Monday, 7 May 2012

The hair experiment


Hair. I have lots of it. I spend minimal time on my hair, which would probably shock most hairdressers! I wash and condition it every three days, brush it and leave it. No dye, no hairdryer (except on really cold days) and just the odd splash of moroccan oil.

Until six months ago I always used shampoo from the supermarket. I tried various brands but was never really happy with the result. My hair grew to a certain length (see picture below) and then stopped. I think it was being stripped of its natural oils and was just not in great condition. On top of that, I have a condition on my scalp and face called seborrheic dermatitis, which causes sore and flaky skin. Cheap shampoo just makes this worse and I was always on the hunt for shampoo that didn't aggravate it. I only ever use water on my face as any kind of soap brings me out in red welts!


Then, by chance, I found myself in a shop that supplies shampoo to hairdressing salons. I talked to the lady there and she recommended a shampoo and conditioner called Nak Nourishing. I bought some and was amazed at the difference it made to my hair. It was softer and smoother and it started to grow again! This picture was taken a couple of months after I got the Nak (pun intended:).


The Nak was also gentler on my skin, although the dermatitis was still there. So, if you are still with me, this leads to my revelation and my experiment:

I've given up shampoo. Completely.

There, I said it. Not washing, just shampoo. I still wash my hair every three days, but now I just use water and a dilute vinegar solution (one capful of vinegar per cup of water). It is an experiment as I only gave up shampoo two weeks ago and if I start to look like a bag lady (friends, I need you to be honest with me on this), I will go back to shampoo. But so far there is no greasiness and the dermatitis is getting better. Yay. I think using the Nak shampoo for six months probably eased my hair into not needing shampoo as it was so much gentler on my hair than the supermarket brands.

If this works out I will be so thrilled. I live my life trying to keep things as natural as possible and this fits in perfectly. I have never used shampoo or soap on my children (apart from washing hands and the odd smelly bit) and they've always had lovely skin and hair. I limit the use of chemical cleaning products. We eat a very healthy diet with the barest minimum of processed food. If I can, I make my own (bread, yogurt, cakes, even the dog's food!) and I grow fruit, herbs, bean sprouts and sometimes vegies too. I would love a bigger garden to grow more food. I always research medications and vaccines and make a careful decision about whether to give them to myself or my children. Mostly we try to avoid them! However, I am a research scientist with a strong medical background so I (kind of) know what I'm doing. And, I can't write this list without including breastfeeding. A subject (literally) very close to my heart as I have studied it in depth and am still amazed at how the body can produce this living substance which is always changing and responding to the needs of the baby.

Well, I ended up saying quite a bit more than I intended, but hopefully it's interesting to someone. Anyway, back to the hair. So far, my experiment is going really well. I will post updates now and then to let you know how it's going and whether I stay off the shampoo and conditioner. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Has anyone else tried this (there's not much out there on the internet) or do you think it's disgusting?!!

The Hair Experiment - no shampoo for 1 week (with my son and baby niece)
The Hair Experiment - no shampoo for 2 weeks!
It's nice to do a bit of science :)

7 comments:

  1. Hi Meg - I was really interested in reading your post. I saw a TV show last year warning about the problems of using shampoos that contain phosphates and when I checked all my products including face wash they all contain phosphates. I've tried phosphate free shampoo from my hairdresser but my hair doesn't like it a lot.

    However, a few years ago I read a book (I've been googling to see if I could locate it for you but no luck) from memory called Skin. It was written by a skin specialist in Sydney I think. It was a very small book but with lots of good advice. He recommended NEVER using shampoo, just water. From memory he said your hair goes through a period where it may get greasy and not look so good but after about 3 weeks (once again from memory) it starts to become really glossy and manageable. A few years ago the ABC afternoon radio show (http://www.smh.com.au/news/richard-glover/the-no-shampoo-challenge/2007/03/22/1174153246888.html )ran a challenge for people to not shampoo their hair just in case your interested. It was very funny and a lot of people got involved. I'm sure a lot of them are still not using shampoo. Good luck it looks like you're on a winner to me.

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    1. Hi, thank you so much for your comment. The 'no-shampoo challenge' article was very interesting. From what I've found on this topic, it does seem to be men who are more likely to experiment with giving up shampoo. I guess they generally have less hair than women so it's not so obvious if their hair gets greasy for a while. I think I would have tried this sooner if I'd had short hair, but actually it's been really easy. I wonder if dyed hair causes more problems when giving up shampoo and whether using natural hair dyes would be helpful (just thinking 'aloud' here!). My main reason for trying this was to help my dermatitis, but your point about the chemicals in shampoo is definitely a motivating factor. I would be pretty happy if my experiment gives someone else the confidence to try this. There seems to be nothing to lose and quite a bit to gain. Let me know if you do try it. Meg

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  2. Very interested to see how you go. I came across someone who is only using baking soda to wash her hair. I haven't been game to try it yet, but I've bought the bi-carb soda. Here's the link to her post...
    http://ablossominglife.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/ditching-shampoo-and-conditioner.html

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    1. Hi Pam, I've been wanting to try this for years and now I've done it I wish I had done it years ago. It has been far less painful that I thought it would be! I read an article (http://druidnetwork.org/ethical/personal/givingup) by a girl who said she used dilute vinegar to remove the greasiness, but not baking soda as it made her hair brittle. That's why I tried the vinegar which seems fine for me. However, what works might depend on the hair of each individual and maybe the shampoo they used previously, at least during that initial transition period. I do think using a mild shampoo for a while probably helped with my transition as I've had absolutely no trouble at all with greasiness since I stopped using shampoo. Thanks for the link - very interesting. It's crazy really that such a small lifestyle change feels like such a big deal. Advertising is so powerful. I do hope you give it a go and let me know how you get on. Good luck, Meg

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  3. This is all really interesting. Re the bi-carb, I did do a course at our local community college on natural skin care and they touched on hair care at the end. For the life of me I can't recall what they said but a woman who attended who had long dark hair was only using bi-carb. She made a bliss bomb, I think they are called from bi-carb and rosemary oil and used that to wash her hair. The instructor did comment that bi-carb tended to dull one's hair so you needed to be careful with it and you needed to find some way to replace some of the oil. The woman who used it did have long hair which had no shine whatsoever and she did admit that was the case.

    It was an interesting course - I now only use oil for removing makeup for instance - just normal light oil - you can try sweet almond oil or similar. I've been using rice bran oil. The instructor recommended using a microfibre cloth and warm water to remove the oil. It's very nice. A few of the people in the class had been doing that for some time and highly recommended it. It certainly gives your skin a nice feel.

    Anyway Megan, you did inspire me - I washed my hair, which is thick, wavy (coloured because I'm greying)and just to below my shoulders, last night without shampoo using just warm water. I missed what you said about the vinegar. It feels really heavy and quite lifeless so I think I need to try it again with the vinegar. It feels clean around my scalp though. Maybe I've just shocked it a lot. :) I think you may be right about colouring causing a difference. My husband has a similar scalp condition to what you mention and he prefers to use no shampoo but then he has very little hair these days. I'll let you know how I go.

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    1. Hi MareeAlison, I'm so pleased you gave this a go. I'm not sure if the vinegar makes a difference or not as I've only tried water and vinegar at this stage, not water alone. Most people do seem to go through a 'bad hair' period when they first give up shampoo. I don't know why I've bypassed that stage - maybe it's the vinegar, or the mild shampoo I was using before. The vinegar seems great for me (apart from smelling like a fish and chip shop until my hair dries!). That's interesting about the sweet almond oil too. My sister uses it to massage her baby, who loves it! I find that I only need water on my face as I don't wear much make-up and my skin is happiest that way. Thanks for the update. I'll be interested to hear what happens next :)

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  4. I just found your blog, and I love it!! I've been using a shampoo/vinegar combo for awhile, but I'm definitely going to try plain vinegar and water now. I didn't think about it before. If you are interested in a natural conditioner, I use coffee. I basically "brew" it from already used grounds, then pour the coffee through my hair like a rinse. It doesn't make my roots oily, which I'm prone to in part because my hair is thick, and it still condidions the ends of my hair my hair. I usually let it sit in my hair a couple minutes before rinsing. I've got really long dirty blonde/light brown hair, and in case you're wondering, the coffee hasn't effected my hair color, unless you count the fact it no longer looks light and dried out. :) Anyway, I thought I'd share for those who would like a conditioner to complement the vinegar!!
    (It smells a little better than the vinegar. - I also reuse coffee grounds several times, and I haven't notice a difference between stronger and weaker coffee. Hope this helps!! <3 your blog.

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