Wednesday, January 12, 2011

No Poo

Paleo blogger Richard Nikoley of Free the Animal is perhaps most (in)famous for going shampoo- and soap-free since the middle of 2009. He showers and washes himself daily, but without the benefit of any lotions or chemicals.

After his first six months without soap and shampoo, Nikoley reported that his skin and hair "[t]ook about two weeks to normalize. That is, I felt my hair was greasy and skin oily up to then." But now, his "skin & hair have never been softer. Never. If anything, my hair is less 'greasy' than ever, yet shampoo hasn't touched it in over six months."

Nikoley's post doesn't get into why he decided to do this, but the rationale, it seems, is fairly consistent with Paleo principles. As blogger Sean Bonner put it, "[t]he thing that stuck out to me the most, and resonated with my own philosophy was that it seemed silly that we would have evolved into creatures that needed a bunch of corporately produced and marketed chemicals smeared all over our bodies everyday just to get by."

In other words, if we're totally against cramming chemically-treated, super-processed Neolithic crap into our bodies, why are we okay with rubbing it into our skin -- our bodies' largest organ? After all, most commercial shampoos and soaps are filled with "noxious but unregulated chemicals that have been linked to everything from endocrine system disruption to neurological and immune system damage."

For his part, Bonner decided to check out Nikoley's "no-poo" approach for himself. So he stopped using soap and shampoo. Now, a year later, he explained on BoingBoing that he doesn't miss the stuff at all:
[M]y skin feels better than ever before. Not that it ever felt bad, really, but it feels awesome now. Still no stink at all, I swear even when I'm really active and sweating I don't notice any B.O., and I used to be ├╝ber self-conscious about this and would think I was stinking if I walked up a flight of stairs too quickly. So this is a huge improvement for sure. And with the exception of changing climates drastically, even the dandruff is history. My previously wavy and mostly unmanageable hair now seems much more willing to bend to my will, a dream of mine since I first looked in a mirror, brush in hand, then tried and failed to make any sense of that monster. So I approve for sure.
The no-poo movement appears to be gaining some traction. Even before Nikoley embarked on his experiment, the New York Times wrote about going without shampoo, and so did MSNBC. Interestingly, the Times pointed out that in Sydney, Australia, over 85 percent of people surveyed said they didn't use shampoo. Either Australia is choking on its own B.O., or perhaps -- just perhaps -- there's something to this. (Australian readers: What's the deal? Are you smelly? Or just awesome?)

Some experts are on the no-poo bandwagon, too. As NPR has reported, it may be best to limit hair-washing to two or three times a week. The theory is that your scalp, which "likes to stay acidic,"
uses an oil called sebum to regulate its acidity. Sodium laureth sulfate, the main surfactant in most shampoos, strips the sebum away, and your scalp overproduces more to compensate, leading to greasy hair. If you stop stripping away the sebum, your scalp should produce less of it, and your hair should stay cleaner and more manageable.
I don't know. The more I look into this, the more the arguments resonate with me. Certainly, lots of people have now tried this and reported great success (and lack of stink).

But in the end, I still get the feeling that I'd be putrid within days if I tried going soapless and poo-free. And for the sake of marital harmony, I think I'd better keep lathering up for the time being.