Hair

A (not) so dirty secret

To shampoo or not to shampoo, that is the question. Sayoni Bhaduri gives you a low down on the no-poo movement that is taking the world by storm.

Sundays used to be shampoo day that too under mother’s watchful eyes; abusing the shampoo bottle more than once a week would result in temper flare-ups. In retrospect, it was to avoid overuse of shampoos and more importantly to maintain the natural health of my short bob.

The aversion to shampoos, for us Indians, is cultural where we tend to put more faith in home remedies and natural solutions. Internationally, however, it is a recent subculture. Shampoos came into existence since 1930s but it was only in ‘60s-‘70s that they became a ‘daily’ phenomenon.

Cut to the last decade; going au naturel has been a sustaining trend and paved way for a no shampoo movement, colloquially known as ‘no-poo’.

The dirty little secret that has made no-poo a success is not much of a secret—our body has its own systems and processes to keep it clean and this includes our tresses.

Why is it getting popular?
One of the biggest reasons for popularity of the no-poo movement is the use of chemicals like sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate and parabens in shampoos. These and others, supposedly, strip your tresses of its natural oils and make it frizzy, whereas going shampoo-free has been said to increase fullness, bounce and shine.

The chemicals are also harmful to the environment, not to mention disposing empty bottles is also a pain. There is also the fact that using natural alternatives are much cheaper than buying expensive bottles of product.

What is no-poo?
No-poo involves giving up on the shampoo completely, simply because dependency on the cleansing agent is stripping your locks out of its natural oils. Further, to compensate for the lack of oils, our scalp’s sebaceous glands secrete more than necessary.

There is no easing into the no-poo system; you have to go all in and not wash your hair for more than a week—longer the better, it can often go upto six weeks. You’re retraining you’re hair follicles to reduce its sebum excretion.

Finally, when you do wash, it involves chemical-free washing methods, even it means rinsing your hair with just water. Baking soda and apple cider vinegar are popular choices. Close second is aloe vera, tea, lemon juice and egg whites and if you take a look at Indian herbal remedies, the lethal combination of amla-reetha-shikakai has been known to knock out all types of hair grime. These washes are infrequent and depend on your physiology.

The trouble with no-poo
The fact that there is no hard and fast scientific proof about going no poo is one of the biggest challenges for the movement. While dermatologists and hair care experts do agree that washing hair with shampoo should be controlled, but there is no need to give it up completely. Especially now, that shampoos are available using all natural ingredients.

The adjustment period between giving up shampoo and moving on to a natural substitute is a long one and often a stinky one. Greasy, grimy hair is not considered very hygienic. For a lot of people it can also cause dandruff build up, which if not taken care of at the beginning can be a challenge later.

Using baking soda, vinegar and lime can work adversely as the alkalinity and acidity of these substitutes can mess with the pH balance of your hair resulting in dryness and breakage.

Give shampoo a break

Sodium Bicarbonate


Better known as baking soda, sodium bicarbonate is a friendly face in every household. For your hair, mix half and half baking soda with water, mix and gently apply to your scalp. Rinse your hair and scalp thoroughly to get rid of the remains.

Apple Cider Vinegar


Similar to baking soda, mix ACV and water in a 50:50 ratio and wash your hair with it. But beware, your hair may smell vinegary for a little while.

Aloe Vera


What can aloe vera not do? Squeeze the gel from the super-plant’s leaves and rub it through your hair and rinse it.

Amla Reetha Shikakai


This is hair care’s holy trinity that grandmas in India swear by. Soak 5-6 pods of reetha (soapnut), 6-7 pieces of shikakai (Acacia concinna) and some amla (Indian gooseberry) in 500 ml of water, overnight. Boil, cool and blend to create a pulp. Strain the pulp and wash your hair with the extract.

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