Sunday, February 12, 2012

Losing the Shampoo: How-To

One of the greatest things about knocking store bought shampoo off of your beauty supply list is the variety of choices you have when considering its replacement. There are four generally accepted methods to choose from to keep your hair clean. While I personally find some to be superior to others, all are superior to using store-bought shampoo.

1) Conditioner-Only (C/O)

This method is the only one that requires continued use of store-bought product. Simply put, the C/O approach requires you to use conditioner as a sort of two-in-one hair product. While I have never attempted this method personally, it is very popular in such online forums as the Long Hair Community (check out their C/O thread here). Apparently, scrubbing your hair with conditioner can be an effective way of keeping your hair clean and silky. Unfortunately, a lot of these conditioners have silicone in them, which builds up in your hair and locks out moisture. It's great if you can find a conditioner that has modified silicone (which cleans out of the hair easier) or has none in it at all. Some recommend periodical washings with clarifying shampoo; this will affect your results going 'poo-free, but hair care is all about what works for you.

2) Simple Ingredients/Homemade Concoctions
While sulfate-free shampoos do exist, they are generally one of two things: expensive or full of chemicals. If you aren't comfortable with the other methods, this one is great to try first, because it eliminates store-bought shampoo and conditioner without requiring a long transition time. And, by using ingredients you would find in your kitchen, the chemicals you put on your head are limited to those you would put in your body.

This method is also appealing because it offers so many safe and effective options. Indeed, entire blogs are devoted to DIY hair care products. I have only tried a handful myself, but the simplest and most effective one employed just three ingredients: baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and water. When using this method, I use a mix of 1 tbsp baking soda/8 fl.oz water as 'shampoo', making sure to carefully but vigorously massage my scalp  (A warning: if you dye your hair, baking soda may wash some of the color out. That's how well it cleans.) To close the cuticles of my hair, I use a 7:1 water:apple cider vinegar solution. While this isn't totally necessary, I find that my hair looks just a little better after using it. 

Admittedly, after rinsing, your hair is hardly as soft and smooth as it feels after a good store-bought conditioning. Luckily, it looks phenomenal once it dries, and you needn't shampoo nearly as frequently as you're probably used to.

3) Water-Only (W/O)

This is where it starts getting scary, and (admittedly) a little gross at first encounter. The W/O method is as simple as its name: using only water, you vigorously massage your scalp to achieve clean hair. After a rinse with cold water to close those cuticles, your hair regimen is done until your locks are dry. This is the method I chose to convert to when I realized I couldn't avoid coloring my hair forever (effectively ending my affair with baking soda, for the most part). Yes, it sounds disgusting, and yes, it really does work without making your hair stink to high heaven. People have explained it far more eloquently than I will be able to: read about it at the Long Hair Community.

4) Sebum-Only (No Water)

Can you wash your hair without water? Apparently, you can.  Using the boar bristle brush that any hair lover should already have in their beauty arsenal, you can lift away excess oil and debris from your hair just from brushing. I personally have never tried this method by itself, but while using a clean boar bristle brush in between W/O washes, I have never once noticed my hair to be greasy or foul-smelling (and neither has my boyfriend). I enjoy my daily showers too much for water-only washing to be inconvenient, but for backpackers or those without access to enough water, this alternative seems reasonable enough.

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