I’ve managed to streamline my skincare down to just water and a cotton flannel followed by some almond oil for moisturiser at night or Day Solution moisturiser by Green People, which is 88% organic for daytime. It’s the simplest and most effective skincare routine I’ve ever had and it’s cheap as chips. My transition to this skincare routine was seamless and stress-free, which is something I can’t say about my hair care.
Since I’ve had children and ceased to have two milliseconds to rub together my lovely locks, which to date had been trouble free and well behaved, started to resemble the back end of neglected ewe more times that not. I despairingly trying everything from expensive hair treatments to a multitude of different hair styles. Nothing worked so I resigned myself to tying my hair up in a pony tail for the rest of my life.
As part of my journey to zero waste I encountered shampoo bars and hoped that they might offer the solution, but alas you can read all about my dismal experience with shampoo bars here. Then I heard about low-poo and no-poo (I know the terms doesn’t do itself any favours).
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‘No Poo’ refers to washing hair with products other than shampoo like bicarbonate of soda, rye flower, egg whites or yolks or clay. Some even manage to just use water. Some people consider using shampoo bars as ‘no poo’ but I wanted to move away from these completely if I could.
The hoped the chance of leaving behind commercial shampoo was ever nigh, particularly having learned that the chemicals in most shampoos are linked to early-onset puberty in girls. (To learn what you don’t want in your shampoo I recommend you read this post on Dangerous Chemicals in Shampoos and Conditioners by the amazing website Mamavation.)
There’s are quite a few Facebook groups dedicated to the topic of low and no-poo (see list below) and I soon found out why. Finding a ‘no poo’ hair care routine is not easy. The ideal product differs for everyone and you can only find out what works for you through a long lengthy process of trial and error.
Everyone in the ‘no poo’ groups talked about a transition phase of waxy unruly hair for between 6 weeks to 6 months, although a few lucky individuals claimed not to have had to face this at all. Apparently it all depends on how out of whack your hair’s natural oil system is. Commercial shampoo strip dirt and grease from your hair but along with it they take your hairs natural oils, to counteract this shampoo companies started to include silicone in their products to smooth down the hair cuticle. Advocates of low and no-poo methods say that the silicone interferes with the scalp’s ability to balance the production of natural oils but that over time it will start to do so again.
Some people advocate using a clarifying shampoo to strip out all the silicone that might have built up in your hair from conventional shampoos. It’s said to shorten the transition time. I didn’t do this as I had been using a silicone-free shampoo and vinegar rinse for about 6 months before I tried water-only hair washing.
When I started to use water-only to wash my hair it gradually felt waxier and waxier. It wasn’t the oily or greasy texture I’d experienced before when I’d gone too long between shampoo washes it was thicker, denser. I soon found out that this was my hair’s natural oils, called sebum. After 4 weeks in I could brush the hair close to my crown in any direction and have it stay there, frozen in mid air. Needless to say a lack of body wasn’t an issue.
I tried spreading the ‘sebum’ down the hair shaft using a boar bristle brush, as suggested in the Facebook groups, no joy. I bought a natural wood brush to see if that worked better, no joy. I tried an egg yolk wash, no joy, then a egg white wash, no joy. Then I tried bicarbonate of soda with a vinegar rinse and low and behold my hair became like that of model on those shampoo ads; smooth, luscious and glossy. I was overjoyed, but it didn’t last. As I’d be warned long-term use of bicarbonate of soda on hair can lead to brittle ends for some, and I was proof of that.
I persisted for a few more weeks using the odd wash of silicone-free shampoo when things got really depressing but as my son’s communion neared I have to face reality, this wasn’t working and wasn’t sustainable long term. So after 12 weeks I resorted to washing my hair with Faith in Nature’s Aloe Vera shampoo, which I can get as refills locally, followed by a vinegar rinse. I felt deflated but not defeated. Despite not being able to move away from shampoo completely my hair has never been better. Not using commercial shampoo for 3 months seems to have given my hair enough of a break to partially re-balance it’s oil production. I have a friend who started ‘no poo’ at the same time as me and she’s been completely successful and only uses water to wash her hair now, and I know of another zero waster who’s only been using water to wash her hair for 10 years now. Maybe I’ll have better luck next time, particularly since I’ve recently come across this 10 DIY recipes for Shampoo
One thing I do know now is that if i want glossy well-behaved hair I just leave a bit longer between hair washes. Washing more than one or twice a week wrecks my hair and I’m trying to keep it to once a week when possible, even though this means having it tied up most of the time.
If you’re interested in giving ‘No Poo’ or ‘Water Only’ a go here are some Facebook Groups to check out.
- No Poo (no shampoo) & Low Poo Hair Care Group Forum (This group has the best reference files of the them all)
- No Poo – UK
- No Poo – Water Only (WO)
- The No Poo Method
- No Poo Movement
If you’ve tried ‘no-poo’ or ‘water-only’ and it wasn’t for you here is some more info on how I wash my hair. are some options for sustainable hair cleaning .
- I use Faith in Nature’s Aloe Vera shampoo , which you can get refills of in a lot of health and zero waste stores around Ireland. Their shampoo is free from cruelty, animal ingredients, GMO ingredients, synthetic colouring, synthetic fragrances, SLES, SLS, parabens, artificial preservatives, BPA plastic, Methylisothiazolinone (MI). The Scottish based company that makes it aims to use Fair Trade or ‘ethically traded’ ingredients wherever possible and it is certified as top grade by SEDEX, an organisation which has an aim to stamp out exploitation. Some of their products contain organic ingredients which have been certified separately. Some of their products contain ‘sustainable’ palm oil but they’re working to replace this.
- For me switching from commercial conditioner to a vinegar rinse has been life changing. Just two tablespoons of vinegar (any kind will do, although the stronger the vinegar the less you need) diluted in a pint of water, and tip it over your hair. I then rinse my hair to make sure it doesn’t smell of vinegar.
Other brands to consider include;
- The Glass Dispensary is an Irish based maker of shampoo and conditioner using some organic ingredients, which they sell in refillable glass bottles. They used to have a store in Dublin 6 but due to a fire there are online for the moment. If you’re based in Dublin they’ll deliver for free and take your empty bottle back for refilling.
- I’ve recently tested Alter/Native shampoo by the co-operative Suma, now available as refills from The Good Neighbour in Dublin 14. Their products contain over 99% natural ingredients and are made in the UK . They list the plain English version of ingredients and the source of them too. The company attempted to remove palm-oil from their products but found that some of the key ingredients were not available with a genuine and traceable palm-free guarantee, so for now they state that they only responsibly sourced and sustainable RSPO certified palm oil based ingredients when palm oil free options are not available, and clearly state so on the labels. Their shampoo, body wash and hand wash liquid products all contain Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate (ALS), cleansing agent thought to be less irritating to the skin than SLS or SLES and rapidly biodegradable. None of their products or ingredients have been tested on animals and carry the Leaping Bunny logo. All products are suitable for vegetarians and vegans and carry the Vegan Society logo. They offer package-free soaps and soaps in recycled and recyclable cardboard boxes, their shampoo bottles are made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic and are also fully recyclable. The lids are clear and white plastic PP (polypropylene) lids, which are recyclable too. They also offer refills options, in recyclable plastic. They say that they’re looking into whether their 20L sized containers can be returned to Suma, washed and refilled to close the loop on their recyclability. Interestingly being a co-operative Suma’s employees, set the direction of the business. Everyone has an equal say and all get paid the same wage, take responsibility and each do a range of jobs each week, from truck driving to cooking to accounts.
- Afrocenchix offers organic, natural vegan haircare products made in the UK for afro hair. Their products are free of DMDM hydantoin, PEGs, silicones, mineral oil, sodium polyacrylate, SLS, SLES, DEA, phthalate, parabens, lanolin, artificial fragrances and fillers. They say that their raw materials are ethically sourced, organic and fairtrade where possible. Their products are never tested on animals and they say that use environmentally friendly preservatives. Their products are available to buy in stores in London and their shipping boxes and packaging are 100% compostable.
- Insight offer vegan hair and skincare products made in Italy with a high percentage of natural ingredients. On average, more than 96% of the total formula is composed of raw materials of natural origin. They also use some certified organic ingredients where they can. Their products have been tested to be free of nickel, so good for those with allergies. They also use ozone to disinfect their water instead of harsher synthetic chemicals.
- Hairstory have a new brand called New Wash, which uses less harsh chemicals to clean hair, which they claim leaves more of the natural oils on your hair making it softer and doing away with the need for conditioner. They are a contributing company to 1% for the Planet.
- Nohbo Drops are a novel idea in the world of shampooing, in that it does away with the bottle. Simply place one Drop in your hands under shower water, and watch the outer casing melt away instantly. Scrub the shampoo directly into your hair, wash and rinse. Their shampoo is paraben and sulphate free.
- UK Green People offer a wide range of natural and organic products that they say are suitable for all skin types, particularly sensitive skin and possibly those prone to eczema and psoriasis. Their hair care products are based on mild plant surfactants, organic extracts, Aloe Vera and pure essential oils. They don’t use aggressive surfactants such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), parabens, petrochemicals, PEG’s, DEA, TEA, artificial colours, perfume or alcohol. Their product pages are very informative and list each of the certifications that apply to them. These certificates include ones from the Organic Soil Association, the Organic Food Federation, the Vegan Society, the Good Shopping Guide and EcoCert. The company also donates 10% of their net profit to ‘green’ health and environmental charities. Their Irish website states that their packaging is recyclable, are fully biodegradable and when burned release only Carbon Dioxide and water. (Just be aware that there is a difference between biodegradable and compostable)
- Dr Organics in the UK use as much organically grown ingredients as they can and sustainable natural alternatives when that’s not possible. All of their products are suitable for vegetarians and cruelty free. They’re also free of petro-chemicals such as paraffin and petroleum, genetically modified (GMO) or genetically engineered organisms. The preservatives they use are naturally-derived. Nothing on their website mentions packaging.
I’m growing my hair dye out because I want to reduce my exposure to unnecessary chemicals where I can but if you’re not willing to do that but want to trial a hair colour free from ammonia, alcohol and PPD then check out the range of mineral based hair dyes by one of Britain’s leading hairdressers, Daniel Field. His products are animal ingredient free and suitable for vegans. You’ll find a list of ingredients in his hair dyes here. Daniel was one of the original founders of the Ark Environmental Foundation and for many years, its chair.
For more information on the hazards of hair dye and safer brands to consider check out Mamavation’s post on the issue.
When I was trying to go shampoo free I looked into brushes to distribute my natural hair oil down the hair shaft. Here were some plastic-free brushes that I came across as part of that research. I ended up buying a paddle brush with round wooden pins. If I had my chance again I’d get pointed pins instead as the round one make it hard to brush the hair smooth and catch in our hair.
- Kent Brushes make a beech brush with wooden bristles in the UK from wood that is FSC certified as being sustainably grown and harvested. The rubber pads on their brushes are 100% natural and so biodegradable. Their wooden handles are finished with petroleum (aka oil) based lacquer.
- Foersters make a range of naturally finished sustainably grown and harvested brushes with natural pins / bristles in Germany. I bought my FSC certified beech one with wooden pins in the health food shop Down to Earth in Dublin 2. I emailed to see if their rubber pads are natural but didn’t hear back.
- Holfstifte make a brush from waxed beech with hornbeam bristles, which you can buy online from the Little Green Shop in Ireland
- Eco Living have a bamboo hairbrush with wooden pins and a natural rubber cushion that is handmade in Germany and biodegradable at the end of it’s life. I bought mine recently from the Irish shop Annie Pooh in Greystones, Wicklow and I’m very happy with it.
The most sustainable hair accessories for long hair that I can think of would be something that’s metal, failing that wood depending on how it’s finished.
Hair ties are the common accessory for most of us with long hair. Some members of the zero waste community are happy to use hair ties found on the ground and in swimming pools, which they sterilise before using. If you’re comfortable doing this I guarantee you you’ll never run out of hair ties but if this isn’t for you organic biodegradable hair ties are available from Reuzi in Dublin 18.
When I did buy hair ties I found the longest lasting ones were the ones without a metal joint, like these ones from Boots.
I’ve seen some bloggers making hair ties out of old tights. I gave this a go but found that the final product was too loose for my hair. Might suit someone with thicker hair though.
If you’ve gone to bother of getting silicone out of your hair you don’t really want to add it back in with a trip to the hairdresser. I’ve managed to find a local hair dresser in Churchtown, Dublin 14 that will wash my hair with my Faith in Nature shampoo and vinegar rinse. If you’ve found one let me know and I’ll add them to my Map of Eco Businesses. On this map I’ve included three hairdressers that use more natural hair products. They include
- Organic Italian Hair, Dalkey, Co Dublin
- IS Organic Hairdressing, Dublin 1
- Salon Sia, Sallynoggin, Co Dublin
- The Natural Cut, Dublin 2 – Don’t wash your hair and cut to avoid need for products
Here’s wishing you a fabulous hair days for the rest of your groomed life.
Link to Acast podcast
PS – In previous posts I’ve spoken about
- Natural Deodorant
- Homemade Plastic Free Toothpaste
- Homemade Vaseline & Lipbalm
- Review of Beauty Kitchen Invisible Mineral Sunscreen
- Sustainable Shaving
- Toxin-free Sunscreen
- My Minimalist Non-Toxic Zero Waste Skin and Hair Care
- Natural and Organic Skincare in Ireland
- Shampoo Bar
- DIY 3 Ingredient Mascara
- Easy Peasy Liquid Soap
- Sustainable Ethical Zero Waste Make Up
- Easy 3 Ingredient Homemade Body Moisturiser