I Went Without Shampoo And Silicones For A Month And Now I Have Mermaid Hair

I washed once a week with apple cider vinegar and baking soda, and the results were surprising, even to me! And I’ve SEEN THINGS, man.
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I washed once a week with apple cider vinegar and baking soda, and the results were surprising, even to me! And I’ve SEEN THINGS, man.

I made the decision to try going shampoo-free about a month ago. I was on holiday, and I neglected to buy shampoo, and didn’t want to use the garbage hotel crap, so I just skipped it. 

It’s not the first time I’ve had to do without; I do backcountry trips that are sweaty and rainy, and last for four or five days, and I travel around a lot. I don’t pack nonessentials. My hair will get tangled, matted, be worn as twin braids, then buns, then a hat. I can keep that up for about a month and a half. But this wasn’t Alaska; it was California and I had to be at Mass in an hour, preferably not looking like Grizzly Adams.

Is “mountain hair” a thing?

Is “mountain hair” a thing?

There was a frantic trip to Target for some Pantene (this girl is on a budget!), and then I was blowing out my hair with Biolage like there’s was no tomorrow. It was sleek and lovely until I washed it again. Then cue Frizzpocalypse.

I’ve tried going shampoo-free a few times--once when I first started college (your body’s full of toxins, man!) and again when I lived on a boat. It never worked. The first wash was fine, and the second was was gross; and then all gross, where it’s negligible that you should wash it at all. After about a week, it’s all “Dear god, someone get me some Suave Coconut Shampoo!” and I’ll throw a handful of quarters at them, because Suave is cheap as hell and smells like memories.

Which is pretty much how I recently fell off the wagon. I was riding high on the no silicone, dimethicone, sulfates--basically everything fun in hair products ever--bandwagon for years. My hair was as healthy as a nest of dead cells can be. 

But I have a problem: I love hair products. Hair products are like mascara to me; it’s all very similar, it deals with a very simple problem, and yet, I wholeheartedly believe that THIS ONE is going to be different. Every new oil/serum/treatment will unleash some secret hidden beauty in my ashy brown hair. I usually can’t even wait until I get out of the store to try them. And alas, I’ll use a product for a few weeks, until it kind of ruins my hair texture, and then I’ll stop. 

When out of the blue, regular shampoos started causing skin problems, namely hellacious backne, I quit cold turkey. I took the pious route of aloe vera juice and tea tree oil.

All of these crazy industrial chemicals build up over time, react with your natural sebum, and are pretty hard to remove. Sulfates dry and irritate your scalp, making your sebaceous glands produce too much or too little sebum. I get that having super-sleek silky-shiny hair is in, but adding silicone and dimethicone to your hair isn’t doing you any real favours. All it does is coat the hair, making it slippery and immune to humidity--which sounds great, admittedly, but it also attracts dust, air pollution and whatever other garbage is floating around in the air, weighing down your hair and making it gross. 

So the solution, one would think, is to use a good clarifying shampoo.

Most clarifying shampoos use sulfate salts, and work by stripping your hair of silicones--along with the outer keratin layer (eventually) and all the oils on your scalp. One of two things happens: they either deposit MORE silicone, or leave your hair feeling like straw. It seems obvious to follow with a heavy conditioner, which ALSO has silicones. Huzzah! You’ve just completed the cycle of slowly ruining your hair. 

It’s amazing how easy it is to care for and style hair that isn’t slathered in silicone. I am in love with the way silicone makes my hair behave--at FIRST. And I will still use it on occasion, but I’m careful to remove it and keep it out of my daily routine.

So thusly I began my route of shampoo-free. I did it entirely for 21 days, washing once a week with apple cider vinegar and baking soda. The results were surprising, even to me! And I’ve seen things, man.

Mermaid hair, for reals

Mermaid hair, for reals.

One of the big things people do wrong when they go shampoo-free, is they don’t remove all of the garbage built up in their hair first, or they remove it too well. There’s a much longer "adjustment" time if you don’t get rid of all the silicones already in your hair. 

100% Pure was sweet enough to send me their Yuzu & Pomelo Glossing Shampoo and Conditioner; it’s not only sulfate-free, but doesn’t contain any synthesized chemicals at all. It smells juicy and fresh, and left my hair clean without adding any build-up.

See how flat and straight my hair is when it’s squeaky-clean?

See how flat and straight my hair is when it’s squeaky-clean?

I looked around online for the proportions of each to get your hair clean; some beauty blogs recommended using as much as 3TB of each baking soda and vinegar to wash with, but seeing as how vinegar and baking soda contain powerful chemicals that can absolutely fry your scalp, I chose to dilute them both to 1TB to 8oz of water, massage the baking soda into my wet scalp, rinse with water, then massage in the ACV, again focusing on my scalp, and rinse really well again. There was a bit of vinegar smell, but it subsided when my hair dried.


Round 1.jpg

I’m not going to lie. Things are weird. My hair LOOKS great--it has a good texture, the natural wave is out and glorious--but the top of my head has a halo of frizzy curlies. It’s got heaps of volume, but it’s also kind of a mess. It’s staticky as hell and I wet my hair down all day, so that I looked like disgruntled fifth grader. 

About mid-point to the next wash, my hair doesn’t look bad, but it isn’t shiny. It looks and feels like I live at Bonaroo.



This time is different. I’m still not used to the baking soda rub, and I can tell where the oil from my scalp has kind of leached a few more inches towards my roots. Since I have frizzy crimpy hair, I don’t brush it at all, thus I’m not distributing the oils around. 

Once it’s dry, my hair has a pronounced wave, and looks a bit stringy, but soft overall. More volume, but it’s more like it’s pose-able than full. I put it up in a topknot for an hour, and I looked like David Bowie when I took it out.


It’s glossy even!

My ends are starting to feel dry, so I try to concentrate the vinegar on my scalp, and put the tiniest bit of 100% Pure’s Yuzu & Pomelo conditioner in my ends. My hair feels bigger, heavier. It’s really wavy, and if I even try to re-arrange it, and it gets bushy. So I don’t touch it, but it looks really great. 

Once it’s been a full day, I just have a big, wavy mess. But it’s in a good way, I think. It’s definitely shinier than before, and the conditioner helped smooth my tattered ends.

Ends Closeup.jpg


It went against everything I’ve seen in shampoo commercials. My hair is not silky; it’s huge, wavy, and shiny, and I think I like that better! It doesn’t feel gross anymore, and I’ve been going solid without silicones or shampoo for over a month! 


I’m still going to use silicones for special occasions, but I’m through completely bathing in them. I love the texture and wave my hair has now--it’s like beachy mermaid hair, all the time. 

What do you think? Does it look gross? Have you ever gone shampoo-free?