Thursday, April 21, 2011

A week with no poo

I've been a week without poo and I'm loving it! No, I don't need a gastroenterologist -- the kind of "poo" I'm talking about is "shampoo."

I'd heard about the "no poo" movement a while ago but I wasn't motivated enough to try it. I don't fuss much with my long hair -- it's often in a ponytail or tucked into a cap -- but a read through Deacon's book has stoked my interest in liberating myself from chemical-ridden hair care products and finding a more natural method of mane maintenance.

According to Deacon, most shampoos are made up of harsh, petroleum-derived detergents, like sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, that are both resource intensive to produce and risky for your health.

She writes, "Most shampoos are made by using sulfates, chemicals that are cheap to produce, readily available and very effective at dissolving dirt and oil. Sulfates generate the foaminess that we erroneously associate with thorough cleansing. Multiple animal studies show that the most commonly used sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) causes brain and nervous system effects at moderate doses, endocrine system disruption, and reproductive effects, and increases cancer risk. Strong evidence shows that SLS irritates the skin, eyes and lungs."

But if these products are for sale, they must be safe, right? Not necessarily, says Deacon.

Here are a few startling points:

• According to several researchers, between 85,000 and 100,000 chemicals are used in the marketplace today; 85% of those chemicals have never been tested for human health impacts
• The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA) approval rating "safe for human use" simply means the product didn't give the test subjects a terrible rash five minutes after they smeared it on; it does not in any way reflect an understanding of that products impact on internal health or mean that the product will be safe over the long term
• Even if the ingredients in every one of your personal care products were tested for safe limits and long-term health effects, absolutely no research has been conducted on the synergistic effects of all these chemicals

From There’s Lead in Your Lipstick by Gillian Deacon (Penguin Canada). Copyright © Backbone Inc. FSO Gillian Deacon, 2011 (page 7 - 8)

Even products that are labelled as "natural" or "organic" can be chock full of chemical nasties. Case in point: I've got a bottle of "Naturals" shampoo in front of me that boasts "lower sulfates" and natural ingredients such as "organic aloe vera and avocado extracts". Sounds lovely, yes?

But read the fine print and there's a lengthy list of over 20 tongue-twisting chemicals, including: ammonium lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, cocamidoproply betaine, sodium cocoyl isethionate, and on and on and on. I've been greenwashed.

While there are some truly green products on the market, I decided to take up the "no poo" challenge. There is lots of info online about going "no poo" (try here, here or here, or simple Google "no poo") and while the recipes vary, the basic ingredients are the same: baking soda and cider vinegar.

The recipe that I've been playing with over the past week is simple:

• Use one tablespoon of baking soda per one cup of warm or hot water. Mix in a recycled shampoo bottle and apply with warm water. Note: the liquid mix shouldn't feel gritty (though I've read that if you have short or thick hair, you may find it easier to make a paste with a tablespoon of baking soda (or less) and sprinkle it over very wet hair and massage in.) Let it sit about a minute.

• To rinse, make up a solution of one to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar per cup of water. Apply to wet hair, massage into scalp and rinse off with cold water.

Yes, that's it!

I thought I'd find the vinegar unpleasant or that my head would smell like fish & chips, but it's not strong at all. Blogger Melinda over at One Green Generation infuses her vinegar with a few drops of essential oils, vanilla beans and cinnamon, for a subtle spicy scent (I'm so trying this next!).

And the results? While my hair is going through a "transition" phase, which I expected -- it's a little bit greasy at the roots and the ends are a bit fly away --I'm loving how remarkably soft it feels; it's super shiny, too. What's more, one bottle of cider vinegar and a box of baking soda costs less than $5 and will last for months, compared to one bottle of no-so-good-for-you shampoo.

So what do you think, folks -- would you take up the "no poo" challenge? Have you tried this and loved it? Loathed it? Or do you use a different method?


Erin said...

Well, I'm already down to only 1 or 2 washes per week, and my hair is thanking me! I have Gilda Radner thick hair if I wash it every day LOL! I may be up to trying this. I wouldn't worry about the vinegar, I was worried a few years ago when I started using it for the homemade laundry softener, but it leaves no scent behind in that, either, plus I use a grapefruit essential oil, too.

Mama Pea said...

Lately I've been looking at all these men who shave their heads completely bald. Now what could be easier to take care of than that? Do they hassle about shampoos? I don't think so. Sure you have to do the shaving but compare that with what we women have to do with our hair to look decent. Then there's wind or rain or whatever that usually destroys a coiffure in seconds. Why can't females get by with the bald as a billiard ball look? Huh? HUH? Just askin'.

Anonymous said...

So basically keep the bottle in your shower and use as you would regular shampoo with the exception of cold water rinse? Hmmm... and the essential oils don't make the hair oily? I have extremely oily hair, so I may leave the oil out. said...

@ Erin -- I'd be curious how it works out for you. My hair is rather fine/thin now (didn't used to be, lol!) so I'm wondering how this would work for thicker hair.

@Mama Pea -- so true! Hubbie has 1/4" long hair and boy, do I envy him!

@ Ruth -- you could keep the bottles in your shower, but I mix mine up each time. I'm still working out the ratios to figure out what works best (those links I provided have some good ideas) but eventually yes, I'll pre-mix. You only use a couple drops of essential oils so I wouldn't think it would make your hair oily. I just tried a rinse with vinegar, a dash of honey and a few drops of lavender oil, so I'll let you know!

Sandy said...

This is on my "new things to try" list so I'm very interested in your progress. Keep us posted.

Josée said...

I've come across the idea of ACV wash a few times but I haven't been brave enough to jump in quite yet. We use Nature's Gate shampoo, and I just checked the EWG cosmetic database. They give a 6... so there you go not much better than many regular shampoos. I will have to consider it when the bottle runs out. Don't know what Hubby will think but he tends to come along for the ride without much fuss :)

Anke said...

I mixed up a batch of the baking soda and water and kept it in an old shampoo bottle. Truthfully I didn't really care for it and how it made my hair feel. My hair is very thick, so I don't know if that has anything to do with it. I do mix up vinegar and water (1/4 to 1/2 vinegar to 3/4 to 1/2 water) with a vanilla bean and use it as a conditioner. Works great and I don't smell like salad dressing at all... ;-)

ikkinlala said...

It's been over a year since I used shampoo. I found that I didn't like the apple cider vinegar (plain white vinegar works better for me for some reason), and I found that my hair was getting dried out so now I add a bit of oil after it's washed (just by putting some on my hands and running them through my hair after the knots are combed out).

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