We’ve come to the end of Plastic Free July and what an enjoyable, eye-opening time it’s been. I’ve met some lovely business owners and workers who understand the concept of producing less waste and will write about that in another post or two.
In July, I definitely reduced my plastic intake, but of course, no one is perfect so a few things still crept in. But I didn’t touch the top four nasties – bottled water and softdrinks, straws, all unnecessary* plastic bags (as per normal) and takeaway tea or hot chocolate (I don’t drink coffee). These are small but life-affirming wins for me!
I set another self-imposed challenge for the month … to finally do “no poo” – where you don’t wash your hair with shampoo or conditioner. Read more about the whole concept at this website. Some people wash with baking soda and rinse with diluted apple cider vinegar, others use solid soap and/or conditioner bars, some just even use conditioner only, but I wanted to be as minimal as possible.
Before the experiment:
My hair is very fine but there’s enough of it. It alternates between frizzy and limp. I’ve never been an excessive user of hair products, but on “special occasions” I’d try some mousse, hairspray, or volumizing powder. It’s time to ditch the lot of it!
Trying “no poo” has been on my wishlist for years, but I kept losing my nerve because there was a work event, or someone was having a party or someone’s dog had kittens … you get my drift. So when a work function on 28 June for 80 people passed, the window of opportunity opened.
Inspired by Ariana at paris-to-go, I decided to go straight for the desired end result – to wash only with water. We have very hard water here in Bern, with a lot of calcium, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect.
After the first week, I realised the lack of a transition period to just water might have been wishful thinking, so in an attempt to break down the oils a bit, every Saturday I “washed” my hair with the juice of one lemon, then rinsed it out completely.
My hair felt good, it was slightly heavier and not so wispy, which is great because all the fine, tickly bits around my face (the aftermath of a terrible haircut) drive me crazy. I started a pre-bedtime routine – a scalp massage with my fingers for a few minutes, then brushing vigorously for about 10 minutes with a boar-bristle brush.
I finally told Leo what I was up to, because there were some oilier moments this week! I washed my hair three times, and in between noticed it was becoming hard to brush, as the oils made the hair sit in strange directions. It almost had a life of its own! The nightly massages and brushing continued and the brush had to be washed after every use, because it would fill up with hair and a white kind of powder, which I have since read is sebum. At first I thought it was calcium buildup from the water. But it turns out it’s just all part of the process of natural haircare.
I wore my hair up for most of this week and started wondering if anyone from work had noticed a change. Hair loss was another reason I decided to ditch the chemicals, but at this stage it feels like I’m still losing the same amount. Maybe this will change with time. The thought of light, fluffy hair was tempting, but I stayed strong! Leo’s been very supportive about the whole experiment too.
On July 28, I asked my two male colleagues if they’d noticed anything strange about my hair over the previous month. Neither had an inkling (but I’m not really surprised at all!). On July 30, I posed the same question to visitors and the female’s only comment was my hair didn’t look as shiny as normal, and I agree. Maybe this is why people use the apple cider vinegar as a rinse? Leo asked if our hair is really meant to be so glossy? A good question and food for thought.
I turned a corner in the fourth week, and it feels like my hair, while still oily, isn’t AS oily. My regrowth is doing my head in though, and my hair definitely looks darker sans shampoo, but I’m avoiding the hairdresser for a while (they are so expensive in Switzerland, like most things!). I made a pact that when Plastic Free July finished, I would dye my own hair.
So today, August 1, the national day of Switzerland, I used the dreaded plastic gloves in the box of hair dye (argh!), and the plastic applicator tube (guilt!). While I feel like I’ve let the team down, I know I won’t be doing this too many times again in the future. Eventually my hair will be its natural, boring *gulp* mouse-brown colour. I may even try bulk henna in the future. But for now, that two-tone had to go! I did use a small dollop of the toning conditioner that came in the box, to try to set the colour. I have to admit my hair feels deliciously soft and weightless because of it!
I will definitely keep going without plastic bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Maybe down the track I’ll try a shampoo/soap bar, but I’ve made a pact to give this water-only experiment a chance until we go to Australia at the end of the year. I’ll slowly fade out the lemon rinse to maybe once every two weeks, then once a month, to see how that goes. I haven’t had any problems with itchiness or flakiness or a dry scalp, which is great.
Do you do “no poo”? Have you tried washing with just water? Did you use lemon juice or apple cider vinegar? Do you swear by the baking soda method (a lot of people say it can be very drying)? I’d love to hear about how your experiments did or didn’t work for you.
If you’d like to read about more real-life no shampoo stories, here’s an article from The Art of Simple, from Just Primal Things (4 months with just water) and from The Hairpin (three years). You’ll find hundreds of examples doing a quick internet search. Of course they are all personal experiences and it differs for everyone, which is part of the fun (and patience required!) when trying something new.
Wishing you a wonderful day.
*I asked the local supermarket meat counter if I could use my own container. They said no for health and safety reasons. I had no time to find another butcher, so reluctantly accepted the steaks in a thin sheet of plastic, placed in a waxy paper sleeve. This is where my efforts really kicked in, knowing there had to be a better alternative out there …