Is our Reliance on Shampoo Effecting our Hair’s Health? And what Shampoo Alternatives are there?

Could the over use of shampoo be having a negative impact on your hair’s health? And what shampoo alternatives exist to keep hair clean without causing damage?


Shampoo has become a commodity that has become ingrained in our society in recent years. With its ease of use and low price, almost everyone will lather some of the stuff into their hair as part of their morning routine at some point in their lives. But just because a product is the most widely used, does it make it the best? Many would claim that while using shampoo is a quick and easy way to leave our hair appearing clean, many hair and scalp problems involving grease or dryness are in fact generated by the use of shampoo, and exposing a number of problematic chemicals to the hair and scalp. Fortunately, there are ways that you can gradually decrease your reliance on shampoo, and a number of shampoo alternatives to keep your hair clean and fresh, naturally.

Grease. That’s bad, right?

Grease, which naturally builds up in hair around the roots, may not look particularly nice. But it’s not a sign of dirtiness like many people think. Grease is actually your hair and scalp’s way of keeping itself clean, expelling the dirt and pollution which it is exposed to daily, and keeping itself moisturised.

Many people find that their hair starts to appear greasy soon after their last wash. This isn’t just a fact of life that comes with less frequent hair washing. In fact, the opposite is true. The use of many everyday shampoos strips back excessive levels of the hair’s natural oils. To combat this over-drying, the scalp then goes into overdrive to replenish oil levels. Many women who wash their hair daily find that their hair becomes greasy extremely quickly if they skip a day of washing, meaning that your hair can quite literally become “addicted” to shampoo and hair washing products.

Why does washing with shampoo generate more grease?

Shampoo is made up of a wide range of chemicals. While some may have a more harsh effect than others, the majority of conventional shampoos work to strip grease to leave hair looking clean and fresh.

Some chemicals, found in a number of everyday shampoos are especially harsh to the hair, skin and scalp. These include:

  • Sodium Layryl Sulfate (SLS)- a popular foaming agent which is notorious for drying out the skin

  • Formaldehyde- a preservative used to extend the shelf life of the product. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen which is also used in cleaning chemicals, plastic manufacture and enbalming! Thankfully, formaldehyde is gradually being phased out by many hair care manufacturers.

  • Silicone oils- these synthetic oils are added to replace the natural ones that are stripped from your hair, and are often found in conditioners or “hydrating” shampoos.

  • Mineral oil- the base ingredient for many shampoos. Mineral oil may sound “natural” but is in fact derived from petroleum and has a drying effect upon the hair and skin.

Clean hair without shampoo

Gradually decreasing the number of times you shampoo your hair each week can help to gradually break the cycle, helping to restore normal activity of your oil glands and control levels of grease. Soon you should find that your hair manages to stay grease-free for 3 or 4 days after your last wash, whilst its overall condition should also start to improve.

The appearance of grease can even be disguised on days between washes by adding a small amount of talcum powder or even cornflower to the parting and hair roots. The powder will almost immediately absorb excess grease and can be brushed out to leave fresher looking roots. Natural “dry shampoos” act as great shampoo alternatives by absorbing grease rather than stripping it from the hair chemically.

There are also a number of ways to maintain clean, healthy hair without the use of shampoo. This allows your hair to be free from exposure to harsh chemicals whilst retaining a healthy level of natural oils.

Try using the natural hair cleansers apple cider vinegar and baking soda as shampoo alternatives, to keep hair feeling fresh and clean without being stripped of vital oils:

Apple cider vinegar and baking soda hair cleanser

Wet your hair thoroughly and scoop approximately 1 tablespoon of baking soda into your hand. Massage the baking soda through your hair, deep into the roots. Additional baking soda may be needed, so add another tablespoon if needed, til your head is fully covered. Massage the baking soda into the roots and leave for a minute or two until the gritty texture of the baking soda has softened, before rinsing thoroughly.

Next comes the apple cider vinegar, which works to cleanse and restore the hair’s shine. Take a spray bottle of apple cider and spray generously onto the hair. Focus the spray onto the middle and ends of the hair rather than the roots. Use a wide tooth comb to run the vinegar evenly throughout your locks and rinse thoroughly. The vinegar smell may seem strong while applying, but once rinsed and dry it will disappear, leaving nothing but smooth, shiny hair.


Switching from regular shampooing to less frequent washes, or even giving up shampoo completely will take time, and your hair may spend several days or weeks adjusting to its new treatment. There may be days when you have to endure greasier-than-normal hair, but this can be easily covered up with a casual ponytail or a hat. After the transitional period, you should find that your hair takes much longer to become greasy, with the baking soda and apple cider method “training” your oil glands to be less active. Once your hair has settled into its new routine, you should see a dramatic improvement, with smoother, stronger hair and a scalp free from dry skin or similar problems.

Image sourced: Kulmalukko

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