Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Treading Lightly: Going Shampoo-Free

"Treading Lightly" is a series that focuses on living lighter -- depending on less, focusing on simplicity, and generally living green. Though I want to travel far and wide, I also want to tread lightly upon this earth and make an effort to keep my impact small.

I'm a day late on Earth Day, but I wanted to start this new series!

Why Go Shampoo-Free?
Looking at the back of a shampoo bottle, there are ingredients that I can't pronounce. Even with 'eco-shampoo,' the impact on the environment is significant -- plus, the packaging and shipping of hair products packs quite a hit.
Though the environmental impact weighed heavily on me, my final reasons to toss the shampoo bottle were a bit more personal -- I wanted to do something a bit more natural for my locks.
I'm sure you've read all over the internet, including Refinery29 and A House in the Hills, how great going shampoo-free is for your hair. Natural oils are tended to and nourished instead of wiped clean, which help your hair and make it unspeakably healthier. After reading about the foreboding transition period and the subsequent beauty and ease of natural, shampoo-free hair, I decided to go for it.

Nine Months (Shampoo) Sober
I have been without shampoo or conditioner for almost nine months -- I didn't touch the stuff while I was in England.

I don't plan on going back.

The beginning, as warned by many 'poo-free converts, was definitely a transition period. Though my hair didn't become too greasy or noticeably gross, I missed shampoo. It sounds childish, but it takes some getting used to, letting go of that satisfying lather and the fake-fresh smell of shampoo, followed by the chemically-smooth conditioner. For me, it was letting go of a comfort.
After that, though, I couldn't argue with the results. 

While under the influence of shampoo, I would have to wash my hair daily. If I skipped a day, I donned the ponytail of shame (and, after I cut all of my hair off, I couldn't even hide the grease). My roots felt greasy and my ends were dry and splitting. I jumped from product to product, trying to find things that worked.
Now? I can go a day or two without a shower if I feel like it, and I really only wash my hair once a week. Now, how do I wash it, you ask?

Baking Soda -- Your Hair's Best Friend
It took me awhile to fix and fiddle with my non-shampoo hair routine. I have always stuck with baking soda from the beginning, but I have also dabbled in the apple-cider vinegar and other tips and tricks over the months. In the end, I have only made one change to the pure-baking-soda-recipe, and that's tea tree oil. It turns out that once my body stopped pumping out the natural oils, I actually had a dry scalp. A little bit of tea tree oil helps with that.
I use around 6 drops of the stuff per 1/4 cup dry baking soda.

Tips and Tricks
Three things that I've found immensely helpful with my shampoo-free experience.

1. Invest in a boar hair brush. Every morning, I brush my hair vigorously with a natural boar-hair brush. It helps distribute oils and stimulates hair growth by increasing circulation. Plus, I'm a shedder, and it helps to get all of the loose hairs out at once, instead of them following me throughout my day. Bonus? It feels fantastic.

2. Learn the art of the head massage. Every time I jump in the shower, baking soda or no baking soda, I give myself a good scalp massage. Getting the blood flowing, and making sure that you massage extra-long on slightly greasy spots, helps to clean your hair.

3. Get to know what you need, and be willing to play around. When you quit shampoo, there aren't any more pre-packaged goodies to categorize you -- if you have a dry scalp or dry ends, you need to Google, check out various tips, and then see what works for you through trial-and-error.
It took me three months to get the 'smooth-feeling' down -- that smooth feeling of just enough baking soda on your hair. Too much feels rough, too little just feels like hair. But there's a smooth feeling that took me weeks and weeks of fiddling to get right.
It's all about learning the art of the fiddle.

Are you thinking about going shampoo-free? Have you made the leap?

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