I stopped using shampoo over a year ago, and my hair has never looked or felt better
As I’ve collected advice on how to manage my semi-curly hair over the years, I’ve learned to obey a long list of “don’ts.” I don’t brush. I don’t blow-dry. I don’t heat-style. I definitely don’t dare wash my hair every day. But the newest addition to my “don’t” list—which is probably the most controversial and game-changing—is that I don’t shampoo my hair either. Though it might sound like the opposite of hygiene, I can honestly say that my hair has never been so clean or looked better.
Forgoing shampoo is a haircare technique that many people with wavy and curly hair texture have been following for years, but it’s one that I only got clued into a few months ago when a friend introduced me to the Curly Girl Method. The Curly Girl Method comes from a book—nay, a bible—called Curly Girl: The Handbook by Lorraine Massey. At the center of Massey’s cult-followed method is something called “co-washing” which suggests only washing your hair with conditioner. And among that, there are a lot of rules, and you guessed it, plenty more “don’ts.”
In addition to the “don’ts” that I had already incorporated into my anti-routine over the years, there’s a long list of ingredients that all Curly Girl Method followers are instructed to avoid like the plague. This includes various sulfates, silicones, mineral oils, waxes, and drying alcohols that you should never allow in your hair products. All the -cones, -xanes, and -ates can be overwhelming, but it’s less important to remember every single ingredient on the “don’t-use” list and far more helpful to understand why they can be problematic.
It all boils down to this: Many of the ingredients commonly found in shampoos can damage, dry, and weigh down your hair, even if they’re advertised to do the exact opposite.
Even though sulfates are intended as “cleansing” ingredients in shampoos, they can end up stripping your hair of its natural oils, making it drier, frizzier, and more prone to breakage. Other ingredients on the “baddies” list, like many silicones and waxes, can leave a coating on your hair and cause buildup since they’re non-water soluble, meaning they won’t wash out with just water.
I quickly learned that this buildup from non-water soluble ingredients is the reason why my hair had never truly felt clean in the past. It didn’t matter how much I lathered, rinsed, and repeated, there was always a greasy zone in the back middle of my head that simply wouldn’t go away. But after about a month of co-washing (this was my “transition hair” period) my scalp started to feel clean and completely buildup-free for the first time ever.
After I wash my hair now, all I can feel is how my conditioner (I use the As I Am Coconut CoWash) leaves my locks moisturized without the grease of leftover product. And because my hair is no longer weighed down by excess product and buildup, my curls are much bouncier and more able to take shape. Per the Curly Girl Method, which I’ve mostly learned about from very dedicated Facebook groups, it’s important that your styling products also abide by the don’t-use list so that you can avoid damage at buildup with every step of your routine. To style my hair and help give my curls some more definition, I use the Aussie Instant Freeze Gel.
If you’re thinking about ditching the shampoo and trying out the CG-approved lifestyle, you can shop the products I use below.
As I Am Coconut CoWash
Shop it! $6.95, amazon.com
Aussie Instant Freeze Gel
Shop it! $7.20, amazon.com
Because of the emphasis on a buildup-free moisture treatment, co-washing can be especially beneficial for wavy and curly textures, which tend to be more naturally dry. But I also believe that anyone, no matter your hair type, can benefit from learning a bit more about the ingredients in your products and what they really do.