Early last week I was hanging out with my sisters in Kansas, visiting our dad and step-mom, and we managed to stop talking about our kids for a few minutes and got on the subject of hair. My sister Cara said that she’d been washing her hair for a while with baking soda.
Now, a few other people have tried to get me to try this, but I wasn’t sure that they really understood how greasy my hair gets. Think, hobo greasy. Since Cara and I share some genetics, and she lives in St. Thomas where the humidity is about 99% all the freaking time, I thought maybe she understood what I was up against.
Her routine was simple: grab a handful or two of baking soda, mash it into her scalp, scrub with her fingers, and rinse out. She follows it up with a little conditioner on the ends. Her hair looked great, so I decided to give it a try!
I have no vendetta against shampoo. I don’t think that it’s going to give me cancer (yes, some people believe this). I don’t think that I use enough of it to harm the environment. I don’t necessarily think it’s bad in any way if it’s working for you. But I don’t think it’s working for me. In the summer I have to wash my hair every day if I don’t want it to look greasy, and every other day in winter. I get terrible dandruff in winter too. What could it hurt to try this? I mean, it couldn’t be much worse than the status quo.
I didn’t wash my hair for four days. We’ll pretend that I did that in preparation for this experiment.
Check out the grease. No, my hair is not wet or sweaty in this picture. Gross, I know.
Also, I didn’t photoshop out the zits on my nose, to make the rest of you feel better about yourselves. I’m a giver.
So, armed with a container of baking soda, a spray bottle of white vinegar, and my hobo hair, I got in the shower.
About twice a year I douse my hair in vinegar and let it soak in, and then rinse it out and follow with shampoo. Supposedly it gets the built-up shampoo residue out of your hair. I thought maybe it would help with my extra-greasy hair. Plus, I was hoping it would foam up on my head like when you make a volcano in school. (Sadly that didn’t happen.)
I got my hair nice and wet. I grabbed a handful of baking soda and mashed it into my hair, near my scalp. About half of it fell out onto the tub floor. For the next handful I made a paste in my hand. That worked better. I used way more baking soda for this first time than I imagine I’d need normally. Once I had scrubbed it into my scalp I sprayed the vinegar on, and rubbed some more. Then I rinsed well and put a little conditioner on the ends.
A few hours later my hair was mostly dry, and I was amazed: it looked great! It wasn’t greasy at all!
And the rest looked normal. It wasn’t dried out or frizzy.
This is promising.
I’ve read a lot of contradictory stuff about giving up shampoo. Some people claim that baking soda is too harsh for hair. Some also say that the main theory behind this movement – that shampoo strips natural oils from hair, so your scalp produces even more to make up for it – is BS. All I know is, if I try it and it works, I’m happy.
For a lot of people, the goal seems to be washing just with water. That seems a little extreme to me. My hair gets dirty – I have to clean it with something.
The other common advice I found is to condition with apple cider vinegar, mixed in equal parts with water. I’ll try that eventually.
The biggest issue that my research turned up, however, is that this movement is called the “no poo” movement. Um, no. Don’t call it that, not even once.