30 June 2011

Thursday Confession - Shampoo (Or Lack Thereof)

I outed myself on twitter yesterday in front of the whole internet. I saw a conversation about haircare go by in my twitter stream, so I jumped in.

That's not strictly true. Every 6-8 weeks I visit my stylist for a cut and colour, and she uses shampoo. And last September I stayed in a hotel and used the posh shampoo in the room. But at home, none at all since late May of 2010.

And this from someone who used to spend about $200 on professional colouring, and $80 on fancy shampoo and conditioner, every month. I was drawn in by the promises of the latest botanical extracts and bought a lot of different products in search of perfect tv commercial hair.

And still, most of the time I looked like this:

Dark roots, frizzy, and unmanageable. That's about $3500/year. Not very good value for money.

A bunch of different factors led me to change my hair regimen.

When I was pregnant, my sense of smell, mostly absent or defective my entire life prior to that, went crazy. I became really sensitive to chemical smells - the scent of our regular bathroom cleaner sent me running, gagging, out of the apartment as I begged HWSNBN to stop using it. I figured my newfound sense of smell would fade away once the baby was born, but it didn't, so we switched to unscented products, and even they were too strong. Eventually we started using baking soda and vinegar to clean almost everything in the house.

Including my hair.

My new hair regimen: apple cider vinegar, $8. Baking soda $1.

Inspired by the likes of my friend Amber, I'd planned to go "no poo" for a while, but it was seeing my then almost-two-year-old manage to open a shampoo bottle and try to eat its toxic contents that really convinced me to give it a try. (Here's how.) And I haven't looked back.

It was weird, at first, to wash my hair with no suds. It felt like it couldn't possibly be getting clean, but it was - almost too clean. I used to wash my hair every day with shampoo, and adjusting to the baking soda/apple cider vinegar routine took a while to figure out. I fiddled with the amount of baking soda to find what worked for me. At first I was still washing my hair every day, then as my scalp adjusted, every couple of days. A year later, I wash it about once a week, more if I've been swimming in a chlorinated pool or had an evening out where I used lots of product.

I've been asked, "Doesn't it hurt to get it in your eyes?" I imagine it would sting, but after 30+ years of washing my hair with chemical-laden shampoos, I've managed to get pretty good at not getting stuff in my eyes. If I ever do get to experience baking soda in the peepers, I'll update this post. But I can't imagine that it would be any more uncomfortable that getting an eye-full of shampoo.

I've also been asked about odour. To be honest, I haven't noticed any. Neither has my husband, and he would tell me. He thought I was crazy when I started this, but he's begrudgingly come around. It's true, the apple cider vinegar rinse does leave me smelling vaguely like a salad until my hair dries, but after that, no scent to speak of, and certainly not the unpleasant "dirty scalp" smell that I feared would be the result. Just clean. What I do notice, though, is the overpowering smell of regular hair products. The time I used hotel shampoo, I didn't like how I could smell it for hours afterward - well into the next day.

About a week into the baking soda treatment - smelling good enough for Rachael to get close for a photo at a Vancouver Yummy Mummy Club tweetup. (photo credit tjrossignol on flickr)

Sue from Raspberry Kids, unfazed by my hair smell, at the Vancouver Mom Top 30 Mom Bloggers party in May (photo credit Elayne Wandler at Bopomo Pictures)

What does my hair look like now? Well, aside from the grey that insists on sprouting from my scalp despite my best attempts to hide it, I think it looks great.

Here it is a few moments ago, air dried out of the shower, no product, no styling. (I'd usually do something with it, but wanted to give you a "naked" look, direct from my webcam, at my hair as it is right now.)

Straight up
I have a lot of hair, thick and wavy.
My best "Cousin It"
The box of baking soda lasts about 3 months. The 1 litre size apple cider vinegar, about 8 months. Which means my new hair care regimen costs me a grand total of $25/year.*

So what do you think? Are you going to try and smell my hair the next time you see me? And would you give up shampoo?

*Not including professional colouring to hide the grey, which costs about $800/year.


  1. Wow. This is SO excellent Alexis. I also spend a ridiculous amount of money on hair care products. I'm going to give this a try. Love the Cousin It pic. ;) Two questions for you: 1. What about sweaty, post work out hair? Do baking soda and vinegar really do the trick 2. Split ends and stuff from flat ironing? I use product to protect my hair from the iron. Will I be able to forgo the leave-in conditioners as well?

  2. Lisa,

    I find that baking soda and vinegar leave my hair feeling cleaner than any shampoo I ever used - totally up for the challenge of sweaty post work out hair. You just have to rinse it out really thoroughly. If you use too much baking soda and don't rinse well it can feel kind of gritty and dull, as I learned the hard way.

    I only flat iron my hair about once a month, so I'm not sure what effect the baking soda/vinegar would have on that. I'd either try going cold turkey and giving it a couple of weeks to really see how your hair adjusts, or gradually use less and less of the leave-in conditioners and see if you notice a difference over time.

    The key is to give it a proper trial - it takes some time for your scalp/hair to adjust in terms of oil production and whatnot. I'd give it two weeks minimum - it took me about a month to figure out how much baking soda to use (not that much) for optimum results.

  3. Hmmm. I might. Your hair does look good.

  4. I do no poo off and on. I'm working my way through the remains of a couple of large bottles of Kirkland shampoo - and truth be told, I use shampoo and conditioner when I've been in a pool otherwise my hair dries right out. I have dry skin and hair to begin with.

    I also find weekly treatments with coconut oil helps with the frizzies.

  5. I've been nopoo for almost a year. I'm also a profound klutz so I can tell you the baking soda doesn't hurt the eyes much but does dry out my skin. The vinegar hurts like a sonofa.

    My main hair problem has been that one time I've been to see my stylist (I haven't broken down and started colouring yet though it's not far from now), she used shampoo and then boatloads of product. My hair was a hot mess for weeks. I'm going to have to put my foot down next time.

    Glad to hear you're onboard with the nopoo Alexis!

  6. I am not doing the no poo, but I do the less poo. I wash my hair every 3 days or so, mostly after being in the pool. I have always been a not much product in my hair kind of girl, except for dye, mostly because I am cheap. :)

    Your hair looks good, and I have never smelled vinegar on your person.

  7. I'm very tempted to try this. Any idea how it works on Asian hair? Must google it.

  8. I'm not Asian, but I've been no-poo from some time now and I don't see how it wouldn't work, while acknowledging that Asian hair is quite different from straight, fine, fairly thick Caucasian hair like mine. The baking soda part is really about getting your scalp clean, and the vinegar is about detangling and restoring hair to its proper pH level.

  9. Between you and Chris from Vancouver Mom I might have to try this. I saw her last week and her hair looked great. I get really greasy hair if not washed regularly, but I also get very dry scalp. I use a small amount of product everyday, and have wicked bedhead each morning (you'll witness this 1st hand shortly). So I usually have to at least rinse my hair everyday. Really thinking I might give this a try - after blogher. Not enough time to work out the kinks before then.