At first Kelly O’Brien thought quitting washing her hair would make it dirty and greasy. It turned out to be the exact opposite. Is it time to join the No ‘poo gang?

As a pop superstar, TV presenter, and all round suave lookin’ fella, millions of fans were left aghast last month when Gary Barlow admitted he had just washed his hair for the first time in 14 years.

While the Twitterati’s amazement was somewhat justified – 14 years is quite a long time after all – the No Shampoo trend is nothing new.

Hundreds of celebrities, not to mention hundreds of thousands of us regular folk, have, in fact, been plugging the method for decades now.

Personally, I first gave up the chemical-laden suds in the swelteringly hot summer of 2013.

It all started when I embarked on a month-long post-university trip involving eight countries, seven airplanes, and one teeny tiny carry-on bag.

There was no way I was going to be able to bring a month’s worth of shampoo and conditioner with my in one small zip lock liquid bag, and damned if I was going to spend a fortune on buying the stuff each and every time I touched down. I wasn’t made of money, after all – seven plane tickets saw to that.

Robert Pattinson.
Robert Pattinson.

So I turned to my good friend Google, who has an uncanny knack for getting me out of situations like this, and he provided an ingenious solution – just don’t wash your hair at all.

At first I was sceptical. Would my hair not begin to smell? Would it not get incredibly dirty, look dirty, feel dirty?

But I kept scrolling, kept clicking, and kept reading. SO many people were doing it. So many people were saying their hair had never looked better. Celebrities like Adele, Nicole Scherzinger, Robert Pattinson and Johnny Depp – all advocates who said they would never go back.

Even Prince Harry was doing it. And who am I to argue with royalty?

I said I’d go for it. I ditched the shampoo, and the conditioner, and embarked on my adventure.

For the first two weeks, my hair was simply disgusting. It looked greasy, unkempt, and clung to my head. If I hadn’t already read about this totally normal phase, I probably would have given up.

Gary Barlow went 14 years without washing his hair.
Gary Barlow went 14 years without washing his hair.

In a nutshell, shampoo essentially strips your hair of its natural oils. Your scalp adjusts to this and, by way of response, produces more oils at a quicker pace. These oils are what make your hair look and feel “greasy”.

But when you stop shampooing your hair, your scalp doesn’t register it right away. Having adjusted to years and years of oil-stripping, it continues to produce it in abundance, expecting you to keep washing it away with shampoo. When you don’t, your scalp calms down.

After a couple of weeks (everyone is different – it took two for me, others could be three or four) your hair goes back to normal.

It looks normal, it feels normal, and it smells normal – which is to say it doesn’t actually smell of anything at all.

When I returned from my European adventure, I flirted with the idea of keeping it up. I didn’t need to any more, but in researching the No ‘poo method I read some of the reasons why other people were doing it. They were compelling.

Some, like Gwyneth Paltrow, ditch the shampoo because they are concerned about what chemicals they are putting on their bodies – in comparing the ingredients of 42,000 haircare products to toxicity databases, US researchers found almost every bottle of shampoo contains at least one chemical of concern.


Others, like Jessica Simpson and Perrie Edwards from Little Mix, say curtailing their shampoo frequency makes their hair look and feel healthier, shinier and bouncier. I also found this to be the case – without all those chemicals weighing my hair down, it’s the curliest it’s ever been.

Still others employ the No ’poo method because they are concerned about the general environment – the chemicals in shampoo go down our drains after all, and the bottles are made of plastic.

Apart from all that, shampoo is dear as hell. For any regular brand you’re talking at least five or six euro, and if you go for the more up-market salon brands, you could easily be paying upwards of €20 a bottle.

Needless to say, I was sufficiently compelled to keep going with the No ’poo method.

With more online research, I found that I didn’t have to quit shampoo cold turkey. I could use a homemade mix of baking soda and water – you simply mix one part baking soda to three parts water in a regular sports cap water bottle. You then bring that to the shower with you and use it as you would shampoo.

There are other homemade alternatives you can use, or you can choose to reduce your shampoo use if you don’t want to give it up completely.

Personally, I’d say I’ve used shampoo maybe ten times in the last four years… usually in the hairdressers when I need to get a trim.

Funnily enough though, no hairdresser has ever guessed my secret, a few have remarked wonderingly on what great condition my tresses are in. So I must be doing something right!


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