19/04/2015 15:49 BST | Updated 19/06/2015 06:59 BST

The No Poo Movement: How and Why I Stopped Using Shampoo

I like the idea of natural beauty. I've never been one of those women who was embarrassed to leave the house without their face on. So when a friend told me she had stopped shampooing her hair, I was more curious than I was disgusted (although I'll admit I did mentally recoil just a little). She was a university friend I hadn't seen in years, and her hair looked different. Better. So much so that I asked her if she had been doing anything special with it. When she replied that she hadn't shampooed in months, and simply rinsed her hair thoroughly, I filed that piece of intel away in my mind. I was a little dubious - can hair really be clean without shampoo? - but the proof was in the pudding: Her once-dry locks were positively lustrous.

A few months later I had the opportunity to try this radical method myself, while on vacation in Thailand. My friend had warned me that the initial adjustment period would be unpleasant, but I figured the backpacker-filled islands were a safe testing ground. At the very least, I wouldn't be the only one who smelled. For a few weeks I cut out both shampoo and conditioner, and to my horror, dandruff and oil colonized my scalp. In desperation I swam in the ocean every day (although I realize now the harsh salt water probably did more harm than good) and concealed my hair with headbands. A few times I nearly gave up, and had I been at home among friends and colleagues, I'm pretty sure I would have.

But I managed to persevere, and by the time I returned home my mane had settled down somewhat. It still looked like it really needed a wash, but it wasn't as dire as it once was, and that gave me hope. I pushed through three more weeks of not looking my best, and then my scalp called a truce and succumbed to the new state of affairs. It stopped overproducing grease and the dandruff disappeared. For the first time in six weeks, I had a good hair day.


My hair continued to improve, and as it normalised it began to look and feel clean again. I washed my hair on the same schedule as before, just without shampoo, and made sure I always gave my scalp a good scrub with my fingers. As I stopped stripping away all of my natural oils, my hair became silkier and healthier. Even my hairdresser commented on what great condition my locks were in.

It's now been six years of water-washing, and no one has ever suspected that I don't use shampoo. I condition as needed to prevent split ends but don't really use any additional products. I don't need to. I still have bad hair days--who doesn't?--but overall I prefer how my hair looks now. It has better texture and is wavier than before. But if I stop liking it, I may experiment with shampoo again, we'll see.

Over the last few years, hair care methods like no-poo (no shampoo) and co-washing (conditioner-only washing) have become more mainstream. Hairdressers washing my hair no longer bat an eyelid when I request they skip shampoo, and many acquaintances have revealed they've quietly gone au naturale themselves. I don't believe that one hair care method is superior to another, or that what works for me will work for everyone. But we all have our "dirty" little secrets, and now you know mine.

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