The number one Google search that brings people to SortaCrunchy is "delayed vaccine schedule." This makes sense. What puzzles me is that the number two most popular search for SortaCrunchy is "shampoo-free." It's true that last spring, I shared that I was considering going shampoo-free. That post somehow has garnered lots of search engine cred, even though I am only a sometimes practitioner of the 'poo-free lifestyle. I do practice OCM, but Google is clearly unimpressed.
Anyway, I asked the lovely-tressed Mrs. Boo Radley for some wise words on going shampoo-free and she connected with me her friend Marianne who introduced her to the 'poo-free concept. Marianne has been gracious enough to work up a brief primer for anyone interested in knowing more. Please welcome her to SortaCrunchy today!
I first heard about using baking soda and apple cider vinegar (ACV) in July of 2008. I was intrigued because I had already been taking steps to remove toxins from my house and body. This meant purchasing far more expensive natural shampoos which were doing nothing to help my frizz-prone hair. I had just run out of my last bottle of shampoo and had plenty of baking soda and ACV; I tried it.
I wondered if it would actually clean my hair. I wondered if I would smell like ACV. I followed some basic instructions (which I will pass on below) for making a paste and applying it in a scalp massaging pattern. I was hooked on the massage pattern immediately, but still skeptical about the baking soda. After rinsing, I moved to the ACV rinse phase, wondering if I had rinsed well enough to avoid an elementary school science project erupting on my head. I had. As soon as I applied the ACV I was hooked. Yes, it smelled like vinegar, but it immediately softened and de-tangled my hair in a way no conditioning product ever had.
I got out of the shower feeling like some kind of natural beauty queen but knowing the real test would be seeing if something so simple could tame my frizz. I scrunched and toweled dry letting my damp hair finish drying on its own finding soft, sensuous waves which my husband liked to touch and which, he reassured me, did NOT smell like ACV. I was converted and have not used shampoo since.
Why Does It Work?
Remember high school chemistry? I remember an article exposing the farce of shampoo-and-conditioner-in-one products. The article made the point that in order to clean organic matter, you need a base. Bases eat organic matter. Soap is a base, so is baking soda (pH of 8.2). Most soaps are made with lye (pH 13) or glycerin (pH varies) and a fat (animal or plant). When bases come in contact with fatty tissue (lipids) they go through "saponification" thus creating soap.
However, you do not want to leave a base on your hair for a prolonged period (since bases eat organic matter!). Thus the role of a "conditioner" is to help return hair to a pH neutral state. It is a quick acid rinse and ACV is an acid. So, a base and acid in one? Not really possible.
Most shampoos are filled with unpronounceable ingredients. Most commercial shampoos contain parabens, harsh preservatives, chemicals, and even irritating "natural" ingredients, though it is possible to find shampoos made without these ingredients.
The bigger reason to avoiding shampoo is that it's very purpose is to strip sebum from your hair. Sebum is an oil that your follicles secrete serving as a protective layer for the protein structure of your hair. This oil is easily absorbed by your hair, however, over time it can collect dust, dirt, and dead skin. In order to easily remove these things, shampoos simply remove the sebum. The problem is this: your body secretes sebum for a reason! Continual stripping actually tells your follicles to secrete more and more sebum, while leaving your hair and scalp stripped and unprotected while it pumps up production.
When living 'poo free, you can actually transition to washing your hair far less often (if desired) because your follicles will not be constantly working to replace stripped sebum. The baking soda wash actually removes the dirt, dust, and dead skin without removing much sebum.
Because of the battle between shampoo and your sebum, if you have been in the habit of washing daily it will take some time for your hair to adjust to not being stripped. I personally did not notice any transition time (though I have never been a daily washer, and with two small children underfoot....we'll just say the washing had been really scaled back, so my sebum production levels had probably adjusted prior to making the switch). My good friend Mrs. Boo Radley switched shortly after I did and also noticed no transition time.
Ingredients: Baking Soda (I buy in bulk from Azure Standard), Apple Cider Vinegar (I use Bragg's), Water
Directions: Make a thickish paste with baking soda and water (I use about 2 tbsp baking soda with 2 tbsp water)
Apply (circular scrubbing with finger tips) in this pattern: crown, top of the head, back of the head, sides of the head. The result is a tingly scalp massage feeling.
Dilute ACV with water (I use a 1:4 ratio with about 2 tbs ACV) Pour over ends (or, gather ends of hair and place in cup of ACV solution then lift and dump down the back of your head)
Ta-da!washing my face with oil, using cloth mama pads, and even using cloth TP!)