The discussion of chemical additives in our beauty products is a very hot topic at the moment. Many clients have been voicing concern over what types of chemicals we are using in the salon and how they can cut down on their own chemical consumption at home.
A client recently sent me an article and asked my thoughts on water-only hair washing. She has struggled with allergic reactions to chemicals found in beauty products in the past and wondered if this would be an alternative for her. The answer was yes, and no.
The idea behind water-only hair washing dates back hundreds of years. With a lack of abrasive chemicals around, our ancestors cleaned their hair and bodies with rough brushes and good old hot water. This abrasion technique breaks up dirt and oil and the hot water washes it away. When we use shampoo on our hair and make it squeaky clean, we're stripping the hair of it's natural oils. Our scalps then go into a continuous cycle of overproducing sebum which makes hair greasy and oily. The idea behind water-only hair washing is if you can lay off the soapy stuff then your hair will stop overproducing sebum which will leave your scalp in a healthy and balanced state.
Water-only washing works best with curly, thick and coarse textures that tend to dry out with the use of shampoo. Your fine haired clients should probably stay away from this technique. If they are concerned with chemical consumption, you can recommend a natural shampoo that is free of parabens, sulfates and other harsh and irritating chemicals, or they could use some of the natural cleansing alternatives listed below.
Some natural alternatives to using only water include baking soda, vinegar, herbal teas, natural oils, butter, egg yolks and yogurt. You can also alternate between hot and cold water to break up sebum and using a boar bristle brush on the hair before washing will distribute the natural oils in the hair which will make it easier to break up.
This technique is not for everyone. Women's desire to have full, bouncy hair requires it to be squeaky clean and have the right product in it. If your clients love getting their hair blown out once a week, it's going to be a very long blowout if you don't shampoo the hair properly.
It's important that your client has the right expectations if they decide to switch to water-only hair washing. The hair will feel greasy for up to six weeks while the scalp normalizes its sebum production. Even after this stage, the hair probably won't feel exactly like it does after you shampoo and condition it. Let your client know not to expect the hair to have that slippery, smooth feeling.
It is possible to wean the scalp off shampoo. Alternating between diluted shampoo washes with water-only washes will make the transition period longer but less severe. Alternatively, conditioner-only washing can be used for a few weeks before attempting water-only washing. You can also suggest using hats, scarves, and braids to mask the hair during the transition period.
Like I said at the beginning of this article, water only hair washing is not for everybody, but it can be a great alternative for anyone who is concerned with using chemicals on their body and if you're looking for a cheap and natural alternative to washing the hair with shampoo.