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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Shampoo You

Shampoo You

With today’s no-shampoo movement ascending to Rapunzel-like heights, what are the pros and cons of leaving your lustrous locks to fend for themselves? And, how did it all get started?

The fact is, throughout history women used all manner of natural and homemade concoctions to cleanse and manage their hair. Without indoor plumbing, Victorian women (most with waist-length hair) surely didn’t wash their hair every day, especially with the daunting task of heating up substantial amounts of water and providing for hours of air-drying time. And, history tells us without the harsh detergents and chemicals in modern shampoos that strip the scalp of necessary oils, or sebum (which in turn causes the scalp to over-produce oil to compensate), women could go a lot longer between washings. But when they did shampoo, egg yolks, cold black tea, rum (said to keep hair disease-free), rosemary tea, or castile soap shavings (because it is mild) were favored.

In Godey’s Lady’s Book (1869), for thorough hair cleansing it was recommended to beat the yolk of an egg with a pint of soft water. The mixture should be applied warm, it says, and rinsed out with warm water as well.

With regard to the use of cold black tea, Victorian practitioners recommended applying it to the roots (or scalp) at bedtime with a small sponge and again in the morning. Best practices also included brushing 100 strokes each night, to help distribute natural oils.

Vinegar was another go-to method of cleansing the hair for 19th century women, and is clearly a factor in today’s suds-free movement. Proponents of going suds free suggest starting with a baking soda paste worked into the scalp, followed by a diluted apple cider vinegar rinse.

Edwardian women (1901-1910, when King Edward succeeded Queen Victoria) made shampoo tonics of ingredients that may have included bay rum (not liquor – more like an astringent), carbonated ammonia, tincture of cantharides and more with hair dressings that may include a mixture of lanolin, rosewater, lard, and rose oil. Synthetic shampoos did not appear in the marketplace until the 1930s.

Today’s no shampoo movement favors eliminating shampoo altogether as proponents and some medical professionals believe a gradual reduction will cause sebaceous glands to produce oil at a slower rate. Speculation is that a two-to-six-week period is required to alter the scalp’s chemistry, and it may take as long as a year for the hair and scalp to completely adjust (some practitioners claim they go through various periods of greasy hair, dull hair, etc.). Among  concerns and reasons for adopting new shampoo practices are chemical additives such as parabens (known to cause endocrine disruption, among other health issues) in today’s shampoo products that can result in toxicity. Other additives have been labeled as human carcinogens by the Environmental Protection Agency, and still others have been linked to Alzheimer’s and nerve damage.

Plastic containers, waste, and landfills are also catalysts in the no shampoo movement, though recycling may be an option.

If you want to go shampoo free, there are many paths you can take to start the process but here is one suggestion:

  1. Combine baking soda and water to make a paste.
  2. Rub all over wet hair, concentrating on scalp and roots. Let sit for one minute and rinse well.
  3. Add one to two tablespoons apple cider vinegar (not white) to a cup of water. Pour on hair, this time focusing on ends as opposed to scalp and roots. Then rinse well with plain water.
  4. Stay away from styling products as well.

Employ this method for two weeks, during which time your hair may appear greasier or even frizzier, but remember it is going through an adjustment period to achieve its natural balance. After this time, it is recommended to reduce the amount of baking soda and apple cider vinegar used, eventually eliminating both and relying strictly on water to cleanse your hair. In time, you may want to resume using the baking soda paste and apple cider vinegar rinse once a week if you feel your hair needs something.

 

8 comments

1 MagicJickjack { 09.07.14 at 4:18 pm }

As a child I went through hell because my mother would only let me shampoo my very oily hair once a week. By day 3 I looked like someone had emptied oil over my head, and my scalp felt vile. All this was supposed to be because my scalp would produce MORE oil if I shampooed more often. A soon as I was old enough, I started washing my hair every 2 days, or daily if it was very short. I haven’t noticed any over production, and now enjoy my clean fragrant hair all the time. I use mild shampoo, and use it only once, not the multiple washes it used to take to cleanse my head of the oil slick. That’s it. Not changing. Daily shampoo for ever!

2 Cougartwolegs { 08.25.14 at 8:27 am }

Two words, Dr. Bronners.

3 msmariette { 08.21.14 at 4:17 am }

This is GREAT news! The “industry” will NOT tell us it’s poison, they don’t care about us! I am going to be using natural ingredients from now on! Thanx!

4 Dawna Casselman { 08.20.14 at 11:53 pm }

Like Fran, I did not know that “not shampooing” is a current trend. However I have been aware for quite some time that many commercial shampoos contain toxic ingredients, so have followed with interest the ads and following of “wen” the product being promoted for both cleaning and restoring hair to a more natural condition. Sodium laureth sulfate that is in most commercial shampoos is there to create the foaming that we perceive as a “rich” shampoo. Its original purpose was to de-grease engines – and our hair really does not need that much grease stripping power. It is also a known carcinogen. You need to read labels and usually the less complicated “recipe” is healthier. Some products in the health food store do a good job of cleaning hear without the SLS. One of the reasons we “need” all the conditioners and hair styling products is that the SLS (and possibly some of the other ingredients) in our shampoos so totally strip our hair that we need to do something to put it back in order to live with it. A few years ago I tried using products without the sls and my hair was quite a bit more manageable, AND really nice for me since I have always had fine thin hair – it actually quit falling out as much (so it was a little bit thicker – without becoming too thick) and had a nicer texture. If it sounds interesting, I wouldn’t do it just because its a trend, but look at why and what the purpose would be and if it lines up with your values (like preserving and caring properly for your hair and not adding unnecessary pollution to the planet) try it. You don’t need to go cold turkey and you don’t need to stick with something you don’t like. But there are ways to clean your hair AND be kind to it too.

5 fran wickham { 08.20.14 at 9:56 pm }

This is the first I’ve heard of this. Frankly, it’s disgusting. Have any of you ever sat next to or behind someone with filthy, greasy hair? It’s really awful and the smell is worse. For heaven’s sakes use something or you’ll be asking for a nasty case of head lice.

6 Betty McKinney { 08.20.14 at 4:29 pm }

I have used a 50/50 shampoo of liquid Castille soap and water with several drops of essential oil of lavendar followed by a water/apple cider vinegar rinse for the last 2 years and my hair is manageable and shiney. I also use a hair color mix of Dalmation sage and Rosemary to keep the gray under control. I simply dab on the “hair tea” and allow it to dry.

7 Mona Kroenke { 08.20.14 at 4:08 pm }

I am a senior citizen with natural curly hair. I haven’t used shampoo in 3 years and my gray hair is thick, curly and healthy. I use only White Rain Tropical Coconut Conditioner from the Dollar Store.

8 Vicki Schmidt { 08.20.14 at 9:15 am }

I’ve been using and making my own shampoo for two months, and did a bit of research on the various “recipes” out there. I like one that actually sudses up, and so use liquid castille soap in mine:
1/4 c. distilled water
1/4 c. liquid castille soap
1/2 tsp. grapeseed oil
a few drops of essential oil for fragrance (anything citrusy is good, clary sage is good for oily hair)

It lathers great and I don’t need to condition. I used Pantene before, and haven’t noticed any adjustment period.

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