Saturday, August 23, 2008

Home Experiments

I would like to insist that I am just your average housewife.

I do happen to brew our own beverages, make our own bread and various other pantry items and condiments myself, and I do buy nearly everything with the exception fresh produce outside of the grocery store, but really, my life is very normal. I spend too much time on the computer, live in a little upscale townhouse, rent movies from Netflix, you know, the usual. I'm your normal suburban housewife (read: I AM STILL NOT A HIPPIE!)

I say this to defend what I am about to share. Three weeks ago I was inspired to try switching to washing my hair with baking soda, and conditioning with apple cider vinegar.

When I became a mother, 3 years ago tomorrow, I was a full-time senior at a rather consuming little school in Eugene. Between the demands and wonders of new motherhood and the demands and fullness of a devoted student of great ideas, well, words like "regular" took on new meaning.

I felt like I regularly cleaned our bathroom, but my husband disagreed. Attempting regular showers somehow evened out to washing my hair about once a week. This bothered me for a good long time (though truly, I was only a wash my hair 2-3 times a week person anyway), but it was a sufficiently long time for my hair to get over hoping for anything more regular. Miraculously, the body adjusts to how much you wash it. So actually, my hair produces much less oil than women who get more "regular" showers.

Anyhow, in my attempts to be more careful about what I am really putting into my body (and the skin and scalp absorbs stuff without the benefit of digestion), I thought I would join a friend's experiment with not using shampoo. Instead I mix up a little paste of baking soda that I massage over my scalp, rinse thoroughly, and then I pour diluted apple cider vinegar over the ends as conditioner and again rinse thoroughly (this link for specific instructions).

One of the reasons this appealed to me dates all the way back to the 11th grade in Mr. Bierman's Chemistry class. We had a reading assignment about how there is no such thing as a shampoo-and-conditioner-in-one very simply because a shampoo needs to be a base to break down organic matter (grim, oil, dirt, etc) and conditioner is an acid to return pH balance to the hair. A pH neutral goo would neither wash nor condition. You would just be getting whatever benefit water combined with rubbing with some good smelly goo would do. Baking soda is a base, and vinegar an acid. Aha! Shampoo and Conditioner. Thank you Mr. Bierman - and yes, some students actually listen and retain all that stuff!

What I read about switching warned about allowing for transition time in your oil production as your scalp adjusts to not having to compensate for copious amounts of soap stripping all oil from it. I think I had a running start with my motherhood-induced self-neglect.

Here are my findings:

#1) My hair is softer to the touch, and less frizzy looking. One might want to use a description like, soft, sensuous waves. This is the hair I desperately wanted back in 11th grade.

#2) It does seem to get oily a touch sooner (perhaps a day...which on my schedule is about 1/7 earlier than normal) BUT...

#3) It is a different (more pleasant, more natural) kind of oily that is easily distributed with a good boars bristle brush. I brush twice a day and still do not have to wash it but once a week (but admittedly, I would REALLY enjoy washing twice a week, as I do like to wear my hair down and curly, and need more washings for that).

My theory is that with conventional shampoos there are additives and residues that invariably get left on my hair (I have rather porous hair as well, which is part of why I can go so long between washings). These residues actually act a little like glue, adhering oil, dirt, and dust to my head and making it look dirty faster. With nothing but my natural oils that so easily distribute, my hair looks pretty good all the time.

The husband's report:

#1) No strange smells (so, good, I was a little worried I was walking around smelling like apple cidar vinegar - NOT alluring).

#2) Very soft

#3) Looks fine - more specifically, "had not noticed a difference," but when pressed, did admit is looks less frizzy.

HURRAH! Lower maintenance (not too mention FAR less costly) with better results.
That makes a girl happy.

Experiment concluded.


  1. Washing your hair with soda and vinegar??? You are SUCH a hippie!

  2. I am so going to try this. I wish I would have looked at your hair a bit longer when I was over today...

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. alright. i'm in too. i haven't been using any conditioner for months and just that even made a difference. i usually just use any kind of shampoo with no anything in it... like literally, nothing.... but this sounds good.

  4. Awesome! I didn't know I would be joined by such good company so quickly.

    Melanie...any hippie hankerings happening? Though, I swear, this does not make one a hippie! =)

    I look forward to hearing the results. Oh, and I added a weblink in the post where I found the "recipie" and instructions. They involve a scalp massage pattern to do while washing that has been quite enjoyable as well.

  5. i don't know. after reading your friends blog about the "smell" I think I'll wait for a few other reports until diving on the bandwagon. I'm not sure the peeps at the office would like me smelling of vinegar. i hope to hear updates soon from all of my turningintohippie friends.

  6. Meg - I seriously have not personally noticed, nor has my husband (I've done this 3 times now), any vinegar smell. I think we could also get a little courageous and add some kind of essential oil to the rinse which would probably leave lingering niceness, but that's just a step back towards complicated, so I'm not there yet.
    I do understand your hesitation to take further steps towards hippiedom, and am hoping we have updates soon!

  7. I don't hair is quite oily anyway (I have to wash it every morning, seriously) and I admit I'm skeptical. I have heard lots of good things about doing this, though. Have you ever run across this site?

    There is a lot of info on there about these matters. :)

  8. I think that apple cider vinegar is the next baking soda, remember that link I sent you about using it as deodorant? I keep forgetting to try it but I still meant to, the same site talked about vinegar for your hair, woo-hoo for multitasking items!

  9. Kari - hair was oily until I neglected it for so long...but I don't necessarily recommend that either.
    I will have to check out the long hair site, I have lately been considering chopping mine off (I am basically always considering this because I haven't since I was 13)

    Sarah - Yes, it does seem there are magical properties in both baking soda and apple cider vinegar. I love the basics! I recently received a pamphlet from Portland Metro with recipes for every different household cleaner you could imagine, and it's pretty much various combinations of baking soda and various vinegars.

    Multi-tasking items that are cheap! Double Yea!

  10. My shampoo has no fragrance, because I'm allergic, but that's probably as far as I'll go, though this all sounds interesting. But see, if you were a true hippie, you wouldn't be washing your hair at all. :o) (Chopping off a bunch can be fun, I've noticed, and of course it always grows back!)