I Stopped Shampooing My Hair and No-One Noticed

Lisa Patulny

I hate having dirty hair. I know I’m not alone—does anyone actually like the feeling of a grubby scalp? But there’s something about the smell of my own unwashed strands that repulses me like nothing else. I hate it when other people have dirty hair, too. It’s like the Kryptonite to my poker face. Don’t ask how many times I have involuntarily recoiled when greeted with my fiancé’s unkempt mop. (A lot.) While I can handle a sweaty post-gym cuddle, I just can’t cope with his (or anyone’s) smelly hair. Depending on how you look at it, all this either makes me the best or worst possible candidate to test-drive ditching shampoo. Which is exactly why I tried it. Keep reading for why—and how—I stopped shampooing my hair.

I became familiar with the ever-growing “no-poo” movement a while ago, but lately I’d been wondering if I too could get away with dumping shampoo. For reference, my hair is fine and I often use clarifying shampoo to achieve volume. Clarifying shampoos can be particularly high in sulfates and other drying ingredients, which are exactly the things “no-poo” fans seek to avoid. I also use a lot of styling products (hairspray, texturising spray, volumising dust) and wash my hair every other day. If the “no-poo” method could keep my hair looking fresh for a fortnight, I figured I’d call it a success.

At work, I began by reading up on the pros and cons of ditching shampoo from those who had gone before me. I became aware that an “adjustment period” was imminent, and I was nervous. I exercise four days a week which I hypothesised would affect my results. (Science.) I spent twenty minutes on Google looking for examples of “no-poo” proponents that also did CrossFit. There were none. Instead, I began researching ways to disguise fourteen consecutive bad hair days. With a plan to embrace wet-look hair and an order for three silk headscarves placed online, I headed home to attempt my first shampoo-free wash.

The recipe I used came—like all good things—from the Interwebs. Purposely avoiding formulas that included castile soap or baking soda (both are said to be alkaline and stripping), I settled on one made with a favourite ingredient—honey. It went like this: “Mix one tablespoon of raw honey into three tablespoons of filtered water.” Easy. In the shower, I dumped the honey water onto my scalp and tried to work it in as it ran down my face. It smelt delicious but I wasn’t sure it had done much. I rinsed and repeated to make sure. Next, I blotted my hair dry, added a small spritz of Bumble and Bumble's Prep Foundation spray ($32) and blowdried. The result? It looked dull, and even grimier than it did before the wash.

After my initial experience using “no-poo” shampoo (which was followed by three days-worth of slicked-back buns FYI) I was sceptical. Still, I stuck it out for half a week before I went another round with the DIY honey wash. I was alarmed at the prospect of having to front up to a work event looking like a greaseball, so I added in an apple cider vinegar rinse (literally ACV diluted in water) to help remove buildup. This time, my hair did look cleaner but it still wasn’t as bouncy as usual. I could feel that most of the grime was gone, but there was a downside. “You look nice,” my housemate commented. Sniff. “Why do you smell like a salad?”

With a new washing routine in place, I was ready to take on the remaining 10 days. Inspired by the DIY life I was now living, I began dusting my roots with cornflour before workouts to pre-empt a sweaty scalp. It worked surprisingly well and also helped ease what came to be known as the “day three itch”. (Yep, gross.) I persevered and slowly became accustomed to the feel of my hair post-cleanse—I’d describe it as having unrinsed conditioner still on your roots—managing to stretch out washes by four days.

Truth be told, I found the experience difficult. My typically squeaky strands were limp and I was bored of wearing them the same way every day. The experiment only lasted two weeks, but even in that time my hair felt like it was becoming accustomed to less shower time. (If I continued on with the “no-poo” method I’d be aiming to stretch out time between washes until I reached my maximum—many proponents only wash their hair once a month). During the process, I had comments from colleagues on my new “vibe” (I did start dressing to suit my contant slicked-back pony) but no-one called me out. At the end of this very scientific investigation, I had only washed my hair four times. That’s a saving of approximately an hour—a whole episode of American Horror Story! I’ve since switched to a more beauty editor-friendly technique called “low-poo” which focuses on a reduction in drying chemicals but still allows me to buy a pre-made hair cleanser. I’ve found a new love in Rahua’s Volumising Shampoo ($43) and Conditioner ($44).

Opening photo: Style Du Monde

Have you tried the no-poo method? How long did you last? Share your tips in the comments below!

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