Laura Schocker of The Huffington Post recently asked the question Is It Healthier To Skip Washing Your Hair?
Schocker was addressing the No Poo hair cleansing movement which in reality is nothing new. Long hair fanatics have been advocating no poo, diluted poo, conditioner only (CO) cleansing, water only (WO) rinsing and home made dry shampoo remedies forever.
I remember having a long conversation in 1999 about the merits of no poo and diluted poo versus CO with my long haired friend Dave Decker, who has long tresses which extend beyond his knees.
No Shampoo Of Any Kind For Six Months
I personally started experimenting with all of the various doctored poo options even before Curly Hair Guru Lorraine Massey wrote her first book on naturally curly hair care. In fact, when I met Lorraine in Dallas right after her first book was published we shared no poo and low poo stories.
The longest I have gone without using any type of shampoo no my own hair is six months. Of course that doesn't mean that I didn't do regular and consistent water only washes, conditioner only washes and a range of dry shampoo sessions with home made recipes consisting of cornstarch, oat bran, oat meal and even flour.
Note: Please don't ever use baby powder or similar powders since they often contain ingredients which can be toxic when inhaled.
Creating Your Own Customized No Poo Program
Ultimately everyone has to find their own best cleansing methodology for their scalp and hair. I personally prefer a diluted poo program which involves cleansing my hair once every 7-10 days with a diluted formulation of my favorite Phyto or Rene Furterer shampoo.
My own formula? 1 teaspoon if shampoo mixed with 1 gallon of lukewarm water and shaken into a sudsy foam which I drizzle over the top of my very wet head.
Every 2-3 days I use water only (WO) or conditioner only (CO) to keep my scalp clean.
Even though I only cleanse my hair with diluted shampoo every 7-10 days, the rest of the wash cycle I utilize a variety of methods to keep my hair looking nice. I also have very long hair which is conducive to a wide range of knots, braids and twists.
Dr. Amy McMichael's Recommendations
Schocker interviewed Amy McMichael, M.D., a dermatologist at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina about the No Poo philosophy. Dr. McMichael explained that "the scalp and the hair are two different entities -- the scalp is the "living part," which needs to be cleansed of oils to stay healthy, while the hair is the "dead part" that can become dried out after washing with a too-harsh shampoo."
"By no means do I think it's a necessity of health to wash your hair ever day," McMichael says, explaining that the habit has developed more out of our hygiene culture of "good smells" than of any real necessity. Yet that doesn't necessarily mean the opposite is true. "I don't know that there's any scientific basis that washing the hair less is more healthy either."
Dr. McMichael noted that women of Hispanic descent tend to wash their hair less often, as it's typically on the thicker side. She also pointed out that African American women will often report only needing to wash their hair once every one to two weeks. People with oiler, thinner hair are usually the ones who become more frequent washers.
Which goes back to my comment that everyone needs to find the best cleansing program for their hair type, texture, overall hair condition and lifestyle.
No Poo Does Not Mean Never Washing Your Hair
Hard core long hair fanatics as well as natural texture fans understand that No Poo hair cleansing programs don't necessarily mean never using shampoo again. To them it means finding a cleansing program which addresses the needs to keep the scalp free of oil build-up and minimizing the drying, damaging aspects of harsh detergent laden shampoos on the rest of the hair.
A No Poo Program may mean that someone doesn't use full strength shampoo on a regular basis, if ever. Culr expert Lorraine Massey told me personally that she never uses shampoo. Which is why she developed her own Loo Poo formulations. She still cleanses her hair utilizing her own perfect program for keeping her scalp and strands in tip top shape.
Will A No Poo Program Stunt Your Hair Growth?
While No Poo is often an important step towards improving the health of long or naturally texture hair, some experts suggest that this type of hair and scalp cleansing program can slow or stunt natural hair growth.
Men and women with long and/or naturally textured hair often switch to a no poo program to encourage healthy, faster growing hair. Obviously if a no poo program stunts natural hair growth this would mean that a no poo cleansing program was counterproductive.
George Costarellis, M.D. a dermatologist and director of the University of Pennsylvania Hair and Scalp Clinic warns that people with dandruff will find that not washing hair just makes the problem worse. He also says that skipping the lather may also stunt hair growth.
Removing Dead Hair Can Stimulate Growth
Why? Dr. Costarellis says "If you take it to the extreme and you don't wash your hair for a week or so, the dead hairs will accumulate in the scalp." He says that getting that dead hair out can stimulate new hair to grow in. He noted he's also seen patients who have gone so long without cleansing that the hair has become matted to a point where it needs to be cut out.
Dr. Costarellis makes a good point. Regardless of the No Poo Program you develop for your own hair, it's important to detangle hair with a hair friendly boar bristle brush, comb or your fingers every single day to make sure that knots and snarls do not develop.
Another advantage to keeping hair completely detangled and smooth is that it keeps the oil from the scalp flowing down towards the ends. A trick our ancestors had down pat since they often went several weeks between shampoo sessions.
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