There's just things I like to do and things that I don't — life really is as simple as that …
It’s been over 14 years since I last purchased a bottle of shampoo.
No, this isn’t a story of recovery, or anything like that; I didn’t turn tricks for a few ounces of soap. I just found that being scammed by corporations isn’t for me.
In 2002, when I had just turned 20 years old, I got locked up for being a dumbass. Though the inside of an American jail is still far better than some of the other areas of the ‘free’ world, you’re still never really afforded basic necessities. Things like ‘cleaners’ and ‘beauty products’ aren’t in a prisoner’s lexicon very often. It’s also real easy to stop caring about something as superficial as an outward appearance when everything you're fighting for is just to be human again.
After my release, I had that new cliché perspective on life. Mostly, I had the revelation to never act like the shithead I once was; but also that there isn't any reason for us to do a lot of the things we do, and the days will continue on with or without many (if not all) of the luxuries we’re afforded — shampoo being one of them.
Before the 1930s, getting clean meant you took a shower or bath once every week or so (if you were lucky) and bar soap reigned supreme (also, if you were lucky). Things like fashion, appearances and the basis of self-worth revolving around looks began to take hold as advertising became a massive industry and the middle class had expendable income to burn.
By the mid-20th century, showering and hygiene was an absolute must, each day, for your whole life, without fail. To not do so was anti-social and against norms. Marketing of products — and the country’s sacrifices to the capitalism gods — only made humanity’s internal sensibilities worse. “Do it this way or you don’t belong,” became a national mantra.
People in this country, according to Procter & Gamble, now shampoo their hair 4 or 5 times a week on average, almost twice as many times as people in Italy and Spain. That’s about 2 to 4 bottles a month, at $5 a pop (buying the cheap shit), for close to 70 years (give or take). It’s not going to set you on the streets to buy hair products, but over a lifetime, that’s close to $20k. All that money to buy something that claims to clean, condition and maintain a healthy head of hair — a job your scalp already does through thousands of years of evolutionary trial and error.
This all still seems crazy to me, to fall into a company’s lap like that.
But when I stopped using shampoo — and for the most part quit using conditioner, too — it wasn’t because I had heard of the ‘no poo movement’ on the Internet (this thing didn’t even exist back then, and the Internet was a barren wasteland of IRC chat rooms and dial-up headaches). I did it because after the months I had spent behind bars, I noticed that my head no longer itched, I could comb it and style it any way I wanted to, and it just looked and felt like I’d figured it all out.
It takes a few to six weeks of not shampooing to really see the benefits of not buying into the marketing bullshit. There’s a transitional period where you’ll seem greasier and dirtier, but it’s not so bad, you’re just building back up what once was. This was all completely normal and natural before the '30s. At the threat of sounding like a completely neurotic tree-hugger: we shouldn’t be so quick to shit on nature's processes as much as we do.
In all fairness, there isn’t a ton of research out about what does and doesn’t work for everyone, at least nothing that’s searchable online with credibility. There are plenty of personal stories, pseudo-scientific ‘studies’ and product companies manipulating its consumers into nixing the hype, but the reality of it all is that each person is different. We know this. For some it might work, for others, it won’t. That’s life.
Companies are willing to do and say anything to get your money. Maybe there's truth to some of it, somewhere, but the sky isn't going to fall if you search for cheaper and easier ways of doing things. It's not inhuman to not follow along.
If you can’t quit, give these a shot.
- Baking Soda Shampoo / Vinegar Conditioner
- Dry Baby Powder
- Coconut Oil
- Leftover Beer