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The natural health movement has brought itself to the arena of hair care with the no poo movement. Proponents are dropping their shampoo bottles and opting for ways of cleaning hair that they believe will be healthier.

At its most basic, this means washing hair with water only, but can include:

  • Using a mixture of bicarbonate of soda and apple cider vinegar

  • Using exotic alternatives as eggs, certain types of clay, or rye flour

  • Advocates often recommend the daily use of a boar bristle brush

Followers of these methods claim that these are gentler alternatives to shampooing hair, and without harmful chemicals they claim are found in shampoos.

Let’s examine those claims.


How does shampoo work?

The major claim made by no pooers is based around the ingredients found in shampoo.

The theory is that these chemicals are actually toxic, and strip the scalp of its natural oils.

This scenario presumes the alternatives used are gentler, allowing your scalp to maintain its oils at a natural level.

However, this theory ignores how shampoo actually works.

In fact, modern shampoos are carefully formulated to be kind to your scalp.

Shampoos work by binding to the excess oils on your scalp, and dissolving them in water so they can be rinsed away.

It is actually important to remove excess oil - left unchecked, oil buildup will bind your hair in clumps, and attract dust, pollen, pollution and other dirt

Another problem with oil build-up is that it changes and becomes oxidized, breaking down into substances that smell bad and may make your scalp itchy or flaky.

Simply using the right amount with the correct frequency will prevent your scalp from being completely stripped, while keeping your hair clean and fresh.

Shampoos carry other benefits as well:

  • condition to keep your hair smooth and detangled

  • protect your scalp’s natural pH balance

  • make your hair smell great (not like apple cider vinegar!)

What about natural shampoo alternatives?

The other problem with the no poo trend lies in the alternatives used to try and keep hair clean.

The most popular natural cleaning routine is a combination of bicarbonate of soda for shampoo, and apple cider vinegar for conditioning.

Bicarbonate of soda is great for baking, but for hair it has several important drawbacks:

  • It is highly alkaline – it has a much higher pH than your skin. This means that it easily upsets the pH balance of your scalp, and may cause irritation.

The imbalance created by using it regularly may actually damage your hair

  • It is not a good oil absorber or an effective cleaner- leaving behind a lot of the dust, dirt, and odor that shampoo removes

Apple cider vinegar is an acid; it has a lower pH than your skin.

So far, there is no real evidence that it has any benefit to the hair. Because it’s acidic, it may help to dissolve mineral deposits from hard water on hair surface, but it could also disrupt your skin’s natural pH balance and lead to irritation. 

Other alternatives bring their own problems too.

Eggs can coat your hair with far too much protein, while clays are ineffective at removing dirt and oils properly.



How to keep hair clean

Without a doubt modern shampoos are still the best way to keep hair clean and healthy.

If you do still suffer from oily scalp even with shampoo, don’t dig into the kitchen cupboard- just choose the right shampoo for oily hair.

These are specifically formulated to clean deep and remove oils for a clean you can really feel.

Aside from that advice, using the right amount of shampoo is important:

  • A cherry tomato sized amount for short or thin hair

  • A walnut sized amount for longer and thicker hair

This will help keep your hair healthy, your shampoo will last longer, and you won’t have to figure out what to do about eggshells in the shower.

See our test: Natural remedies vs Head & Shoulders

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