I’ve been pooless for almost a week. I know, I know, who would have thought that I would do it? I’m sure if my friends knew, they wouldn’t know what to make of it. Even when my daughter called and I told her that I’d been pooless for several days, there was a surprised silence for several moments. In fact, I’ve been around friends, on a consultation job, and out shopping, and no one noticed. I was proud enough of my resolve to reveal my poolessness to a group of teachers who had just completed a 2-hour tour of Finch Frolic Garden last Saturday. After all the cool permaculture things I’d been showing them, their looks of astonishment were no surprise to me.
Why have I gone pooless? Because I’ve heard about how good it is for your skin, your hair and how it combats allergies. It is also inexpensive and easy on the greywater system.
Going without shampoo has been an interesting experiment.
The term ‘going pooless’ was popularized by permies.com lecturer Paul Wheaton. He has a podcast and discussion board about it here if you’d like to hear his and a woman’s year-long account of going soapless, as well as many other comments from people who have been soapless, shampooless and deodorantless for years.
The reason for going pooless is that we shampoo far too much. Shampoo strips away all the natural oils along with the dirt, and then we put more (usually expensive) gook on our hair to make it soft and shiny again. All that gook has lots of harmful chemicals, additives and scents. Commercial shampoos and soaps are dramatically linked to exema and other severe skin problems, allergies, and even migraines. I know several people who have to have ultraviolet treatment on their skin to keep psoriasis in check. One of these people is a clean fanatic, and another dyes her hair and wears a lot of makeup and perfume. I’ve mentioned going pooless or soapless to several people with skin problems, but they’d rather go on doing what they’ve always been doing.
Last week a good friend cut my hair (for barter) and it is short. It had been long enough that I’d been using a little hairspray to keep it out of my face and even when I washed my hair there was a residual product feeling to it. I washed my hair with Dr. Bronner’s castile peppermint soap, and still feeling some product I rinsed with diluted apple cider vinegar. That left my hair soft and clean. I always wash my hair in my morning shower. I continued to do that but instead of using shampoo, just vigorously rinsed it with plain water. This was a challenging time to do this because we entered a heat wave with temperatures rising over 100F, and I gardened, weed-whipped and sweated all through it. I also have the tendency to run my fingers through my hair.
The first couple of days I noticed no difference in my hair after rinsing. Gradually over the weekend my hair began to feel heavier, but it didn’t look greasy (I have oily skin type). I had heard that some people with straight hair who went pooless actually ended up with wavy hair – this was a strong motivator for me, but I’m out of luck. Yesterday I worked in the morning for several hours in the heat outdoors with a hat on, then dragged myself through my shopping chores. I encountered some challenging people and wasn’t in a great mood in the evening. I really like clean hair, too, and my hair was going through the transition stage of adapting to natural oils. It didn’t feel right. So this morning I rinsed it as usual, but also used a very tiny bit of natural shampoo for a quick rinse. I felt guilty about abandoning my project, but when I got out of the shower my hair still felt as if the natural oils were there, but my hair felt lighter. I didn’t strip it, but probably got rid of some extra oil from the extremely hot days. There is an adjustment period with going pooless. After some time your hair adjusts to absorbing the natural oils and then levels out and looks and feels great. Many European women rinse their hair and rub olive oil into it, leaving it in their hair. Their hair is luxurious. Allowing your own body’s oil to do the same thing is even better.
The purpose of soap is just to break the surface tension of water (surfactant) so that water penetrates better. All the rest of the stuff in soap is extra. Some of it can be good, like the addition of oatmeal to soothe skin or pieces of lavender to exfoliate. Many plants – like soapwort – are surfactants. We don’t need to use the harsh chemicals that are in most soaps to do the job. In fact, we really don’t need the soap at all except occasionally. If you don’t want to just rinse your hair with water but would like a more natural solution, dissolve some baking soda in water and use that the way you would soap. Your hair will feel sticky and tangly. Then rinse your hair with diluted apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar). Your hair will be soft, shiny, smooth and lovely because the acid will have neutralized the alkaline baking soda. A vinegar rinse every now and then helps strip product out of your hair anyway.
Going without deodorant or soap are two other venues to investigate, especially if you have any kind of skin issues or recurring headaches. Read some of the testimonials on the permies.com podcast page, or elsewhere on the Internet. Or use more natural ingredients to see what works for you.
I will continue to go pooless, with an occasional light sudsing from a natural shampoo when I feel the need, but I’ll be careful not to strip out the natural oil. If anyone compliments me on my hair, I will be proud to advertise my poolessness!