Happy Hair - Book review

by Liz Beavis

I stopped using shampoo in January 2011, I wrote about not washing my hair a few months later.  I hadn't done any research at the time, it was kind of my version of "do nothing farming" but for hair care.  I really did wonder what would happen if I did nothing.  


For over a year, I washed my hair in water only

It was quite a simple transition because at the time I was only using a very mild organic shampoo once a week anyway.  I didn't notice much difference between how my hair was without washing, and how it used to be by the end of the week (just before I washed it again).  

It looked permanently like it kind of might need a wash soon, but it also just seemed to reach a certain level of oil and just stay like that, it doesn't get worse and worse, it seemed to me that it was a natural equilibrium and I was happy to leave it alone. I then started occasionally using our homemade soap, especially if we did any farm work that involved me getting actual dirt or poop in my hair.

I saw Lucy AitkenRead's book Happy Hair - The definitive guide to giving up shampoo: Save money, ditch the toxins and release your hair's natural beauty with No Poo when the media picked up on it late last year (the commentary went something like "oh wow this lady doesn't use shampoo, that's amazing!!!!").  

A rather disastrous visit to the hairdresser

It wasn't until a rather disastrous visit to the hairdresser a couple of weeks ago that I finally decided to purchase the book for myself.  I haven't had a proper haircut for over a year because I'm very particular about my hairdresser and I haven't had a chance to see the one person I trust to cut my hair how I like it without washing it for me.  I had, however, persuaded Pete to give my hair a trim back in December last year and I thought he did a pretty good job.  He cut it like you'd expect from a tradesman, straight across at the back, square and level, and fortunately still long enough to tie up!

He refused to cut it again, so I just had to pick a hairdresser in Brisbane and risk it.  I wasn't in the mood for explaining the whole not using shampoo thing, so I let her wash my hair (I also told her that Pete had cut it last, and I think she found that strange enough without horrifying her with the lack of shampoo).  She proceeded to wash it very thoroughly, I winced every time she squirted out more shampoo, she rinsed and repeated FOUR times and commented that I had dandruff.  Thanks, I'm sure all those chemicals will help.  

Then she just kept putting more stinky gunk in my hair and spent longer blow-drying it than cutting it.  It looked ridiculous, but at least shorter.  When I got home I took a photo to send to Pete (for next time he cuts it, haha!) and then I washed out all the chemicals with soap.  

No-poo hair cleaning methods

Now as I was back to square "squeaky-clean" one , I decided to get the book and find out more about these baking soda and apple cider vinegar no-poo methods I keep reading about.  And I can report that it is an excellent book.  If you are curious about trying no-poo, this book tells you how to transition from a "normal" shampoo routine to the ultimate goal of washing with water only and occasionally baking soda and apple cider vinegar.  It suggests a number of natural and chemical-free alternatives to keep your hair clean and healthy.

The book helped to clarify two things for me.  Firstly, the "do nothing" hair care philosophy is probably not a good reason to simply stop using shampoo and I think I'm done with that experiment, as interesting as it was!  I need to be clear that my reason for not using shampoo is to avoid chemicals, and if my hair has dandruff or doesn't look nice, I should use some of the natural cleaning agents suggested in the book, while being mindful that healthy hair has a natural sebum balance.  And I will still be saving money compared to buying supermarket shampoo and conditioner.  (I'm going to try a rosemary infusion for the dandruff).

Secondly the reason that baking soda is able to clean hair, and the reason people report varying results is that is actually reacts with the oil in your hair.  That is, as an alkali, the baking soda reacts with the oil in your hair to make a mild soap (I had previously assumed it was just an exfoliant, but when you use it, you do notice a soapy feeling).  

This means that you have to be careful not to use too much, as you will strip oil out of your hair and cause as much damage as the chemicals you were trying to avoid.  If you launch into no-poo without doing your research, you may find that you're not happy with the results and just go back to shampoo, and you can even damage your hair.  This book is the quickest way to find out what to do and why.

You might need to reassess all the hair products you use

One last comment, if you currently dye your hair and use lots of hair products, you may have to wean yourself off all that stuff before trying no-poo.  For a start, there's really no point trying to avoid chemicals in shampoo if you're putting other chemicals in your hair anyway (check out the Environmental Working Group database ratings of hair dyes).  

Maybe cold-turkey will work, but you can also try what I did and just start to go without products, change to a mild organic shampoo and then move to no-poo when you're only washing your hair once a week or so anyway.

So tell me what you think..... do you wash your hair with shampoo?  Would you consider trying no-poo?  Do you already go without shampoo? 

Note: if you purchase through these links I get a small percentage of the sale as commission, it doesn't cost you any extra.

1 comment

  • Sarah

    Hi Liz.
    Ive been product-free when it comes to my hair for about 6 years now, and only use soap to wash (usually sunlight or baby (whatever is around at the time lol) -and ACV rinse when my hair feels too sticky/oily for me to cope with – which ends up being around weekly, being that I too spend my days out in the paddock!
    I’ve just ordered some of your bars and am looking forward to test-driving.
    Hope you are having a nice week.
    Happy Gardening + Steady Growth
    Sarah 🌿

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