No, it’s not that kind of poo. Until the mid-20th century, shampooing and conditioning one’s hair was considered a luxury that only came about once or twice a month — that is, until synthetic formulas revolutionized haircare. As shampooing became increasingly more commonplace and formulas derived less from nature and more from laboratories, however, very few stopped to beg the question: what exactly are name-brand hair products made of? Mother Nature already provided us with organic, 99% edible recipes for homemade skin moisturizers and facial scrubs…so the time has come to explore all-natural shampoo!
Dangers of Mainstream Brands
The human scalp is comprised of the thickest layer of skin on the body, but that doesn’t mean it’s impervious to harsh, oil-stripping, and unsafe chemicals. Unlike oral ingestion, where harmful chemicals are broken down by saliva and stomach acid, topical application of toxic haircare ingredients are absorbed via hair follicles and seep directly into the bloodstream.
Hazardous artificial ingredients run rampant in contemporary “greenwashed” shampoo and conditioner brands…and can even be found lurking within shampoo bottles containing generally organic formulas. Some of the most common culprits amongst chemical haircare formulas include:
- Alcohol, isopropyl (SD-40): Found in many skin and hair products, fragrances, antibacterial hand washes as well as shellac and antifreeze. Although SD (or specially denatured) alcohol 40 is antiseptic and antibacterial, it’s a drying and dehydrating solvent. **Note that not all derivatives of alcohol are harmful! Check out Inamei’s Skincare guide here.**
- FD&C color pigments: Synthetic colors made from coal tar, containing heavy metal salts that deposit toxins onto the skin, causing skin sensitivity and irritation. These are present in many cleansing and beauty products, including baby products.
- Mineral oil: A petroleum by-product that coats the skin like plastic, clogging the pores. This ingredient is known for interfering with the skin’s ability to eliminate toxins, and according to the No Poo Method website, disrupts the hair growth cycle, resulting in weaker, discolored hair follicles.
- Propylene glycol (PG): A petroleum plastic that acts as surfactant (wetting agent and solvent), PG is classified as a “generally safe” humectant by the FDA despite its moderately toxic rating by EWG Cosmetic Database. Although it’s considered a low risk toxin, it is still acknowleged as toxic, and the potential health risks of long-term exposure have yet to be studied.
- Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS): A surfactant, detergent, and emulsifier used in thousands of cosmetic products, as well as in industrial cleaners. Common issues with SLS include skin and eye irritation, organ toxicity, reproductive toxicity, and neurotoxicity, and according to Mercola, its “manufacturing process (ethoxylation) results in SLES/SLS being contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, a carcinogenic by-product”.
- Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES): Present in shampoos, body wash, and liquid soaps, SLES is reacted with ethylene oxide- a known carcinogen -and added to cosmetic products to create a soft texture on the skin. According to the EWG blog, the “ethoxylating process contaminates the product with a suspected carcinogen, 1, 4-dioxane”, and despite efforts to purify the formula, trace amounts of the carcinogen remain.
The No ‘Poo Method
An EWG study conducted in 2004 revealed that the average adult used 9 personal care products a day, with over 250,000 women using 15 products per day. These men and women exposed themselves to cosmetic products that contained more than 126 synthetic ingredients combined!
As we grow weary of the dishonest, unclear, and flashy advertisements regarding our food, Americans are finally demanding safe alternatives to body care and haircare alike. While buying organic, fair wage, and/or responsibly made shampoo is a wonderful step in the right direction, you can bypass the grocery store altogether for a 100% natural, non-toxic, back-to-basics hair treatment: The No ‘Poo (or “No Shampoo”) Method!
apple cider vinegar
There are a few slight variations of the recipe, so the following instructions originate from the Nature Moms website in particular:
1)Dissolve about 1 tablespoon of baking soda in just enough water to make a paste.
2) Apply this to your roots only; work it in and let it sit for a minute. In order to stimulate blood flow, clean your pores and get off built up grime, use your finger tips to scrub your scalp. Keeping making scrubbing circles.
3) Rinse the baking soda out.
4) Next, pour about 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into one cup of warm water.
5) Pour the apple cider vinegar over your head, especially the ends of your hair, and let it sit for a minute.
6) After waiting, rinse it out.
How It Works
The No ‘Poo method can be used as frequently or infrequently as you choose; some casual testers substitute it once a week, while more fervent users swear by it. Ultimately, the No ‘Poo method encourages you to stop applying any and all chemicals to your scalp in order to eliminate your hair follicles’ dependency on chemical stimulants. This method essentially weens the follicles off of harsh artificial ingredients, restoring the cycle of natural oils to your hair. Women who employ this method claim that their hair is as gorgeous, soft, and voluminous- if not more so -than it ever was while using store-bought shampoo.
Here are some solutions to common troubleshooting questions:
- For oily hair: try using less baking soda or leaving the paste on for a shorter period of time. Adding honey (to either the paste or vinegar) may also help.
- For frizzy hair: try using less apple cider vinegar, switching to lemon or lime juice, leaving out the honey, and/or using a comb instead of a brush. Also, make sure you’re applying the apple cider vinegar only to the ends of your hair.
Unfortunately beautiful, shimmering locks don’t happen overnight! If you’re happy to deconstruct your haircare routine with this method and toss away your synthetic formulas cold turkey, the typical transition period lasts about 2-6 weeks, within which your hair will most likely produce grease and oils in excess.
Referred to as the “greasy detox”, it’s your scalp’s perfectly natural (but quite unpleasant) reaction to the sudden lack of chemical conditioner: the sebaceous glands, sensing this absence of oils, over-compensates by secreting sebum (your hair’s natural oil) in order to keep your hair from drying out. Once your scalp grows accustomed to producing its own sebum again, the greasy period will end.
To avoid a lengthy detox period, it’s recommended you ease into the No ‘Poo routine, beginning every other day and eventually reducing washing sessions to once or twice a week. In the end, your hair will rejoice!
Want to browse safe shampoo and conditioner products? Check out EWG’s database of approved haircare brands here!