Why Give Up Shampoo? My Shampoo Alternative

When it comes to changing life-long habits, some are harder to give up than others. For me, one of these bad habits was shampoo. I knew all those chemicals in commercial shampoos weren't good for me, so throughout the last few years I've tried giving up shampoo several times. No dice. It felt like my hair was fighting back! I have very fine hair that has a tendency to be oily, so I thought the very nature of my hair made it impossible to give up shampoo.

My most recent experiment was in July. I shook up some baking soda in a water bottle and used that to replace shampoo. I also did a diluted vinegar rinse and then rinsed with water (I'll explain why that's in bold in a minute). I knew there was an adjustment period of a few weeks, when your hair starts producing less oil and you don't actually need shampoo anymore. So, I gritted my teeth and prepared for the long haul.

I lasted three whole days. Then we took a trip to Stone Mountain and I spent the day with my hair in a ponytail trying to ignore the fact that I felt like a giant greaseball walking around (though in all honestly it was a wonderful day and I'm not about to let greasy hair ruin that!). Strike three. Never going without shampoo again. Or so I thought...

Today I'm trying to loosely follow the GAPS diet, and part of that is avoiding exposure to chemicals. This is something I really want to do, and during the past few years I have made a lot of changes. For instance, I use diluted vinegar to clean my home, soap nuts to clean and soften my laundry, and a coconut oil scrub instead of body wash. But... shampoo is my friend, right? It keeps my hair feeling light and manageable--why would I ever try to live without it?

Well, here are some reasons to try life without shampoo:

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: This and its close cousin, sodium laureth sulfate, are the main ingredient in many shampoos - yes, even in so-called natural and organic shampoos (some of which cost $30 a bottle!). This is what gives shampoo its suds, but it also comes with side effects. It's a highly irritating substance for the skin, and has been linked to rashes, dandruff and even hair loss (yikes!).

One report by The American Department of Toxicology even stated “other studies have indicated that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate enters and maintains residual levels in the heart, the liver, the lungs and the brain from skin contact." (my italics) Wow. I don't know if I want that stuff lurking around in my organs, do you?

Sodium lauryl sulfate is so harsh, that it can actually make your hair produce more oil. Kind of counteracts the point of using shampoo in the first place, doesn't it?

Propylene Glycol: Sound familiar? Maybe you've heard of ethylene glycol, otherwise known as anti-freeze. Propylene glycol is a similar compound, also commonly used in automotive products like brake fluid. A chemical like this is not good for you, outside or inside. It can also worsen skin conditions like acne.

Parabens: Methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben. These guys are hiding in almost every lotion, cosmetic and hair product out there. These chemicals have an endocrine-disrupting effect - that means they screw around with your hormones. Not a good thing, especially when so many of us are trying to heal our bodies with food.

Chemical Fragrances: Fragrance additives contain harsh chemicals which can cause itchy, watery eyes and stinging nostrils. But the affects go way deeper than that. Chemical fragrances can trigger asthma attacks and aggravate allergies. They can even affect your thinking, making concentration and coordination difficult.

Of course, this is just a short-list of the baddies in shampoo. Frankly, shampoo is just a bunch of chemical waste products with a friendly color and fragrance added so it's not repulsive, with a frilly label on top that makes it all look pretty harmless. But it's not, and I've known this for years. But for some reason I just couldn't tear myself away from my bubbly friend.


Today I have officially been shampoo-free for four days. And no, I don't feel like a greaseball. Not one bit. And thank goodness, because I can't handle that. It is a serious pet peeve of mine! What's my secret? It's very, very simple:

Rinse with diluted vinegar. Leave it in.

That's it!

It's magical. It's easy. It actually works. I am impressed, seriously impressed. My hair feels light and shiny, way better than it ever did on shampoo. A couple of these mornings I've wet my hair and massaged a couple tablespoons of baking soda into my scalp, too, and rinsed it really well (otherwise you give the not-so-attractive impression of having straw for hair). But I still do the vinegar rinse after, and I really think it's leaving the vinegar in that does the magic.

My biggest thrill, however, is being able to raise shampoo-free kids! I have reluctantly used baby shampoo with both my children once or twice a week, because their hair was a gooey mess without it. But the other night I rinsed their hair with diluted vinegar and left it in. Viola! Two days later both of my children still have shiny, manageable hair--without shampoo!

Diluting Vinegar

This is not hard, but keep in mind some people need more vinegar than others. I use about a 1:5 ratio of vinegar to water. Some people may need a 1:3 or 1:8 ratio. Experiment and see what works for you (start with less and add more as needed).

Added bonus: vinegar is dirt cheap. Even highly beneficial apple cider vinegar can be had cheaply if you buy by the gallon. So, you can chuck out all those $30 shampoos that are carving a hole in your wallet and your health. Yay!

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading all of this! I will keep you all updated as to how my life without shampoo continues in the long run. 

Have you tried going without shampoo? If so, what was your experience? I'd love to hear from people who've successfully ended their relationship with shampoo.

Many of the ingredients you need to make your own shampoo can be found on my Resources page!

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