By Lisa Davidsson Weiertz
Would you consider swapping your shampoo for baking soda and apple cider vinegar? Thought not, but after reading this article you might think differently about your hair cleansing routines. The ‘No Poo’-movement (short for no shampoo) is currently a trend being practiced by women all over the world. Although natural and organic beauty products, with brands such as Dr. Haushka and I.D in the forefront, have grown in popularity during the last decade the trend is now spreading to other areas than just skincare.
Back in the 1950’s it was regarded impractical (due to elaborate hairdos) as well as a waste of time to wash your hair more than once a week. Then, in the 1960’s, the Don Drapers of the world realized that this was an area of cosmetics women simply weren’t spending enough time and money on. Shampooing slowly transcended from being weekly habit to a daily one and today we live in a culture obsessed with hair needing to be as ‘fresh and clean’ as possible. So, is shampooing just another unnecessary evil capitalist device, increasing the risk of cancer and other health problems, or simply an innocent hair care product?
What shampoo does is basically stripping your hair of its essential, natural oils and nutrients replacing it with artificial moisturizers. This means that over-washing your hair can leave it dry, brittle and prone to breaking (sounds familiar anyone?) Advocates of the No-Poo-movement promise shinier, thicker and healthier hair after only a few weeks of washing their hair ’naturally’. They also argue that apart from avoiding chemicals, ditching shampoo is not only beneficial for your wallet but also for the environment. So, exactly which ingredient in shampoo is being regarded as potentially dangerous? The main culprit is the foaming agent sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), which shampoos are packed with. The Journal of the American College of Toxicology final report on the report on safety of cleansing agent states that the ingredient has a ‘degenerative effect on the cell membranes because of its protein denaturing properties.’ The journal adds: ‘High levels of skin penetration may occur at even low use concentration.’ It also goes on to state that the chemical may be damaging to the immune system (especially within the skin) and, perhaps most frighteningly, that it enters and maintains residual levels in the heart, the liver, lungs and the brain.
No-Poo-er’s says that the adjustment period is the most difficult. For some people, it’s only a matter of weeks, but for other, depending on your hair-type and the condition of your scalp, it could be a matter of months and it’s usually during this period most beginners give up. Judit, 25, stopped using shampoo altogether eight months ago. ‘It was greasy and annoying for the first month, but since then it’s been fine,’ she says. Judit admits to using dry shampoo at times, but has gone from washing her hair every second day to once a week (using a mixture baking soda and vinegar). ‘The main difference for me is that it stays fresh for longer, and it feels stronger. I haven’t noticed any smell or anything,’ she tells me. Like many women who have ditched shampoo, Judith is determined never to go back to using regular shampoo again. ‘It is basically just a detergent,’ Judith says holding up her thick, shiny hair.
Many are reluctant to stop shampooing as it is viewed as a pampering, luxurious ritual. Showering is for many a well-needed break from their hectic lives. Angela De Souza says the one thing she misses about regular shampoo is the smell. “Unless you put some effort into making your own shampoo you will miss out on the lovely fragrances of shampoo. But, with a little effort you can incorporate great natural fragrances too.’
Alicia Hart-Davis, beauty journalist and creator of goodthingsbeauty.com, agrees that the awareness of chemicals in cosmetics have reached an all-time high. ‘I think people are much more aware of the ingredients in their beauty products than they ever used to be, especially since the makers of natural and organic products have started raising questions over what they call the ‘chemical’ ingredients in mainstream products.’ She remains skeptical to anything that claims to be ‘wholly organic’ though. ‘This whole argument is something of a red herring since every substance in this world is a ‘chemical’ of some sort or other, so there can be no ‘chemical-free’ beauty products.’ She’s right; The Royal Society of Chemistry made an offer of £1million for anyone who could show them a ‘chemical-free’ product a few years ago; so far, no one has come forward to claim it. ‘What people usually mean is that they want to avoid the harsher ingredients that you find in mainstream products, such as sulphates which is a known irritant — though since shampoo is rinsed off the scalp soon after it’s been applied, sulphates usually aren’t a problem unless your skin is unusually sensitive.’
Although Alicia does not recommend detoxing your hair, she does say that it suits people with a particular hair-type. ‘It suits some people — usually people with thick strong hair that doesn’t need much styling — and it takes around two months for the hair to rebalance itself just to being rinsed clean rather than de-greased with shampoo.’ London based hair dresser Hanna Andersson recommends two washes a week to her customers in order to keep their hair healthy. ‘A lot of the women who come in to the salon have very dry and brittle hair due to over-washing. I would suggest investing in a high quality salon-brand shampoo, as the high street ones are just residue of ‘real shampoo’, and frankly, not very good for your hair.’
If you still can’t make up your mind whether to skip shampoo or not, do not fret, dear reader, there is good news. Big companies, such as L’Oréal and TresEmmé have recently caught on to the anti-sulphate trend and have both launched new ranges of sulphate-free shampoos. The prices are a bit higher than for their ‘regular’ shampoos but those pounds may turn out to be very well spent. Perhaps, for once, you can have your cake and eat it too.