W Magazine Tackles the No-Shampoo Rage

That’s one way to put it, right? Rage? I guess once Robert Pattinson is doing something it’s fair to say it’s reached a kind of critical mass, but that doesn’t mean the no-shampoo trend has been getting any love from women’s magazines, the pages of which are usually filled with ads for and articles about, well, shampoo. I should say upfront that I do wash my hair still. I wash it all the time. But regular readers will know Alexandra doesn’t, and we’re both advocates of less is more beauty in any form it takes—which is why I was delighted when I was flipping through the new W the other night before bed and came across a story called…The Great Unwashed! Never mind that that’s the same headline the New York Times used for their story on the same(ish) topic—this two-page featurette by Christa D’Souza was absolutely charming and chronicled her funny six-week adventure with dirty hair.

Alexandra and I have noticed—and we’re generalizing here—that when most magazines tackle naturals, one of two things happens:

1) They hawk greenwashed products that have leaves on the bottle or something, and then mix those in with truly natural or organic lines, which confuses readers; or

2) They take a snide this-stuff-is-for-hippies-and-conspiracy-theorists-only approach. We are neither (OK maybe we’re hippies), and so we don’t love this.

But this piece didn’t fall into those traps. Let’s take a look:

The theory is this: Shampoo strips hair of sebum, the oily substance secreted by our scalps to ward off bacteria and wetness. To compensate, we produce too much of the stuff, leading to the dreaded greasy look. In an attempt to remedy that problem, we lather even more frequently, and soon our ends are dry and frizzy, necessitating the use of conditioner and other expensive and time-consuming unguents. We are all, in other words, hamsters on the chemical-products wheel, and if we want to get off we must cut out, or at least curtail, their use.

Right? Right! There’s more:

Modern shampoo as we know it was first widely available in the 1930s, and although formulations have fluctuated, its basic components remain the same: salt; a lathering agent; and surfactant, a chemical that allows oil and water molecules to mix. And, of course, there’s the added fragrance. If you like the smell of clean hair, don’t be fooled: It’s not the clean you’re smelling.

Love that she points out the cycle of overuse that some products create, the relatively new invention of shampoo, and the fragrance thing. From there she funnily describes the next six weeks of her hair life, and while she decides this most certainly isn’t for her—the piece ends with “after six long weeks, I’m back on the bottle—and it feels marvelous”—we like that she gave it a shot, and we like W for giving it a shot, too. Now here’s hoping whatever bottle she went back to was from our friends Alaffia or John Masters or Aubrey.

So what about you. Do you wash your hair?

Image from the W piece

38 Responses to “W Magazine Tackles the No-Shampoo Rage”
  1. philosophotarian says:

    yep. I wash my hair. Every day. I have baby-fine hair that I bolster with hair goo, so I wash it to get the goo out. I use handmade, high-fat, all-natural solid shampoo bars. It’s been years (I think) since I’ve used shampoo that comes in a bottle or includes extra lathering agents or chemical preservatives. The bars come to me in brown paper–no bottles or plastic to recycle–and I get to support a home-grown business. I also have hair as shiny and as strong as my hair can get.

  2. Colleen says:

    It’s officially been a week since I’ve used shampoo! I have done two baking soda washes and used a clean(ish) conditioner twice. I think I’ll bump that routine up to three times this week. I’m also looking into ordering a super clean conditioner this week. So far, so good for my thick, long, curly mane!

  3. Naydja says:

    If you count baking soda, apple cider vinegar and the occasional….wait nope that’s it – those two simple things keep my hair happy, scalp to ends. I wash my hair every 7-10 days, I’ve been known to go 2 weeks even. When needed, I’ll use a bit of oil (coconut, almond, jojoba, vitamin E, olive, argan – I’m an equal opportunist when it comes to oil) on my scalp and tresses when brushing as needed.
    A couple things that help support this habit – my hair is super long, really thick and worn up in a bun on the regular. The occasional special event I’ll do an up-down do or let the tresses fly free, but mostly hair is up and protected from the daily onslaught of crap.
    Also a key to using baking soda and ACV is rinsing your hair THOROUGHLY after – just when you think you’ve rinsed enough, give it another minute or two for good measure.

  4. Nilsby says:

    Not very often.

    When I do wash my hair (usually because I can’t get the sand out after swimming in the ocean), I’m always dismayed at the results. My hair puffs up the first two days then looks disgusting for the rest of the week.

  5. Liz Miller says:

    I have been officially “no-poo” since August, and my hair looks incredible. It’s way more healthy than it ever was when I was shampooing, and I even swim 3-4 times a week in a chlorinated pool. I rinse my hair really well before getting in the pool, and I do an ACV rinse after, but it looks great (and my hairstylist agrees!).

  6. Andrea says:

    Have you seen the book ‘Can You Get Hooked on Lip Balm? I saw it on the shelf at the bookstore yesterday, and thought it might be another clean beauty guide. Turns out, it isn’t. They flat out say that Parabens aren’t all that bad, and try to discredit a lot of facts about harmful ingredients. It’s scary that someone might walk into the shop looking for a clean beauty guide like yours and come out with something like this!

  7. Nico says:

    I do, and I use either Green People for oily hair or Weleda’s baby shampoo/body wash every other day.

  8. Andrea says:

    My hair has always been dry, so my normal routine for most of my life has washing just once a week, except for when I went through a phase of using a product every day to enhance the curl. I still use something to hold the curl when I go out, but if I go out multiple days in a row I’m learning to embrace what my friend and I call “second day hair.” When I run out of current products (can’t bear to waste) I’m going to give the ACV a try and maybe find something more natural for the curls.

  9. Vica says:

    I tried not to shampoo, it doesn’t work.
    I need those wash bars!

  10. Wow.. definitely unexpected. Kudos to W for writing an article like that! I do wash my hair. After reading your blog so much and reading all over about how people are washing their hair less and less, I usually go three days without washing now. I know that’s not a very long time to go without washing, but it’s better than washing every single day

  11. Nora says:

    I’ve been experimenting with my hair for almost a year. I quit “washing” with vinegar and baking soda because of the smell. It’s been 6 weeks since I washed my hair and I have dandruff like you wouldn’t believe. I bought a boar bristle brush hoping it’d help but my hair is long and really thick so it takes a long time to brush this way. I’m hoping the dandruff will improve as the weather warms but I think I’ll probably break down and shampoo this week. Although if anyone knows of another way to help with the dandruff I am all ears.

  12. I tried! I really did! I have short, very curly, very dry hair, and while the curls were glossier and tighter, they also felt heavier. Ultimately, it was my scalp that did it though. I had to be very careful not to touch it even the slightest bit, or flakes would fly. Gross. After a month of restraint, I took great joy in scrubbing my scalp. I might try it again in the spring when the weather’s not so dry!

  13. Dorinda says:

    I shampoo everyday because my hair is very fine & oily. However, since I have switched to a clean shampoo and a vegan shampoo bar I can skip a day if needed and the oilyness isn’t as bad. I have been using a clean shampoo for about 7 or 8 months now and can tell a HUGE difference in my hair. Aside from it not being as oily as usual it seems to grow faster than it ever has and needs cutting less. I have also slacked off on using heating tools on my hair which has helped a great deal too!

  14. comagirl says:

    I have cut back to washing and conditioning every other day. My hair is thin and fine and lifeless, except for the frizz, so I am at a loss as to what to really do with it. If my hair is damaged, I’m going to blame it primarily on coloring.

  15. Fonda LaShay says:

    I wash mine twice a week with a Baking soda mix and a ACV wash (see my recipe here: http://fondalashay.com/mintchilli/shampoo-conditioner ) My hair feels great! Brushes through very well, and even smells good!

  16. Autumn says:

    Haven’t shampooed since September! I won’t lie: My hair can look greasy if I don’t use a dry shampoo of some sort (whether it’s an actual product–I like the texture that the Bumble & Bumble hair powder gives me–or just arrowroot starch, which actually disappears even in my dark brown hair).

    What I’ve found interesting in “coming out” about my hair is that people are totally interested in it but, yeah, approach it with this sort of hippie-at-arm’s-length thing–like if they enthusiastically endorsed the fact that I look fine while abstaining from something they do every day or whatever, and that my hair actually looks healthier by all accounts, that they’ll catch some sort of hippie germ and then they’ll start brewing their own kombucha. (Which I did, but it eventually took over my entire apartment and I had to go cold-turkey.) I wonder if it being featured in W will rid it of a bit of that taint?

    You know, the funny thing is that I haven’t washed my face since September either, but nobody seems to care about that! It’s just the hair thing that amazes them. Weird!

    (I admit to feeling a little bit smug about looking approximately normal while cutting my daily prep time in half, which I wrote about here: http://www.the-beheld.com/2010/10/ive-stopped-washing-my-hair.html if anyone’s interested in reading waaaay too much thought about the joys of no-‘poo!)

  17. Mae says:

    About three months ago I stopped washing my hair and started rinsing it with baking soda water and diluted apple cider vinegar once every week and a half. My crazy curls have now transformed into perfect beach waves so I’m not complaining. All I put in afterwards is aloe vera juice and a little argan oil on my ends. I feel so liberated. I have such thick, coarse hair that I have always had to allot a good hour for hair prep/styling time before going out on my way for the day. I’m now a rinse (occasionally) and go girl! Love it.

  18. Kate says:

    For all the dandruff people reading, I had a problem with dry, flaky scalp earlier this winter. I haven’t been using shampoo or conditioner for about six months, and I love the texture of my hair but the dandruff was bothering me. I started using apple cider vinegar as a rinse a few times a week, and as a spot treatment on my hairline daily. I’ve noticed a major improvement, and I have hardly any dandruff. I’ve also made a concerted effort to expose my head to the sun and to cut back on wearing hats, which has become easier as the cold has let-up. I also have tried to use cooler water on my hair, since hot water can dry your skin faster.

    Anyway, these are my experiences…try them out and see if they work for you. It took me about three weeks with the ACV to totally eliminate the dandruff, but I feel great about my whole head now!

  19. Rebecca says:

    I still shampoo, but for years it’s been every three days or so. I use far fewer hair products since reading the book, and I’ve been surprised at how much I love my new less-is-more routine. I have been using coconut oil and then John Masters shampoo, but am also trying out Juice Organics pomsmooth and Griffin Remedy shampoos with corresponding conditioners. Am happy with them all so far. I’ve tried baking soda rinsing, and it just isn’t for me. The ACV smell is not something I enjoy either (unless it’s on my raw kale salad). Truly clean, pretty smelling shampoo every few days is more my style. My hair and I are very happy. Next task: transition from coloring at the salon to henna/indigo. Would love to see a post about making the transition!

  20. Maritxa says:

    I’m happy to report my curls are looking absolutely marvelouus after I switched to Alaffia shampoo & leave in conditioner. I used to wake up to a messy, freezy, lion mane that I’ve been known for since chilhood (family all thought it was the cutest thing!). But no more – I wake up with curls tnat dont need much to walk out the door and I don’t have to wash as often as the stuff is all natural & I dont have much gunk to wash off my head anymore .

  21. Michelle says:

    I’m transitioning to water-only hair care while maintaining a professional engineering position, and here are some of my lessons learned:

    You can ease the transition by taking it slow – there’s no need to go cold turkey if it makes you uncomfortable. Start by backing off your current product over time and/or diluting about half what you would normally use in some water before shampooing. Personally, I switched first to bs/acv every three days, but that was drying my ends, so now I’m at bs/acv once per week or two weeks, with applesauce (yes it works!) and acid rinses in between to keep the waxy feeling at bay. Hair ties and clips are my best friends right now, though the number of days I can get away with leaving my hair down increases quickly.

    When your scalp gets itchy, scratch it! That helps to loosen the dirt/skin/sebum that has built up, which helps the water-only cleaning method overall. Since the under-fingernail area is notoriously gross, I recommend using a wide toothed comb to scratch your noggin.

    A 1:1 ratio of white vinegar and water is supposed to be great for dandruff. It’s also a good acid wash for the waxy feeling.

    Finally, the Long Hair Community has a number of threads that are super helpful when it comes to alternative washes. Some can be really long, but the WO thread was summarized by a member and is very helpful.

  22. reese says:

    I have very fine hair and have been using Aubrey Organics for about a year, and I LOVE them. I was green washed (at first) by Suaves “less parabens” BS, but thankfully, a few green sites as well as this one, and the book <3, saved me from such! My hair is still greasy and thin, but its healthier and only getting better. I will someday go poo free, but not until Ive got a job were my first few years of greasy locks wont make me feel icky around customers. Otherwise I use aloe vera to control frizz and I would like to try a shampoo bar (I didn't like JRLiggets, too drying) Any recommendations on ALOE VERA and SHAMPOO BARS? I'm not sure of the quality of the aloe vera I found…

  23. reese says:

    weeks* of greasy locks

  24. Rebecca says:

    Hi Reese, Audrey’s All Natural Shoppe (online) has shampoo bars that sound good. Just ordered one to try, by Rose of Sharon Acres. I use aloe I find in the food section of whole foods – cheaper than what you find in cosmetics, and it’s just pure aloe (can’t recall the brand).

  25. mumsyjr says:

    I use a baking soda wash and a white vinegar rinse about three times a week (I know, I know, it’s supposed to be ACV but it’s the white vinegar that works for me) and I’ll probably never go back. My hair is very happy these days. I didn’t even get the dreaded period of mega-grease I was warned to expect…I mean it was greasier for a couple of weeks, but only to the point where I noticed it, not to the point where others did (and believe me I asked) I’ve always had what my mom called a Wall of Hair- it’s straight, it’s on the fine side, but there is sooooooooooooooooooo much of it. It’s only since I quite shampoo that I can a)get my hair up when it is wet, b) brush it less than twice a day, c) put clips in it and they don’t slide right out. I think it must be really dependent on hair type and what your method is and whether they match, and probably there is some hair out there that will only be happy with shampoo, but mine is only happy with out it. I am always surprised at people who quit over the smell because I can’t smell anything and neither can anyone else (I asked obsessively for awhile, especially people I know to be excruciatingly blunt and honest on these matters). I’m totally not questioning that some people are noticing a smell, I’m just really confused because I’m not.

  26. Elizabeth says:

    Oh man, I can’t NOT wash my hair every day! I just can’t! My hair is fine and dark, so if it’s greasy, there’s no hiding it. I’ve tried dry shampoo to tide me over (Lulu Organics!), but then I can’t wear my hair down, looks too gross. I do use a clean, vegan shampoo from Keys Soap, and sometimes, on Saturdays or Sundays, I do skip a day if I’m not doing much…I admire those who can stay away from shampoo, but at this time in my life it simply isn’t for me.

  27. Elizabeth says:

    Also, anyone struggling with scalp issues (dandruff, psoriasis etc), check out http://www.keys-soap.com! The shampoo is so nice and all of their products are intensely healing. Clean, vegan and gluten-free, too. You can even use this shampoo on pets which makes me laugh every time I think of me and the dog sharing beauty products.

    Truly though, love Keys. And have even started using their Island Rx face wash for my blemish-prone skin. Knocking on wood over here, but I haven’t seen a blemish yet.

    Something I love about Keys (I’m not a rep, I promise!), is that their products have an ingredient list of like…5 things..usually different oils combined with purified water, proving that truly natural IS effective. Go Keys!

  28. Alexa says:

    I have super fine very wavy long hair, a lot of it, and I get subtle highlights once or twice a year (he does a subtle job because I’m too lazy to go more often). About 6 weeks ago I started cutting down on shampoo/conditioner (I use the rose line from Lavera) to once or twice a week, and about a week or week and a half ago I stopped washing altogether, instead using a cool rinse with apple cider vinegar. I work out hard almost every day, so I normally take a shower once a day and sauna (plus cold water bath after) about 3 times a week.

    It didn’t look so hot in the beginning, to be honest, but now it’s surprisingly glossy, and not greasy at the roots. I was shocked at how slowly my hair now air dries- it used to take 10 minutes, max. And I’m used to using a LOT of conditioner just to be able to get a brush through. I’m hoping I can avoid washing products from now on, we’ll see how that goes.

  29. Bella says:

    I have been using organic shampoo and conditioners from Aubrey organics and Giovanni 50/50 Balanced Shampoo and conditioner I got from Whole Foods. I have very fine hair and recently discovered my first strand of white hair :-(. I use argan oil or vitamin E oil as a leave in conditioner, after washing my hair. My hair turns greasy within two days, but since I am at home job hunting, I don’t wash it too often. twice a week tops.

    It has now been almost a year since I used regular shampoo. Last week I got a hair cut after more than a year and was looking forward to it. The salon was fancy and they used Keratase products. I remember the stylist used three different products before styling my hair and one of them was the CIMENT THERMIQUE from Keratase. When I left the salon, my hair looked like a million bucks, but I knew that this wouldn’t last long, since I don’t use those products. How can I get hold of natural styling products that make you look awesome and are not bad for your tresses.

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated


  30. Tracy says:

    This post (and all of the comments) are interesting and timely, since I’m going to try and go without shampooing and see how it works. It’s my third day without washing, and I usually wash every other day. Seems like going without mostly benefits those with thick, curly hair — which is the exact opposite of mine. I have fine, wavy hair, which gets frizzy in the muggy summer months. Oh yeah, and my ‘do is a short stacked bob, which eliminates the up-do option. Hoping that I can get “over the hump” and see some benefits myself! Just in case, I have Aubrey Organics on the shower shelf….*crossing fingers*

  31. Alexa says:

    Oh! I have to add to my comment above that if I DON’T do the cold water/apple cider vinegar rinse, it will start off looking really great, and the natural waves will look nice rather than messy like they normally do. But several hours later or the next day, the top of my hair will still look great but the middle on down will be uncombable, and I have to leave it in separated waves or else it will be massively frizzy. Maybe this will change over time, I don’t know.

  32. Stephanie says:

    I tried to go the no shampoo route for two months, using baking soda and apple cider vinegar once a week, but my fine hair did nothing but lay flat and look greasy. I’ve gone back to shampooing twice a week with a henna shampoo that I cut 50/50 with distilled water, I do the same with my conditioner. It has kept my hair clean and healthy.

  33. Shaney says:

    Hi all. Curious no one seems to have tried using anything other than vinegar. a tiny tiny bit of walnut oil before rinsing off well with egg yolk can make hair healthy . Make sure theres no egg white in it or you can look very weird! Interested to see any feedback if you try it.

  34. Rachel says:

    I usually go one to two weeks w/o washing and my hair always looks fine, so I’m going to attempt this. But!!!! I’m a hair dresser and I color my hair every 12 to 16 weeks. Should I shampoo the color off or use a baking soda and vinegar rinse when coloring? Any advise would help. Thanks :)

  35. Desiree says:

    I’ve read through all of these comments and found this “commonality” a nice surprise! I thought I was the only one, lol. I have thick, course, long, wavy hair. I can go, 1 – 2 weeks (usually go 2) without washing. Two weeks is pushing the “dirty hair” smell. So, I’m VERY curious for those of you who say you go without washing. What do you do? Still rinse with just water when in the showr? I would LOVE feedback!! :-) ALSO, those who use the Baking Soda / Apple Cider Vinegar mix. How do you do it? Do you pour it over your head/hair? It’s too watery to use like shampoo…. Thank you so much for your answers!! Happy day to you.

  36. Nicole says:

    I wash 2-3 times a week. I use a sulfate free shampoo on the scalp only, rinsed through the length, then condition the length, perhaps pat a little on the scalp and work through. I do heavy oilings Indian style before each wash. I shampoo once only but massage for a couple minutes. My hair looks just fine and it is baby fine, fairly oily and very densely populated on my scalp (fine and thick). It’s also blonde. My trick is to vary the styles, touch it less and keep it up most of the time.

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