The No-Shampoo Movement: Can It Work For Active Women?

Breaking up is hard to do–though apparently, for some women, not when it comes to shampoo. The push to move toward no shampoo is picking up steam, but I’m a little skeptical about its effectiveness as a movement for those among us who move a lot. Can a clean break from shampoo work for active women?

Over the last year or so, various rejections of the American standard of cleanliness (daily showering, deodorant use, etc.) have been slowly gaining traction– and the anti-shampoo movement is no exception. Eschewing shampoo has become surprisingly popular, and not just among the lazy and cheap. It’s also big with those who want to do less harm to the environment/their bodies, and those just think maybe shampoo is kind of a racket.

Which, to be fair, are all kind of good reasons to quit shampoo–if it’s possible to do so without looking like a street urchin or 90s grunge revivalist. Who it does not seem to be popular with, however, are active people whose hair gets sweaty more days than it doesn’t–at least not yet. Which is why I, a person who runs regularly, am going to try it.

But why do it at all?

Advocates of breaking up with shampoo point to the fact that it’s a relatively recent addition to our shower caddies, thus, we can probably all stand to go without. Until the 1860s, most folks just used the same soap they used for the rest of their bodies. It wasn’t until 1930 that a synthetic, soapless shampoo resembling out modern goo was made available. And the frequency with which we wash our hair? That’s new, too.

But does its status as a recent addition also make it an necessary one? Plenty of medicines and other products (which work pretty awesomely, like mineral-based makeup) are new, too–but we’re not rushing give them the boot. What is it about shampoo that requires an exorcism?

It turns out that, according to some scientists, the various chemicals in shampoo might be terribly toxic.  Savvy shampoo companies have already begun to cut out the more harmful ingredients (like sulfates)–but that’s not enough for anti-shampoo or “clean” (read: chemical-free) shampoo advocates.

However, what I’ve noticed being widely left out of this discussion is activity level. Those who rarely work up a sweat may have an easier time skipping shampoo or trying more natural remedies–but what about those of us who routinely run, spin, or, heaven forbid, do hot yoga, which renders our hair a nasty mess of stinky grossness?

I’d like to find out.

Of course, going shampoo-free doesn’t mean not showering/washing/generally being a clean person–which is the approach I’m taking on this experiment.

In the true spirit of science, I’m only changing one thing: using shampoo. Until the end of the year, I’m still going to wash my hair–I’m just going to follow the Hairpin‘s instructions for how to not become disgusting, which includes a “coming down” process, to get my used-to-shampoo hair ready for the switch.

Don’t worry–I’ll take pictures and keep you posted along the way.

What do you think? Have you already eschewed shampoo? Would you even consider it? Curious to see what happens?

Image: Valua Vitaly / Shutterstock

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    • Elizabeth

      I am very active as a triathlete, so I am working out six days a week. I only shampoo twice a week, usually after my swims. The other days I just rinse my hair and if it wasn’t that tough a work-out might forgo wetting my hair period. No greasies, in fact my daughter always comments on how soft and silky my hair is and I find that there is more fullnes (probably from the dried sweat at the roots giving a lift). Good luck with your no-shampoo effort. I will be following it.

    • b3v

      very curious to see how this turns out!! I’ve already decreased my shampoo consumption, but can’t seem to go completely without…maybe you’ll convince me!! :)

    • Rose D.

      I am very active. After my run today my head was soaked with sweat. But I only shampoo once, or sometimes twice a week. I’ll rinse it tonight in the shower, but no shampoo until the weekend. It works great. My heair is SO much healthier since I stopped washing every day.

    • Hanna Brooks Olsen

      Thanks for the support! I’m pretty excited to give it a shot.

    • JB

      For many years now it’s been the standard thing for many people to wash their hair every day, and that’s excessive – not good for the hair or the scalp. I gave up doing that many years ago and now only wash it once or twice a week. Days when I don’t wash my hair, I just rinse it in the shower and my hair is much healthier since I quit washing it every day. However, I continue to use shampoo because regular soap dries out the hair.

    • Starfruit

      I actually gave this a go for like 2 months last summer. It was absolutely god awful greasy for the first 2-3 weeks, but then it started to settle down. My hair never smelled or anything, but I didn’t think it was all that mind-blowingly healthier after 2 months. It was certainly faster to shower, and it actually helped with my dandruff, but I didn’t like the texture it gave my hair. It just didn’t feel smooth and soft and glossy when I ran my fingers through it. Plus, I miss my sudsy tropical shower experiences. I’ll stick with my chemical shampoos, it’s a luxury for me.

    • Kj

      Wow, I didn’t even know that such a movement existed. I for sure have had a “no shampoo” campaign going on during times of unemployment and thus extreme laziness. hehehe

      I think that if you are going to go without shampoo, you have to eschew regular hair products, no? I can see that getting really built up and gross if you style your hair a lot.

      Good luck!

    • Alej

      I stopped using chemical shampoo last April. I tried to replace it with baking soda to start with but it made it worse so I decided to buy a natural shampoo from Lush and start again from scratch.
      Now I only shampoo my hair once a week with that natural shampoo. I practice Bikram nearly everyday and just give my hair a good rinse after class. I have never had so much compliment on my hair!
      I have also limited my use of body soap. I use a natural soap only for my armpits and my feet, that being said I use no product whatsoever on my hair/body after yoga, I just rinse.
      I don’t smell bad at all, my skin is a lot smoother (I hydrate it with coconut oil), all in all I feel good for not spreading chemical all over me, pouring it down the drain and I am saving A LOT of money on cosmetics :)

    • M

      I haven’t used shampoo is 1.5 years. I use baking soda once a week, lemon juice about three times a week, and simply rinse with water the other days. I also run 5 days a week and lift weights and do yoga 3 days a week. My hair is the best it has ever looked.

    • j.grant

      All is GREAT——–HOW much do you mixed to achive alls theses results?