Wash out: No-poo is no solution for many people

Published: Tuesday, May 26 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Photo illustration by Steve Baker, Deseret News

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Deanna Duke's experiment with "no-poo" lasted less than a week.

Unlike other people who had tried it, her hair didn't become more glossy, healthy and voluminous. It remained greasy, and her scalp "itched almost uncontrollably."

So she went back to using her Aveda hair products, despite criticism that she wasn't a true environmentalist.

"There are other low-impact ways to wash your hair," said Duke.

Despite the name, no-poo doesn't involve, well, what you think it might involve.

It means "no shampoo" and is a trend where people forgo shampoo in favor of using products such as baking soda and vinegar to wash their hair. Just type the word into Google. You'll find countless stories and personal experiences with no-poo.

The alleged perks:

1. It's better for the environment because you don't use plastic shampoo bottles or waste as much water washing your hair.

2. It's healthier for your hair, because it doesn't strip your hair of natural oils.

3. It's cheaper and lasts longer than a traditional bottle of shampoo.

Here in Utah, only a few people seem to be following the trend. Megan Moore, owner of Moore Hair Design in Holladay, said she estimates that only 10 percent of her clientele actually uses chemical-free hair products or techniques such as no-poo.

But about one-third of her clients have asked for information on "natural" hair-care products, according to Moore.

"The interest in this product has grown a lot in the last year, in correlation with the rise in 'green' awareness," she said. "I think the majority of people are still using traditional shampoos for now, but I do think the rate will continue to increase."

While the FDA has no definition for what makes a hair-care product "natural," it is generally considered to be something made from plant materials or other naturally occurring substances, or without harsh chemicals. Burt's Bees, Melaleuca, Lush, Aveda and Onesta are some brands that market natural or chemical-free shampoos.

The reason these shampoos are gaining popularity is because some people believe certain chemicals in traditional shampoos, such as sodium lauryl sulfate, are unhealthy for humans. But David Hansen, a dermatologist and faculty member in the University of Utah's Department of Dermatology, said he has seen no evidence that the materials in traditional shampoos are dangerous.

In addition, he said, there is also no evidence a person can adjust the oiliness of their scalp by how they wash. One of the alleged benefits of no-poo is it can cause a person's hair to be less greasy, because shampoo supposedly promotes the buildup of natural oils.

Oil production is hormone-based, said Hansen. He encourages people with oily hair to wash more frequently so their hair looks and feels better. People with dry hair can wash less often.

"It doesn't make a lot of sense to me," he said about the no-poo method. "I don't know if there's any reason that would make it a bad thing to do, but I don't think it would be as effective for what you're shampooing for, which is to clean and make your hair more manageable."

In the Salt Lake Community College's barbering and cosmetology program, students traditionally use baking soda to strip hairspray or other buildup out of a person's hair, said Susan Curtis, an assistant professor. Vinegar is used to remove excess soap build-up from of a person's hair.

"I've never heard of people mixing the vinegar and the soda to wash," said Curtis, laughing. "You'd have Vesuvius. That's the mix you use to make a volcano."

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