Photo illustration by Steve Baker, Deseret News
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."
But no-poo followers say they are careful to rinse their baking-soda scrub before adding vinegar to their hair.
From Curtis' perspective, it is important for people living in Utah to replace the natural oils in their hair because of our dry climate. She advises people in this state use a deep conditioner once a week.
Her colleague, Brenda Matern, said she worries that a person using baking soda could strip too many of the natural oils out of their hair. As for how often a person should wash, she said it is personal preference.
"Some people say not to wash your hair every day," she said. "I wash every day."
Moore, on the other hand, advises clients with normal hair to shampoo every other day. For people who say they "have to" wash every day, she still recommends shampooing every other day, but then rinsing and conditioning on the off day.
But no matter how a person washes their hair, Moore advocates it be done regularly.
"You must consider that your head emits natural oils, and a buildup of this oil also means a build-up of pollutants from the air, sweat and bacteria," said Moore. "Washing on a regular basis is healthy and generally recommended."
With the no-poo method, people generally go through a two-week transition period when their hair feels dirty and greasy, according to Moore. But after that, oil production slows, and they will feel their hair become more balanced and normal.
Christi Colvin wrote in a recent blog posting for www.naturemom.com that she loves what no-poo does to her hair.
"I have straight-as-a-board, baby-fine hair that has never held a 'do,' " she wrote. "After no-poo, I don't even have to use styling products. I just blow dry and go; my hair now keeps any style."
But Duke won't go no-poo again. She admits that she didn't wait long enough for the method to allegedly work on her hair, but said it wasn't worth feeling dirty as her hair adjusted to the experiment.
"I think it's important for people to be aware of the impact of their personal beauty choices, whether it be from manufacturing and waste, or from chemicals used," said Duke. "But ultimately, it's a matter of balance. If something doesn't work for you, like the no-poo, it's not worth the energy beating yourself up over it."
The no-poo method
1. Use 1 tablespoon of baking soda per 1 cup of water. Put baking soda in water and stir until dissolved. Apply to your hair and rinse thoroughly.
2. Most people use apple cider vinegar to condition their hair after the baking soda scrub. Use 1 tablespoon vinegar per 1 cup of water. You can add fragrances, honey, or some lemon juice to dilute the smell. Apply to hair and rinse thoroughly.
3. Shampoo and condition with baking soda and vinegar as often as you find necessary. Your usage should slow as your hair's natural oils regulate.
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