No ‘Poo and Water

April 1, 2009

I have read a lot about the “no ‘poo” movement. This is where instead of using modern shampoo, you forgo hairwashing (the most extreme option) or you wash your hair with natural alternatives like baking soda followed by a vinager rinse.

National Public Radio had a program a few weeks ago talking about this movement. Part of their report really got my attention and took my thoughts in a new direction.

The current trend of frequent shampoos may have started on May 10, 1908, when the New York Times published a column advising women that it was OK to wash their hair every two weeks. At that time, once a month was the norm.

Once a month! Can you imagine? If I go two full days without washing mine, it starts to feel on the grungy side and I usually have to wash it at the end of that second day. I have been considering the no ‘poo alternative, but have not made that particular leap.  Continuing to think about how often I wash my hair, and how I wash it, I began to think more about these women who washed once a month. I wonder how many of them had easy access to water? It is so easy for us to wash our hair now, we stand in the shower and the job is half done. Even if you wash your hair in the sink (as my mom did mine when I was a little girl) the water is there, the drain to take it away is there and of course the shampoo is there.


How much of our clean hair habits are simply due to the ease with which we can get hot water? If I had to haul water and heat it myself, I think Iwould find it much easier to go longer between washes. If part of the goal of reducing our footprint is water conservation, should less hairwashing be part of the program? If I just washed my body, and skipped my hair, (either covering it with a showercap, or just rinsing it when I rinsed the rest of me) I could probably take a three-five minute shower.

How dirty is month old hair, or even two week old hair? I don’t know, I have never gone that long without washing it. But, looking at our past, how often we bath is a cultural policy. Could we change our policy, our standard of what is ‘clean’ and what is ‘dirty’ on this one issue of hairwashing? I think for me, as long as I have water available, I will be washing at least every two days, and usually each day.  Although, it sure is interesting to think about.

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