About this blog

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Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Not washing hair

I'd heard a long time ago that if you leave your hair alone for long enough it will revert to a natural state of looking after itself with no need for shampoo. The theory is that shampoo strips the natural oils from hair, so the scalp compensates by producing more oils than it would otherwise, so you have to shampoo them out, and so on... This makes sense to me - after all, my cat has a lovely soft coat without using any shampoo and I'm sure all that 'washing' she does is really just combing.

No shampoo here, and just look at how fluffy that tummy is!

The idea of not having to wash my hair has always appealed to me and if I don't use shampoo that's one more thing (two counting the conditioner) that I don't need to buy. A little research revealed that yes, people do this - it's not just an urban myth. A Daily Mail article was particularly interesting (yes, really!) They asked five women to stop washing their hair for six weeks. Three of them found the experience a revelation - their hair looked and felt much better and they saved a lot of time and money. The other two were utterly miserable - their hair just got greasy and horrible. So, it doesn't work for everyone, which was news to me, but I noticed that the three who got on well with it were brunettes whilst the two who didn't were blonde. It's far too small a sample to generalise, but I found this encouraging nonetheless.

I found a blog entry that gave guidelines on how to manage the transition from daily washing to not washing. Step one: reduce washing frequency - well I washed every other day to start with, so that didn't really apply to me. Step two: switch from normal detergent-based shampoo to soap-based shampoo. Now, my friend Amanda at Realize Beauty has explained at great length why soap is not good for washing hair, but I tried it anyway. Amanda was right: Soap left icky gunk in my hair. Step three: switch to baking soda in water followed by a vinegar rinse. Well, I'd tried baking soda once before and found it really harsh on my hair, so I wasn't too keen to try that again. Step four: finally, stop washing hair altogether. Hmm, I seem to have rejected all the interim steps, so I'll just have to go straight to not washing and put up with the yucky transition period.

I wasn't sure whether not washing meant not even wetting the hair or continuing to rinse regularly with water. I did once try water-only washing, or at least just a herbal rinse, and that was horrid. It left my hair wet AND greasy. Also, I can't really see how water alone's going to tackle oily hair - washing oil off hands with just water doesn't work, so why would I expect it to for hair? Therefore, my no-washing experiment will involve going straight from washing with ordinary shampoo (and quite harsh shampoo at that, because we bought a cheap brand) to not washing, or even wetting, at all. This is not going to be pretty.

Following the Daily Mail article, as well as what I heard years ago, I'm going to give it six weeks. If I'm not happy with my hair at the end of that I'll go back to washing it, as infrequently as I can get away with. I'm almost two weeks into the experiment now, and no, it isn't pretty. Having said that, it seemed to stabilise after about five days and hasn't been getting any greasier since then, so I think my scalp must have already reduced its oil production. The trouble is, my hair is still full of oil.

I know that lots of brushing is an important part of this not-washing business (just look at the cat) and natural bristle brushes are recommended. I'm not sure how seriously to take this recommendation, as it tends to be wrapped up in a "Natural = good, Synthetic = bad" philosophy, which I find rather simplistic. Some people say natural bristles are less likely to break the hair than plastic ones, which I can't believe because you only have to look at the brushes to see that the bristles are similar hardness. I also find natural bristles rather scratchy on my scalp whereas the bobbles on the end of the plastic bristles massage quite pleasantly. On the other hand, natural bristles are more tightly packed in the brush, so I can see they're probably better at carrying the oils down the length of the hair, but then a comb has the same feature. What it really comes down to is the fact that I already own a plastic brush and I don't have a natural one. I'll stick with what I've got, but use a comb as well.

At this stage, Ian and I are both getting pretty fed up with my unwashed hair (though he's being supportive - he might even try it himself if it works for me). It doesn't look too bad, it just doesn't look particularly nice either. This morning I started wondering about the dry shampoos I've heard about - essentially they just absorb the oil and you brush them out. I tried brushing through a little bicarb - only about a teaspoonful - and I think it reduced the oiliness a little, but I'm not entirely convinced. My hair still feels sticky and I'm getting obsessed with brushing and combing it. Sitting here writing a blog entry isn't helping the obsession, either! I've also found that some people take this very seriously indeed. I do not intend to care that much about my hair!

I'll stick with it for six weeks because really, it's not all that long. At two weeks, though, I'm not enjoying this very much.


  1. Did it work for you to go to no-wash hair??? I'm trying to do the same thing. --Tatyana in Nashville USA

  2. Hi Tatyana,

    I must learn how to link up my posts - I last wrote about this in March: http://growingthingsandmakingthings.blogspot.com/2011/03/hair-update-water-only-washing.html

    I gave up on completely no-wash hair, but water-only washing is working for me, especially when I use the natural bristle brush.

    Let me know how you get on :-)


  3. I just want to be a testimony: I did the "experiment." I ended up not washing (but did rinse with water) for alost 12 months. My hair DID quickly adjust ( a week of greasy at first) but then again, I wasn't a frequent shampooer to begin with. Normal frequency for me was once a week. Folks- my hair grew faster than it had ever before in my life. It was weird. Even I was surprised. I loved the way it felt, being a person that can't STAND the feeling of clean hair. My natural wave showed out! I hate the texture of my hair when it is clean.My natural wave disappears when I shampoo. I DID shampoo after the 6th month, and yes, the rinse water was, well, quite dirty. Then I went another 6 months. Then I started dating my now husband, and it was a deal breaker. So I started shampooing again:( He likes it clean, but i don't. I'm just that kinda woman. HOnestly, part of me doesn't care about what the rest of the world thinks about how it looks of the stigmas attached. It was the most healthy and beautiful my hair had ever looked in my life, in my opinion. Good luck!

    1. I assume that by 'clean' you mean with the sebum all washed out. I don't think of my hair as being dirty, I think of the sebum as being the natural equivalent of a leave-in conditioner or hair spray. I agree about the effect on health and beauty - I'd be very reluctant to go back to shampooing. I'm sorry your husband prefers shampooed hair, but I'm sure he's worth it ;-)

  4. I'm currently experimenting with not washing my hair. It's been almost two weeks, I'd say. My hair is quite short as I'm growing out a graded bob. My hair is quite fine and straight.
    I'm doing this for the no-more-chemicals reason, actually, which is why I'm also not going to continue colouring it.
    It feels reasonably greasy, but not like an oil slick. I guess it's more a waxy feel, as I run my fingers through it. You can tell it's not "clean" in the look of the whisky bits of fringe that won't stay in their clips (yes, I'm also growing out a fringe) but in general it doesn't look horrid.
    I hope I can keep going with this. i don't want to use baking soda or ACV. I have rinsed it once or twice but I agree with the comments up the top about oil and water not being a good combo - my hair usually dries really quickly, but wouldn't the other day, because of the state it's in.
    definitely going to try to last six weeks. Hoping it grows quickly and starts to look really good :-)


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