No Shampoo in 4 Years
I confess. I haven’t used any shampoo in over four years. Does that mean I don’t take good care of my hair? Far from the truth. I just choose a more natural approach to give my hair the loving treatment it deserves.
How our hair actually works its magic
Hair contains natural oil in its follicles which keeps it healthy, shiny and strong – it’s called sebum. The conventional treatment with shampoo, conditioner and other chemical products along with very frequent washing strips away the sebum and takes our hair’s natural super power. We apply special products which often contain a lot of chemicals to bring back its shiny look. At the same time our oil glands release excessive sebum to avoid our hair drying out. This makes our hair greasy very quickly, so we feel the need to wash it daily and apply even more products. This is the beginning of a vicious cycle.
Yes, I did what most people do with their hair – daily washing, applying flowery shampoo and conditioner, using a lot of heat to bring my hair in the desired shape, hairspray so that it stays that way. But then I decided to try a new way inspired by the quest for a more natural lifestyle.
What I love about No Shampoo
To inspire you towards a more natural hair care, here are some of the benefits I now get to enjoy:
– I always had very strong, thick hair which tends to get dry very easily. So I love how shiny and soft this hair care routine makes my hair without having to use any moisturisers.
– No more split ends. Whenever I do get some, they quickly vanish naturally by the power of my brushing routine.
– My hair seems to grow faster, I can’t remember if it was ever so long.
– I rarely need to cut my hair, my last visit at the hairdresser has been over a year ago.
– Natural, beautiful scent without any care products. To describe how my hair actually smells now and I’d say like a morning breeze in a lush forest.
– Reducing the chemical exposure in your life.
– Not spending any more money on expensive hair care products.
– Supporting a plastic-free, environmentally friendly lifestyle.
– Saving time that was usually used for searching for natural, chemical-free hair care products.
– A lighter backpack when traveling.
– More freedom.
My transition to No Shampoo, Just water
First, I reduced my hair products to the basics and used more natural shampoos with less chemicals staying away from ingredients that I couldn’t even pronounce. I slowly started to increase the gaps between washing so that my hair got some more time to regenerate. Then I ditched the shampoo altogether and used a homemade solution of water and baking soda as an alternative along with a mixture of water and apple cider vinegar as a conditioner. This can still be quite a harsh treatment for your hair but worked well as a transition for me. I did that for about two years and washed my hair only once or twice a week. My hair first needed a few weeks of adapting with some days looking greasy or smelling weird. I stayed strong and patient and thanks to some smart hair styles and the beautiful scent of essential oils I got over it. This became my new way of hair care and I liked how easy it was to keep my hair healthy with such a natural method.
But the holy grail for minimalist hair care was still the just-water technique. With the start of my nomad lifestyle I loved the idea of using only water and still enjoying a beautiful mane. When I was in Bali I took up all my courage and used up the last bit of my homemade shampoo and conditioner. As a transition I didn’t wash my hair for two weeks which I believed was helpful for it to heal and relearn to produce a natural amount of sebum. I don’t think such a bold transition phase is necessary though if you yourself want to make the step to using just water.
The just-water routine in practice
During the last two years of just using water my hair taught me a lot about how it naturally works to keep itself healthy. Based on that, I found my personal hair care routine that totally fits my minimalist lifestyle.
1) Washing it once a week with warm water
If the water is too hot it can dry out the hair, if it is cold it might not clean your hair properly. During the shower massaging your scalp not only helps to clean it properly but also to increase blood flow for healthier, stronger hair. When I am exercising a lot I sometimes wash my hair after about 5 days already but usually my brushing routine keeps it fresh even when I am loosing some sweat during my workouts. The natural sebum of our hair really is astonishing and deserves to be used in a proper way instead of being replaced with chemical products.
Your water quality also plays a role in the health of your hair. I sometimes experienced that the water at certain locations made my hair pretty weird while others added extra softness to it. Some places have a lot of chemicals (like chlorine) in the shower water along with very hard water which is not beneficial for vibrant hair. A good filter for your shower head can solve that issue.
Of course, when you are still using conventional hair products the water technique might not be the right choice for you altogether. Water alone can not properly remove oily products and the natural oil from your hair follicles is nothing you want to remove but rather something you want to reset to its natural rhythm so that your hair is sufficiently hydrated while not being greasy.
2) Air-drying my hair
Applying unnecessary heat from a blow-dryer avoids stressing your hair too much. Instead it keeps it moisturised and shiny.
3) Brushing it 100 times
Brushing your hair from scalp to tips 100 times in the morning and evening spreads the sebum evenly throughout your hair, even into your tips to keep it healthy, strong and shiny. Brushing proved to be essential for my personal just water approach. You might be surprised that it also removes any uncomfortable scents. Whenever my hair smelled uncomfortable from external sources for example when someone next to me was smoking and I brushed my hair properly afterwards, the smell was gone and back was the natural scent of my hair.
Without enough brushing, your hair can get greasy at the scalp, smell uncomfortable and loose its vibrancy. I found it a bit annoying in the beginning but soon learned how meditative this practice can actually be. And think about all the time you can save with the more natural hair care approach (less washing, no blow-drying, no care products) – I gladly take the few minutes of brushing instead.
Additionally you can also use your fingers and brush through your hair now and then over the day to spread the natural oil from the top into the hair-ends. Using a very natural hair brush that fits your personal hair quality (e.g. thick or thin hair) would be amazing. But you don’t necessarily need any fancy equipment. I personally have a very common, unspectacular brush and it works just fine for me.
4) Braiding my hair at night
Before going to bed, I braid my hair to avoid too much friction with the bedsheets but also that it doesn’t tickle me at night. This might not be necessary if you have shorter hair but anyone that has a long mane like mine might enjoy their hair tucked away like that for a more peaceful night.
5) The only products I use
Very, very rarely I add a little bit of coconut oil into my hair-ends if they are a bit dry for some reason. I never put coconut oil on my scalp or whole hair since it is hard to get out again and lets my hair look greasy. The natural sebum from my scalp lets my hair shine just on its own. As an occasional extra treatment I use papaya as a hair mask before my weekly shower. After my papaya meal, I simply use the leftover papaya skin and rub the fruity side into my hair. I then let it sit for half an hour and wash it out afterwards. It add an extra glow to my hair and makes it super soft.
Natural Hair Care and How to Get there
Such a transition can look different for everyone. Some factors that play into it are your previous hair care, your general level of health, along with diet, level of exercise and other healthy habits. Our emotional wellbeing especially stress can have a huge impact on our health. I personally am pretty happy with the slow, gentle transition that I went through. First I reduced my care products, showered less often, then went over to more natural shampoo alternatives. Only much later I made the shift to just water. Nobody can tell you how long it might take for you to go through such a journey. For most people it requires some patience and experimentation to find their own flow.
Is this method for everyone? I doubt it. Could everyone benefit from using less hair products and more natural methods? Definitely yes! But how that might look in practice is totally up to you. Any way, this can be an exciting journey to more health and beauty. I am very grateful that I received the courage to take my first step.
Which path will you choose?
Trinity Beach, Australia