Like many of us out there trying to live more sustainably, it can feel a little overwhelming. So many things in our life use plastic, or are made from petroleum, and it can be hard to know where to start. So a few years back I made a plan - whenever I ran out of a product, I would look into finding a more sustainable option when I replaced it. It helped space things out a bit, while also preventing me from wasting what I currently had.
About 4 years ago, my shampoo ran out, so I started doing some research into sustainable shampoos. I ended up going down a rabbit hole and instead of looking into sustainable shampoos, I started looking into the history of shampoo itself. Ends up that what we know today as shampoo wasn't invented until the 1890s. Before that, people, women in particular, washed their hair using berries are herbs at most 3 times a week and some only once a month! They commonly would just brush their hair to keep it clean and healthy.
How is that even possible? If I didn't wash my hair at least every other day, it would get super oily. What I learned is that for most people today, including myself, our hair has become addicted to shampoo.
Hair follicles produce oil to protect your hair. When you wash your hair with shampoo, the cleansers in the shampoo strip that oil away. In small, infrequent amounts, this can cleanse your hair, but is regular larger doses, this causes hair follicles go into overdrive to replace the lost oil, causing you to need the shampoo to remove the new excess oil, exasperating the problem.
So what's the solution? Many people recommend giving up shampoo altogether, or trying a much milder vinegar or baking soda solution. I tried going full on "no poo", completely giving up shampoo, but after a week and a half my hair was so gross and oily I was too embarrassed to keep going to work, so I gave up. (I honestly don't know how no one said anything to me during that week, because no ponytail could hide the greasiness of my hair - I gained a new respect for the tactfulness of my colleagues.) I had similar experiences with the alternative shampoo options.
I figured, since this was basically an addiction and "cold turkey" didn't work, perhaps a slower paced approach was a better option. I called this my "patch process," because I borrowed the idea it from the patch used for quitting smoking. The patch gives the person who wears it a small dose of nicotine to replace cigarettes, and the amount of nicotine in the patch is slowly reduced until the addiction is gone. To be honest, I had no idea if this would work, I had no experience myself, but weaning myself off shampoo seemed logical, so I bought a bottle of shampoo and gave it a try.
First, I had to figure out how much shampoo I used. Each time I used shampoo, which was about 3-4 times a week, I used about 2 tbsps. I started by decreasing only a little, about 1/4 tsp every two weeks. For the first month or so, I didn't see any difference. It's likely that I was using so much shampoo that some of it was excess and not necessary to remove the oil from my hair.
A few months in is when I started noticing that there was more oil than I would like in certain areas of my hair. I realized that oil had a tendency to occur in areas away from where I initially started washing my hair. I would always start washing my hair on the top of my head, and the bottom, underneath area near my neck started to get more oily, whereas the top was fine. To more evenly distribute the shampoo, I started pouring the shampoo in another empty bottle first, then adding some water, so that I could have enough to add some to all the areas of my head. This really helped spread out the shampoo, especially when I started to use smaller and smaller quantities. I still uuse this process to this day.
I had also read that brushing your hair with a natural bristle brush helps distribute the oil evenly throughout your hair, so it wouldn't be all at the top by the roots. I bought a natural boar bristle brush (this is the one I have here), channeled my inner Marsha Brady, and brushed my hair for several minutes every morning. I will be honest, I was surprised how much of a difference brushing my hair consistently made. It really did help evenly distribute the oil, which simultaneously made my hair shinier, thicker and stronger, which is huge for someone with thin hair like myself. Plus it reduced the amount of oil at my scalp, so goal achieved.
Though it may sound like it from the description above, my journey to less shampoo was not linear. Sometimes I would have to increase the amount of shampoo back a couple weeks until my hair caught up, and sometimes I wouldn't decrease the amount of shampoo for a month or more. I learned to listen to my hair. If my hair was still a little more oily than I liked, I would wait on the next decrease. I also learned that my hair produces more oil in the summer and less in the winter. I thought I was doing so well over the winter, using far less shampoo without negative consequences, only to have to jump back up when the spring/summer hit.
The whole process took about one year. I finished the bottle of shampoo in that one year and purchased another on November 18, 2018. I just finished that bottle of shampoo last week - almost 3 years to the day.
I'm not sure I will ever stop using shampoo completely - especially not after workouts. But my hair is healthier and no longer addicted to shampoo and my shampoo use has decreased significantly. To me, being sustainable means reducing our consumption of our natural resources. If everyone reduces shampoo use, we can save hundreds of thousands of shampoo bottles a year.
I hope you found this useful and consider this for your own sustainable journey. In case you are interested, The shampoo I use is made by 100% Pure.