shampooAbout a year ago, I quit using shampoo. And my hair has never looked better. I know, it’s hard to believe. But hear me out!

I’ve been going to the same stylist for the last decade and she’s amazing. She is focused on education and learning new techniques. She is a strong believer in working with the natural texture of your hair and is a curly-hair guru.

Me? I have straight-as-an-arrow, fine hair that gets stringy when it gets too long. When I was in elementary school, I convinced my mom to let me get a perm. It didn’t last a day. Thin, fine, flat locks seemed to be my birth-right. So, going to a stylist who specializes in curly may seem a bit odd. But over time, she convinced me of her ways. Now, there’s no turning back.

Let me be clear: I do wash my hair! I just stopped using shampoo or any sort of detergent. Now I co-wash or wash with conditioner or a “no-poo.” (Stay with me—I’ll explain below.) It took years for my stylist to convince me that my fine hair wouldn’t look greasy or flat with this process.

A Lesson In Chemistry

Now, not just any conditioner or no-poo product will do. (No-poo is basically a very gentle alternative to shampoo.) You need to be sure that the products you are using are free of any sort of detergent or silicones. Detergents dry out your hair and silicone leaves a film over the hair follicle, making the drying of detergents less noticeable.

Let’s go back to high school chemistry… Most products use what’s called a surfactant, which acts as the detergent. The most common surfactants are sodium laurate sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate. You may also see cocamidopropyl betaine in the ingredient list. You can pause here and go look at the ingredients on your bottle… I’ll wait.

Yikes, right?

These ingredients can strip your hair of natural oils, so your scalp starts to produce more oils. This causes your hair to get greasy and then it becomes necessary to wash it daily. Next, the silicones swoop in and add weight to your hair, making it lifeless and flat. It’s an endless cycle.

Many beauty products promote their formulas as “paraben-free,” “sulfate-free,” or “all natural.” This is great, as over the last decade many of us have started to look for ways to cut out the chemicals we use on and in our bodies. However, many manufacturers have swapped parabens and sulfates for other chemicals. So, it’s important to make sure that the product you are using has the right ingredients.

An Experiment

My stylist conducted an experiment during one visit I had with my seven-year-old daughter.

She brought out a pinecone that had scales that were full and open. During the visit, she submerged the pinecone in a glass of water. By the end of our visit the cone had closed. She explained, each strand of our hair is like a pinecone, with scales that can either be open or closed. When our hair is dry, the scales are open, and we lose the shiny, smooth look we’re going for. When our hair is appropriately moisturized, the scales lay flat and are plump with moisture.

Going shampoo-free has helped my hair to retain moisture and look ah-mazing! I have even been able to tap into some natural curl. (Who knew?) My hair looks and feels thicker because it’s full of moisture and I have eliminated any drying detergents and slippery silicones.

The Process

I use a small amount of conditioner (also free of parabens, sulfates, silicones, and surfactants) to wash my scalp. At first, I missed the luxurious lather that was created. But that lather is simply detergent, drying out my locks and ultimately making my hair anything but luxurious! I rinse the conditioner out of my scalp, allowing any dirt or environmental residue to wash down the drain. Then, I use a bit more conditioner and squeeze it into the ends of my hair. Next, I give my hair one (very) quick pass through the running water. The goal here is to retain some of the conditioner on the ends of your hair, not to rinse it all out. From there, I style as normal.

It took about a month for my scalp to figure out what was going on. But ever since, it’s been smooth sailing.

My hair is healthy, shiny, and thicker than ever. I even have my daughter on this regimen. And, you know what? No more tangles!! So now, I’m encouraging all my friends to go this route and ditch the shampoo! Chat with your stylist or look online for co-washing products and you’ll find yourself living the best hair days of your life!

Shampoo Replacements

Look. I have no dog in this fight. I don’t own stock in any of the following companies or receive kickbacks of any kind. Below is a list of products and concoctions you could try:

Experiment and see what works best for you! How many of you have gone shampoo-free? What are your best tips and tricks?

Originally published on October 25, 2018.
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Dana
Dana has lived in Colorado for the last 15 years, moving to Boulder directly after college. It’s there that she met her husband, Ben, a Colorado Springs native and made the move to Colorado Springs. Together, they are busy raising two elementary-aged children. Dana is the Director for The Rocky Mountain ADA Center, leading the staff’s daily efforts to provide the Rocky Mountain Region with technical support, training, guidance and information pertaining to the Americans with Disabilities Act. She is an active community volunteer, serving on several boards including the School District 11 Mill Levy Override Financial Oversight Committee. When she is not working, Dana enjoys spending time hiking in the mountains with her Vizsla, raising backyard chickens, and cheering on her Alma Mater's Michigan State Spartans!

9 COMMENTS

  1. I want to see before and after pics!!!! I just ordered devacurl earlier this week and I’m so excited to try it!!!

  2. I have some questions, I also consider myself a natural cult hair guru! What brand of conditioner? I see pureology listed, I’m not familiar with the other Products, are they saying Products? I enjoyed all this information! I have been trying to tell my clients just shampoo once a week use conditioner for the rest of the week. Thank you Kimberly

  3. I have very oily scalp and super fine hair. Currently, it demands me shampooing every alternate day.
    I have experienced that conditioner is make them look more oily. If not shampoo, then how am I going to clean the oily build up from my hair?
    Thanks fpr your inputs.

  4. This comes directly from my stylist, who introduced me to this method: “often times it comes down to not using enough product. Because a no-lather cream cleanser or conditioner doesn’t spread the way shampoo does, you have to make sure you use small amounts at a time and push the product onto every area of the scalp. Usually 2-6 nickle sized amounts. If you’re not getting product all over your scalp you’re essentially not cleansing all of the scalp. Try adding more product, then alternate adding water and product until you feel a “lather”, then massage all over the scalp vigorously. Then rinse thoroughly from the hair also massaging vigorously. It should feel clean but not squeaky.”

    This method should clean the scalp and because you aren’t adding the sulfates, your scalp will stop producing so much oil. I have seen a significant decline in oil production over the last year.

  5. This is so fascinating! I’m curious about what happened during the month your scalp was “trying to figure out what was going on” though… 🙂

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