After witnessing the public shaming/bullying of my best friend Jackie who blogs at LittleOwlCrunchyMama on the Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda (and the appalling flood of disgusted, unthoughtful, unkind comments questioning everything from Jackie’s hygiene to her child rearing, integrity, intelligence, appearance, and so on when they shared the segment of their Facebook page) I decided now would be a good time to speak up about hair hygiene, shampoo health risks, and no-poo alternatives.
Here is the segment to which I refer, at about 6.40 minutes in. WARNING: You’re about to see some really mind-numblingly awful journalism.
While I was busy writing on the Today show’s Facebook page demanding they offer an apology to my friend my phone rang.
“I know you’ll be honest with me. Do you think my hair looks disgusting?” Jackie asked me as her image was getting slaughtered in the press. I cringed. My friend is one of the strongest women I know and yet, after hundred of comments about how “she is wallowing in filth”, she was beginning to question herself. She asked me because I am her close friend and one the bluntest people she knows. What was my answer?
To Poo or Not to Poo…
About four years ago when I began studying nutrition and health I started doing more research about my body-care products and what I found was not good. Did you know most shampoos contain propylene glycol, formaldehyde, sulfates, parabens, phatalates, BPa, and butylphenyl methylpropional? And the list keeps going. You can click on the links I included to find out what and how many side effects they have. For example, according to the environmental working group:
Propylene glycol can cause a whole host of problems. It is rated a-4, which is categorized as a “moderate” health issue. It has been shown to be linked to cancer, developmental/reproductive issues, allergies/immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity and endocrine disruption. It has been found to provoke skin irritation and sensitization in humans as low as 2% concentration, while the industry review panel recommends cosmetics can contain up to 50% of the substance. Source
Just walk in the bathroom and read the label. Would you eat that? A decent rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t eat it, you probably shouldn’t vigorously massage it into your scalp every day. In some cases, you can absorb toxins and questionable chemical ingredients via skin even faster than by ingesting them.
When you put shampoo or conditioner onto your scalp, the 20 blood vessels, 650 sweat glands, and 1,000 nerve endings soak in the toxins. The truth is, while you wouldn’t ever eat your shampoo, you may actually absorb fewer toxins when you eat something that you do when you apply it to your skin! According to evidence presented at 1978 Congressional hearings, the absorption of the carcinogen nitrosodiethanolamine (NDELA), which is commonly found in shampoo products, was shown to be more than 100 times greater when exposure came through your skin than via your mouth. The truth is, when you consume toxins in foods, such as pesticides in fruit and vegetables, the enzymes in your saliva and stomach often break them down and flush them out of your body. Food also passes through your liver and kidneys, so the toxins that make it through are detoxified to varying degrees by enzymes before they reach the remainder of your body. However, when toxins are absorbed through your skin, they bypass your liver and enter your bloodstream and tissues — with absolutely no protection whatsoever. Source
In fact, Cailtin of Grass Fed Girl blog explains in her post Is Your Shampoo Making You Fat? how phalates are toxic endocrine disruptor’s that suppress our own fat regulating hormones. BPA can mimic the effects of the hormone estrogen, which signals the body to store fat. Parabens can lead to diminished muscle mass, extra fat storage, and male breast growth!
As a result of learning this, our family started washing their hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar (aka the “no poo method”). While Clayton eventually graduated to just thoroughly rinsing his with hot water while showering, I couldn’t make the leap. You see, when you quit using a shampoo regimen, it takes your scalp about six weeks to readjust and start producing less oil, and since I work in customer service, I never really had the opportunity to make the transition (show up to work with oily hair). But the baking soda ended up being too drying for my hair, and eventually I switched to diluted castille soap, with coconut oil as a conditioner, to tame down the frizzies.
Does Clayton’s hair smell gross or look bad? The truth is I’m not crazy about the plain-water thing. The amount of oil in Clayton’s hair is slightly more than what I would consider ideal – like at about the end day two of not washing my hair, and I wash my hair every three days. I say that’s pretty good, especially since his hair is longer than mine. I would kind of like to see Clayton’s hair a little less oily (sorry babe, I still think you are the sexiest man alive!), but I am not sure if that’s simply because we live in a culture obsessed with a strange kind of excessive cleanliness – I suspect so.
( Here is a picture of my handsome man so deep in though he didn’t even notice me snapping this;)
And what about Jackie? First of all, Jackie does wash her hair with water and rinses it with baking soda every once a while, which she clearly states in her post. She just doesn’t use shampoo. The Today show was so focused on making fun of her that they failed to mention, and probably understand, that part. In fact, I’ve seen her hair get too dry, but never filthy or stinky. She has normal hair, folks! I wash and brush my hair regularly, and it frankly doesn’t look any better than hers.
(Here is a picture of both of us at a wedding. No we didn’t plan our outfits in advance either!)
You’ve Got Options
I understand if you don’t want to be as hardcore as Jackie or my husband. I am with you; not quite there yet. However, I take issue with the assumption that this means they are filthy. Trust me, if they were, I would let them know! 😉
It’s also not all-or-nothing. Clayton chooses to just rinse his hair with water. Jackie uses baking soda occasionally and just water the rest of the time. And there’s many more options besides those that don’t imply shampooing your hair with dangerous industrial chemicals. Here are some good options:
1. Make Your Own Shampoo
And this simple shampoo recipe by the same blogger:
2. Old School
3. Diluted Castille Soap
Too busy to make your own shampoo? Not crunchy enough for the rum or black tea rinse? Yea, me neither. Sorry grandma! Dr Bronner’s makes a great pure Castille Soap. The reason I recommend Dr Bronner’s specifically is that not all Castile soap is created equal. Some of the other brands out there may include unseemly ingredients. Just make sure you get a pure one.
There are plenty of ways to avoid using commercial shampoos and still have good hygiene. Know a good one? Please comment so we can add it to the list!
4. Recipe for Shampoo and Hair Spray
These two recipes are from a reader who lives in Greece. She has a wonderful blog that is written in Greek about how to use essential oils. I love it! Very informative! Just click google translate and start browsing –> Tenar’s Essentials.
“Hair shampoo – I ‘m blessed with three wonderful friends who all make fantastic catille soap! They use olive and coconut oil, and sometimes shea butter and herbs. I just get one bar of soap and grate it. One part of grated soap and one part of warm water is all you need. Just mix them together and there you have it! (Make sure you don’t whisk it – it will turn into solid foam). Add a few drops of rosemary extract or essential oil (10 drops per 3.5 oz) and 10 drops of ylang-ylang essential oil per 3.5 oz of shampoo. Rosemary extract will work as a natural preservative, while ylang-ylang is fantastic for your hair – it regulates the production of sebum so it’s perfect for both oily and dry hair. Both rosemary and ylang-yalng are optional, but highly recommended. You can also use infused tea instead of water. One thing to keep in mind is that this shampoo will not foam; at least not a lot. At first you will want to wash your hair two or three times to make sure they’re clean – no need to though. It’s all a matter of habit really. And keep in mind that foam usually contains harmful SLS. Another thing to remember is that your hair will go through a transition period. It will get oily and kind of dull. This period can last up to six weeks, but it is usually anything between 2 to 3 weeks. Mine lasted only a week, but it was summer and I went swimming in the sea every day, so I guess that speeds up the process. Just hang in there – it’s totally worth it!
Hair conditioner – Uh, none! Once your hair is detoxified you don’t need anything else. Mind you, I have always had really dry hair and used to use conditioner every day (and a hair mask once a week). After using my DIY shampoo, my curls are silky soft! I do use castor oil once every month or so, but coconut oil will work too. Just put a generous amount of oil in your hair, wrap it with cling film (not necessary, but it keeps the moisture locked in and prevents the mess from oil dripping) and leave it for an hour. Wash your hair and voilà! There is also a great leave-on conditioner you can use: 3 parts of water and 1 part of vegetable glycerine. Yeap, that’s it. You can add essential oils or use a hydrosol instead of water. This is also great to de-tangle the hair of your little ones. (This spray conditioner is actually named “Aqua Theano”. Theano is my friend’s 2-year old daughter and we wanted something to tame her wild, out of control curls. I make it with lavender hydrosol and a few drops of chamomile essential oil. She loves it!)
3. Hair spray – This is inspired by my grandmother who used to put lemon juice on her hair. Use one part of lemon juice, one part of aloe vera spray (I use this http://realaloeinc.com/spray.asp) and ¼ part of vegetable glycerine. This will give you an all-natural, light hold. Again, my hair is curly and I really don’t know how this will work on straight hair. Lemon juice will also react with sunlight, so I’m not sure if this is suitable for dyed hair. I got some red-ish highlights after using it for several months and lemon juice is traditionally used to highlight blonde hair.
P.S. As English is my second language, please excuse any grammar or syntax mistakes made”
In the end, my answer to Jackie’s question was that her hair is beautiful. I told her that it is hair worn by a strong woman who cares about her health and the health of her family. It is hair that wakes up in the middle of the night to nurse a baby to sleep. It is hair that has been carefully cared for by someone who is committed to putting less toxins in her body. The lesson we can choose to learn from her story is that she is filthy and disgusting for doing so and judge her through our set cultural lenses, or applaud her for her commitment and see her as an inspiration of the healthy body revolution. I am certainly inspired! How about you?
(The image below is a photo I snapped of Jackie two years ago while we were hiking.)
P.S. Know someone who is not washing their hair with shampoo? Send us a link or a photo of their hair so we can share the love and inform people that there are no-poo-ers out there who are alive and thriving beautifully!
Here is a list of bloggers who are currently not using shampoo and here is how long they have been following a no poo protocol!
1.LittleOwlCrunchyMama – 5 years
2.Primally Inspired – 6 months
3.The Crunchy Moose – one year
4. Good Girl Gone Green– 2.5 years
5. The Paleo Mama– 3 years
6. Our Lukas Life – several years