Giving up shampoo and washing my hair less ICKS ME OUT — how can I make natural hair care products fit my life?

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Lauren has a burning question:

Wild & red hair dayI really enjoyed the advice on brightening up red hair. In fact, Evathedefiler’s comment led me to buy natural shampoo bars from Southland Soap.

Now I’m a little intimidated by my journey into Pantene Pro-V-free living, especially since I haven’t had the best luck with this stuff before; trying to wash my hair every other day gave me icky shame. Could I get some advice on what to expect when you’re switching to less-traditional hair care? I’d like to hear about the face and body, too.

Hi Lauren! Here’s the dealio: Your head takes quite a while to adjust to changes like the frequency of washes or the type of shampoo. It takes less time if you’re going from Pantene Pro-V to Biolage because both products are, basically, detergents. Moving from Pantene to something lighter often entails a much bigger change.

Everyone’s experience will probably vary, thanks to the differences in hair texture and body chemistry. I’ve been playing with assortments of arrangements this year: no shampoo, Dr. Bronner’s, washing alllll the time and washing less often — it’s interesting to see how dropping “traditional” shampoos has changed the nature of my previously wild-and-crazy hair.

What do you think, Homies? Have you had a sweet deal or a horrible time experimenting with “non-traditional” hygiene?

Comments on Giving up shampoo and washing my hair less ICKS ME OUT — how can I make natural hair care products fit my life?

  1. I started using a shampoo without moisture-stripping sulfates. Since using it my curly hair has gone from dry and damaged and horrible to shiny and soft. The downside is that I can’t use anything with silicones in it because they need the sulfates to wash them out properly. So it’s pretty much changed my whole hair care system. But for the better, so I don’t mind 🙂

  2. I tried the no product/less product routine and it just did not work for me (nor did baking soda and vinegar). I wash every two days and don’t get greasy (third day is greasy so that’s when I wash).

    ATM I use Burt’s Bees green tea shampoo for color-treated hair because my hair is very color treated, but I usually spend the big bucks on L’Occitane. I like it because it’s much milder than cheaper shampoos (I can’t use V05, my hair hates it, Suave makes it feel dirtier, Pantene makes it feel stripped, Pert makes it feel like it’s covered in cake icing even after I rinse). I also use a leave-in conditioner made from vegetable oils called “True Love” that I got from the salon where I do my hair. It’s lovely and keeps frizz under control. I have naturally oily skin but damaged/color treated hair which gets dry at the ends, and my hair is extremely wavy, almost to the point of curly. I keep it in a fringe cut to maximize that.

  3. I tried the baking soda routine once, and my hair turned to straw and STARTED FALLING OUT. So, not the way for me to go. My sister makes her own shampoo soap from natura ingredients (different oils, mostly), which is what I am going to try next.

  4. Hm… I may end up switching to Burt’s Bees after reading through the comments. I tried slowly going to the no poo route but I hated it. My hair is super, super fine and thin and gets greasy so easily. That I can live with. However, I really love washing my hair. It’s so soothing and relaxing in way just rinsing or a scalp massage isn’t. I found I just wasn’t willing to stop

  5. A story: when I was eight or so, I decided that I didn’t like showering every other day(it must’ve been cutting in to my reading/playing outside time). So I went three days without washing. Then four. My mother didn’t pressure me to do it, so I went for day 5.
    That night, I had a freaky dream in which I was extracting pieces of fried chicken from my scalp.
    Suffice to say, I took a shower immediately.

    Nowadays, I wash every day. I can sometimes get away with just a rinse, but my hair tends to feel heavier – not a good thing, because I have thick, wiry, enormous hair.
    Also, I find the practice of washing my hair relaxing. Showering is my one guilt-free pleasure – and it’s valuable thinking time.

  6. I also read Curly Girl and tried to follow some of her suggestions. Long ago I threw out my brush. Brushing curly hair just doesn’t work, and my hair looks better for it. I tried to do the no shampoo thing, but I just couldn’t handle the smell psychologically. The next stop was Chaz Dean hair products. The smell was fabulous and my hair felt very hydrated. The downsides were the cost and the fact that my hair felt greasy after just one day if I tried to use less than the recommended amount. If you aren’t a cheapskate like me, the Dean line is a good alternative to traditional shampoo and conditioner.

  7. I find it interesting that everyone commenting so far is going for either all natural shampoo, no shampoo at all, or silicone-ridden supermarket shampoo. so i’ll throw in a comment on salon shampoos, since i’ve tried both ends of the spectrum.

    Now, living in australia, maybe we’re a bit filthy here or something, but i don’t think it’s common for people to their hair *every* day. I’m pretty sure i don’t know anyone that does.

    However, as a teenager, i was using the pantene pro v and washing my hair every other day, (showering daily of course, and rinsing on the in-between days) and i was experiancing very frizzy hair that was somehow flat and limp at the same time. later, i started reading naturallycurly.com, and discovered things about “silicones”. you know in the tv adds where they tell you about how it’s going to mend split ends and make your hair shiny and healthy “from root to tip”? they do that by coating your hair in silicone, which gives an appearance of shiny for a while, but actually prevents moisture from penetrating into the hair, causing it to dry out over time. silicones are also quite cheap ingredients, which is why your pantenes and vo5s are usually less than $6 a bottle, and they’re in your conditioners as well as your shampoos.

    salon shampoos and conditioners on the other hand *usually* don’t contain silicones, but have other more expensive and less harmful (but still maybe not amazing) ingredients in them, which is why they cost a little more. What we do have in salon shampoos is sulfates. they’re very good for stripping out silicones, but are still quite drying on the hair. Salon conditioners don’t contain sulphates.

    I found switiching from supermarket products to salon products made a huge difference to my hair, it’s more managable, and softer and shinier. I’m now washing my hair once a week or maybe three times in two weeks if it’s hot or i’m especially active. sometimes i condition more often if my hair feels dry.

    I *do* still find my hair to be a little dryer than i’d like, and i did try going to the vinegar and baking soda routine, but i found the baking soda way to harsh and the vinegar on it’s own was not enough, after three months of greasy hair i gave up and went back to salon shampoos.

    For my next attempt, i have found that the (australian) brand i use makes a sulphate free shampoo, so i’m going to try switching to that for a while, and then maybe try a lush product.

    after all that, an idea i had was that if you’re having trouble going straight from a silicone based product to the no-poo method, might be an idea to try a salon product for a while, to rid your hair of silicones and get it used to not being washed every day. Silicones are also not water-soluble, so they build up in your hair and could be contributing to the icky feeling when you’re not washing it.

    so yeah… just another perspective I thought I’d throw in there…

    • I feel like naturallycurly.com should be required reading for anyone who loves their hair- straight or curly!

    • I agree. It’s nearly impossible for someone like myself who has super-thin hair to just stop washing it.

      I recommend Giovanni products! They’re more affordable than salon products, but have waaaay better ingredients than typical store brands like Pantene.

    • One of my friends switched from a Pantene shampoo and her hair actually turned out to be a different color. Apparently the silicone was making her hair oxidize or keepint it from oxidizing or something. It really drove home just how much those shampoos are coating hair.

  8. Use no SLS/sodium laureth sulfate (and variants). This is the key to making wavy/curly hair nice! I gave it up years ago and have never looked back – I swim, run, sweat, and give it a quick shampoo with SLS-free products and have no problems with dry brittle hair any more.

    I have long curly hair and follow my shampoo up with a conditioner containing avocado oil or henna. Not fussy on brands but generally go for the hippy-looking ones from the local health food place.

    PS I also love LUSH but am totally sad that they have no SLS-free shampoo. I do really like their solid conditioner though, Jungle.

  9. I feel like a lot of the issues that people have when going shampoo free is that they 1. forget to do one last sulfate shampoo to get rid of all the silicones in their hair and 2. continue to use hair products or conditioners that have silicones in them.

    Silicones will gunk up you hair like nobody’s business and no matter how long you let your hair transition, if it’s got silicone build up, it’ll NEVER look good.

    I’ve been using suave naturals tropical coconut conditioner as both my shampoo and conditioner for months now and my curls have gotten curlier but less frizzy and my split ends are a non issue these days. Granted, that won’t work for everyone… I “shampoo” using the conditioner and scrubbing my head really well maybe once or twice a week and only comb my hair in the shower with a really wide toothed comb and my hair never gets tangled… which… i never thought was possible with long curly hair.

    I’ve used shampoo a couple of times since going shampoo free – once when i used “color oops” to remove color from a bad at home dye job and another time after a hair cut becuase I wasn’t sure what my hair salon’s products have in them… My hair turned into a matted disgusting tangled mess as soon as shampoo approached it… HORRIBLE! I couldn’t believe I had been putting my hair through that every day!

  10. It looks like most people have posted about hair here. But here’s a link to someone’s blog who washes her face with olive oil: http://indiasroses.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/i-wash-my-face-with-olive-oil/
    She also does the no-poo thing, which you can find on her blog.
    I personally don’t wash my face with anything but water. In my college days, I struggled with some breakouts, and tried tons of different products but none of them worked. My mom kept telling me to try nothing, which horrified me. But eventually I did give it a shot, and low and behold, it works just fine. For a while, I would rub my face with aloe vera (fresh leaf, not store bought gel) before bed, which gave the effect of tightening my skin and when I woke up it was super soft. I don’t do it now, but I did like it when I did it.

    • Olive oil is also totally great at removing eye makeup. It doesn’t even hurt if it gets in your eyes, and it even strips off waterproof makeup easily.

  11. I’ve used Pantene smooth and it works WONDERS for my hair. It’s rather large and poofy, so it weighs it down nicely. I find in the winter my scalp kinda freaks out— so I switched to Loreal No Sulfate with Juniper and Mint. My head has never been happier. While my hair is in the process of growing from a pixie– the hair is super healthy, smooth and great. I have to wash it every day due to product build up (the poofy thing is even worse with short hair– it sticks straight up if I don’t gel/paste/goo it to oblivion) but if my hair looks this okay being washed this often— I’d say that shampoo is extremely gentle and non-stripping 🙂

  12. I wash every other day with assorted bar shampoos from Lush (which I love), and I normally use their bar conditioner, too. On the days i wash my hair, I also use a leave-in oil, first Morroccanoil and now a similar product from Josie Maran. The active ingredient I’m after is argan oil, which has done a lot for my flyaways. Also, I have very thick hair, and if I don’t dry it completely near when I wash it, I find it’s much more likely to look and feel oily the next day. Sometimes, I take a break from drying my hair, but, normally, I wash and then blow dry in sections.

  13. I have long, thick, loose curls, so I thought that letting my natural oils develop would be good for it… I tried various no-poo methods for about a year, and I developed bad dandruff, itchy scalp, and scalp breakouts. I then decided just to look for products without methicones or sulfates. I used Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle products for the longest time, and was able to maintain a once-a-week washing schedule. I now use a shampoo from L’Oreal called EverStrong or some such thing, and the TTT conditioner. I still shampoo about once a week, wearing my hair down for the first 2 days or so, and in a ponytail or bun the rest of the week. I don’t rinse in between. I tried it, but it was both too much work, and didn’t try right if I didn’t wash and condition it. I think this is very much a “to each their own” process of finding the best solution to timing and products, but it is super important to stop throwing chemicals down our drains…

  14. For those of you trying to wash your hair less frequently, it helps to have some hair styles that work well with dirty hair. I have tailbone length hair and wash my hair 1-2 times a week. Part of the trick is having three types of hairstyles, ones for freshly washed hair, ones for slightly oily hair and ones for oily hair. On oily hair days I put a tiny bit of gel or mist my hair with water (also have used a water/glycerin mix) and put it in a very tight bun. It doesn’t look oily, just slicked back and I use it as an opportunity to do elaborate buns and use pretty clips and hair sticks.
    I couldn’t get my hair to grow beyond my bra strap for years, then when I started wearing it up, using a wooden comb instead of a plastic brush and washing it less, it got down to my waist in about 6 months. I read that handling is ultimately more effective than product when it comes to hair length–that has definitely been my experience, but of course, hair is very individual. If you want to geek out on hair stuff, I enjoy this person’s blog http://www.prismnet.com/~cortese/hair/index.html

  15. Considering that I have bright blue hair (thanks vegan Manic Panic!) I have to skip washes often anyway. :/ It feels odd… I might try the baking soda/apple vinegar route, to see if that helps on the washing days.

  16. One thing that helps in getting the natural hair oils under control and down the the ends is to brush with a natural bristle brush, not plastic. It really helps to keep my hair healthier.

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