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Saying goodbye to the (shampoo) bottle

Georgina Smith / 22 June 2016

Ditching shampoo is becoming mainstream; with effective ways to keep hair clean, it's not as dirty as you may think, with big benefits for thinning hair.

Label free shampoo bottles as a metaphor for ditching shampoo

As well as slowly going grey, hair naturally starts to thin as we get older. There are plenty of products on the market to address this unwanted part of the ageing process, and even some surgical solutions – but before going down an arduous and costly route, perhaps consider going in the opposite direction…

A hair-raising revolution

What would you think if I told you that I've not washed my hair in almost two months? "Poor writer," perhaps. "Can't afford shampoo". Or as Paul McCartney once sang, "Get back, get back, get back to where you once belonged," (to Woodstock '69). Well, I can assure you that I have indeed stopped shampooing. 

And it's the best thing I've ever done for my hair.

I'm just one of many who are ditching the daily dose of suds in favour of a more natural approach to hair care. There's even a name for this growing trend, or movement, if you will: 'No-Poo'.

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No what?

No-Poo. I, and many others, have banished the bottle over concern about the vast number of chemicals we're exposed to each day. (Who hasn't ever quizzically scanned the long list of industrial ingredients on the back of a shampoo bottle whilst relaxing in the bath?) Whether the chemicals in shampoo are harmful is open to debate, but although cutting them out seemed like a positive move, I had other reasons to want to give this beauty experiment a go.

Hair today, gone tomorrow

After giving birth to my son, having enjoyed a rich and luscious mane in pregnancy, my hair fell out in clumps. Whilst the thinning slowed and stabilised, it was never the same as in my pre-parent days. And it still seemed to moult a lot, especially after my daily shampoo and condition.

Longing for more voluminous locks, I decided to cut down on how much I washed my hair and see what would happen.

A shock of unwashed hair

When one first stops shampooing, it can be a rude shock. If, like me, you've washed your hair religiously each day for years, the amount of oil your scalp produces will be much higher than it would naturally. That's because shampooing strips the natural oils from your hair and scalp, and your body reacts by creating more to compensate. And whilst conditioners do an ok job at smoothing out your hair after a shampoo, they won't stop your scalp producing excessive grease.

Needless to say, after the first few days, I looked like something dredged up from the bottom of the ocean. Thankfully, my husband could see past my tentacle-like tresses. Which is good, because I'd had another little Beatles ditty going around in my head, along the lines of "What would you do, if I ditched my shampoo? Would you stand up and walk out on me...?"

If at first you don't succeed

Slightly disconcerted by my new bedraggled barnet, I decided to take a more scientific approach. I found numerous beauty bloggers expounding the benefits of going No-Poo and combed their content for the best tips to make my efforts successful.

Patience is a virtue

If you set out on the No-Poo journey, the most important thing is that you have the patience to ride out the transition stage. Your hair will be producing a lot of excess oil as soon as you stop washing it regularly. But fear not, there are ways to help rid your hair of this excess oil without falling off the wagon and reaching for the nearest bottle of shampoo.

Brushing up on the basics

A good brush is vital if you're going to succeed, especially through the first few weeks. But not just any brush. A natural, boar bristle brush is best for tending to your locks. If you were to look at boar bristles under a microscope, you'd see lots of little scales – a bit like our own hair. These help pick up excess dirt and oil from your hair, and really do help to keep it clean and shiny. It's important, however, that you wash your brush after each use so you don't transfer any oils back to your head. Boar bristle brushes are available from most major pharmacists.

Other techniques to tame your mane

There are other tried and tested techniques that help redistribute your hair's natural oils from the scalp down to the tips – giving your hair a consistently silky look and feel. These include using your fingers to gently massage your scalp and then smooth and preen small sections of your hair at a time.

When needed, you can give your hair a wash with just water to clear away excess dirt, without stripping too much natural oil from your hair. (Though many No-Pooers find they don't even need to do this with a regime of brushing and preening.)

The verdict?

Two months in and my hair has never felt so healthy. It's thicker, shinier and much more manageable. My natural oil levels have reduced dramatically, giving my hair a silkiness that no conditioner ever achieved. Surprisingly, it feels incredibly clean, too. And it smells – because I know that's what you're thinking – absolutely fine. I have almost no split ends and importantly, it has stopped falling out.

Fringe benefits

It begs the question: why do we need shampoo? Shampoos have only been around since the 1930s, but the global hair care industry is now worth billions. They've helped spawn a modern-day obsession with cleanliness – which is great in many respects – but perhaps unnecessary in others. And anyway: do we need the extra fragrance in our lives? I'd rather douse myself in a favourite perfume and have no other scent muddle my overall bouquet. 

Is No-Poo for you?

If you're concerned about thinning hair, it might be worth reducing how regularly you wash it. Going completely No-Poo requires patience and maintenance with brushing and preening, especially in the early days. But it may bring big beauty benefits to your bouffant. What's more, you'll save a few bob and even help the environment by throwing out less plastic.

Preventing hair loss

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.