Good Housekeeping’s digital content manager, Madge Booth, shares her experience of not using any products on her hair for seven whole months.
I have had a lifelong battle with my hair. It’s super-bushy and the frizz is hardly containable. I have tried everything. I even shaved my head when I was 12 – I thought no hair would be better than the hair I had! – and had to get my ears pierced so I wouldn’t be mistaken for a boy. Growing it out (in high school – the horror) was one of the hardest things I have ever done, and no, it did not grow out all silky and smooth.
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Over the years, reverse perms helped a lot, but they did a lot of damage. And then I was introduced to a certain hair-straightener brand that literally changed my life. For the next 10 years I never left home without having silky-smooth, straight hair. My curls and bushy hair became my best-kept secret….
Until one day, when I came across an article online about a woman who claimed her wild, frizzy hair became as tame as a lamb as soon as she stopped using shampoo and other hair products. She said her hair now fell into beautiful mermaid curls and she could literally wash and go without ANY products. I read it and thought she must be lying, or that her hair obviously wasn’t half as bad as mine. But a little voice kept asking, ‘What if she is right?’
So I decided to give it a try. I joined the #NoPoo movement (poo as in shamPOO). My hair is very dry, so it hardly ever looks dirty, which really helped a lot during those first few weeks.
So, once a week, I would rinse my hair with hot water in the shower and ‘wash’ it like I would have if I was using shampoo, but I wasn’t. At first I still straightened it after each wash, but within three weeks I could see a massive difference. My curls were a lot tamer – the natural oils had totally calmed down the frizz and instead of a voluminous mass on my head, my hair actually looked great after I just dried it with a blow-dryer.
For the first time in my life I could wash-and-go and not worry about what my hair would look like when it dried. And I didn’t run for cover like a crazy person when a few drops of rain started to fall. I loved my hair and it looked great. I was worried my hair was smelly, but my husband assured me it wasn’t.
This honeymoon phase lasted for about four months and then my scalp started getting itchy. I read up on ways to clean your scalp without using products. I tried scrubbing my scalp with bicarb – as recommended – and it helped a little. But after another two months of really struggling with my scalp, I grabbed my husband’s shampoo in a moment of weakness and washed my hair.
It was as though someone had inflated my hair. After just one wash my hair was super-frizzy again. Gone were the subtle curls that floated down my back. It literally took one wash to get rid of all that essential oil that had made my hair so great.
So what now?
Since I’ve stopped my #NoPoo quest, I wash my hair very rarely, maybe three to four times a month. It has never gone back to the amazingness that it was, but I am not always scratching my head either. My hair frizzes less and I have actually cut it into a short bob, something I never thought I could do because of the sheer volume. I do flat-iron it most of the time, though, but I can wash-and-go if I have to.
What I learnt
- Every single one of us damages our hair by overwashing it. Washing your hair less will reap major benefits. Maybe not instantly, but after a few weeks of wearing hats and head bands, you WILL see results.
- I was embarrassed at first and didn’t tell anyone I wasn’t washing my hair. But when people started asking me why my hair looked so great, I told them the truth and their responses surprised me. Most people were curious to find out more and had a lot of questions about how I did it. Never be shy about something that makes your life better or easier.
- It was a bit of a struggle telling the hairdresser she couldn’t wash my hair with shampoo – but I stuck to my guns. Stand up for what you believe in.
- Never do anything because everybody does it or because the pages of beauty magazines tell you to do something – find your own way.
- One question I like asking myself (not just about my hair) is ‘How did people do this 300 years ago?’ Surely they didn’t wash their hair every day, they didn’t have amazing products and technology, and they didn’t look like ogres, so natural oils can’t be that bad…. Think about that!