My 3 month no-poo anniversary is coming up soon! Some of you may have been following my journey on Instagram, but for those of you who are like, what in the world are you talking about are you not going to the bathroom?!... well I'm happy to let you know that the no-poo method in no way refers to going to the bathroom. The no-poo method means not using store-bought shampoo or conditioner, and instead using natural ingredients to wash/nourish your hair and scalp. 11 weeks after I started the no-poo method cold turkey, I am positive this has been one of the best choices I've made for my hygiene routine and will never go back to buying from the store. This decision ultimately aligned with my mindset on what living a coastal lifestyle can really mean and evolve into over time for a person that can act on ocean-approved choices.
So what made me want to make this huge switch and go totally against what modern day society says is normal? During the winter last year I experienced for the first time scalp irritation to the point where it was itching just about every ten minutes and started to flake way too much. I thought I'd had an allergic reaction to something I ate, or maybe the air was too dry and my scalp hit a tipping point. It was that bad! I even thought that I'd need to see a dermatologist or a doctor to help me figure out why just within one day my scalp went from feeling fine - to it feeling like there was a pile of ants on my head.
I knew my scalp was extremely sensitive at this point and couldn't tolerate becoming any dryer than it already seemed. So I decided to head to HEB and buy a bar of River Soap Company sea kelp vegetable oil based soap with essential oils to use minimally while washing my hair with warm water only. When it came to drying my hair, I just brushed it out and let it air dry. I did this routine every other day for a week while I spent my nights researching what I could do myself before having to get a doctor involved. That research lead to what I like to call the underground hygiene movement of no-poo because it hardly receives any attention about how it's so beneficial for your scalp and hair. I decided no-poo was the solution I was going to take on myself before consulting a doctor so I wouldn't have to pay them a pretty penny to tell me to stop using shampoos/conditioners to see what would happen :)
LEFT, you see my hair on Day 1. RIGHT, you see my hair on Day 2.
99% of store-bought shampoos and conditioners are toxic. They can irritate and dry out your scalp, release chemicals hazardous to your health, and remove natural oils produced by your body. All of these side effects together disrupt your natural pH level and cause your body to think it needs to over-produce oil to be healthy, when really things are out of line already. Start saying goodbye to Head and Shoulders that you thought would help your flakes... the good smelling Herbal Essence bottles you thought would make your hair beautiful... and even the Dove hair products that your family has used for years. O, and all those expensive L'Oreal hair products you thought would give your hair more volume. These store-bought hair products and hundreds more, have been researched by the Environmental Working Group who found links to cancer, allergies, immune system damage, high levels of hazardous chemical compositions, and more. Tell me what you really think now about putting store-bought hair products on your head every time you shower! Yup, that's what I thought too. Sure your hair might look great now with store-bought hair products, but what's really happening deep within will catch up to you.
After I decided to go no-poo, I continued washing my hair with my bar of River Soap Company sea kelp vegetable oil based soap and water only every other three days for about two more weeks. In fact the longest I went without washing my hair one time was 5 days! When I had to dry my hair I would use cold air only.
I made a personal decision not to use the most popular no-poo method ingredients of baking soda and ACV as a wash because I read multiple articles mentioning that the pH level combinations of these ingredients would be counteractive to what I was trying to achieve for my personal unique pH level, skin and hair type.
I went to HEB and bought a new double sided boar bristle hair brush to help comb down the natural oils from my scalp to my hair, instead of continuing to use only a plastic brush that didn't distribute the oils and caused buildup on my scalp. For YEARS I had never replaced my plastic hair brush, and I look back now and just wonder what I was thinking all that time. You need to absolutely wash your hair brush every 2-3 months, and buy a boar bristle brush if at all possible. Some added benefits of using a boar bristle brush are: avoiding creating more static in your hair, naturally brushing in more hair volume, removing any sebum buildup on your scalp, and reducing the stress on your scalp when brushing. I seriously love my boar bristle brush and would highly recommend you buy yourself one the next time you're at the store.
So during the first 1-4 weeks of no-poo it definitely became apparent that my scalp was in a major detox mode. I wasn't using any store bought products, just minimal soap and water, and therefore my body was still under the impression it had to overproduce oil to compensate for the stripping of natural oils it had been used to for 25 years. This caused my hair to feel and look very oily and at times waxy. There was also a lot of buildup on my scalp (what has been blocked must come out), which made it important to brush my hair at least twice a day. One thing you will want to own is a good collection of hats during this detox period, just take my word for it and go shopping.ha This detox phase is the most important time during the no-poo transition. You MUST NOT GIVE IN to washing your hair with store-bought shampoo/conditioner!! I kept telling myself I've come this far in the process and couldn't give up now. However, if you have no other choice (say you have a job interview like I did) and need to wash your hair with something, use a low-poo product, which means a product that has a lower amount of harsh chemicals like shampoos or conditioners by Nature's Gate, to get you through the day and then go back to your normal routine.
LEFT, what my hair looked like for 1 month. RIGHT, what my hair began to look like during the beginning of my 2 month stretch.
If you're like me, I absolutely needed a group of like minded people to help me through this new journey. I wanted to talk with others about what I was experiencing, discover new techniques, and see what worked best for others who had the same hair type as me. I was referred to a Facebook group called the No Poo & Low Poo Hair Care Group, and they've been a fantastic resource for me. If you are thinking about starting the no-poo method, I highly recommend you join this group first and become familiar with what is normal to experience, the recipes involved for natural hair care, and voice any questions you might have.
This group helped me discover the ACV rinse that has forever changed my outlook on ACV. This rinse done twice a week has transformed my dull hair into shiny softer strands and has even stimulated new hair growth; now all I need is more strength per strand. I have been SO EXCITED about this!! Using natural ingredients and oils, this rinse works to help calm down irritation, moisturize, and stimulate the hair roots.
Here's the treasured recipe with a little tweak I did specifically for my hair by adding essential oils which help to combat any bacteria on the scalp. Store the rinse in a condiment bottle so it's easier to put on your hair, and use it in the shower after washing your hair as the conditioning portion of your routine.
- Steep 2/3 cup of hot water with freshly cut thyme, rosemary, and mint leaves for at least 15 minutes
- Remove the leaves and mix in with 2/3 cup ACV with mother ("mother" means parts of the apple)
- Add 2 TBSP aloe vera juice
- Add 5 drops of lavender and tea tree essential oils
- Mix and let it sit for about 5 minutes to cool down.
Mid-way into the second month, my brush started to accumulate lots of build up (dead skin cells, sebum, and dust) as part of the continuing detox process. So I took a plastic bin halfway full with water and mixed in 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar, a few drops of tea tree essential oil, and a drop of castile soap to sit for 30 minutes, then dried if off clean!
Three weeks ago with the help from a former co-worker, I discovered an easier and more nourishing way to wash my hair and potentially increase the strength per hair strand by using homemade hair care products from Melaine, the owner of Shamarwyn on Etsy. She uses natural and organic plant-based ingredients in all her products and bottles each one herself out of Austin, Texas. I love that!
I started out using her sulfate-free Rosemary Mint shampoo and conditioner every other two days and instantly noticed more volume, softer, and now stronger hair with more new growth. I also noticed that the amount of flaking I had in prior months decreased, however I still have somewhat of an issue with a flaking scalp. To see what else I can do to combat the flaking, Melanie is going to make me a scalp treatment to see if that will help. Hopefully now that spring is almost here and the Houston area will become more humid, that will help my scalp too.
So what does my hair look like right now? Take a look! Definitely feels and looks better; but still work in progress. I'm not losing as many strands of hair as I used to; I used to look down in the shower and gasp (was I going bald??).
I'm glad my new growth will start to grow in a chemical-free hair routine and create the healthiest head of hair I've had in all my life! :)
Hope this helps you understand what to expect when starting the no-poo method, and what kinds of first steps, routines, and solutions are realistically possible! Remember though, your head of hair is original.
There is no one else in the world with your pH level, skin or hair type. So when you begin to look at what you want your no-poo journey to be, it's ok to alter what the majority is using to do what works best for your routine.
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