Is Shampoo Really Necessary?

I have heard it said that shampoo and conditioner and not only unnecessary but detract from the hair’s natural condition. They strip oils, dry the scalp, and addict the head to constant shampoo’ing. Animals don’t use shampoo… squirrels, giraffes, horses… and they all have fine manes. In fact, a friend of mine stopped shampoo’ing (only water washes) about four months ago and now claims to have the non-greasy, non-dandruffy hair he always dreamed of. Shall we all stop?

I’m sure it’s going to be different for everyone… but I have not used shampoo for like 4 years! And I am dandruff free and always get compliments on my hair.
… And complaints from my superiors. “GET A HAIRCUT, HIPPY!!”

I only wash my hair with water. If I am in the field for like a month or something and I’m really nasty, then I might lather some soap and use that through my hair. But that’s it. Normally it’s just water. But I also keep gel in my hair much of the time. So that may play a role in the whole thing.

Unwashed hair has a strong smell; the natural oils released by the scalp go rancid after prolonged exposure to oxygen. If you don’t bath for long enough, you’ll reach a point where new oil production reaches an equilibrium with the rate that old oil finds its way off your hair (and onto your pillowcase) but that equilibrium will be at a place that leaves your hair smelly and oily. Just from experience, not shampooing my hair for a week or more makes my scalp itchy; oil production (contrary to popular belief) does not depend on the amount of oil on the surface of your skin or scalp, so if you just leave it there it will basically accumulate continually.

You might well not need to shampoo your hair all that often, depending how oily it is naturally. But you want to strip the natural oils off your hair the same way you want to strip the natural oils off your skin. They’re absolutely delicious to various microorganisms, which is why not watching your face can lead to acne. And they smell bad. You can decide to exist in your “natural” state if you want - feel free to stop brushing your teeth as well if it makes you happy - but I wouldn’t count on being healthy. Or smelling nice.

You can always go the earth mother route and cover it up with clouds and clouds of patchouli, though.

I don’t wash my hair every day, and I use a boar’s hair brush to distribute my natural oils from scalp to tip. When I do wash my hair I end up needing to condition it, but that is because it is a mixture of fine and coarse hair and very long. If I don’t condition it after it has had a wetting, it will mat. This means I also have to wash and condition my hair after swimming or if I happen to get stuck in a downpour. I wash my hair about 3-4 times a week in the Summer, and sometimes only twice a week in the Winter, but usually three times. (Depending on if I have been in the heat sweating or not, or if I did dirty, dusty chores.) As Excalibre said, the oils make the hair smell funky if you don’t wash it.

Strange, I’m not a hippy or a crystal lover or anything like that. And I certainly don’t smell bad. I think I’d know if my hair was nasty or oily.

From my experience, there’s a threshold. It’ll itch and smell for the first month/few weeks, but if you get up into years, it doesn’t any more. I went on an extended meditation trip a couple years ago and couldn’t stand the smell of unwashed hair - for a bout a month. When it started getting into six or seven weeks, it didn’t smell as bad.

There’s a famous case of a woman who hasn’t washed her hair for 11 years:

Not always. Sometimes others can smell you, but you are accustomed and do not register the odor. It isn’t as bad on me as say, my little brother’s adolescent hormonal foot odor, which smelled like rancid cat shit, but it isn’t pleasant either. (Thank goodness convincing him to change socks more often then just daily and take his shoes off in his room helped with it, and that it didn’t last very long.)

When I was in college. I ran out of shampoo and didn’t replace it for two weeks out of shear laziness. I washed my hair with just water every day during that time. At the end of two weeks, I simply couldn’t take it anymore. My hair was basically a solid, shiny, wavy mass even worse than some 50’s hair styles. I have pretty oily hair but its stays just fine if I use shampoo every day.

Is that level of oil production caused by using shampoo or is that the rate it would be without it? If it is the later, then I would say that I definitely “need” shampoo.

**I am a white male with dark, thick hair.

Like I said, at least according to everything I’ve read, your skin produces oils at a pretty constant rate. Oil production depends on internal factors like hormones (thus the increase at puberty) but it doesn’t change depending on how much oil is on the surface of your skin.

People in their natural state are strong-smelling. Nowadays we tend to avoid that; call it a cultural thing if you will, but we tend not to like the smell of the natural human body. Those who stopped noticing the smell of their unwashed hair probably just became habituated to it - it doesn’t mean everyone else didn’t smell it.

I tried going shampooless for awhile. The first week is the worst, but then your scalp more or less adapts and stops producing as much oil. In fact, your hair can get kinda dry after a few weeks. I think the trick may be diligently brushing your scalp, which I didn’t do.

My scalp itched something fierce, and I’d get these big flakes of dead skin I had to pick off, and then they’d bleed a bit like a regular scab. Gross.

My experiment totally failed and I’m back to being a shampoo guy. I can’t stand an itchy scalp.

Back in the military with short hair, I’d go a week or two or three here and there without shampooing. Not a big deal. But I can’t imagine going permanently without shampoo.

Dial soap. For decades. No problem.

Of course, when I visit the kids I try a few of their shampoos (they have cleaning solutions for all body parts external and internal). I especially like those shampoos that have a lot of French words on the bottle.

<<eople in their natural state are strong-smelling. Nowadays we tend to avoid that; call it a cultural thing if you will, but we tend not to like the smell of the natural human body. Those who stopped noticing the smell of their unwashed hair probably just became habituated to it - it doesn’t mean everyone else didn’t smell it>>

Quite possible, but everyone here who is commenting on how bad their hair smelled/its bad condition tried it for less than a month, which no one is disputing; the idea of hair replenishing itself is generally attributed to three-six months of non-shampooing. I realize finding an SDMB member who didn’t wash their hair for 11 years like the woman above is unlikely, but has anyone here tried it in excess of six months?

As I said. It’s been several years. Not 11 years, but much more than 6 months. And I’m not going to buy into any of this crap that I’m just accustomed to shit-hair smell or some nonsense.

I’m not really sure what this has to do with anything. I hear this for lots of “au naturale” type adverts, and I always think - I don’t want to live like animals. I’d have to give up my house and go nekkid and eat my food raw…you see what I’m getting at?

Not me. What is your hair texture? Consistency? Could that have a lot to do with it, I wonder? Mine is curly and thick and woudl turn into one hell of a matted mess. I suppose I could use soap, just to keep it clean, but my intent is not just to keep it clean, it’s also to make it look lovely and curly and be silky-soft. And the few times I have gone without washing my hair I haven’t liked it.

Granted, I’ve never tried it for extended periods. Maybe that would make the difference? But I like the way it feels too much after I wash it.

Now I’m going to go wash my hair, I think. :slight_smile:

Ah, memories of AFU (alt.folklore.urban). At one time there was a thread entitled “Unwashed hair cleans itself”. Somebody named D M Procida vaolunteered to try it out. After several posting about how his hair was progressing (and getting rather nasty) this appeared under his name:

He snuck on with further reports anyway, IIRC.

That and while animals’ coats are usually still nice and fine, animals usually smell. Unless we’re talking housecats-but they wash themselves constantly. Unless humans develop the ability to lick ourselves clean, I’m sticking with the shower.
I have to wash my hair everyday-it’s baby fine and poker straight, and even now with a perm I wash it every day. Otherwise it clumps together in dirty sections. Yuck.

Besides, it feels good to wash my hair. It’s nice and silky and soft and it smells pretty.

Um, why would they? Back when I used to turn my hair all sorts of unnatural colors, I’d go for a long time without washing it. It took a long-ass time to bleach my hair enough to color it purple; when I did it, my hair was bone dry. And I’d condition it heavily every day, and wash it about once a week. When my hair and scalp were really dry like that, they seemed to suck up the natural oils I produced. Even then, though, after long enough without washing, I could start smelling that dirty-hair smell. I can’t imagine how gross my hair would be after a week without shampooing it now that it’s all natural and shit. You couldn’t pay me enough to conduct that experiment. I suppose it’s possible that if you wait long enough, your hair magically suddenly becomes clean. Maybe the Dirty Hippie Fairy comes by after six months without shampoo and waves her wand and makes your hair natural and manageable and sweet-smelling. I don’t intend to find out. It’s not really logical to assume that doing something that makes my hair and scalp disgusting will, after some godawful length of time, suddenly have a completely different effect.

Back in the bad old days before soap and shampoo, according to things I’ve read, people cleaned their hair by coating it with things like flour and then brushed it out of their hair in a long, painstaking process. It worked for soaking up oil, of course, but it was a damn lot of work. Even before we had soap and shampoo, people cleaned their hair - it just took forever.

Seems like a likely enough explanation to me. After all, some people smell bad. Is it more logical to assume that smelly people know it and go around that way on purpose? Or would it make sense to think that they stop noticing? Again, why would hair magically stop smelling bad if you don’t wash it for long enough? Even if your scalp stops producing so much oil, what’s there is still going to go rancid and be food for bacteria. It’s Occam’s Razor - there’s no reasonable explanation that springs to my mind for why hair would magically start cleaning itself if you wait long enough, so it makes sense to assume that you, like other smelly people, just stop noticing.

Actually, using soap is even worse-soap will cling to your hair-it will NOT wash it clean. Shampoo isn’t a soap, but a detergent.

-says the girl who just washed her hair, and it feels nice and silky and smells divine.

I don’t think it’s necessary. I haven’t used shampoo in nearly a year. I do use conditioner 3 times a week, though. My hair does smell, nor is it greasy. I have extremely dry hair and scalp, or I should say I had dry hair and scalp. Now my hair is soft and healthy. My scalp isn’t itchy and dry the way it was when I used shampoo. My stylist told me last week, “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.”

Aack!!! That should read, “my hair does not smell”.