Sudsy shake-up: Why less shampoo might be good for your ‘do

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Screen shot 2015-01-18 at 4.58.39 PMThere are three unavoidable challenges in life: bills, hair and company coffee. While there is little that can be done about debt collectors and powdered creamer, people are finding better ways to manage their hair by removing shampoo from their daily routine. The resurfacing trend is called “no-’poo,” and it’s not as revolting a double entendre as it sounds.

Shampoo is essentially used to help hair grow by cleansing the scalp and removing dirt and dandruff build up. The problem generally comes in when people become a bit too inspired by Herbal Essence commercials and decide to put large amounts of shampoo on the shaft of their hair.

The hair shaft is the part of hair that shows and is commonly referred to as the “dead” part of the hair. Though it may be easy to think cleaning it with shampoo often is a no-brainer, it’s actually not all that it’s cracked up to be. Shampoo can cause breakage, shedding and other types of damage, which are all results of chemically over-processed hair.

However, the ’no-poo title can be a bit misleading. The method isn’t a decision to completely eliminate shampoo, but rather limit the use of it to about one to two times per week. Bolingbrook hair stylist Ashunti Sims conducted a no-’poo experiment on her own hair and said she agrees with trying regimens that eliminate excessive use of shampoo.

There are four different types of hair: type 1, 2, 3 and 4. Each one of the hair types is broken down into three sections. Based on a warm water test with a single strand of hair, stylist can determine an entire routine to get a person’s hair exactly how they want it. Almost none of them include using shampoo daily.

“Over about a six-month period I went without shampooing my hair,” Sims said. “I found that my hair didn’t feel stripped and appeared to be more moisturized, but not using shampoo left build up on my scalp.”

During this time, she often only washed her hair with conditioner. This method is more commonly known as co-washing. Sims has type 4c hair, which means her hair is really fine, but curls up tightly. She said that though people would like to rid themselves of shampoo, this experiment proved one thing: They need it.

“The main purpose of shampoo is to cleanse and that’s what [it does],” Sims said. “But the downfall to shampoo is the variability in detergent strength and pH.” She stressed the importance of a person knowing their hair type and reading the back of the shampoo bottle to ensure that they aren’t putting anything in their hair to strip it. She also emphasized this is the very first step in deciding whether to cut back on shampoo.

Olivia Smaniotto is a student at DePaul University who, by description, has type 2 hair.

“I shampoo about two times a month, I use conditioner about two times a week and that’s it,” Smaniotto said.

As a result, her hair is shinier than it was before and “holds styles better.” According to popular hair regimen sites such as Naturally Curly, this is because Smaniotto’s hair type retains moisture.

Natural oils are produced by everyone’s sebaceous glands. However, depending on their hair type, it can either hold too much or not enough. Hair types 1 and 2 typically, but not always, retain more oil than types 3 and 4, resulting in the need to shampoo more frequently. “Sometimes my hair just looks extremely greasy,” Smaniotto said. “I usually just put some powder in it to soak up the oils.”

For a person committed to cutting back shampoo with hair like Smaniotto, Naturally Curly recommends she try washing her scalp at least once per week using baking soda and vinegar. The baking soda and vinegar cuts away the buildup without acting as too strong a detergent as found in many shampoos. However, it is imperative that she sticks to her scalp. If too much is applied to the shaft, the hair can become damaged and start to break.

But, of course this method isn’t for everyone. Columbia College Chicago student Natalie Andrews said that she’s given no-’poo a whirl, but couldn’t keep it up.

“I was extremely self-conscious,” Andrews said, “It’s a long-term commitment.”

Andrews’ regimen did include baking soda, but when she decided to stop using everything completely, she eventually felt the need to go back to shampoo because she was being “a baby about it.”

As far as the salon is concerned, Sims said she doesn’t see shampoo ever going away because it is still very important. But she does see a reduction in the use of it, as people begin to focus on the importance of conditioner. She also said that it’s best to look into the topic further before diving in.

“Don’t just follow the trends, do your research and know your hair,” Sims said. “You have to pay attention to what your hair loves and doesn’t love.”