Experimenting with "no 'poo"

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If you follow me on twitter, you'll know that I do a lot of 'kitchen experiments', and it's been said more than once that my kitchen resembles a science lab somewhat. So when I heard that my friend Mickey (who has gorgeous hair by the way) had ditched shampoo and was just using common groceries to wash her hair I couldn't resist bringing my experiments to the bathroom too.

It's been a little trial and error, and there are a tonne of tutorials for the 'no 'poo' method online, but I'm discovering that no one tutorial seems to work for everybody. So I'll cover the basics and hopefully give you enough information from my mistakes that you can start to experiment for yourselves too.

Firstly, why quit using shampoo? Well... it's kind of the next step in going chemical free. I've said before that I felt giving up shampoo was a step too far for me, but seeing how well it suits Mickey, I've changed my mind.

The basic method is to wash your hair with baking soda and condition it with vinegar.

The first time I washed my hair I just scrubbed bicarbonate of soda in and I couldn't get a comb through it after. It honestly took me about 40 minutes to comb my hair.

But I wasn't ready to quit.

Mickey informed that the best technique was to dissolve 1-2 tbsp of bicarb 2 cups of water and pour that through the hair (makes more sense), but I still felt my hair had an unusual texture that I wasn't fond of.

Also, Mickey only uses a small amount of vinegar diluted in water for a hair rinse. This was not enough to detangle my very thick, long (bleached), hair. So I started to look into the science of it a bit and two things became apparent.

1) People with thicker hair seem to use lemon juice instead of vinegar for their rinse. 

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Baking soda cleans the hair because it is incredibly alkaline. It has a pH of around 9. This opens up the hair shaft and helps break down oils. This is also going to cause your hair to revolt and produce a lot of oil to combat the dryness.

Rinsing with an acid helps close the hair shaft so your hair feels less 'sticky' and you get a lovely shine.

Lemon juice (pH 2) is a lot more acidic that vinegar (pH 4-5). It's relevant to understand that the pH scale is logorithmic, so if we said vinegar was pH 4 and lemon was pH 2, we aren't saying lemon juice is twice as acidic, it's actually  1,000 times more acidic.

I wasn't sure I needed a 1,000 times more acid on my hair, but the idea of lowering the pH was simple enough - just increase the concentration of vinegar in the water (waters pH is about 7). I'd previously tried 2 tbsp of Apple Cider Vinegar in about 2 cups of water, so I increased this to 1 cup of vinegar in 2 cups of water.

I liked it so much better that I even added a tbsp of lemon juice this time and it was brilliant.

2) The acid rinse is not to help get rid of the bicarbonate of soda

We all remember the experiments at school where you put vinegar and bicarb in your fake volcano and watch the reaction, and that was pretty much what I had assumed the vinegar rinse was for - helping bubble away that bicarb.

In fact, I've seen loads of shampoo recipes on pinterest that include castile soap and vinegar, despite the fact that even Dr Bronner's own website tell you that the two should never be directly mixed, and here's why:

"In great part it’s due to the fact that vinegar is an acid and the castile soap is a base. They will directly react with each other and cancel each other out. So, instead of getting the best of both (the scum cutting ability of the vinegar and the dirt transporting ability of the soap), you’ll be getting the worst of something entirely new. The vinegar “unsaponifies” the soap, by which I mean that the vinegar takes the soap and reduces it back out to its original oils. So you end up with an oily, curdled, whitish mess. And this would be all over whatever it was you were trying to clean – your laundry or counters or dishes or whatever.

So, for cleaning, there is a better way. Use the soap to clean and the vinegar as a rinse agent. "

The important thing to note is the reaction. If we are trying to wash our hair with an alkaline, and condition with an acid, mixing the two is neutralising at best, and at worst leaves a by product on the hair shaft. 

I have certainly found that so long as I rinse the bicarbonate of soda really well, then I don't end up with the 'sticky' residue feeling that I was initially getting. 

All of this does take time and my showers are noticeably longer than they used to be when I wash my hair, but the good news is that I don't need to wash it every day. Not even close. 

And in case you were wandering what my hair looks like after nearly a month of no shampoo?

Not really any different, but apart from saving a lot of money, I feel good about reducing my family's chemical load and saving the planet one little shampoo bottle at a time :o)


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