Thursday, February 26, 2015

My 'poo-free life החיים ללא תחפיף

Time to once again deviate from my usual fare, to report that I have joined the No 'Poo movement, i.e., I've quit using shampoo. I was inspired to try this about 15 years ago in response to skimming one of those guides for curlyheads. I don't recall the instructions exactly – it may have advocated not even wetting your head – but I recall that I lasted four days.

Fast forward to 2015. What changed? you ask. Two things: I'm older, and so's my hair. It's just gotten drier and more hag-like 'til finally it was downright atrocious: Hated how it looked, hated how it felt. Second thing that changed: Now there's Internet. As is my wont, I visited around half a dozen sites that talk about going shampoo free, and aggregated the information therein. The consensus seems to be that hair care can consist of daily (or less frequent) wetting and using crème rinse (I refuse to call it conditioner); and a more or less weekly baking soda scalp scrub and apple cider vinegar rinse. All the sites also warned of a transitional period wherein your hair will be greasy.

OK, so here I went: I already use a crème rinse that I absolutely love: Hawaii Oil Intense. So I just went on using that. The thing you have to know about crème rinse is that it does one thing, and one thing only: It's a detangler with a grownup name. It doesn't "condition", it doesn't alter your hair in any way, nor does it change the properties of the follicle or cuticle. Ads notwithstanding, it won't make your hair shiny, or lustrous, or any other adjective. All it does is allow you to comb wet hair out comfortably. So use whatever crème rinse you love, just don't have any expectations that it will do anything but that.

After a week of daily wetting my hair and applying crème rinse (I comb it through before rinsing out), and my hair looking and feeling fine, and having zero scent, my scalp began feeling kinda gritty. Time for baking soda + vinegar! Following instructions I'd read online, I made two solutions: 1 cup water  + 2 Tbs. (plain, white) vinegar (hadn't yet made it to the store to buy apple cider vinegar) in a schpritz / spray bottle; and 2 Tbs. baking soda mixed with 1 cup boiling water (let cool!).

When that was all ready, I poured the baking soda solution on my hair. Despite my having used boiling water and mixed thoroughly, it still separated. More on that later. Anyway, I poured it all on the crown of my head and used my fingers to scrub it into my scalp all around. Then I left it on while I did my usual showering routine, rinsed it out thoroughly, and then schpritzed the vinegar solution all over my hair, on top and underneath. I rinsed that out thoroughly too, and then dried off. I combed it out as usual; no odor remained.

I kept up this regime for a few weeks. Although I don't believe anyone else noticed, I felt my hair looked and felt better: less frizz, more curl, soft to the touch, a little shine. Don't know if I'd go as far as to say silky, but improved. Far less hag-like. Then today, after a heavy-duty outdoor cleaning job, I felt absolutely gross. I caved and shampooed, and followed with vinegar. Before it had even dried, I saw the difference immediately: My hair was flyaway even while still wet. So I'm a convert, but a Reform convert: Perhaps I'll shampoo once a month.

Meanwhile, two observations: Since the baking soda solution separates no matter what, I tried just sprinkling the baking soda on my head and then dripping water onto it from a mineral water bottle with a drip spout. Didn't work well: My hair ended up a giant baking soda snarl, and the baking soda didn't distribute over my scalp.

So I decided to make up a paste and used that. The paste seems the most efficient. I poured the baking soda into a small plastic bowl and dripped water onto it ‘til I got a mixture the consistency of yogurt. Poured that onto the crown of my head. At first it seems like it won’t distribute onto your scalp, but keep scrubbing / massaging it in, all over. Eventually it distributes.

Second observation: What's special about apple cider vinegar? I finally got hold of a bottle and not only does it not smell like apples as I'd expected, it has an even more pungent odor than does white vinegar, and its effect was identical. So no more apple cider vinegar for me: I'm going with plain white vinegar, whose price is about a fourth of that of ACV. Either way the cost is negligible; two cups of solution looks like it's gonna last me for months, if not an entire year. Good thing vinegar doesn't go bad.

Speaking of cost, many sites cite the savings in not buying shampoo. However, I notice that I use much more crème rinse now (see March update below). I don’t really understand this; it seems counterintuitive: If shampoo dries our hair out, shouldn’t not using it mean we need less crème rinse? But for some reason it’s the opposite. So as far as saving money, it’s a wash: Save on shampoo, but use more crème rinse. Oh well.

March update: My comb was collecting gunk, which I surmise was creme rinse residue. Yuck. So decided to quit creme rinse and just use vinegar, which does the same thing minus gunk. Then I tried using nothing, i.e., just rinsing and scrubbing scalp with water. Combed out no problem. So now I'm down to water only, with vinegar if tangled. I did "break down" again this week when the temperature rose and things got sweaty, and shampooed. But the results were less flyaway this time. I see a cycle shaping up: shampoo every few weeks, water + vinegar in the interim.

April update: Shampooed just before Seder, followed by vinegar. Basically we're talking a shampoo bi-weekly regime. My hair's fine but I'm thinking of looking for a laureth sulfate-free shampoo. I heard they exist for a price. I do like the sudsiness of shampooing. Stay tuned.

May update: Tried two sulfate-free shampoos: Avalon Organics Lemon something, which was fine but didn't blow me away. It lathered up only slightly less than sulfate-containing shampoos, and left my hair "regular"; and Ogx Tea Tree Oil, which -- wait for it -- dried out my hair! Worse than conventional shampoos! Indeed, I've always been suspicious of a plant called "tea tree", so I looked it up: Indeed, it's not even a tree and is applied to no less than five different shrubs.

OK, I'm starting to call bullsh_t on this entire business. For the sake of argument, let's say that shampoo -- both sulfate-containing and sulfate-free -- dries out our hair. If so, then duh -- just shampoo less frequently. You know? Like the sixties, when we all shampooed weekly? 

What's certain is that no one needs to "repeat" after lathering and rinsing. Does anyone still do this? If so, just realize that the only people it benefits are the kids of the shampoo makers, whom you're helping to send to college. Now, would anyone out there like a nearly-unused bottle of "tea tree oil" [rolling eyes] shampoo?

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