The ‘Poo Chronicles

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This is not a blog post about potty training (though I could take on that topic with some degree of expertise), nor is it a celebration of the joys of the coffee enema (no notches on the bedpost there, I’m happy to report). This, my dear friends, is a soap-opera sized retelling of my year-long experiment with skipping, changing, reducing and otherwise shaking up my usage of shampoo. I have learned much through my adventures with ‘poo, young Jedis, and I would now like to sit on a mat in the lotus position and share my pearls of ‘poo knowledge with you.
It all started with the greys (doesn’t it always), as a tag-along new experiment to go with my hippie-esque zeal for embracing the honest-to-goodness me by ceasing to dye my greying mane. To read more about that, head on over to Summoning the Enchantress. As a side note on that topic, however, I will submit to you that now, nine months or so after deciding to embrace the tinsel, I am still over the moon with my decision. And dang it, it looks good.

But back to the ‘poo. I had stopped using conditioner regularly about six months earlier. No deep or meaningful reason–it just weighed down my hair and made it look gloppy. I then saw a series of posts from a high school classmate of mine, who I keep in touch with via the lifeline of Facebook, related to her experimentation with the No ‘Poo movement. Crunchy granola organo-naturalist though she is, after a valiant go she threw in the towel and grabbed the Suave about two weeks in. But still I was intrigued…and so I googled liberally, as one does. Here are the key things I found out:

1. No ‘Poo has worked well for some people, including a very well-known hairdresser who hasn’t lathered her enviable curls for decades

2. There are steps involving baking soda and vinegar rinses that some say work well and others have abandoned as fruitless and/or damaging and/or smelly

3. While strict “no ‘poo” (meaning no shampoo, just the aforementioned rinses) is an option, there are many other variations on the theme. More on that in the next paragraph, so stay tuned to this page.

4. As in other areas (waggle your eyebrows suggestively here, people), hardness or softness is a very big deal. This time I’m referring to water, but you knew that, didn’t you?

Research and subsequent confusion firmly in place, I dove in, threw in the towel, got my feet wet, and embodied any of the other bathing-related cliches you can think of. First step? Traditional no ‘poo, using baking soda and vinegar to cleanse and condition. Interestingly, the no shampooing bit wasn’t as horrid as I had anticipated, which surprised me because I’m a gal who’s always been prone to oily locks. My biggest problem turned out to be item #4 above–water as hard as my sister’s new boyfriend’s abs. I live in northern NJ, in an area with especially hard water that creates residue in my water kettle, on my fixtures, and yes, in my hair. The no ‘poo literature generally recommends a baking soda rinse to remove excess oil, which I think would have worked rather well in soft water. In my case, though, all it did was reinforce the bond of the mineral scale onto my follicles. I walked around not with an oily head, but a stiff, gummy and icky-feeling one that resembled a dingy hair helmet. Sexy.

On to the next thing. I figured that since the baking soda was counterproductive, I’d ditch that too and just go with the cider rinse solution, which was supposed to act as a chelating agent. Grasshoppers, this is your vocabulary word for the day. Chelating chemicals are those that, in sailor talk, hook up with the lime and crap in your hair and carry it away into the drain. The result? A. it didn’t really work, and B. it made my pillow smell like a salad bar.

I wasn’t deterred, though, because there was at least one day during this time when I showered and rinsed my hair with just water or vinegar or whatever merry melange it happened to be at that point, when all the ingredients were right and the moon was high, and I looked in the mirror 30 minutes after toweling it dry to find full, lush, bouncy, curly hair peeking back at me. Curly! Me! And I hadn’t touched it with even a hairbrush.

And thus we arrive at Issa’s No ‘Poo Learning #1: removing the scale and other built-up shite from your hair does wonders.

So then I went ballistic looking for chelating shampoos. There are several to choose from, from cheap and gentle stuff intended for swimmers and the like, to stuff that costs quite a pretty penny per bottle. I went with Bumble & Bumble’s Sunday Shampoo–more pricy than I’m used to, but only intended as a sometimes thing, like cookies for the Cookie Monster. B&B worked well to clean out my hair for sure, but it actually served its purpose a little too well, and my hair quickly went from gummy and stiff to limp and dry. However, it perked right back up once the oils started doing their thing, and started to look rather fierce, I must admit. I think the no ‘poo proponents are right about the natural oil–once you stop consistently stripping your hair with daily washing, especially with harsh chemicals, oil production regulates itself accordingly, and leaves your hair feeling like it’s benefited from the best conditioner out there, every day.

And here we have Issa’s No ‘Poo Learning #2: Hair’s natural sebum does very, very good things. Like pubic hair, it has a purpose. Let it do its job (yep, I explored that topic too–take a jaunt over to The Brazilian for more).

So no shampoo resulted in gross, and weekly chelating shampoo resulted in limp. Now what? Back to chemistry class (hi, Ms. Demoise). Part of the anti-poo trend involves the renunciation of the highly chemical chemicals in many commercial shampoos, namely SLS (sodium laurel/laureth sulfates) and parabens. These ingredients not only (allegedly) strip out the natural oils in our hair, but they also aren’t optimal to be rinsing down the drain and into the environment in large quantities. Logical, I think, don’t you? Anyhoo, there are several natural shampoos on the market that work without high chemistry but also without lots of lather, which is the hallmark of SLS. One of these is Avalon Organics Lemon Clarifying Shampoo, which I have determined is my current fave. It cleans without stripping, and the results are great.

Clever reader, you have deduced, have you not, that I still shampoo my hair. Right on! After the experimentation above, I have landed on a plan that works well for me in my environment.

That, friends, is Issa’s No ‘Poo Learning #3: the magic recipe for you is as unique as the hair on your head.

This is my personal magic recipe: I now wash my hair with natural shampoo every four days, and only from the roots to about the midpoint of my skull. I follow with a teensy little bit of argan oil or something like it applied only to my ends post-shower to keep them healthy and soft. Nature does the rest, and my hair is healthier than ever. A friend of mine is on the semi-weekly ‘poo schedule too, has cut down on flat ironing and blow drying, and both her hair growth and follicular health have blossomed like roses in a manure field. No kidding!

There has been one additional benefit to my experimentation with ‘poo. No doubt as a result of my perpetual whining about our water quality as I sprayed my mane with apple cider vinegar, The Silver Fox took it upon himself to install a water filter in our shower head, the sweet lug. I’ll evade the obvious and say it was because he was so deeply concerned about the welfare of my lovely locks…

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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