“Every woman likes to have her hair not only daintily and becomingly arranged, but soft and glossy in appearance and texture…,” claims an article published in the New York Times in 1908, titled “How to Shampoo the Hair” (The History of Shampoo.) This article also apparently recommended shampooing to be “accomplished” about once per month, suggesting that it was a time-consuming, deeply-involved ritual, possibly even necessitating the assistance of others. Only more recently did cleansing the hair with liquid soap become a simple and daily “lather, rinse, repeat,” affair. I would presume that this evolution was perpetuated by scientific research regarding the chemical components of soap, combined with the developing socially-conditioned expectations of women in the 19th and 20th century regarding their roles and appearances.
So, if women in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s only shampooed once per month, does that mean they were just a bunch of filthy tree huggers?
[SKIP THE NITTY-GRITTY: go directly to my Simplify Shampoo solution.]
I can’t quite recall the exact year that I began substituting baking soda for commercial shampoo, but I’m thinking it was about 2011, which would coincide with the beginning of my Prescott College career (this would make sense, given that that many people associate Prescott Collete with granola, dirtbag climbers, dreadlocks, weed, and hula-hooping hippies.) But making choices that benefit your own health or the health of the environment do not make you a dirty hippie. I am eager to dispel such connotations.
There are still a number of reasons why I choose to continue utilizing baking soda today. Below I’d like to explore some of the reasons why a consumer might make this change.
Why You May Want to No-Poo
Pay $2.24 on four pounds of Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda, versus $4.00 on a 12.6 ounce bottle of Pantene Pro-V Daily Moisture Renewal Hydrating Shampoo (that’s less than $0.04 per ounce of baking soda, versus about $0.32 per oz of shampoo.) These figures are based on WalMart online prices.
Avoid harmful chemicals that are damaging to your health
It is my understanding that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not regulate the formulation of shampoos or their ingredients. According to the FDA, the laws are determined by an item’s intended use, and shampoo is not intended to be ingested. However, skin absorption is a very major route of entry for chemicals, and shampoos often contain culprits such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, parebens, toxic fragrances and Polyethylene Glycol (Minton.) For a simple breakdown of these specific substances, check out the helpful article, 5 Toxic Chemicals Probably Found in Your Shampoo.
Avoid harmful chemicals that are damaging to the environment
Toxins from shampoos going down your drain pose threats to your environment and your water supply. Water treatment systems don’t have the capabilities to magically diminish chemicals in our drinking water, such as phthalates, which interfere with the body’s hormones (Polluting the Water). This is an intricate topic upon which many, many books and volumes could attempt to tackle, and I’m certainly not qualified to get too extensive here.
Avoid using products tested on animals
When I was probably about 10 years old, I jumped on the ol’ PETA bandwagon and started boycotting products that were tested on animals. Many shampoos are. Although I haven’t revisited this topic in probably 15 years, I am not surprised to find comprehensive resources on their website today. Check out Beauty Without Bunnies: Search for Cruelty-Free Cosmetics, Personal-Care Products, and More
I am going to share with you how I use baking soda for shampoo. It’s incredibly simple, and this is generally how I have been doing it for the past three or four years (ish.)
So, here we go.
- Purchase pure baking soda from your local grocer.
- Take one of the jars from your recycling!
- In said jar, combine baking soda with water, a little at a time, trying to maintain a pate-like consistency. I have no precise formula for this. It is up to your discretion, and I have faith in you.
- Begin using your new baking soda paste in place of shampoo. Be prepared for your hair to enter a transition period; you may feel that your locks are extra oily at first, but don’t panic, as your hair merely needs a bit of time to adapt, since it is physiologically addicted to the chemicals in shampoo and will therefore present withdrawal symptoms.
I will admit that my research into baking soda itself is sadly minimal. Since I’ve just come to this realization during the course of writing this article, I will look into the situation and follow up with my findings.
What are your thoughts? Comments, concerns, criticism, anecdotes, horror stories? I encourage you to comment, share this article, or even contact me directly, as I want this to be an open discussion rather than another addition to the preachy how-you-should-do-things genre on the web.
Until next time,
“Is It a Cosmetic, a Drug, or Both? (Or Is It Soap?).” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 30 Apr. 2012. Web. Accessed 16 Jan. 2016.
Minton, Barbara. “5 Toxic Chemicals Probably Found in Your Shampoo.” Natural Society. 15 Dec. 2014. Web. Acessed 16 Jan. 2016.
“Polluting The Water With Toothpaste, Shampoo, And Drugs.” InvestigateWest. 12 Sept. 2012. Web. Accessed 16 Jan. 2016.
“The History of Shampoo.” Random History. 19 July 2008. Web. Accessed 16 Jan. 2016.