Why I Stopped Washing My Hair — And Why You Should, Too.

Okay, so to be fair, I didn’t stop washing my hair, I just stopped shampooing it with store-bought hair products.

My memory is worse than that of anyone I’ve ever known but if I remember correctly, I started doing this for one reason: I wanted dreads. It’s a common misconception that all dreads are dirty, nasty, smelly rat nests. Most of them are very carefully crafted and maintained, including a good wash and condition as necessary. I found a video on YouTube I really liked that explained how to do it with minimal mess and basic household products. I decided I would try this on my non-dread-head and see how it went, first. Yes, I was being a “hippie” and perhaps taking my earth-consciousness to a level that made many around me uncomfortable, but I was pretty used to being the odd one in the room and figured it couldn’t hurt anything to try. Besides, I was (and still am) a starving college student. If this method worked even half as well as my regular routine and saved me some money, I was on board.

But let’s be real: worst-case scenario, I finished the shampoo bottle I still had sitting in the shower organizer.

To my surprise, it worked well from day one and no one noticed that I wasn’t shampooing my hair anymore. Within days, I noticed how consistently my hair felt softer than it had when I was using even my favorite high-quality products. And within a few weeks, I started to notice a more consistent, controllable, desirable curl emerging.

I’ve always had curls though I’ve not always loved them. I definitely didn’t know what to do with them or how to help them for most of my life. Through this happy accident of wanting dreads (when everyone begged me to do something less drastic), I learned how to not only care for the curls I hated, but how to nurture them to their full potential, to a point I really started to love and embrace them.

So how does it work and why should you do it, too? Let’s talk about that.

How It Works
The application process is different for dreads and often requires quite a bit more product, but how we make our new no-poo and faux conditioner are the same. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Baking soda
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • A cup (preferably clear and plastic)

That’s it. (Yes, really.)

I whip up my necessities before I jump in the shower but experiment and do it however works best for you. The same is true for proportions of baking soda to water, and so on. You’ll know after a few washes how to do it, and eyeballing becomes easy.

To make the “shampoo”, you’ll need your palm, about a tablespoon of baking soda, and water from the shower head. Note that the amount of baking soda you’ll need will be dependent on the amount of hair you have and how dirty it is. If you’re a cue ball like I am right now, you will need less than half of this mixture to be golden.

With the baking soda in your hand, add a bit of water. You will need significantly less than you think you need, so start with literal drops. You want to mix the baking soda and water to make a sort-of paste. This will go on first and serve as your shampoo. When I apply, I apply little glops all around my head with the free hand, then massage in circles like you would with regular shampoo.

At first, this is going to feel disgusting and awkward. It’ll feel something between nothing happening and rubbing sand through wet hair. If you’re even somewhat normal, every part of your person is going to scream out that THIS IS NOT OKAY. But believe me, it’s okay. And it’s going to be okay. Keep going.

When you’ve finished with the baking soda, rinse thoroughly.

Next up is the apple cider vinegar, acting as your conditioner. For this, you’ll need about 1/4 cup of the acv, your plastic cup, and water from the shower head. For those of you who prefer cooler showers to hot, steamy ones, up your heat a bit for almost-uncomfortably warm water. I’ve found this works best to mix with the acv so you don’t end up with an ice bath when you condition.

When it comes time to condition, pour this solution slowly over your scalp and work through your hair. Repeat as necessary, but try not to go over three mixes. When I had hair to my lower back, I used  three cups and it was plenty.

Be warned: your hair will smell like apple cider vinegar when you get out of the shower. If you’re diluting it well enough and rinsing well enough, however, this smell will vanish as your hair dries. If you still smell sour when your hair has dried,  up the water in your mixture and rinse better. It really should not smell bad when you finish.

For added shine, finish up with a cold rinse (to help close up the hair shaft) and plop after wringing. (More on plopping in another post. Search YouTube for videos if you’re curious and can’t wait.)

How Often Should I Wash?
To start out, probably every day — even if you only shampoo every other day. When you take away the vigorous cleaning agents found in shampoos (that strip your hair of most good, natural oils), your body will take some time to adjust its oil production. Most people will need to wash a little more frequently to keep the hair from looking (and frankly, getting) too oily.

My suggestion is to do this every day for about a week — two if you’re not yet comfortable — and then start to taper. But here’s the key: you’re only going to taper the “shampoo” part of your routine. In week two (or three), start using baking soda only every other shower. Continue using the apple cider vinegar solution every time. It’s as good to your outsides as it is to your insides! The acidity of the solution is just enough to tighten up the hair shaft and leave you with extremely smooth, shiny locks.

As you continue with this new routine, you’ll notice you can go longer and longer between “washes” with the same number of conditions. The average wash among my friends who have joined me is about every ten to eleven days. YES, REALLY. Ten to eleven days, no shampoo, and our locks are just as fresh as ever.

But I work out, you say. To which I respond: show off.

Just kidding!

I like to ride my bicycle outdoors as often as possible and because I do this safely, I require a helmet. All the sweat and dirt and ewwww. So yes, sometimes it’s necessary to wash my hair with the baking soda more often than every two weeks. But sometimes, I can still get away with a good scrub under hot water, followed by my acv rinse.

Why Should You Do It?
Well, a number of reasons. Reduce your carbon footprint. Save money. Lessen the number of chemicals you’re introducing to your largest organ: your skin. Good enough?

And if you really need a little extra push just to try it: it’s a really fun way to freak your friends out. “I haven’t washed my hair in TEN days!” And when they ask you what miracle dry shampoo you used to keep from looking like you took a dive in an oil vat, you can tell them you got hip[pie] and stopped using any shampoo at all.

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