50 days ago, I briefly and skeptically joined the no-shampoo movement as an experiment. And while I received some dirty looks when I told my friends and family, it was a shockingly clean and grease-free period. Predetermined to end in the New Year, this week, my time is up. Yesterday I revisited the soapy stuff and, I won’t lie, there were a few things I missed about lathering up–but I don’t think I’ll be making a habit of it. Shampoo and I haven’t broken up completely, but we’re definitely moving toward a “just friends” relationship.
My first wash with shampoo (an eco-friendly, SLS-free one that I wasn’t crazy about before, but now found to be quite luxurious) was kind of nice–I enjoyed being able to run my fingers through my hair in a way you kind of can’t when using baking soda and water–I noticed immediately that it also rendered my hair a little more dull, and a little less auburn than it has been on the no-shampoo regimen. And while the sensory experience was nice, to be honest, it just wasn’t enough of an Herbal Essences moment (do you remember those commercials?) to overcome all of the bad news I’ve learned about commercial shampoo over the course of this experiment.
But skipping shampoo–or at least cutting back on it–isn’t just about the health and beauty of your hair, though there are definite perks in that department, including fewer flyaways, quicker hair growth, impressive shine, and almost no “bad hair” days. Shampoo, which comes in an often non-recyclable plastic bottle and is made with various plastics, is pretty unsustainable and not very eco-friendly…not to mention kind of untrustworthy.
Every time you lather up your locks with a commercial shampoo, you’re exposing yourself to potentially harmful chemicals, like parabens, phthalates, and sodium lauryl sulfate, which are present in nearly all major shampoo brands. But the real bummer about these plastics and chemicals isn’t that they may be toxic, it’s that they don’t actually help get your hair cleaner. They’re purely aesthetic, and do things like make it look creamy, or help it get extra sudsy when you wash. They may even damage or dy out your hair, which means that shampoo manufacturers then need to add even more stuff to make up for it.
And not only are you exposing yourself to them, you’re exposing others to them as well, by washing them down the drain. Additionally, even when it’s labeled otherwise, your animal-friendly shampoo and conditioner may not be as harmless as you think–”cruelty-free” has often been cited as a pretty meaningless label. Opting for the baking soda/vinegar program like I did, or a tried-and-true, animal-friendly, paraben-and-other-junk-free brand (like Kiss My Face or JASON), is a pretty easy way to clear your conscious, and be kinder to the planet.
The biggest lesson, though, that came out of my no-shampoo experiment–and the number one reason I’d recommend that anyone who’s curious try it for a week or two–is that, regardless of what you’ve been told by cosmetics manufacturers, magazines, and every single person you’ve known over the course of your life, your hair doesn’t require shampoo. It really doesn’t. Which isn’t to say it doesn’t need to be washed, but is to say that there is one fewer thing in all of our lives that we “can’t live without.” Because we can.
Which, in this week of resolutions and shedding bad habits, I can’t think of a better one that our dependence on things we can do without. And, apparently, shampoo is something we can do without.
If you’re curious about going shampoo-free (even if only for a few days), I’ve got a Q&A that’ll help you get started. And as always, don’t be afraid to drop me a line to let me know how it’s working for you!