The No 'poo experiment - why better hair means ditching the shampoo

Irish Examiner reporter Kelly O'Brien
Irish Examiner reporter Kelly O'Brien

Kelly O’Brien joins in the celebrity trend of shunning shampoo and apart from a greasy start, the results are far from a washout.

HILARY Clinton once said: “If I want to knock a story off the front page, I just change my hairstyle.”

She may have been joking, but there’s a certain truth to Hilary’s wisecrack — society has an alarming fixation on hair.

So I’m surprised more people haven’t heard of the No Shampoo method. After all, professionals have been recommending it for years.

You see, shampooing your hair actually harms it, removing natural oils from your scalp. This causes an overproduction of oils as your scalp tries to compensate for those your shampoo has stripped away. This is what makes hair appear greasy, prompting people to shampoo their hair again.

I’ve been an advocate of the No ’poo method for the past year and I can safely say I’ll never go back to my old ways. Before I’m labelled a dirty hippie, I should clarify I do WASH my hair, just not with shampoo.

My experiment began last summer, during a month-long trip involving eight countries and seven aeroplanes. With only one carry-on bag and a tight budget, there was no way I could afford new products each time I touched down. So I turned to my most knowledgeable confidant (Google) and discovered No ’poo.

The theory is simple. Washing your hair with a gentle alternative, like baking soda and apple cider vinegar, or even just water, will clean hair without damaging it.

For the first month of my experiment, I went cold turkey. No shampoo, water only. I’m proud to say I lasted the whole month, but it wasn’t without consequence.

After a lifetime of shampoo, my scalp was used to producing a lot of oil. When I stopped the unhealthy practice of stripping these from my hair, it took a little time to get my head around it. Literally.

For two weeks, my hair was simply disgusting. It looked greasy, unkept, and clung to my head. If I hadn’t already read about this totally normal and expected transitioning period, I probably would have caved. But I stuck it out and pretty soon my hair bounced back. It was, in fact, healthier than ever and curlier too — turns out all those chemicals had been weighing it down.

After my month was up, I began to experiment with natural and homemade alternatives. I found baking soda a really effective substitute and made my hair softer than using just water. Mix one part baking soda with three parts water and use as you would shampoo. Rinse thoroughly and finish off with a blast of cold water to reduce frizz.

When I realised this wasn’t a passing fad, I carried out more research on the No ’poo method and discovered it was even gaining support in Hollywood from A-listers such as Adele, Jessica Simpson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Nicole Scherzinger. And it wasn’t just the girls — Robert Pattinson, Johnny Depp, Prince Harry and former X Factor contestant Luke Friend were also starting to shun the shampoo.

But as all hair is different, so all haircare must be different. While these celebs are champions of the No ’poo method in general, they all have their own way of doing things, and for their own reasons.

For example, Perrie Edwards, from Little Mix, shampoos her hair once a fortnight, along with Jessica Simpson and singer/songwriter Lorde, while Amanda Seyfried and Brooke Shields shampoo every week.

Adele substitutes water and baking soda for shampoo because she says it makes her hair more manageable, while Gwyneth Paltrow doesn’t use shampoos because of the toxins they contain.

A lot of No ’poo advocates have written about their concerns over shampoo ingredients. Research and expert opinion gives weight to these worries, with a US environmental group comparing shampoo ingredients against toxicity databases. They tested over 42,000 personal haircare products and found most shampoos had at least one chemical that raised concern.

With those figures, you’d think everyone would be a No ’poo person but I’m afraid I’m very much in the minority here — it will never be a conventional trend. One has only to look at all the nasty tabloid coverage about the aforementioned celebrities ‘not washing their hair’ to realise that.

But maybe you’re willing to give it a go. Maybe you’re daring enough to join me in my unorthodox, yet perfectly logical, method of haircare. If you are, feel free to tweet me with any questions, suggestions or updates on your progress — my Twitter handle is @kellingtondawg

WHY GO NO 'POO?

- Using shampoo strips natural oils from your scalp, damaging your hair over time
- Chemicals in shampoo can be hazardous to health
- Shampoo bottles are sources of pollution as they are often plastic
- Shampoo can be expensive!

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