Earlier this month I embarked upon an experiment which saw me go twelve days without washing my hair (with shampoo, at least). I had hoped to go longer, but my hair just became unmanageable and I found myself daydreaming about a good hair wash – so I washed my hair! I will eventually try again, and I’m hoping that I will have more success next time.
I did a live video on Facebook this morning about what I’ve learned from twelve days of no shampoo:


Here are eight things I learned from twelve days of no shampoo:

  1. It matters what hair brush you use.
    I’ve never been particularly bothered about brushing my hair, or about the type of brush I use. I would usually brush my hair only right before I wash it, to get the knots out. When I first started with this experiment everywhere advised I use a boar bristle brush. I had recently bought a nice paddle brush “infused with argan oil” though, so to begin with I stuck with that. Eventually I thought perhaps I should at least try the boar bristle brush – and I also decided that if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly! I have very thick hair, and by this point it was very waxy and hard to brush – so I splashed out on a Kent brush that also has nylon bristles, to help brush the hair properly. 
    The change was almost instant. The bristles were much better at moving the sebum along the lengths of my hair and it soon began to look smoother. The boar bristle brush also helped me to finally manage to tie my hair back without lots of bumps which is a major achievement for me. I might have gone back to shampoo, but I’m still using my Kent brush (and not only because I want my money’s worth!)


    See those roots?

  2. Don’t start when you have roots.
    Anyone who has ever bleached their hair will tell you that once the roots begin to show through, your hair can look more greasy. Because the roots are darker, it can look greasy even when it’s clean. Guess what: when you’re doing an experiment where you’re not washing your hair, it looks even worse when your roots are several shades darker than the rest of your hair. I am convinced that were my hair all the same colour, it would not have looked so bad.
  3. You will get spotty.
    While your hair is detoxing, your scalp is producing more oil than you are used to. And that oil can easily migrate to your face, neck, ears and even back. I wore my hair up for most of the time over the twelve days I didn’t wash my hair – but I still ended up with a lot of spots where I wouldn’t usually expect to have them. Also, often by lunch time the skin on my neck and shoulders would feel greasy, as if I hadn’t washed. I’m sure if I’d held out until after the detox stage, this would have cleared up on its own, but I am quite a spotty person generally and found it quite difficult to find myself with even more pimples than normal!
  4. Get a hair cut first.
    When I began this experiment, my hair was already well overdue for a cut. I had dry, split ends which were always getting tangled and I often found myself needing to use some sort of serum or oil on my hair after washing and conditioning. A couple of days without washing didn’t make much difference, but when I began washing my hair with bicarbonate of soda, I found that it made the ends of my hair become even more dry and brittle. I genuinely worried that I would end up having to hack large chunks of my hair off. 
    I think when your hair is already damaged, the apple cider vinegar rinse that’s normally quite conditioning after a bicarb wash is just not enough – and putting coconut oil in the ends also didn’t make much difference. Getting the ends cut off before I began would probably have been a good idea.
    As well as this, my hair is quite thick. Although it’s only about shoulder length, there is a lot of it. I mentioned in my previous post that I felt I should have used two eggs rather than one to wash it – I do think if I had cut it a little shorter the whole experiment would have been much easier.
  5. You will need to change your pillowcases a lot.
    One thing that had not occurred to me is that when your hair is greasy and waxy, this ends up on your pillowcase – and then when you roll over, that transfers to your face (see note above about getting spotty). It also makes your pillows smell as horrible as your unwashed hair! By the end of the experiment I was washing my pillowcases daily – which is fine, if you have a cupboard full of spare pillowcases, but if you don’t I think it’s worth investing in some.
  6. Most people won’t notice you have greasy hair.
    Over the course of my experiment I lost count of the number of people  who told me my hair looked fine, that if I hadn’t posted on social media about it they wouldn’t have known I hadn’t washed my hair for so long. This was a real eye opener for me, because I had always assumed that on the second day after washing my hair, everyone was silently judging me for being some ghastly grease monkey who never washes. 
    That said, by the end of the twelve days my hair was very clearly unwashed and I did end up feeling like I needed a badge, or perhaps cards to hand out to people saying “I’m doing an experiment; I don’t look like this on purpose!”
  7. There are numerous things you can use instead of shampoo.
    When I first began the experiment, I figured you just used bicarbonate of soda to wash, with apple cider vinegar as a conditioning rinse. I had no idea of the other things people used to wash their hair. Obviously, there was the day I washed my hair with an egg which was an interesting experience – but also there’s apple sauce, rye flour, rhassoul clay, soap nuts, Ayurvedic herbs and even rice water. There’s also a long list of things you can use to condition your hair – including lemon juice! 
    I intend to try several of these (if not all) and will no doubt report back, probably on my Facebook page.
  8. People are more interested than you think.
    At first I thought this was some bonkers journey I was beginning that everyone would think was mad, and nobody would be interested in hearing about. Actually I found it was quite the opposite. Several people told me they had also experimented with “no ‘poo” and a few people used shampoo substitutes on a regular basis. One lady told me that when she was young her mother would use egg on her hair quite regularly. 
    As well as this, people were really interested to hear how it was going. I posted my first video on Facebook on day 8 of no shampoo, and immediately after this, I had several people come up to me every day to talk to me about it. People sent me links to articles and encouraged me to keep going with it.


Vicky Charles

Vicky is a single mother, writer and card reader.


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