Ooh Witchy Woman

I’m almost always down for an experiment. Much more of a “Dare” kid than a “Truth” kid. In high school my friends and I would sometimes go to school in prom dresses for no reason just to see how people would react, or see who could make sustained eye contact with a stranger for the longest amount of time. Yeah, we were those kids.

I have marveled at and envied A.J. Jacobs, who committed to “The Year of Biblical Living.” I’ve nodded along with Maria Dahvana Headley’s “The Year of Yes,” during which she agreed to go on one date with everyone who asked her out. I’ve cut off my ponytail, I’ve eaten only protein for weeks, and I’ve successfully convinced people that I’m from England. Just to see what it’s like.

So it shouldn’t surprise you that much to hear that although I am not at all what you would think of as crunchy-granola (sure, I shop at Trader Joe’s, but that’s because I basically live off their frozen food), I’m going to try to go without commercial shampoo or conditioner for the next several weeks.

I read an article once about a woman who tried something way more radical–she didn’t bathe and she wore the same clothes for at least two weeks. I don’t even remember how long it actually was–maybe a month? Her outfit was layered, so she could switch around pieces–it wasn’t obvious that she was wearing the same thing every day. But she was. The number of people who didn’t know what she was doing who noticed?


We obsess over our appearances, we spend hours on our hair and makeup (well, some of us; some of us spend five minutes and then stare in the mirror and yell, “IT’S GOOD AS IT’S GOING TO GET” and then run out the door holding a copy of Tina Fey’s autobiography), we carefully select outfits, and yet we notice that effort in other people maaaaybe 10% of the time.

Well don’t worry. I do love proving points, but I’m not going to go shower-free any time soon. Instead, I want to try something I’ve been hearing a lot about lately–going “no ‘poo,” that is, washing my hair without shampoo and conditioner.

I hate the “no ‘poo” label so I’m not ever going to say it again, but using baking soda and apple cider vinegar to allow my hair to rebalance its pH doesn’t sound too nuts to me. Shampoo and conditioner are relatively recent inventions, and don’t try to tell me that the fabulous hairstyles of women in the Downton Abbey era came from a Pert bottle. I’m not going to go Queen Elizabeth and only bathe once a month (whether I need it or not); I’m just going to get rid of some product buildup and see whether it makes a difference for my thin, frequently flat hair.

I have to admit that some of the fascination comes from the idea of getting “back to nature;” the thought that I could channel some of the folk wisdom and power of the women who used to live at the end of the village and drank tisanes while their neighbors worried about them casting spells. The women who knew that willow bark reduced pain and fever and that putting a mirror under your pillow during the full moon would do absolutely nothing except maybe induce you to dream of the guy you crushed on, if you’d been told you would see your future husband.

Early doctors and scientists, really. But also midwives and caretakers. It just feels important that there’s a tradition of women using supplies from their kitchens and gardens to take care of themselves, and I’d like to be a part of that.

I’m not hating on modern medicine or science, let’s be clear. When I get sick, the first thing I do is go see my physician. I don’t believe in homeopathy (though I do believe in the placebo effect) and I don’t think positive thinking cures diseases. I’m happy to have fluoride in the water. I take medication on a regular basis and I do everything my dentist tells me. But hair…

Let’s just admit it, we’ve begun fetishizing hair. I mean, have you ever SEEN an Herbal Essences ad? And since the purpose of advertising is to create a perceived need for something that may not–probably will not–make much of a difference in your life, and since the “science” that they quote in ads for beauty and self-care products in TV ads is by and large BS (and how sad was it when I realized that my shampoo did not actually go into the DNA of my hair and encode some kind of “grow stronger!” message), why not see if doing without works?

They say the first two weeks can be a little rough as your hair adjusts, but then most people I’ve heard from swear by the results. So check back (or maybe it’s easier for me to check back) in two weeks or so and we’ll see how this is going. Anybody else who’s interested, check out the Crunch Betty blog.

Just remember, you don’t put the baking soda and the vinegar on your head at the same time.

Not unless you’re doing a very different experiment.



Filed under Story Time

3 responses to “Ooh Witchy Woman

  1. Julie

    Hooray! I hope that the grand experiment goes well. If you have not already read it, I highly recommend Crunchy Betty’s article on cat litter. Yes, I would have been one of those little old cat ladies at the end of the village lane, drinking strange brews and having my cats take a dump in frankinsence and myrrh that I then use to cure the kiddies’ warts under the full moon.

  2. Your pal Amber

    I just finished “A Year of Living Bibically,” not too bad.

    Anyway, what are you going to use instead of shampoo!?

    The only thing that rubbed off on me from my brief, ill-fated stint at beauty school was a love of product. I have shampoo, I have dry shampoo, I have olive oil shampoo… don’t even get me started on styling products…

    • Using for shampoo: one tablespoon of baking soda in a cup of water. Then for conditioner, mostly on the ends of my hair, two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water. I also have a ton of product, which is, strangely enough, why I’m interested in doing this–because nothing has been so great as to change my life, and I hear that the no-shampoo thing can make a huge difference. So we’ll see!

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