The rising ‘no pooʼ campaign had definitely caught my attention, so I started poking around- finding the facts behind this dirty movement and finally tried it myself. Here’s what I found:
Advocates are not just ditching their shampoo bottle and calling it a day. They are using particular brushes and specially formulized talc (a superior term for your average baby powder). They all professed to having gorgeous locks and said hair in its natural state is healthier, better for the environment, and looks fabulous with little work. I was like…if this is true then yaaaa I’m on board.
So, I gave the shampoo-free life a try for a little while. Here are five reasons why you might want to ditch the ‘poo’ too:
1. Avoid [potentially deadly] chemicals
If you did not know the following, it’s probably going to scare the sh*t outta you: Many of the unpronounceable ingredients on shampoo and conditioner labels come with serious safety concerns. Possible carcinogen and hormone disrupter diethyl phthalate (DEP) helps hair products hold fragrance. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) makes shampoo foam up, but it, in turn, irritates skin and could be cancer-causing. Parabens work as a preservative, but theyʼve been found in breast cancer tumour tissue, says Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, and coauthor of Slow Death By Rubber Duck. He suggests washing less often or buying products without these ingredients.
So, even if you’re not ready to completely abandon the age-old routine, at least consider the type of shampoo and conditioner you’re using and what the possible side-effects can be.
2. Use less water
When youʼre not washing your hair every day, you obviously reduce your water consumption, which has environmental benefits… Who knew that you could simultaneously become an environmental activist simply by increasing the lusciousness of your locks? I’ve found, on non-hair-wash days, a quick splash on my body from the tub faucet is all I need.
Reducing how much water your hair is exposed to is good for your tresses as well, especially if you colour because the heat and minerals in your shower water strips the colour from your strands. “Water alone can be responsible for 80 percent of colour fade”, says Jeni Thomas, principal scientist for P&G Beauty and Grooming in Cincinnati, OH. She recommends that when you do wash your hair, you expose it to as little water as possible.
So, again, even if you’re not going to get completely say sayonara to the products and join the non-washing movement- it is always good to be better informed about not only your beauty, but also how it effects our environment. Being informed is its own kind of beauty.
3. Save time
Washing, conditioning, and styling takes up a heck of a lot of time in the morning. When you wash your hair less often, you gain time to do other healthful things like taking a morning jog orrrr, let’s be honest… sleeping in. Having some tricks to extend the time between hair washings literally gives you time and flexibility. For instance, hold off on washing before a midday swim (a favourite trick of mine) or take a full shower after an evening tennis game. Let dry shampoo be your new best friend. So stop slaying away in the bathroom… your hair will thank you for it by looking fabulous for you.
4. Get healthier hair
Here’s the extreme: The folks who donʼt wash their hair for months on end claim that when they stopped washing, their hair eventually produces less scalp oil, which is called sebum. The result: hair thatʼs shiny, moist and healthy…never greasy. Hard to believe? I thought so, too. But their hair really does look amazingly healthy. Jeni Thomas also agrees that sebum is good for your hair: “Scalp oils have a naturally protective quality… theyʼre natureʼs conditioner”.
However, she says there are no published studies showing that sebum works on a supply and demand model. “What you do when you remove oils is more of an external effect, I donʼt know of any proof that this can impact the underlying biological process”, says Thomas.
So, while there is anecdotal evidence that not washing your hair for long periods of time will result in amazingly natural luster and health, there is no scientific evidence that this is the best way to go about getting these results, it is just one way.
5. Get to know your locks
In the end, I was only able to go just two weeks without washing my hair. But brushing and talc was enough to keep grease at bay for about a week at a time. After a summer of infrequent washing, I improved my scalp health (all that brushing removed traces of dandruff), but I mainly learned a whole lot about my hair and let go of my own rigid rules about when it needed to be washed. I found my locks had more body when dirty than clean, and I could easily go three days without washing. But as a regular lap swimmer with thin hair, I also found that shampoo was something I did need, at least a few times a week.
Faced with busy mornings, we skipped washing our hair for a day, maybe two. But what happens when we string a shampoo fast out for several days, even weeks, at a time?
Tales abound online of people claiming they stopped hair washing for as many as five years. The scalp, they say, unhindered by shampoo, makes its own oils that eliminate the need for expensive conditioners or time-consuming wash routines.
“In reality, just what happens when hair goes unwashed depends on you”, said Angela Lamb, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist with Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
“Certainly people probably could get away without washing their hair as much,” Lamb said. “But it depends on your genes. It depends on your hair texture. It depends on how much you exercise. It all comes down to oil glands that exist on nearly every area of our skin. Yes, the scalp's oil glands do naturally coat the hair”, Lamb said, “but everyoneʼs scalp does so at different rates. That means not washing can improve one personʼs hair while making anotherʼs smell like sour milk. Hormones affect it. Medications affect it,” she said. “Some can do four, six, seven, eight, nine weeks without shampooing. But itʼs detrimental for others.”
So, there can be a downside…
Hereʼs what could happen if you stop shampooing, depending on your lifestyle and hair type:
Your hair could smell nasty or stop growing. Yea, no thank you.
“Hair traps moisture”, Lamb said, “meaning that built-up bacteria on unwashed scalps can start to pick up a mildewy or sour smell after several days or a week, especially if exercise is involved. If you run five miles a day, you canʼt go three months without washing your hair.
Odors build up easier in thicker hair, too, making it key to really dig and clean the scalp during washings.”
So, that is disgusting. And, as an extremely active person, I do not think I could stand for very long… certainly not as long as some.
“Prolonged periods of not washing can cause cause buildup on the scalp, damaging hair and even impeding its ability to grow. Grime from dirt, oil and hair product can show up within four to six days for people with finer, straighter hair. Those with coarse or curly hair can buy a bit more time”, Lamb said, “as many as 10 days.”
Bottom line? I think everything in moderation is the key to beauty, and understanding that everyone is different. I would definitely suggest giving it a try, and definitely consider cutting back on the amount of times you wash your hair. My biggest take from this was really getting to know my own hair and what routine I acquired for its optimal health and luster.