Do You Need Shampoo?
Everyone loves bubbles

I don’t generally trust the Daily Mail, and in fact usually try to avoid it.  But I couldn’t miss a fascinating story about falling shampoo sales.  It seems that last year some of the big brands lost as much as 11% of their sales.  What is going on?  The Mail of course is never short of opinions and is quick to form judgements.  The headline was that women who work from home don’t bother to wash their hair.  Right.  It must be the lazy trollops.  What else could it be?

Well as I am not a journalist I tend to like sticking things likes facts, evidence and actual research.  So maybe there has been a big decline in female grooming recently.  But I think there are other possible explanations, and ones that even seem to be a bit more likely.   Women do seem to be wearing their hair a bit longer at the moment, so need to shampoo less frequently.  But there has also been a move towards simply not using shampoo.  This was something I picked up on last year and investigated.  I wrote the account below in July 2016, but decided it wasn’t really interesting enough to put up as a blog post.  But rereading it, along with the fact that not shampooing seems to be becoming something of a trend I have decided to put it out after all.

“Like most people I have continuously shampooed my hair since as long as I can remember. Unlike most people I usually use a shampoo that I have developed myself. This means that I am probably a bit more aware of what is going on in the hair washing process. So I think about the trade offs between foaming, cleansing and irritation. But my own formula is a very conventional one, that could easily be on the shelf of any supermarket.

The formulator of a shampoo has a balancing act between three competing objectives. If you want a lot of foam you are not going to get a lot of cleaning . Also the more foam you have , the more irritating is going to be.

But it occurred to me a while back, while reading the account of someone who had given up personal care products altogether, that I had never really thought about why exactly i use shampoo at all . I thought it was to keep my hair grease free . And it was certainly the case that if i did not shampoo my hair it got more greasy . So I had always sort of assumed that if i didn’t shampoo it would just get more and more greasy and more and more unmanageable . So i decided to give it to try . Four weeks ago i stopped using shampoo instead i simply what should my hair with water at First the effects were exactly what i had expected . My hair got greasier and less manageable. But after that it didn’t get any worse. It tended to acquire a shape early in the day and stick to it. But it didn’t look too bad and as long as I combed it before it dried it generally looked okay.

I still think I prefer shampooed hair to un-shampooed hair. The greasy feel wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting but it still wasn’t quite how I liked it. The revelation though was that my scalp felt much less itchy. I think the skin on my scalp is in much better condition than it has been for some time.

In one sense I already knew this because I was well aware that shampoos are a compromise between irritancy and foaming. You pay for those bubbles. But knowing something in the abstract is not the same as actually experiencing it first hand.

So my conclusion from this little experiment is that shampoo isn’t quite as necessary to my life as I thought it was. I could live without it and not be much worse off. And in fact in terms of how good my scalp feels I would be better off without it. I don’t think I am going to keep this experiment up though. I still enjoy the sensation of working up a lather, and I still prefer the feel of completely clean grease free hair. But I am going to cut down on the number of times I use it. And I may well experiment with different formulations to see if I can come up with one that is a bit friendlier to my scalp.”

In fact since I wrote that I have reverted to my old habits more or less completely.  I have had a pretty hectic six months and haven’t had much time to think.  But I still intend to come up with a milder formulation for my own personal use at some  point in the future.

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