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Is shampoo for you?

Sunday, August 13 2017

Shampoo is considered essential for effectively cleaning your hair. Surfactants are the main chemicals used in shampoos for cleansing your hair. A surfactant is a surface-active agent that basically acts by engulfing dirt and oil and holding it suspended in water as it washes away. The most common surfactants used in shampoo today are sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate. Sulfate free shampoos use non-sulfur based surfactants like cocamide DEA/ MEA, PEG and Propylene glycol.

The problem with surfactants is that they also strip the natural oils produced in your scalp that is meant to moisturise your hair. For people with naturally oily hair, shampoo may not be a problem, but for those of us who have naturally dry hair, shampooing can become a cycle of stripping your natural oils and piling on moisturiser and oils to replenish your moisture.

Personally, I have very coarse hair that is extremely dry. It is a struggle to keep the brittle feeling at bay. After trying several different products I came across the concept of a shampoo-free regimen. For just over one month, I left the shampoo bottle alone and tried the “nopoo method” to keep my hair and scalp both clean and moisturised.

The first cleanser and conditioner combo I found was baking soda and apple cider vinegar.

I started with one tablespoon of baking soda in one cup of warm water. I would mix this in an applicator bottle and apply to the roots, massage gently for a few minutes and rinse. The second step was to dilute two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in one cup of water and spray all over the hair (not the scalp) and then rinse thoroughly.

After this I would apply leave in conditioner and a little oil to seal my hair. I did this twice weekly for just over two weeks and this process worked fine for my hair, my scalp was clean; my hair was not as dry as when I shampooed. I believed that I found the key to maintaining my hair.

Upon doing some more research, I found that constantly using baking soda can eventually cause the hair to become MORE brittle. The alkaline pH of the baking soda (approximately 9.5) over long periods of frequent use could never be a good thing when hair prefers a pH of around 4.5. I found that the high pH of the baking soda is good to lift the cuticles and effectively cleanse the hair, but too much of this can cause breakage.

Another pH-balanced alternative for cleansing the hair is clay. Bentonite clay or rhassoul clay mixed with water and apple cider vinegar in a 1: 3: 1 ratio and applied to the scalp and hair left my hair smoother, shinier, and even more moisturised than using the baking soda and vinegar rinses alone. I used this mixture for another week before I decided to reduce the vinegar rinse to once every three washes and add a rinse-out conditioner to the process. For three weeks, I washed and conditioned my hair twice weekly using the bentonite clay wash, a moisturising rinse-out conditioner, a leave-in conditioner and oils to seal.

This experiment went on for a total of five weeks and I found that my hair is not dirty or greasy, but is soft and well moisturised. There is also less broken hair when I comb.

From this (short) experiment, I found that that eliminating shampoo benefitted the condition of my hair and scalp tremendously. The plan is to continue to tweak this regimen to include deep conditioning and clarifying steps.

If you struggle with hair that seems to always be dry or if you would just like to reduce the amount of chemicals you apply to your skin and scalp by extension, maybe going “no-poo” could be for you.



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