To 'Poo or Not to 'Poo: That is the Question

Friday, October 5, 2012

Throw a stone and you can find a blog post, website or article devoted to the trend that has been dubbed the "No 'Poo Method." A rather unimaginative and gross-sounding name, in my opinion. Basically, it's the idea that not washing your hair is better for it and you. Some people stop washing all together. Others use a combination of baking soda, water, and apple cider vinegar. Well, I tried it. Long enough to have an opinion on the subject.

A lot of people do it to be eco. Others to be frugal. Although I like both of those reasons, I did it simply to find relief. And to try something new. I have been struggling with my fine hair for years and finally decided that less might actually be more in my case.

A little back story: I have a crotchety, sensitive scalp. Seriously, I must have miffed the hair gods in a past life. I have never been able to use lovely smelling products, just medicated shampoos. I was using T-Gel shampoo when I was six. Seriously.  Despite my careful product selections, I still struggle with an itchy, oily, flaky scalp. Dermatologists call it seborrheic dermatitis. I call it annoying.

When I first heard about "washing" your hair with baking soda, I was skeptical. Every derm I've ever had has said I need to shampoo every single day, as my symptoms are an immune response to my own sebum (aka hair grease). But what I was doing wasn't working, so I decided to give it a go.

I opted to start with one tablespoon of baking soda and a few drops of tea tree oil in a small bottle. I add water and squirt it on in the shower. I rub it around on my scalp, let it sit for a bit, and rinse. The vinegar "conditioner" didn't appeal to me so I skipped it, instead applying my usual argon oil after towel drying. That seems to work fine and my hair was never dry-looking. Then I style as usual. One 8 ounce bottle lasts me several days.

Surprise, surprise! My hair looks pretty good! Although I'd get out of the shower thinking "My hair is sooo greasy right now", it wasn't. Admittedly, there were a couple of blah hair days, but nothing a ponytail couldn't overcome.  I did notice some dryness, but attribute that to the Rogaine, as they were little dry flakes on just my crown as opposed to my usual sebum buildup. Have I grossed you out yet?

For the first time in forever, my hair abandoned it's irritated, flaky ways.  A week turned into a month, and I was still going strong. Some people don't even need the baking soda very often after a while, but I definitely do. Just rinsing with water isn't enough for me. Also, to help moisturize my scalp, I coat it in oil once a week before bed then use shampoo (now it will be Dr. Bronner's) to wash it out the next morning. I've been doing it for years. It sounds counter intuitive for an oily scalp, but it has a balancing effect. I love Caroline's Daughter Hair Elixir or just plain almond oil. Both are non-greasy oils and leave my scalp feeling nourished.

No greasy hair here!
The other day I decided to add some colored highlights and was forced to use a little shampoo to get all the excess dye out. I'll admit, it felt nice. But my scalp was itchy and irritated not a day later. I use Paul Mitchell's Tea Tree Special shampoo and conditioner, which is better than most, but it still doesn't allow me to achieve scalp perfection. I was also sad to notice that the 3rd ingredient is a sulfate. Bummer.

When I went back to my baking soda rinse, my hair rebelled. For the first time since I started, it just didn't do it for me. Perhaps two days of shampooing had interrupted the delicate balance I had achieved. But part of me started resisting the idea of a system that could fall apart in just a couple of days.

Then I had a liberating idea: Why does it have to be all or nothing? The hygiene world isn't so black and white that my only options are shampoo or nothing. There are great natural, sulfate-free, fragrance-free hair cleaners.

So this morning I dug my Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap out of the closet. I bought a HUGE bottle years ago so I could wash my hair in the lake at my in-law's vacation home (it's biodegradable and free of chemicals). What can I say, I dabble in hippie.  It was foamy and satisfying. I didn't read the instructions (who can find them among all the ramblings on the bottle?!) and therefore neglected to dilute it. I just dumped it on my head, whereas you're supposed to add about 1 tbsp per gallon of water. Oops. My hair was definitely cleansed, and made a nice reee, reeeeee, reeeeeee noise when I combed it. Live and learn.

A few hours later, I'm sitting pretty. My scalp isn't screaming and my hair isn't greasy. Win-win. Tomorrow I will use the baking soda. And probably the next day. I'm not sure what my new routine will look like, but I hope to only use the good doctor when it feels like my hair needs a little more oomph (once or twice a week); relying on the baking soda mix the rest of the time.

I'm a beauty addict. There is no doubt about it. But not at the expense of my comfort and well-being. When I was a teenager, I would inflict great discomfort on myself for the sake of foofy smelling hair. Now I care less about that and more about what is best for my health. If that means using a baking ingredient in lieu of lust-worthy products, so be it. FYI: I had my husband do the sniff test after a week of using the soda rinse and he said my hair smelled just fine.

I think there was a point to all this. Oh, yeah. It works. It helps me and performs waaay better than I thought it would. And it caused me to rethink what I put on my head...which made this whole adventure worth it. Gone are the days of suffering for beauty. I have options, yo!

A few suggestions should you decide to take the plunge:

Wella liquid applicator bottle
  • Give it time! Your scalp has to adjust. I committed, and before I knew it a month had gone by. There couldn't have been that many bad hair days or I would have quit long before that.
  • Experiment with the ratios. I've found that a tablespoon of the baking soda per 8 ounce bottle of water works best for me, but you may need more or less depending on your level of oiliness. 
  • I went to Sally Beauty and got a bottle with a tip cap for easier application. The mixture is only warm on the day you make it, and you don't want to dump cold water down your back every morning. This way, I just apply it to my scalp.
  • If you opt to use the vinegar, only use it on your ends. Lemon juice is another option. So I've heard. Apparently it's all about acid (vinegar)/base (baking soda) chemistry.

1 comment :

  1. poor you with such scalp problems. I'm so glad you've finally found something that works for you. i use almond oil for everything. i use it on my hair, face, body, everything.
    I am hosting a blog hop over at my blog today


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