If you have visited a number of natural hair care sites you may have stumbled upon the “no poo” or “low poo” method of shampooing. The “no poo/low poo” method derives from shampooing your hair with shampoos (or conditioners) that do not contain harsh chemicals that are found in shampoos. There have also been several articles written of late on the ‘no-poo movement’. See NPR News and Glamour.
The primary chemicals that the no pooers/low pooers are seeking to avoid are the surfactants; Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – SLS, and Sodium Laureth Sulfate – SLES, these are usually the second ingredient in shampoos listed after water. There are several shampoos on the market that contain SLS substitutes, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate – ALS, and/or Ammonium Laureth Sulfate – ALES.
These chemicals are synthetic detergents made from petrochemicals (processed by refining petroleum). They are all foaming/cleansing agents that are also used in everything from engine degreasers to laundry detergent. The amount that is found in most shampoos is reported to be ‘safe’ when it comes to brief use followed by thorough rinsing, and concentrations of the chemicals should not exceed 1% if products are intended for prolonged use.
There have been several claims that SLS even causes cancer, but this has been deemed as a myth. Check out these sites for more detail.
There are also reports of people who have suffered from severe eye and skin irritation caused by SLS. For more info on SLS please visit the links below.
Experts suggest that you should make sure you rinse your hair thoroughly when using a shampoo that contains any of these detergents. I knew of some people who would let shampoo sit on their heads like a conditioner – never do this. These chemicals, along with other harsh detergents found in most shampoos do their job well, they strip the oil and dirt out of your hair, but unfortunately they also strip the natural moisture from your scalp. That’s why, along with rinsing thoroughly, it is also suggested by shampoo manufacturers that you use a conditioner (to replenish moisture) directly after shampooing.
Now some may say, “I’ve been using shampoo X for years and I haven’t had a problem.” This may be true, but the intent of this article is to inform you on healthier ways to clean your hair. For those who are environmentally conscious you should also know that not all synthetic detergents are biodegradable. Therefore, choosing to low poo/no poo can also be good for the environment. When I first began the no poo/low poo method I really did not notice too much of a difference, but about a month later I did notice that my scalp did not feel as dry directly after washing and my hair was a lot easier to detangle, which resulted in less hair breakage.
Some low pooers opt to use conditioners to wash their hair. They may use a conditioner as a weekly wash and use a low poo monthly. Conditioner has lower amounts of these chemicals and actually do a good job of cleaning the scalp. Conditioner washing i.e. co-washing can also save you money because they can be done with inexpensive conditioners, such as Suave or V05. But if you have product build-up, you will have to use a low poo or pre-rinse, such as an ACV (apple cider vinegar) and/or bicarbonate (baking soda) rinse before co-washing.
For some the only downside of co-washing is that conditioners do not produce a sudsy foam. If you feel that you can not get a ‘good’ clean without the foam there are alternatives. There are many shampoos on the market that contain saponified natural oils instead of synthetic detergents. Saponified basically means that the oils are converted into soap. Castile soap based shampoos are one example. The ingredient in castile based shampoos that makes the foam is saponified coconut oil. Olive, apricot kernel, palm, soybean and canola are other examples of oils that are used in replace of synthetic detergents.
Again, the best way to be worry free is to avoid these products. Seek out shampoos that do not contain them. Now this may be easier said than done because as mentioned, most products have, if not two, at least one of these chemicals. However, there are several castile soap based, organic and vegan shampoo/shampoo bars on the market. Dr. Bronner is an example of a vegetable oil based castile soap great for no-pooing, and Aubrey Organics is another .