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First things first, when I write “no-poo” I mean no shampoo. It’s been a movement that has popped up on social media in regards to getting rid of one-use plastic and water waste in your life which are some steps of living more sustainably. When the pandemic hit last year and most students were sent home to quarantine through summer, it opened up a span of time that would be great for attempting to cut shampoo out of the routine. So that is what I did during the spring and summer of 2020. For those who are considering switching it up, or for those who are interested in the whole no-poo process, hopefully, you find my experience helpful.

Some things to note before jumping into the no-poo lifestyle: 1) It is a long process. My journey lasted for about four months of greasy hair, wearing hats, and sporting messy buns before I officially called it off. It will test your patience on many levels. 2) It's easier if someone does it with you. I had my brother who was home at the same time do it with me, and it helped me feel less of a slob. Having someone experiencing the same frustration and the small victories was a means of encouragement during the journey. 3) It is okay to try it out and, in the end, go back to shampoo, which is what I did. The no-poo method works unpredictably with different types of hair. From what I have seen, people with naturally curly hair find the most success with going shampoo-less. For example, my brother is still sticking with it a year later. In my defense, I think it’s because he has short hair and I have middle-of-the-back length hair which makes quite a difference.

Starting out the journey is the WORST. A lot of people consider that period as the time of adjustment your hair needs to acclimate to the natural oil your scalp produces. When you stop using a lot of the general types of shampoo, you stop stripping your hair of that natural oil. Instead of conditioner, your hair is forced to rely on your natural body functions to moisturize your hair. This results in a period where your scalp is producing an abundance of oil which results in the greasiest hair you will ever have in your life. For me, this lasted for two months. To get through that time I wore hats, tied my hair up in buns, and in general, tried to ignore my hair.

When you are attempting to go no-poo, you still need to keep your hair clean, though. So, when you hop in the shower, your shampoo is a spray bottle with a teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in water, and your conditioner is ACV (apple cider vinegar). I won’t go into the science of these two solutions for the risk of boring you, but there are some great no-poo articles that summarize what they do for your hair. Essentially, these two things help lift the excess oil and cleanse your hair without stripping it. The tough part about this is that you should not be doing this to your hair all the time. The granular nature of the baking soda can damage hair after excessive use, and the acidity of the ACV can throw off the natural pH of your scalp. So, you need to mix it up by just washing your hair with water. Some people found success even with just the water washes and scrubbing.

Soon, you get into a routine and adjust to your hair being greasy as it acclimates to the new lifestyle. Hot tip: switching to a wooden or bamboo hairbrush goes a long way. The brush helps absorb oil and move it through the whole length of hair.

After a month or two, you may notice that your hair takes a longer time to get greasy. When that happens, it’s a small victory for the pain of living with that for two months. By the end of the summer, I noticed this in my hair. I was having fewer bad-hair days, I was able to wear my hair down, and my hair felt stronger and healthier. But it never looked like supermodel hair if that’s what you are wondering. That’s why I called it quits on the whole experiment. I knew I couldn’t live with the occasional greasy hair look when I went back to attending classes. Though, all my effort that summer wasn’t wasted.

I wanted to live with less plastic, so I switched to bar shampoo and still use it today. I use a brand called HiBAR, which I highly recommend. When I started using the bar shampoo, I wanted to push how often I washed my hair to facilitate using less water. That is where my summer paid off.

What I had done during the summer was essentially a grease detox of my hair. My scalp adjusted to a normal amount of oil production which helped my hair stay non-greasy longer. Because the bar-shampoo contains no sulfates, it wouldn’t strip my hair after each wash. Now I am able to go four to five days without washing my hair, I still shower of course, but at least I don’t use so much water just on my hair every week.

The no-poo movement isn’t for everyone. My hair isn’t dyed and I hardly use heated tools, so I also don’t use any other products in it. I can see how it would be more complicated to try going shampoo-less under different circumstances. I thought though, this might be helpful for anyone who is considering trying or curious to hear about the process. I would say today that it was worth it in the end. I found it exciting to learn how my hair worked and reacted to everything I did and didn’t do to it. 


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Rachel Gibson

Augustana '22

Rachel is currently studying English and Creative Writing and enjoys reading classics, dreaming up fictional stories, and making lists of all the things she wishes she could do.
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