My hair un-cleaning journey

Since puberty, I have considered myself slightly unfortunate for having ‘oily’ genes.  Photos of me in my early twenties almost always featured reflective patches on my face, as the light bounced off my oily skin.  I’m not quite sure how or when it came to be that I needed to wash my hair at least every other day, otherwise the combined oils from my face, hands, and scalp would leave my straight, fine hair looking undesirably greasy.  I assumed it was the deal with being half-Japanese, and I also assumed the up-side was that my naturally oily skin would wrinkle less than other skin types might, and I would look youthful for longer. Still, it was a pain having bad hair days every other day, powering through the shampoo/conditioner so quickly, all that washing and hair-drying, and those ruined photos of me with shiny face.

The skin on my face came right quite a while back, when I was in my late twenties.  A colleague of mine, Amelia had the most gorgeous skin ever, and she revealed that she washed her face with oil!  A very expensive, beautifully packaged kind of oil, made in NZ by a woman called Margaret Hema, who was able to convince even Liv Tyler (in NZ for the Lord of the Rings films) that it was the bomb for her skin.  I used it for a while and it was gorgeous.  I noticed that my skin produced less oil, but was still moisturised and supple.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t hack the expense for long.  But in the short time that I did use it I learned that my skin had been over-producing oil because it needed oil! Ever since then I have stopped washing my face with any kind of soap or soap-like substance, in favour of water and oil-based moisture.  I make my own face cream now, but more about that later.

As for my hair, well my poor scalp has had to suffer my ignorance for a lot longer.  After a while, my hair wasn’t just oily after one-two days; it also started to itch and flake if I didn’t wash it with shampoo every other day.  I admit (shamefully!) that I used Head & Shoulders for a few years to manage the itchies, because it worked, smelled nice, Courteney Cox had gorgeous shiny hair, it was cheap, and I could get it from the supermarket.  Then one day (I think when I was pregnant for the first time), I read about No ‘Poo (= short for No Shampoo).  Nowadays, there are gazillions of stories about No ‘Poo on the internet, but back then I’d never even heard of the concept.  It had never occurred to me that one could not use shampoo and still have clean hair and a happy head!  My curiosity was piqued, and I decided to give it a go.  That was three years ago and I haven’t used commercial shampoo since then, but I must confess that my hair and head weren’t very happy with me for much of that time.

The first step in my shampoo-free journey was the classic baking soda and ACV (apple cider vinegar) rinse recipe. It’s a very popular no ‘poo choice, because the baking soda really does clean your hair and deal to any itchies instantly.  However, I’m noticing that a number of bloggers are now exploring other alternatives as they share with their readers how the baking soda has stripped the moisture out of their locks and turned it into a frizzy mess over a long period of use. The one thing I noticed with baking soda hair washes was that my hair became really, really static! It was actually impossible to brush because it would puff up like a halo about my head as soon as I put a brush or comb through it. Although I really wanted it to work, I had to admit that my hair looked greasy and behaved dry, and that was after I’d waited a good few months before passing judgement (apparently your scalp needs to detox from shampoo, so it takes a while to adjust and tone down the oil).

So, I gave up on the baking soda wash. But I was determined to have a cruelty-free hair regime, so instead I started buying home-made shampoo bars by Melanie.  We used her shampoo bars for over a year, and loved them (I highly recommend them!). They lathered, smelled nice, made our hair look and feel good, and are very affordable. We decided to stop using them in the end, because I felt sure we could do it even simpler!  Plus, I was still having to wash my hair every other day, and I was (am) determined to to work towards washing my hair just once a week with no bad hair days in between!  So when my son was born I decided to go cold turkey and just look like crap for as long as it took to get my head used to not washing the oil out at all.  I rinsed my hair every other day with ACV & honey diluted in warm water, and gave my scalp a good rub with my fingers each time.  I would be lying if I said I looked great.  But in all fairness, I had just had baby no.2, was totally sleep-deprived, and was probably detoxing through my improved diet and chemical-free stance on body-care and cleaning, so it’s hard to blame my average appearance solely on the condition of my hair.  Later, it was brought to my attention that I did smell like a salad.  The down-side of washing with vinegar, hmm.

Anyway, many months later and my head/hair is finally coming right I think. I wash my hair just once a week with a rye flour mix, and it comes up super-shiny, clean, silky and fluffy. In between, I rinse with very diluted ACV/honey once or twice, if I feel I need it. My friends assure me I don’t smell like a salad anymore, whew!  Perhaps I have just lowered my personal standards, although I don’t think so, but I certainly don’t feel like bad hair days are as bad or nearly as frequent as they used to be in the days when I shampooed my hair.  And even if I do have a less-than-perfect hair day, I just tie it all back in a bun and handle it, knowing that no animal had to suffer for my vanity; and that’s worth it.

My rye flour hair wash: Start with 3 Tbsp rye flour…

Add 2 squirts of sweet almond oil or jojoba (equivalent to a little less than 1/4 tsp) and 3 drops of tea tree oil. Add tepid water and mix so that it ends up the consistency of shampoo. Apply like shampoo and rinse out thoroughly.

Finish with a rinse (for acidity) of diluted raw apple cider vinegar (I use about 2 Tbsp vinegar/honey to a cup of warm shower water). I always put a few tablespoons of honey in our bottle of ACV for hair, because I’m sure it’s good for my scalp but also it makes the rinse smell so much nicer! I always wash it out but I guess you don’t really have to.

I guess this might seem like a bit of an effort, but it really doesn’t feel like it because I only have to do it once a week now. It’s kind of become my Saturday morning ritual; a way to mark the weekend.  We keep the bottle of ACV/honey in the shower so it’s on hand for spontaneous hair rinsing needs.  And now, I challenge you to ditch the shampoo and go soap, cruelty, and plastic-free!  Consider it short-term bad hair for a lifetime of guilt-free, cruelty-free, plastic-free, evil-corporation-free, synthetic-chemical-free, healthy and beautiful hair.  Feel free to ask me questions.  And I’d love to hear how you go too 😉


Leave a Comment

  • Hi Ester
    After reading your comment about getting your hair cut without being shampooed first I had to find and read your no poo blog and I just thought I let you know my experiences.. I’m now WO .. water only ! About 7-8 years ago I started with the baking Soda and used it for at least 6 years .. my answer to the drying effect was to use less and less baking soda per cup of water and to use less each time I washed my hair. I only rarely used the vinegar rinse as it never seemed to do much for my hair. I washed it as little as possible.. sometimes leaving it up to 13 days in between wash’s . The end result has been that I now just stand under the shower! My hair is shiny and unless I’m at the 8-10 day mark only gets/looks greasy at the back. I don’t know whether living rurally with gravity feed spring/creek water has helped .. I’m not sure whether the chemicals town supply would have an adverse effect. Anyway, my hair is just that .. doing it’s on thing

    • Wow, where you are is my goal! The kids are ‘water-only’ but I’m not there yet because I’ve been grappling with itchy flaky scalp – it’s definitely improving now, so I’m optimistic that eventually I’ll get there! I’m sure water quality has a huge say on what we can do with our hair. We have a whole house water filter, but I can’t wait till we move out to Pirongia and have rain water. Spring water must surely be the best!

  • Hi Esther. I´m happy we agree. 🙂 And I believe we are our own best teachers, for the process of learning by ourselves helps us to understand much better and see with greater clarity, than if someone stood in front of us and just told us ‘the truth.’ We can gather information, but not until we see with our own eyes/heart an feel in our own bodies, we truly understand. Sometimes, we have to climb very high mountains until we reach what we searched for, and perhaps we realize that it was not a foreign language we searched for, but in fact our own language. 🙂 Then we realize, others understand our language too and we become the teacher we searched for. We also need time to process what we learn; bodily, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, as we are quite complex beings.

    It´s also beautiful to connect with other like-minded on our journeys – adding to each other. And yes, we are preparing for the future, by first taking care of ourselves. I too hope I´ll be preparing a better future for a kid or two, but first me and I´m trying to make my mother more aware of what she´s eating… Hehehe… 😉 Well, she´s happily eating my gluten free sourdough bread!

  • Hm… Seems like I had the same ‘problem’ with skin and hair scalp as you had, although it´s better now. I wash my hair every 4th day. Last day is a not-so-good-hair-day, but whatever, right? Maybe because I´m half-jap like you 😉 However, I will consider your advice! I realize that we need good oils within AND without, as life always is a matter of more than a One way perception. Therefore, I take 2-3 tablespoons (normal spoons) of good organic linseed oil every morning. (It´s for the rest of my body too). And I really need this extra oil! By the way, I applaud your natural and life/earth friendly way of living! We need to come back to our natural roots again, but most peoples bodies are so polluted so they can´t feel what they truly need… (I was too). We lost our ability to communicate with ‘ourselves’… But I´m happy to say, that I no longer crave ‘impure’ eatables (gluten, greasy food, alkohol, sugar and milk products), for my ego has no saying anymore 😉 Hehehe… I differ between ego-cravings/food, and soul/heart food. And there´s a big different between good and ‘good’. 🙂 Now, I off to experiment with some GF sourdough crispbread. I´ll be back checking your blog for sure!

    • Hi! Thanks for commenting on this post! I completely agree with you – we have lost the ability to communicate with ourselves. I’m trying so hard to figure it out but it’s taking me years – like learning a foreign language with no teacher… I hope that I can help my kids to understand and respect their bodies a lot better than I did growing up, so that’s why I’m putting so much effort into myself now!

  • Hi Esther, I just thought I’d let you know that the honey that is pictured on this post, the Sweetree Hakarimata raw honey, literally comes from our backyard, because we live on the Hakarimata bushline. 😉 I thought it was awesome to see that you enjoy a good quality honey. 😉
    Warm regards,

    • Hi Maddie, Thanks for checking out my blog! I hope you found it interesting 🙂 Sweetree’s Hakarimata is my favourite honey – it tastes amazing! I don’t care what it costs; I don’t buy anything else 😉 When I buy it from the markets I love knowing that all my money is going to the people who have invested a great deal of effort into making a quality product for us to enjoy.