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Back at the end of January, I decided it was high time to try the no-poo method. I had seen posts all over the internet hailing it as the best thing since sliced bread, so I decided to give it a try. The only thing that had been holding me back was dealing with the detox period. I knew that all of the damage I had done to my hair in the past, would catch up to me during the detox period. Before my hippy makeover was complete, I had made use of my teens and twenties to utterly destroy my hair. I dyed my hair every color of the rainbow, and back again. I used all sorts of flat irons, curling irons, crimpers, blow dryers, etc. I even tried ALL kinds of products containing harmful and harsh ingredients. All of this damage really started to stack up and my hair became so dead that I had trouble growing it out.
What is the no-poo method, you ask?
Unlike the sound of the name, no-pooing doesn't actually mean that you don't wash your hair. It seems to be a common misconception among many of the people that I have told about my hair washing regime. Most have asked me “doesn't your hair start to stink?” The answer to that is a resounding “no!” because I am still washing my hair, I just choose to use something other than shampoo to get it clean.
The no-poo method is simply a method of washing one's hair with various ingredients other than shampoo, which usually contains SLS (Sodium Laurel Sulfate, a known carcinogen and is harmful to the environment). If you search the internet, you will find a plethora of differing recipes but the main ingredients in 90% of these recipes are BAKING SODA and APPLE CIDER VINEGAR. Always a two-step process, these recipes ask you to apply the baking soda to your hair, rinse, then apply the diluted apple cider vinegar to your hair, and rinse again.
Why you should change what you wash your hair with
Most conventional shampoos and conditioners that you find at your everyday store, contain harsh toxic ingredients that are not only bad for your hair and scalp, but also bad for the environment too. All of the toxic chemicals aside (we ALWAYS seem to be talking about them), there is another reason to be switching from commercial shampoos. Most commercial shampoos strip the scalp of its natural oils. This then leads your scalp to kick into gear and produce even more oils, making your hair oily if you don't wash it every day or two. Once you manage to get passed the detox period of no-pooing, you only need to wash your hair once or twice a week, if that. It sounds gross, but think about it from this angle; people didn't need to wash their hair daily or even every other day until the introduction of commercial detergents into shampoos.
My hair began falling out in clumps from baking soda
I had read that a two week (even up to two months or more) detox period could be expected when trying to shed your hair of all of the build-up from lab-created silicones, but after reading all of the benefits I was still curious to see if I could find my naturally beautiful hair underneath all of this mess. There was no “at first my hair was amazingly soft and beautiful” like most of the blogs that I had read. I had destroyed my hair prior to this, so shedding all of the silicones that coated my hair showed me just how badly my hair was lacking in moisture.
The oils on my head began over-producing big time and all I could do was put my hair up in a bun. I kept waiting for the moment when combing my hair in the shower didn't mean the loss of such precious strands by the dozen, but instead, my hair-loss began to get worse. After two months of trying the no-poo method, I realized that it was not working out, but I couldn't figure out why. I knew that my hair was already damaged and it would take a while to fix, but I figured that I would at least see improvement in my hair in a two month period of time. I decided it was time to go on a learning adventure and find out WHY I was having these problems.
PH is the key to balancing your hair and scalp
It turned out, my dry brittle hair was falling out due to the high alkalinity (PH) of the baking soda. After researching further, I found that the key to balancing your hair and scalp starts with balancing the ph of the sebum on your scalp.
PH (Potential of Hydrogen) is the measure of alkalinity or acidity in a substance. PH can range anywhere from 1 (highly acidic) to 14 (highly alkaline. Human hair and skin have a layer of salt/water/oil that is called the acid mantle. This wonderfully protective layer lives happily at a PH of 4.5 and is easily disrupted and washed away with anything that has a ph over 7 (neutral and the ph of water).
An inadequate hair product can disrupt the natural pH of the hair. If your haircare routine is too alkali your hair cuticles will stay open and your hair will be dry and brittle. But if you use pH balanced products, i.e. ones that are close to the natural pH of the hair (4.5 – 5.0) your hair cuticles will close properly which will result in healthy shiny hair. – kanelstrand.com
Learning about this put me on a deeper investigation to learn about PH and our hair. I discovered that though diluting baking soda can cause its PH to go down, it takes 20 cups of water to 1 Tbsp. of baking soda to make a ph of 9. That's way too alkaline for our hair and will cause it to be extremely dry and brittle, breaking off everywhere. Robin from Thank Your Body shares her experience with us on the importance of PH balanced shampoo (or no-poo) and what she learned from one of her readers:
Using highly alkaline solutions on your hair (baking soda, bronners soaps, etc.) though it feels soft and manageable that is really the disulfide bonds in your internal hair structure being weakened by the alkaline solution… To then bring your hair down to it’s proper pH a acidic solution (apple cider vinegar) when using a alkalinic cleanser is used, this is called clarifying. This dual process is not healthy for your hair or your scalp. – Amanda, a TYB reader.
By far, the best education I received on the PH of hair (and even how hair works), was through the Structure of Hair series on Kimmaytube on Youtube. She managed to visually explain the structure of hair as well as discuss why PH balance is the key important factor in the hair care products that you use on your hair. If you want to easily understand your hair, you should watch these videos, they are amazing!
You can still No-Poo without baking soda
I am not hating on the no-poo method because, in fact, I LOVE it! I am just opening your eyes to something we all need to pay attention to when we go down the natural hippy path. Just because something is natural does NOT mean that it's right for the job. Yes, baking soda is in fact, natural but because of it's natural properties, it makes a much better scour for your pots and pans than it does a cleanser for your hair. Baking soda is not the only option you can choose from when going down the no-poo path. There are many options you can use to cleanse your hair!
Miss part of this hair care series?
- The Dirty Hippy Truth About No-Poo & Why I Won’t Use Baking Soda on My Hair – Hippy Natural Hair Care Series Part 1
- Natural No-Poo Cleansers For Healthy Hair – Hippy Natural Hair Care Series Part 2
- Natural Hair Conditioners & Herbal Detangling Spray – Hippy Natural Hair Care Series Part 3
- Natural Herbal Hair Color for Healthy Hair – Hippy Natural Hair Care Series Part 4