Submitted Date 04/19/2019

Late in 2016, I was killing time on YouTube, as one does. I can't recall how I came across it now, but somehow I landed on a video about the "No 'Poo Challenge" (I thought it was Rebekah Borucki's channel, BexLife, but for the life of me, I can't find it now). Completely misinterpreting the title, I clicked on it thinking to myself that not "pooing" was probably unhealthy. As it turns out, the challenge is about not using shampoo. The concept interested me, so I decided I'd give it a shot.

The idea behind this "no 'poo" situation is that it's much healthier for your hair. In the process of shampooing and conditioning, we strip off the hair's natural oils and replace them with synthetic moisturizers. The natural oil, what our body produces to keep that hair nice and soft, does a good job of that when left to its own devices. You simply rinse your hair regularly and sometimes use vinegar to condition it. So, the idea isn't to totally neglect your hygiene but to cut out unnecessary product. From an ecological standpoint, you wouldn't be throwing away scores of plastic bottles each month. From an economic standpoint, you could save money by not giving it to Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, or Johnson & Johnson. From a compassion standpoint, all of those brands test their products on animals. So, save an ecosystem, save money, and save a bunny.

My hair at the time was in bad shape. I'd shaved half of my head and the other half was a wild combo of bleached blonde, orange, and teal, with a little bit of my dark roots showing. It's not a hairstyle one can recover from easily. Knowing that I was about to spend seven months living on a private island, I decided to shave my head completely and let my hair grow out. I figured that nobody was going to see me anyway, so why not? A couple of days before I left for my island internship, I took an electric clipper and buzzed my hair down to a quarter inch. Honestly, it didn't look half bad and it felt great.

For the entire year of 2017, I neither shampooed nor cut my hair. Early the next year, I got a trim and started shampooing again. My hair was now six inches long and back to its natural color (which is apparently salt and pepper). But, the no 'poo challenge wasn't working for me. My hair was sticky, despite vinegar rinses and baking soda treatments. It stuck up at all angles. My comb was…let's just say it's not something you'd want to look at, let alone run through your hair.

After watching all of those YouTube women show off their healthy non-shampooed tresses, I had expected to end up with luxurious locks. What I got was a gross mess. My hair was healthy, soft, and had no split ends. That part was great. It was not, however, worthy of a Pantene commercial. So, why didn't it work?

There are a few key points in this experiment I think may have been the culprits. First of all, I am of Greek/Italian heritage. If you've ever seen footage of Giorgio A. Tsoukalos from Ancient Aliens, we basically have the same hair (why do all the Greeks in showbiz seem crazy)? The point is, my hair is very, very thick. It's wavy and it pretty much does what it likes. Sure, "thick and wavy" sounds nice until you wake up looking like you're going to spout crazy extraterrestrial theories every morning. Maybe if I had thinner hair, the natural oils in it wouldn't make it so stiff. It's also possible that my sebaceous glands produce much more oil than women with other types of hair. Wikipedia tells me, "The thicker the hair, the more the number of sebaceous glands there are."

Those two seem pretty likely, but it might not be my hair's fault at all. I did live in a hot, humid, salty-aired environment for seven months. I'm pretty sure the YouTube ladies spent most of their time in their air-conditioned yoga studios (did that sound bitter)? I was laboring in the sun, hauling feed bags and cleaning up lemur poo. There's also the distinct possibility that I went about the whole thing all wrong. After all, I watched one video and what I got from it was, "cut out the commercial hair care products and just rinse." I was so Gung Ho about it that I didn't do much in the way of research before trying it out.

I'm back to using shampoo and conditioner now, although I don't use it EVERY time I shower. Sadly, when I can find cruelty free products, their prices aren't exactly competitive. So, I make up for it by not buying as much. The condition of my hair is probably helped by the fact I don't blow dry it, never take a curling or flat iron to it, and have stopped torturing it with bleach and dye. It's true I'm a little self-conscious about the veins of silver running through it these days, but I've only gotten compliments as far as the color is concerned. I could definitely use a haircut too, but I'm not in a position to pay the $200 price I'm accustomed to. Those discount barbers never seem to work out for me and having a terrible haircut is so embarrassing that I'd rather just have messy hair.

If you're thinking about giving the "No 'Poo Challenge" a shot, I don't want to discourage you. There's no harm I can think of in trying out a shampoo-free month or two. The nice thing about hair is that you can easily cut it off, wash it, and try something new. But, if it doesn't quite work for you, just know that it's not a universal solution. You will still have saved the money and the bunny for a bit.



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  • Tomas Chough 4 years, 5 months ago

    I went through a very similar experience! Also did this for about a year and the same thing happened. Now I use shampoo every other time I shower, or something like that. I still find it better than using it all the time. It was great to read your experience and alleviating to know I wasn't the only one. I really wanted to find out if I'd done something wrong or if my hair was just weird, lol. Thanks a lot for sharing Jen!

    • Jen Parrilli 4 years, 5 months ago

      Maybe you're like me - #GreekhairDontcare. LOL

  • No name 4 years, 5 months ago

    I wash my hair maybe twice a week, especially since I bleach it regularly, and I've found it is so much better off than it used to be. Everyone's hair is different! I use a special oil after I shower too to help hydrate it a bit. I also cut it myself but that's because I just love having fun with hair and remembering it grows back. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jen Parrilli 4 years, 5 months ago

      I like to cut my bangs myself. I don't trust myself to get the rest of it even. Your hair looks awesome! And I'm a fan of the Harry Potter ink. :)

  • Jared Clawson 4 years, 5 months ago

    Very interesting! My hair has always seemed to not be the healthiest and I've always considered trying new things. Thanks for sharing!

  • Miranda Fotia 4 years, 5 months ago

    My hair is pretty thick too, so I don't think it would work well for me either. Great piece! Glad you shared your experience so I don't have to try it :)

    • Jen Parrilli 4 years, 5 months ago

      Thanks! I picked up a shampoo brush from Bed, Bath, & Beyond a couple of years ago and it's been really great for my thick hair. I recommend getting one if you haven't already, they really help work in the soap.