Washing our hair is such a deeply ingrained habit that it has become a ritual, and something we can hardly imagine doing without. But increasing numbers of people – Prince Harry and singer Adele among them – have discovered that life beyond the shampoo bottle and its attendant plastic waste is not just bearable but better. Enter the hashtag becoming prominent on Instagram: #nopoo. While this might not be the world’s most enticing name, experts advocate the results say otherwise.
Hairdresser Francesca Paz from the Studio 90 salon in Dalston, London is quite literally at the cutting edge. On a long trip to India Francesca stopped washing her hair, and found that her long blonde locks lost their frizz and thickened into luxurious waves. She quit her habit of bundling the frizz into a bun and began to wear her hair loose, and has won admiring responses.
Francesca explains, “your scalp naturally produces sebum oil, which travels down each strand to naturally smooth and condition it. Shampoo removes the oil, and without it the glands on your scalp go into a panic and over-produce sebum, which then leads to greasy hair. And so people become caught in a cycle of over-washing.” Francesca’s advice to people is to start with washing less, to begin to give the natural process a chance.
We have been raised in a world where it is considered very normal to wash hair in a slimy gloop ranging in colour from neon blue to baby pink
Travel writer Helena Smith stopped using shampoo for environmental reasons, concerned about plastic waste and over use of chemicals. She went cold turkey rather than stopping gradually: “I could definitely feel that my hair was going through a detox process, and quite honestly there were some showers of dandruff, greasy days and about a week when I struggled to get a comb through wet hair.” But now her brown curly hair has emerged and feels better and thicker than before.
“When I combed through shampooed hair in the past I would find huge clumps of dead hair on the comb. Now there’s hardly any. I have quite a lot of grey hair and it feels much smoother and less frizzy. I wash my hair using just water once a week, and it feels clean and much healthier and more natural. I don’t have bad hair days any more – it’s much more consistent, and pretty much every day is a good hair day.”
Masters student and environmentalist Naomi Terry has made a change from shampoo to ayurvedic powders to keep her Afro hair in shape. She says, “I have had an interesting relationship my hair my whole life, but switching from chemical to natural cleansers was a big shift. A shift in mindset from taming my hair towards actually caring for it. It really is a lot about mindset.”
We have been raised in a world where it is considered very normal to wash hair in a slimy gloop ranging in colour from neon blue to baby pink, packaged up on supermarket shelves in endless rows of plastic bottles, with pictures of flowing hair on the front that often looks nothing like our own.
Naomi says: “I use a mix of ayurvedic powders, which I then blend into a paste and massage into my hair and scalp. It varies, but the powders include amla (dried gooseberry), aritha (soapnut), shikaikai and bhringraj (for strength and growth). These all have different properties, but I don’t get too technical about it, I just mix them all together and allow my hair to soak up all the benefits! Although it can sometimes be tricky to rinse out all the grains of powder, it has a wonderful exfoliating effect. I never thought I’d had any problems with hair loss – I have a very full head of hair – but now that I can see the difference, I realise I was actually shedding quite a lot of hair.”
If you fancy going on your own natural hair adventure, follow the #nopoo hashtag for tips, tricks and advice.