I hit peak hippie.

Last week, I hit peak hippie. Actually, that’s probably a lie. I suspect there’s a lot worse more to come. It all started a few weeks ago. As I stood in the shower, mindlessly reaching my hand into the soap dish that usually holds my shampoo bar, I froze. My fingers, instead of wrapping themselves around said shampoo bar in all its creamy goodness, floated mid-air for a moment, before reaching the cold ceramic sign of emptiness. Uh-oh. I suddenly remembered I used up the very last slimy shreds of shampoo the previous day and forgot to buy a new bar. After a few moments of horrifying panic and difficulty breathing – I mean, I was wet and naked and deprived, is there a place where we are more vulnerable than in the shower? – my crisis management skills, acquired through years of dysfunctional family childhood trauma, kicked in. It was as if the gods themselves replaced brain fog with clarity, and I confidently decided upon a new course of action: I’d wash my hair with a regular soap bar. Living on the edge, baby! Oh yeah.

Let me tell you, this was a life-changing experience. Truly. In case the sarcasm isn’t obvious, it wasn’t. But it did make me wonder. Why do we using shampoo for our hair and soap for our bodies? Did my grandparents use shampoo when they were growing up, or was there a multi-purpose product? Why is it that for house cleaning, I make do with a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap, white vinegar, and baking soda, but that I need a different product for each of my bodily cleaning needs? I’ve long sworn off shaving cream and I loathe conditioner – I cannot stand how it makes my hair feel, and I’d much rather dryness than conditioned hair – but I’d never questioned shampoo.

That’s not to say I haven’t thought about shampoo before. I stopped buying shampoo in plastic bottles ages ago. There’s a wide selection of shampoo bars out there and they’re just as good as the bottled variety, so it simply doesn’t make sense to stick with single use plastic bottles. And why would we want to use chemical-laden products if there are plenty of other alternatives? I’m not a purist – frankly, I’m not disciplined enough to be one, and I’m pretty sure that if it weren’t for chemicals, most of us would be dead. The question for me is one of necessity and of consequences. The products we wash down the drain don’t disappear into thin air. They end up in local waterways, in the soil we grow our food in, and in our food and water. Not to mention the plastic that ends up in our fish and tapwater. I don’t have a whole lot of knowledge about how this works – and because this is a blog and not a piece of academic writing I don’t have to! hah! – but there’s a certain logic here. 

Anyway. I decided to try washing my hair with the Dr. Bronner’s soap I use for body and house cleaning. People rave about how it works for everything and since it’s a gentle castille soap, what harm could it do? It’s recommended that you dilute it, and that you rinse your hair with diluted apple cider vinegar afterwards. After a ten day experiment, let me save you the trouble of trying this for yourself: it does not work. Do not try this at home. It makes your hair absolutely disgusting. The ‘council-shut-off-the-water-on-our-street-for-three-weeks-without-telling-us’ kind of disgusting. The internet is a big, fat liar.

Back to the drawing board, it was. I read something about the ‘no poo’ movement, where people swear off shampoo altogether and wash their hair with plain water and a lot less often. It is true, most of us wash our hair too (too judgemental?) very often. As a child I washed mine once a week. As a teenager, mostly through peer pressure, I upgraded to twice a week. These days, I do it every day or every other day, depending on how lazy I am or if I have to leave the house. We all know that the more we wash our hair, the more oil it produces and the dirtier it looks. But how do we get back from that…

As with everything, there are the die-hards, and there are those who have no self-discipline take a more moderate approach. I discovered that washing your hair with baking soda and rinsing with apple cider vinegar is a thing, so I gave that a try. The big, fat internet liar showed me some horror stories, but there are horror stories about every single thing (apart from using Dr. Bronner’s soap as shampoo, of course) if you search for them, so I chose to ignore them. And, you know, it’s hair. It’s not my liver or my heart I’m playing with. It’ll survive. And if it doesn’t, it’ll grow back. 1 part of baking soda to 3 or 4 parts of water, same thing for the apple cider vinegar. Pour some of the baking soda mixture onto the roots of your hair, not the ends, and massage your scalp. It doesn’t foam, but you get to used to that. Leave it in for 30 seconds while you do something else – shave your armpits, give a rendition of My Heart Will Go On – and rinse. Gently pour the apple cider vinegar mixture over your head, briefly massage your scalp, leave it in for 30 seconds – you might like to switch to Total Eclipse of the Heart here – and rinse.

I’ve been doing this for a little over two weeks now, and I must say that I like how my hair feels. I think it also looks decent – you may disagree but, honestly, I don’t care. I’ve also been trying to wash it less often, which means that I’m learning to sit with the dirt. Then again, the Dr. Bronner’s debacle trained me for this – everything happens for a reason…

Have I completely lost my mind? Quite possibly. This may not be your thing, but it works for me. It’s part of the process of reflecting on the little things I do every day, and of asking questions: Why do I do this? Is it what I want to do? Can it be done differently, in more simple ways? What it comes down to, to end on a cliché, is that there are some types of dirt I’m not willing to sit with.

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