Facebook fans: You spoke and I listened! Here is the first in our series of crunchy (read: natural or low-effort) beauty tips. I don’t pretend to be a beauty expert, but I know what makes me feel good. And if it makes ME feel good, maybe it’ll make some of you feel good, too! If you don’t like this series you should probably become a Facebook fan so you can shout me down when I float these hair-brained (HAIR BRAINED, GET IT?) schemes of mine. xo Rebecca
What’s blogging without a giant confession, right? I have one. But first, I have to say, I can’t even believe I’m doing a Beauty Tips post. I’m no Audrey Hepburn or Audrey Tatou or any other Audrey for that matter. I’m a stay-at-home mom of five boys. BOYS. I ask them to brush their hair and they run screaming from me like I’m brandishing a hot poker at them instead of a hairbrush. I grab for a warm washcloth to fix a pudding smeared face and the screams might make you think I’m wiping them down with acid. I suggest that perhaps they might want to change the shirt they’ve been wearing for a week solid and it’s greeted with a befuddled look, shrugged shoulders and a “NothankyoumomI’mcomfy.”
In short? I’m pretty much on my own here. I don’t even have a frame of reference for what is trendy or hip or even socially acceptable any more, so honestly, I don’t know how many people are going to get squeamish over what I’m about to say.
…Which is this…
I haven’t used shampoo in two and a half years. Yes. That is my beauty tip. No shampoo. (I can hear you now, “…And you’re surprised your boys are gross?”) Obviously there’s a bit more to it or everybody would be doin’ it, right?
Here’s a little history. After I had my youngest son a little over nine years ago, I felt perpetually rumpled. I had just given birth to my fifth child in eight years. Translation: I was lumpy and hormonal. Translation of the translation: out of shape, shedding hair like mad and had spotty skin. The hair that remained attached to my head was scarcely behaving better than the stuff that fell out in handfuls in the shower/on my pillow/standing still. It was cottony looking, dry and my scalp itched like mad. (Boy, do I sound like I was a looker or WHAT?!?)
I embarked on a path that seemed like a good idea to clear up my lumpybumpy body, skin and hair problems. I started buying expensive creams and shampoos from the salon. And that? Well, it didn’t work and it left me with bottles and pots and jars and squeeze tubes of things that were disgustingly expensive and useless. Then I tried all-natural shampoos/conditioners/beauty products. That didn’t work at all either. And the blue aloe mud bug organic herbal tinctures and shampoos and salves and whatnot were even more expensive than the professional products.
About five and a half years ago, my bathroom closet was overflowing with what amounted to more than a car payment’s worth of things I’d never use again. As a last ditch effort, I turned to the internet and googled a string of keywords that sounded like the punchline in a fairy tale:
“Straw, Hair, Pimples, Balding, Magic Shampoo, Smooth, HELP”
Rumpelstiltskin didn’t show up, but I got a list of websites that said, “No Poo”. “But I’m not constipated, my hair just looks like cotton balls!” thought I, until I read a little further. These blogs were all talking about giving up shampoo and solving their hair problems. “Er, okay. Whatever.” But I was desperate enough at that point to keep reading.
Over the next couple of weeks, I tried the baking soda/vinegar solution that many no-poo-ers recommended. That worked for a while, but left my hair feeling sticky. My husband had sniffed my hair when I got out of the shower and told me I smelled like a pickle. (From him, that’s a compliment. Hubby loves pickles.) I, on the other hand, missed the pretty smells of shampoo.
I tried Wen by Chaz Dean because I saw the commercial on television and any guy who can toss his hair like the Breck girl seems like a pretty solid authority on silky hair. The problem there was that it was insanely expensive and I had long hair. I knew it wasn’t a tenable long term solution and I was only feeling so-so about the results so it was tough to justify the cost.
I turned back to the omniscient interwebs for help and discovered yet another no-shampoo group who was less intestinally know as the co-only (short for conditioner only) crowd. The long and short of co-only is that you only wash your hair with conditioner. Again, there’s a little more to it. You can’t just pick any old conditioner; it must be a silicone-free conditioner to keep from weighing your hair down. There’s good news, though. ANYTHING in the Suave Naturals line is silicone free. In other words, one of the cheapest conditioners out there is perfect for the job, and it’s a good thing, too, because co-only washing consists of massaging palms-ful of conditioner in your hair and scalp and letting it stay there (preferably under a shower cap) while you complete the rest of your shower then rinsing it out.
In October of 2010, I tried it. I didn’t really have any great expectations. I figured I’d get out of the shower and find my hair lank and greasy and my scalp itchy. “This is it,” I told myself, “If this doesn’t work, I’ll just cut my hair short and go back to using shampoo.” I was shocked to find it was the opposite. My hair felt as smooth as silk and not weighed down in the least bit. For the first time in almost a decade, my scalp didn’t itch to the point where I felt like clawing it off. And ladies? When I tell you my hair looked good, I mean it looked goooooooooooood. As in it behaved and did what I wanted it to when I wanted it to do it with little effort and almost no product and smelled pretty to boot.
The next time I went to my hairdresser, I screwed my courage to the sticking point and confessed what I was doing. She said, “Wow! Are you kidding? Your hair looks great. I’ll have to tell some of my other clients about this.” I haven’t looked back from that point on and I’ve been conditioner only washing for four and a half years now. IMPORTANT UPDATE: My hairdresser has gone on to recommend this to many of her clients and they have reported back with great results.
I wouldn’t yank your leg on this, folks. It truly has been the holy grail for me. When I gave up shampoo, it didn’t just clear up my hair problems, it eliminated my skin problems completely. The pimples and acne that I had been blaming on my poor choice in beauty products and/or hormones went away almost overnight.
What I learned AFTER finding what worked for me was that shampoo was stripping the natural, protective oils from my hair and scalp and face (by virtue of its proximity to my hair- thank heavens). In order to make my skin and hair behave after doing that, I had to replace what I could with conditioner in my hair and lotions on my face. For whatever reasons, my fish-belly pale skin was too sensitive for this routine. Eliminating the shampoo/conditioner cycle did the job for me.
Is this a solution for everyone? Maybe, maybe not. Some people have reported an adjustment period where their hair and skin acted like a petulant, oily child for a week or a month or so before becoming bouncin’ and behavin’. I had zero funky down time with my hair when I switched to conditioner only. In the interest of full disclosure, I have never in life been a wash-my-hair-every-day kind of girl. The only time I’ve washed my hair two days in a row is after exceptionally sweaty gardening excursions or after a child threw up in it or used my hair as a napkin or -worse- a hanky. Oh, come on… you KNOW it’s bound to happen with five kids, right?
Here’s my point. It’s worth a try if you’re frustrated with how your hair is treating you or horrified by the amount of money you have to spend to make your hair do what you want it to do. Let me break down the specifics on how I conditioner only wash my hair.
How to Conditioner-Only Wash Hair:
- Wet your hair thoroughly in the shower, massaging your scalp.
- Squirt a palmful of silicone-free conditioner into your hand and massage it into your scalp and the hair near it.
- Squirt another palmful of silicone-free conditioner into your hand and massage it into the rest of your hair. Repeat this until all of your hair is saturated with the conditioner. If your hair is thick and lower-mid back length like mine, you’ll need about 4 palms-ful to coat your hair and scalp.
- Pile your hair on your head to keep it out of the shower stream. If you have one, put a cheap-o shower cap on to keep the conditioner from rinsing away.
- Complete whatever else you need to in the shower; wash your bod, shave, whatever.
- Add a splash of water to your hair and scrub your scalp again, then rinse your hair fully.
- Dry/Style/Whatever your hair as usual. For me, most often this means blow-drying my bangs so they don’t lay funny and letting the rest of my hair do whatever it wants. This is what works best for me!
- Do this two to three times a week. Unless you’re working out HARD daily or having someone wipe boogers in your hair, this should be sufficient.
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I’m feeling a little sheepish about even bringing this up here, so help a gal out. What do you think? Am I nuts? Would you ever try it? Do you want to sniff my hair to verify I don’t smell like a fryolator before giving it a shot or is this just completely off the table for you? Talk to me!
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Update: This post was originally published February 15th, 2013. Because it has been more than two years since publication and because I am still going co-washing strong, I wanted to bring it back to the front for the benefit of those who may not have seen it yet. The number of people for whom this has made a huge difference -as evidenced by the comments below- is pretty awesome.