Shampooing Away the Blues

Shampoo and conditioner are two of the first things to go into a travel bag – even if it’s only for a single night out. Most people shampoo and condition daily, strongly encouraged by brands that inform you about their products being “perfect for daily/regular/frequent use”.

If the regular shampoo-conditioning routine works for you, that’s just fine. But what if you are one of those people who can never find a shampoo that works? There is hope for you – away from shampoo-land.

The most common shampoo alternative – known by many as “no ‘poo”(short for “No SHAMpoo”) – is baking soda. The typical way to use it is to mix 1 tsp of baking soda in a cupful of water, let the mixture sit in your hair for a minute, and wash off with water. Baking soda is much milder than shampoo, but leaves your hair dry because it is alkaline. To fix this, use a teaspoon of vinegar in a cupful of water as a conditioning rinse. If vinegar leaves your hair feeling or smelling funny, try lemon or tomato juice as an alternative acid.

The baking soda/vinegar routine, however, does not suit everybody. “No ‘pooers”, as the shampoo-free people call themselves, have devised a number of recipes to use in their hair. The only rules that apply when creating shampoo alternatives are:

1. Avoid detergent.
2. Keep your scalp’s pH low, i.e. acidic.

For excessively dry hair, an easy remedy is the milk and egg rinse. Beat an egg into a cup of skim milk, and leave it on the hair for ten minutes. Milk, being an emulsion, draws out the oily sebum, while the protein and fat from the egg work as a wonderful conditioner. The egg stench goes away as your hair dries.

For oily hair, a scrub with coarse table salt, Epsom salts or kaolin clay works well on a wet scalp. Following this up with an acidic rinse restores the sheen in your hair, keeping it smooth and silky.

In the year I have spent without shampoo, my hair has grown thicker, glossy and far less prone to breakage. My dandruff, caused by an alkaline scalp, now reappears only when I go too long between no ‘poo washes.

If you plan to quit shampoo, start by decreasing the frequency of your shampooing. Use a dry shampoo and comb well on in-between days, or begin by alternating no ‘poo recipes with shampoo. The first six weeks may see your hair feeling greasy and unmanageable – bandannas and braids will help you get through this phase. Once you find the shampoo alternative that is perfect for you, there is absolutely no looking back.

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