When I had my son, I suddenly felt very aware of the way I treat my body. Perhaps, it was because I was breastfeeding, perhaps it's because I baby-wear a lot, but I suddenly felt much more conscious of the chemicals I was coming into contact with, because they were also coming into contact my precious wee boy.
There's been a lot in the press recently about the 'no poo' movement, with the publication of blogger Lucy Aitken Read's book Happy Hair: The definitive guide to giving up shampoo (The Ultimate NoPoo book). Now there's nothing new about this movement, in fact as a huge Take That fan of a tweenager I remember Mark Own extolling the virtues of 'water only' washing (this was during Take That's grungy dreadlock phase), and even then, I was intrigued. But since the boy was born I've taken slightly more heed in those who claim to live 'chemical free', so as a starter, I've decided to see if I can live without shampoo.
The reasoning behind the 'no poo' movement is a reaction to two aspects of modern shampooing. Firstly, the detergents in shampoo are terrible for your hair. Only when I read up on the subject did I realise that I was guilty of the cardinal sin of hair-washing, by scrubbing my scalp dry every single day. Shampoo was never designed for such regular use, and in days of yore (erm, a hundred years ago or less), it was the norm to wash your hair once a week, if that. The detergents in shampoo clean your hair by stripping it of not just dirt, but natural oils too. This causes your scalp to overcompensate and produce more oil, which leaves you with greasy hair ... which makes you wash your hair more regularly ... do you see where I'm going with this?
There's also a lot of chat about SLS - Sodium Laureth Sulphate - the foaming agent in most commercial shampoos. Now google SLS and you will find a ton of scary blog posts linking SLS to illnesses like Alzheimers and liver toxicity. I'm a little wary about reading too much into this. Sure, if you sat in a bath full of the stuff every single day it probably wouldn't do you much good, but shampoo (and soap, and tooth-paste, etc...) contain such a tiny amount of SLS that you'll probably be ok. If you are particularly worried, there are lots of SLS-free shampoos available on the High Street
There is however evidence to suggest that when SLS gets into rivers and pond it can have a serious effect on ducks and other birds by 'cleaning' the natural water-proofing oils from the their feathers.
So, back to 'no poo'. The reasoning is that by cutting out shampoo, your scalp will begin to regulate its production of oil, leading to naturally healthy hair. I have quite long thin hair, and I find shampooing leaves it a bit lank (although yes, my over-use of shampoo hasn't helped). I'm eager to see if the no-poo approach will leave me with a thicker more luscious mane.
Now there are several different approaches to 'no poo'. Firstly, there's 'water only' - which is just as simple as it sounds - you drop the shampoo and instead wash your hair thoroughly with hot water, only when required. Now this is only for the very brave amongst you. It's a given that whatever approach you choose, you'll have to live through a stage in which your hair will resemble the grime in a chip-shop fryer. I'm living it right now. It's not fun. But if you go 'water only', you're essentially running head first into the greasy haired wilderness. It passes, so I'm told, but it's not pleasant for anyone.
The second approach involves washing the hair frequently in just conditioner. This is recommended for dry or frizzy hair. The third approach, the one I'm currently exploring (with some trepidation), involves washing hair with a bicarbonate of soda shampoo, followed by an apple cider conditioner rinse. It's really easy to make up both potions - essentially its just one cup of water (250ml) to one tablespoon of bicarb. The other conditioner uses the same ratio. Apply the bicarb mixture to your roots, leave for about a minute, and then rinse thoroughly. Rinse your hair through with the conditioner, avoiding the roots, and then rinse once more with warm water. It takes a bit of getting used to. I'm only on day six and my hair is a greasy mess, so I need to play around with my mixtures a bit. Regular brushing with a natural fibre brush is also supposed to help.
So I'm in the trial and error stage, and wondering if I can really do this. Stay tuned to see if I can push through the grease in my search for naturally healthy hair!