Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Treading Lightly // Shampoo-Free Update

Treading Lightly is a series that focuses on living lighter -- depending on less, focusing on simplicity, and generally living green. Though I want to travel far and wide, I also want to tread lightly upon this earth and make an effort to keep my impact small.
I've been shampoo-free for over four years now. I've written about it before (here and here), but people on- and offline keep asking me about it, and quite a bit has changed since I last wrote. So, an update is in order.

Before I begin, a confession.
I have become a die-hard advocate for kicking shampoo to the curb. When anyone compliments my hair, and with extra-long locks it tends to happen, I'm quick to spread the shampoo-free gospel. People ask me questions, and I gleefully give forth recipes and blog links, testimonials and encouragement. Break up with the chemical-filled lather! See the light of kitchen products in your bathroom!

What everyone always wants to see first is the results. My hair has always grown quickly, but it hasn't always looked great doing it. I was a daily-shampooer; one skipped day and it was straight into that messy bun to hide the grease streaks. With all this vigorous shampooing, conditioning, repeating, my scalp was dry and my hair was shiny, but flat.
I remember the old days. Trying to figure out if I had dandruff (or something). Being grossed out by my oily roots and somehow also dry ends. Doing that hair-flip thing to try to force some volume into my clean, but limp, hair. 
Now my hair has volume. It is clean for days at a time without even getting wet. It, impossibly, grows even faster. It even has a wave... dare I say, the hint of a curl. 
I've said it before -- I'm never going back.

Then, people want to know about that dreaded transition period. I'll be honest -- it was four years ago. I barely even remember. Different people experience it differently, but here are a few tips for the transition.
  • If you're a real die-hard shampooer, start by cutting back slowly. Start watering down your shampoo, or trying to skip a day every once in awhile. This will help ease the transition when you cut it out altogether. 
  • Invest in a boar-hair brush. When the oils start to build up around your scalp, this wonderful thing helps push the moisture to your ends, which need it the most without conditioner. It also helps stimulate blood flow in the scalp, which is an excellent skill that you're going to have to master anyway...
  • Massage your scalp, a lot. Do this whenever your hair feels gross -- it helps. You'll have to do it to clean your hair from now on anyway. Google it, get down in there, find a method that works for you.
  • Pay attention to where it gets greasy. Everyone has different spots, though most people seem to have trouble with the back of their head. Brush that spot, massage that spot, spend extra time cleaning that spot. Love that spot and eventually, it will love you back.
  • Try not to backslide. Shampoo strips all of your natural oils, which makes your body overproduce them. A particularly greasy day on the morning of a big meeting sucks, but if you break down and shampoo you'll basically be starting from scratch all over again. Power through when possible. 
Finally, the recipe question. I've changed up my recipe quite a bit over the years -- just take a look at my previous blog posts -- but this has been my go-to for over a year now. 

Shampoo: 1/2 baking soda, 1/2 water. Mix in a squeeze bottle. Shake and apply to roots. Massage scalp, adding water with fingers, until the grittiness goes away and you have that *smooth* feeling. Do a victory dance. Rinse.

Conditioner: 1/2 apple cider vinegar, 1/2 water. Mix in a squeeze bottle. Shake and squirt all over the base. Let it run down your hair, or help it spread around. Wait a minute or two. Rinse.

Everyone has different hair, a different scalp, different needs. If something isn't working, Google it and tweak the recipe -- maybe you need to add a few drops of essential oils, maybe you need to dial back the baking soda, maybe you need to skip the vinegar. It's all about finding the right balance for you (and probably re-finding it several times more).

Now, for a few frequently-asked questions. If you have any other questions or comments, please add them below! I'd love to answer them. 

Doesn't your hair smell like vinegar?
Nope -- it might smell a bit while it's being applied, but then it rinses out. If there's any lingering smell, it's gone by the time my hair is dry.

Does your hair smell like anything?
It smells like nothing at all. Like hair, I guess. To be honest, I think that's one of the hardest parts of the transition for women, getting used to one less scent in their life.

How often do you wash your hair?
About once a week. Sometimes more, sometimes less. I wash it when it needs to be washed, there's really no schedule or day of the week.

Does it work for long/short/straight/curly/blonde/brown/black hair?
I can only speak from personal experience, but... I transitioned when my hair was a pixie cut, and now it's down past my shoulder blades. I've had it long, I've had it short, I've had it straight (and now it's kind of curly). I think it can work for anyone and everyone -- partly because it's so easy to customize and personalize to the needs of the person doing the transition.

What about the base/acid issue? Isn't your hair all off-balance?
It's true that when I was using only baking soda, my hair sometimes felt too dry -- and that may have been a base issue. However, I think my current recipe works because it balances itself out with one base and one acid. But I'm not big into science. All I know is that my hair feels good, and certainly not too acidic/basic.

What do you use to mix and apply?
I purchased a pair of those decorating squeeze bottles from Amazon. The ones they use to decorate cakes, or add fancy drizzle, or impressively shoot oil into the pan? Those ones. The nozzle lets me get right down to the roots. 

Do you ever miss shampoo?
I think a lot of people think I must feel sort of dirty without it, or that I miss the ritual of it. I honestly don't miss it at all -- my hair is manageable, it has body, it feels and looks healthy, and I feel quite clean. I don't think I'll ever spend money on shampoo or conditioner again. I have seen the light, and there's no going back. 

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