Here's What You Need to Know About 'No Shampoo'

It's not for everyone but it make us all the more conscious of what we subject our hair to daily.

(No particular brands or products were associated with this project.) Can you give up your shampoo? Doing away with shampooing altogether sounds like crazy talk. The mere notion of it is probably enough to make your head itch!

Then again, we're not saying don't wash your hair, but do it without using commercial products. That's what the "No Shampoo" movement is calling for.

The belief is that it encourages hair to return to its natural "self-cleaning" state, stemming from concerns about man-made chemicals.

After all, synthetic shampoos were only invented in the 1930s. Before that, people made do with natural cleansers such as seaweed and vinegar - and they seem to have coped well enough.

Last year, Lucy Aitken Read from Britain published a whole book detailing her experience.

Happy Hair tells of how she cut down on shampoos and the alternatives available.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph , Aitken Read said her motivation came about after reading a study that claimed women put 515 chemicals on their bodies daily.

"I initially thought 'Ha! They didn't research me!' Then I looked at the back of my shampoo bottle and realised there were loads of ingredients I didn't recognise in the slightest," she told the newspaper.

In the United States, Sarah Theeboom claims to have gone six years without shampoos.

She told Seventeen magazine that she doesn't think shampoo is bad, but prefers her hair without it.

"I still have good and bad hair days, but overall, my hair looks and feels healthier. Plus, I save a ton of money on shampoo and other products. My hair is free, in every sense of the word," said Theeboom.

The standard No Shampoo method substitutes a commercial hair product with baking soda. Otherwise known as sodium bicarbonate, the compound is said to be effective in removing oil and other residues. Apple cider vinegar is used as a rinse in place of a conditioner. Apart from clarifying and softening hair, vinegar is claimed to give tresses an extra lustrous shine.

No Shampoo supporters also frequently try other means of cleaning and conditioning hair.

Some have resorted to putting yoghurt on their heads or soaking their hair with beer, for instance.

Others concoct natural shampoos using honey, raw eggs, coconut milk or bananas.

Methods may vary, but the goal is the same: clean and healthy hair, sans chemicals.

What the experts say Aesthetic physician Dr Jason Yip says going No Shampoo could benefit those with a hyperallergenic scalp. However, he warns that oil, dead skin, sweat and hair products may build up. "Accumulation of these residues can lead to other issues like dandruff, irritable scalp and clogged follicles, which may affect healthy hair growth and general appearance." Dr Yip says that regular shampooing doesn't strip the scalp of oil or cause it to become oilier. More often than not, that's linked to hormones or a stressful lifestyle.

"Also note that baking soda has a pH of 9. The principle of shampooing is to ensure the product used is pH-balanced. Avoid alkaline shampoos as they may strip hair's natural protective coat. This may lead to increased porosity of the hair and weaken the hair shaft." Trichologist Mark Birch points out that the oil and sweat glands found on the scalp are twice the size of those on the face.

"You wash your face twice a day, but you won't wash your hair at least several times a week? 'Over shampooing' only happens with products containing harsh chemicals like (dandruff-controlling) zinc pyrithione or selenium sulphide." Birch also explains that it makes more sense to consume honey, bananas, yoghurt or eggs, instead using them on the hair or scalp. They provide no nutritional value otherwise.

"If a person has problems like dry or oily hair, he or she probably isn't using the right shampoo. Everyone has a different hair or scalp type, and there is no one shampoo that fits everyone," Birch says.

Randall Wong, L'Oreal Professionnel Malaysia national education manager, states that modern shampoos do more than just clean hair. Different ones are created with innovative formulations to target specific problems.

"As we discover and learn more about the intrinsic complexities of hair and scalp - and its challenges - we innovate and create scientific ingredients to counteract all that," he explains.

Wong adds that natural substitutes used for the No Shampoo method is not enough to keep hair healthy, as daily exposure to pollution and aggression to sunlight affects its integrity.

Ashley Wong, brand manager of Schwarzkopf Professional Malaysia and Singapore, says that a lot of hair care brands are introducing new products, many of which are eco-friendly. She claims that these are not so well received because formulations with natural ingredients don't foam that much and are silicon-free. According to Wong, consumers love a good lather, plus the silky effect silicon provides on hair.

"People who try the No Shampoo way probably haven't found the right product. They are using shampoos that give their hair and scalp more problems, rather than helping with proper cleansing," she says.

Not for everyone As the No Shampoo movement gains momentum, many have tried it out for themselves, including Malaysians. Erin Wong, 33, says that she decided to give it a go as the benefits sounded exactly like what her hair needed. Before that, Wong had subjected her hair to chemical procedures. She also used various hair care products to maintain her locks. She thinks that this was what caused excessive build-up and weighed her hair down.

"It came to a point that I needed to wash my hair everyday because my scalp would itch badly, and my hair would become oily in 24 hours. " After reading about the No Shampoo method on the Internet, Wong went ahead and replaced her usual shampoo with baking soda and conditioner with apple cider vinegar.

"I'm not planning on completely cutting out shampoos and conditioners. But since trying out the method, my hair feels bouncier. I no longer have a problem with dandruff," Wong comments. The biggest drawback for Wong, however, is the smell. "My boyfriend thinks I smell like salt and vinegar crisps. He wrinkles his nose every time he comes near me, and only stops after I wash my hair using a proper shampoo and conditioner!" According to reader Alena Jaclyne De Silva, she first started the No Shampoo method in January in her resolution to be more eco-conscious, even before she heard about Star2's challenge.

"I had to get over the 'eeew' feeling at first. I think it's because we've been conditioned (pun intended) to feel that chemical-loaded soaps are the best way to get rid of dirt, grim and keep us smelling nice. My husband still thinks my efforts are a little on the gross side. He has, however, fallen in love with the raw organic butter whip I ordered online!" she writes.

Initially, she had to get over the weird sourish and alkaline taste that kept seeping into her mouth. But De Silva says she noticed less hair fall and can get by with at least four days now without feeling uncomfortable. She also loves the way her hair falls, and pairs the No Shampoo method with a strawberry or egg hair mask once a week as well as daily applications of either argan or coconut oil.

Not everyone is willing to go "No Shampoo". Another reader, Shirin Choi, says that she has said poo-poo to chemical shampoos for months. She has switched to an Australian brand Moogoo which has coconut oil and claimed to be beneficial for hair.

"Chemical free? Anyway, I have noticed less hair fall which is good enough. Someone needs to tell me how to get rid of the terrible itch and smell without washing shampoo. I have tried it, but cannot follow through with the No Shampoo method," writes Choi.

Teoh Mei Ying, 30, likes the idea of ditching commercial products laden with chemicals, but remains unimpressed by the some of the alternatives.

"Personal accounts from people trying it (baking soda and apple cider vinegar) have been good, but I've read that exposing your scalp to a strong alkaline solution, then an acidic one, will damage your scalp in the long run," Teoh says. Instead, she's just a lot more cautious with the products she buys. She now only uses shampoos with natural ingredients. She cautions though: "A lot of products claiming to be 'natural' and 'organic' contain chemicals too!" That said, Teoh admits that she's lucky not to have any problems with her hair. "It gets oily too fast and frizzy at times especially when it rains, but other than that, I'm spared from split ends, flaky scalp or dry hair." Clearly, No Shampoo is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Then again, the movement has sparked off discussions and made people more aware of the different chemicals which we subject ourselves to. And that's a good thing as it makes us all a little more conscious of our health in the long term.

ALSO READ What happened when I didn't shampoo my hair for one month

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