Monday, November 08, 2010

Shiny, Happy Hair

Heading for the shower on Saturday morning, I armed myself with a box of baking soda/ bicarb and a bottle of apple cider vinegar. Diluting them as per the recommended dose of one tablespoon to a cup of warm water, I shook them up in old shampoo bottles and stepped in to the rush of hot water to try out this crazy idea of replacing shampoo and conditioner altogether with these more mundane ingredients.

After I read about shampoo-free hair care on Simple Mom last week and got all enthusiastic about it, there was a little resistance to the idea from my husband, who can’t stand the smell of vinegar and isn’t over the moon at my brilliant discovery of vinegar as a surface cleaner. He was worried he would no longer be able to hug his wife without feeling nauseous. Middle Daughter was fascinated by the idea and attended the hair-washing experiment in person, a useful audience as I was able to get her to sniff for any vinegar residue after rinsing!

I’m pleased to announce that the experiment was a resounding success! The bicarb felt a bit strange as I massaged it in instead of shampoo, like water in consistency but just slightly squeaky. Then the vinegar rinse went on and I could immediately feel my hair getting smoother and shinier. The best thing was that it rinsed off completely, leaving not a trace of vinegar smell, even while still wet, and my husband’s fear s were groundless. He was able to hug me as much as he wanted!

Overall, once dry, my hair was softer and shinier than after shampooing even with conditioner. My scalp hasn’t had any dry flaky skin at all for the two days since, whereas usually it does immediately after shampooing. My hair is a bit floppier than usual, but that is a good thing, as it tends to bush out rather after shampooing now it’s layered and only gets shiny and smooth after several days, when it is about time to wash again.

The girls were so impressed by the results that all three kids tried it themselves at hairwash time yesterday and they also have nice soft shiny hair today, which is easier to comb.

So apart from the fact that it seems to work better than shampoo and conditioner for us, why give up conventional shampoo in favour of some basic kitchen ingredients?

1. It’s natural. Shampoos are full of goodness knows what chemicals and fragrances, all of which we are rubbing into our scalps and possibly absorbing through our skin. We use shampoo to strip away our natural oils and then conditioner to try and replicate the effect of the oils. Baking soda just cleans without stripping and vinegar balances out the ph of your hair and scalp.

2. It’s very cheap. Shampoo and conditioner for the whole family can get quite expensive, whereas this way we are just using a small amount of cheap ingredients that we already have in the house.

3. Better for the environment and sustainable. The fewer complex chemical products that we need to use in our homes and flush away down the drains, the better for our local environment and for the whole planet.

You can read much more about it here if you want more details of shampoo-free hair-care. As for us, we’ll be carrying on the experiment and I’m going to try out some herb rinses to alternate with the vinegar; rosemary first for me and maybe chamomile for the girls.


  1. Hi There! Just found your blog today! I too live in SA! Thanks for the hair is crazy here- so dry and brittle and falling out :(

  2. This is interesting. I do worry when I read ingredient lists on shampoo.

  3. I use either African black soap or a shampoo bar (currently using one based on olive oil made by Lloyds Winery in South Australia) on my hair. No need for conditioner. My hairdresser has given up trying to sell me products!

  4. What a great idea - thanks for sharing your experiment. My mom always cleaned the floors using vinegar, and I use it as a cleaner as well. Lemon is also a great grease cutter. I will have to try this out for myself.

    I hope you're still enjoying your strawberry and youngberry harvest and are making delicious things. It has turned cold here. :(

  5. Do try it, We're definitely going to keep up with it - my hair still looks good after five days, so I'm happy!
    The strawberries and youngberries are keeping me fairly busy, what with picking and preparing - the shelves now nearly full of jam and I've been making strawberry tarts for school cake sales... now just need to photograph them to put on the blog!

  6. This does sound interesting. I wonder how it will work on color-treated hair...

    I also have to find out what to do with the baking soda and etc.

    Off to check your links!

    Thanks Kit!

  7. I am intrigued by this shampoo less haircare regime, having read about it on numerous blogs. Do keep us updated on how it's going - maybe I'll scrape up the courage one of these days to try it myself.

  8. Marisa, We're still all of us carrying on with it. Even my husband has taken to it despite hating the smell of vinegar!
    My hair is so much better now than with shampoo that I keep flicking my hair like the women in the shampoo ads because it's sooo soft and shiny!!

  9. Hi!
    I live in Johannesburg! I am using the bicarbs and vinegar for about a month now however my hair is extremely thick and curly and it looks like a 'lapa' roof with frizz. I only wear bollas these days and I hate it as I love to wear my hear down and curly. I used to scrunch hobbels of mousse into it. Do you have any recommendations?

    1. Hi, there are some good troubleshooting suggestions in this post:

      Perhaps experiment with some of the herb tea rinses mentioned in that article. Otherwise coconut oil is great for dry/damaged hair, or itchy scalps.


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!