better for the environment.
All I can say is:
This is the best my hair has felt in years!
No more dandruff. No more flat, lifeless hair. No more washing it every second day.
BUT READ THIS BEFORE YOU JUMP ON THE BANDWAGON
I only wash (and when I say this, I mean with another product other than water) my hair once or twice a week. If I’ve worked up a sweat from exercise or it’s feeling a bit grimy, then I do wash my hair with water in between this time. I DON’T wash my hair with baking soda every time I do this. I only ever use the baking soda if it starts to get too oily which is very infrequently these days. I’d rather forgo this part altogether because I find it to be quite abrasive at times so I’ll keep experimenting until I find something else that will work to deal with the odd greasiness. I only wash my hair once or twice a week now with 1-2 tablespoons of ACV mixed with 1/2 cup water and every two weeks, I do a hair mask, either by leaving a natural oil in overnight (like olive or coconut oil) or an egg wash (more info on this further down). My hair is soft and has more volume than I’ve ever seen. For someone whose hair is otherwise, flat, thin and dry, this is a welcomed change!
To expel the myths about smelly hair, truth be told, my hair smells like what it should – hair. Shock horror! Not some putrid slime ball of rotting flesh or garbage like some naysayers would have you believe. Nor like some synthetic, overpowering berry blast smell that clogs the sinuses and evokes a gag-response. I worry for the people who find that remotely attractive.
The ACV smell may be overpowering when applying, but once it’s washed out, the smell is completely neutralized. Some people may dab some coconut oil onto their ends for extra moisture but I haven’t found the need to do this yet.
Regarding the weaning period; I only experienced some extra greasiness for less than a week which I attribute to my scalp readjusting to a natural state of sebum production. Call me lucky or unlucky, I don’t know. I’d love to get to a point where I don’t have to use anything on my hair so I’m open to hearing from other people about their experience. You know, I just have this inkling that our bodies are well equipped to maintain themselves without the help of external products. Crazy thought hey!!
What’s wrong with Shampoo?
Let’s step back for a moment. Shampoo is derived from the Hindi word for ‘massage’. In the late 1800’s, Hairdressers would boil soap with essential oils, herbs and soda water to make their own ‘shampoo’ for a little bit of extra shine and fragrance. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that larger manufacturers got hold of the idea and magazines began running advertisements praising the need for shampoo in our daily beauty rituals that it really took off. And so it was, a new market and industry was born.
The fact is, many cultures have survived without these harsh, synthetic chemicals found in the commercial shampoos lining our department store shelves. Think about it. Traditional hot coal saunas, Roman baths and bathing in natural streams; these processes were enough to sustain civilizations for many thousands of years. The hygiene matters that really caused sickness, like throwing bathroom waste onto the streets where people walked, and general poverty of the times resulting in too many people living in close quarters in unhygienic conditions (like alongside flea-ridden animals and clothing that went unwashed for weeks at a time), were more of an issue.
Smart marketing and advertising over the last century has turned personal hygiene products (like shampoo, conditioners and body washes) into a booming, multi-billion dollar industry. The information we’ve been fed through advertisements are there to serve the purpose of raising sales and money for shareholders. It exists to support this man-made market, and we’ve been taught that we need the products in order to be clean, hygienic and socially accepted. If you do not use or consume these products, than you are not considered clean, hygienic and socially accepted.
This begs the questions though….
Chemicals to be wary of:
Sodium Laureth (and Lauryl) Sulfate
This is the frothing agent used in shampoos, body soaps and toothpaste. It’s a known allergen and can be problematic for those who are acne-prone. I’ve personally experienced strong skin reactions to this. Since eliminating from my beauty regime, I’ve said goodbye to inflamed, red, and blotchy skin.
They mimic estrogen in the body which has been linked to breast cancer and fertility issues. “The EPA has linked methyl parabens in particular to metabolic, developmental, hormonal, and neurological disorders, as well as various cancers.” (Source)
Suspected to cause reproductive issues, there’s also concern about the impact of phthalates to aquatic life. This is the same chemical that many toy manufacturers have been banned from using because of its high levels of toxicity.
“Triclosan is expected to attach to the surface of suspended solids and sediments and may bio-accumulate, potentially posing a concern for aquatic organisms.” (Source).
Not to mention the fungicides present in anti-dandruff shampoos which are killing off algae and other marine life when it’s being washed down your shower drain and into our waterways.
Just think about the all too common process just ONE girl may go through in a day to up-keep her hair.
- Firstly, she may wash her hair in the shower, using the town tap water. High levels of copper found in tap water due to copper leaching from the piping network, is proven to be damaging to hair, causing it to become brittle and dry which often results in split ends.
- From here, she may use her favorite shampoo, loaded with toxic chemicals that, when exposed to her skin, will be absorbed directly into her blood stream. What the body can’t process or eliminate, will be stored and may cause potential health problems. Whilst not evident at that point in time, they may crop up years down the tract.
- Afterwards, she may apply a conditioning treatment before blow drying and straightening her hair with a heat iron, directly applying scolding heat to the hair, which causes more damage.
- Not to mention the environmental pollutants floating around in the air that she will be exposed to all day, only to come home to rinse and repeat the mornings proceedings.
- Oh, and then there’s the high chance she probably colors her hair with commercial, ammonia filled, dying products that are, you guessed it, loaded with more synthetic chemicals.
That’s a lot for one head of hair to deal with!
What are the effects of Shampoo?
When you shower, these chemicals found in commercial shampoos, known as Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products (PPCPs), are washed down the drain. Just when you think that there’s no problem with that because isn’t that why we have treatment plants… think again.
The concern lies in the fact that our waste water treatment plants are not equipped to effectively process PPCPs.
“Results from studies in the past several years provide evidence that many PPCPs enter aquatic systems because they persist through waste water treatment processes and are subsequently discharged from waste water treatment plants into surface water or groundwater.” (Source)
Let’s look at the facts though. Despite these advancements in PPCP research and detection, there has been no scientific research into the effects of these PPCP in our waterways specifically on human health (Source). What we need to consider on this point though is, we don’t actually know what the effects of long-term, low-level exposure are. If there is anything we should have learned from science, nutrition and the human example, it’s that prevention is the best medicine. What we don’t know now does not make us immune from the consequences in the future. We just simply don’t know what those consequences are. That is a risk that I would prefer not to take thankyouverymuch.
The fact is, you aren’t loosing out on anything by forgoing shampoo. What you think you are, is in fact a human construed idea of hygiene and cleanliness. Not that which is intended by nature. Your body will adapt to its natural condition in time if you give it the love and care it requires. This goes beyond just what you put on your body, but also what you put in your body.
You are in fact gaining so much more.
- Reducing toxin exposure.
- Saving money.
- Simplifying your life.
- Helping to prevent these chemicals from impacting the environment.
What people need to understand, is that as individuals, what you do in your home does have an impact on the greater environment. From medications passing through your body and into the toilet as by-waste, to those you throw in the trash and the personal care products you use like shaving creams, toothpaste and shampoos, they all get washed down the drain and into our waterways.
Whilst we don’t know the effects of having these chemicals present in our waterways is to our health, we do know the damage these chemicals may be doing when they come in direct contact to our bodies. Surprise surprise, those very chemicals you think are helping to mask the problem are far too commonly, simply the instigators to the problem.
We’ve all experienced the drama that comes with maintaining hair. Boys and girls alike, don’t deny it. Oily. Dry. Greasy. Dead. Lifeless. Dull. Dandruff. Frizzy. Damaged. My hair has seen the worst of these. Sometimes all at once. If Albert Einstein was still hovering around planet earth, he’s head of frizzy locks would have looked like a Garnier model’s standing next to me.
I have wasted many a dollar and many a day pondering the great question of life, how the hell do I get shiny and lustrous long locks…. naturally?
My 4 Tips for Healthy, Natural Hair
Tip #1 – Ditch the commercial hair products
You should know by now (if you’ve gotten this far down the page), that the chemicals in these products strip your hair of its natural oils and simply mask the problem until your next wash. Notice how, in between washes, your roots and scalp produce natural oils? Yes, that’s ok. That’s natural. That’s your body doing it’s job. What’s not natural are ingredients like Ammonia and Sodium Laureth Sulfate which are potentially carcinogenic and are toxic to your body’s health being added to these shampoos. These commercial products create a dependency cycle and inhibit your body’s natural process of oil production and cleansing.
Furthermore, I personally found these products were contributing to my ongoing skin problems such as my Perioral Dermatitis (POD). These chemicals are common irritants for skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, various kinds of dermatitis and eczema. Remember, what goes on your scalp can be absorbed by your skin anywhere on the body. Of what remained and wasn’t being absorbed through my skin was simply being flushed down the drains and out to contaminate our waterways. If those chemicals are toxic to you, just think how toxic they are to the environment. This is not the right why to treat our gorgeous planet.
Did I mention how much money I was spending on these products too? It’s insane to think that I was simply being sold on the idea that these products could bring me the happiness and healthy hair that I so strongly desired and envied. So vain but more so, simply uneducated.
Tip #2 – Treat your hair with natural products
To think your hair can suddenly go from zero to hero in a day is not being realistic. There’s no denying, many experience an adjustment phase – myself included and probably most other mere mortals.
Wean yourself into these things slowly so you don’t experience nasty detox/withdrawal/get-me-the-damn-scissors-already style symptoms. Trim back those dead, split ends if need be. I do switch up my routine every few weeks by paying particular attention to how my hair changes based on things like how much fat is in my diet, sun exposure, humidity and sweat from exercise. The part I’m loving – not having to wash my hair every single day! High five world!
Here are some natural alternatives you should give a try!
Try a baking soda wash of 1 teaspoon with 1/2 cup of water and adjust accordingly. Use this sparingly as it can be drying if you use too much too frequently. I always follow with a tablespoon of ACV in 1/2 cup of water to help neutralize the PH of my hair. The smell of the ACV may be overwhelming at first, but it does wash out under water.
Dry and Damaged
Crack open an egg and separate the yolk. The proteins and fats in the yolk work as an excellent alternative to the chemical-laden hair treatment creams. Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes, I usually give myself a manicure or pedicure in the meantime and then wash out under luke warm water (not too hot okay… think scrambled eggs!). You could also try mashing up with an avocado to give your hair an ultra smooth and shiny finish. Raw honey also has a nourishing affect on hair and smells great too! Just be sure to wash out thoroughly to avoid any sticky situations.
Rub some coconut oil in your hands and massage into the ends. Coconut Oil is a fantastic saturated fat that not only help to moisturize, but it smells delicious too!
If you’re not ready to go full ‘no poo’, there are lots of organic and natural hair shampoos and conditioners out there too if you prefer the bottle treatment. I must admit, some laden with fresh flowers and herbs do smell delightful. Read the labels and see how many ingredients you can identify as being as close to mother-nature as possible. Pass on the ingredients that require you to have a science degree in order to pronounce.
Tip #3 – Eat healthy fats and get your daily doses of vitamins (through food!)
I follow a real food diet, one that, for the most part, reflects a Paleo lifestyle. My diet is abundant in fresh vegetables, grass-fed meats, wild caught fish and seafood, healthy fats (think coconut oil, avocado, ghee and olive oil), bone broth and fermented foods like sauerkraut and kefir.
Your diet is the best opportunity to give your body all the nutrients it needs in order to flood the body with vitamins and minerals to help in repair, regrowth and reconditioning. Especially essential for hair health are Vitamins A, C & E, Folic Acid, Biotin, Omega 3 and Zinc. By eating a well balanced and natural diet, you’ll be providing your body with what it needs to function optimally.
Tip #4 – Detach your self-worth from your hair
Detach your idea of happiness from being tied to the state of your hair health. These things take time but stressing over it in the short term does little to help your mental and emotional health. This is not an easy thing to do in a society that has glossy images of styled and luscious locks on every billboard, magazine cover and in every TV commercial. If you’re having a bad hair day, pop on a cap, beanie or dress it up with some bows or headbands. Then get on with your day.
Getting your priorities sorted in life is of the utmost importance people, the utmost I declare!
So yes, my hair was once the bane of my existence. Had the option been available to me, I can’t deny I would have at least considered selling a kidney on the black market for the chance to get a hair transplant (do they even exist?). My attempts to mask the damage by coloring over last month’s cappuccino chestnut with a tint of copper and burgundy, resulted in a palate of 50 shades of brown whereby I no longer could even remember my natural tone. I would spend dollar after dollar on hair products, salon treatments, conditioning creams and whatever other latest and greatest breakthrough laboratory concoction that ‘X’ company could sell me to me that week.
My hope here today is to share with you what I have learned and to hopefully save you the same pain and heartache I experienced and help you to reclaim your lovely long locks without sacrificial your health or the environment!
UPDATE (March 2014)
On my never-ending quest to find something that works, and after learning more about the alkalinity of baking soda (which is contradictory to the acidic nature of our scalp and often, more damaging than helpful), I have since found a product I am currently in love with. It’s working really well for me and I change up my routine ever so often with an Apple Cider Vinegar wash. This is what I’m talking about. I am working on a post to update in more depth on the ‘whys’ behind all this, so stay tuned!
If you liked this, please feel free to ‘Plus One’ on Google+ below and share!
PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for your support!