Confessions of a Reformed Shampoo Addict

Asma Merchant went cold turkey on shampoo – and the world didn’t end! She explains how and why… 


I have always had a chronic love affair with shampoos. I would stand in the beauty aisles of supermarkets for hours, lusting over the bottles, reading the multiple miracle adjectives that these magical concoctions were promising to offer to me. Even though I never really ended up with bouncing, shiny curls or sleek, straight tresses, it was a thrill when my shampoo and conditioner bottles would be nearly ending so that I could buy new ones to try.


On the journey to being more conscious of what I was putting in and on my body, I read articles about the harmful effects of Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS), which is a foaming agent and gives us the lather we love. It is actually a cheap industrial detergent and hence is utilised freely by manufacturers despite any potential harmful consequences.

SLS is one of the key ingredients in nearly every personal care product we use including soaps, shampoos, toothpastes, shower gels, face wash etc. In fact, I went through every single bottle of shampoo and shower gel in my local hypermarket and every one of them contains SLS. It shattered my shampoo fantasies.

So I headed to the pharmacy and picked a bottle of SLS-free shampoo which by far was one of the worst experiences ever  because it just doesn’t lather and I never got the feeling that I had washed my hair. I was willing to unhappily live with it but frankly the SLS free shampoos do have other ingredients that are rather questionable. I didn’t know what to do.

And then the universe heard my plea and ta-da, I stumbled upon the ‘no-poo’ method. Even though I question the genius who came up with the name, the method is infallibly easy, cost-effective and chemical free. All you need is two empty bottles and three simple ingredients; water, baking soda and apple cider vinegar (ACV). The best part is it works on coloured or chemically treated hair too.


Our logic behind the traditional hair care routine is shampoo washes and conditioner moisturises. What actually takes place
is something more sinister. Our hair produces an oily substance called sebum to protect and nourish each individual strand of hair and give it the lively look. What shampoo basically does is strip the hair of its natural oil along with the dirt and grime which is why the conditioner is required – to replenish what the shampoo stripped.

Over time this stripping causes breakage and damage and internally the scalp produces more and more oil to compensate for the shampoo’s action. This is why most people have to wash their hair daily or every alternate day or their hair feels greasy or dirty. What this method aims to do is regulate the oil production and reduce the need for such frequent washing. The plan is to  wash hair only once a week.

Baking soda is a natural cleanser and it helps in removing the dirt while the acidic content of the Apple Cider Vinegar nourishes, balances hair’s pH level and seals the cuticle. As this does not strip the hair’s natural coating, our scalp doesn’t have to produce the oil it previously required. But until our scalp adjusts itself to produce less oil, we have to go through a few weeks of excess oiliness in our hair (check cheat sheet).

Instead of being excited about shampoo shopping, I now love heading into the kitchen and making my own shampoo. And my hair has never been better. That’s right! I’m serious. My hair looks great. In the beginning, it does cause nightmarishly oily hair but if you persist through it, there is low maintenance, chemical free hair at the other end, which believe me
is worth the weird stares that I get when I tell people I haven’t shampooed in months.



Shampoo (one bottle will easily last you a month)
• 2 T of Baking soda (Note: baking powder is NOT the same as baking soda)

  • 8 oz water
  • A squeezy bottle (ex-Mayo bottles qualify)Mix ingredients and give the bottle a good shake. Wet hair with warm/hot water. Squeeze a small amount on to the scalp and give your scalp a good massage and leave it in for a few minutes. Rinse.

    Conditioner (this bottle is also enough for a month)
    • 2T of Apple Cider Vinegar
    • 8oz water

    • A squeezy bottle
    • Optional 5-8 drops of any essential oil (if you miss the smell of commercial fragrance in the shampoo)

    After the shampoo, pour this mix on to the ends of your hair and leave it for a few minutes. Rinse but with cold water so the cuticle of your hair seals giving it a good shine. The ACV does not leave any smell whatsoever when rinsed but you can add any essential oil if you cannot bear the smell at all.

    Note that these measurements are relative. You will need to do a bit of trial and error to figure out the perfect mix for you. If your hair feels unclean, add more baking soda to the shampoo. If hair feels dried out or the scalp is itchy then use less baking soda and more ACV. Use less ACV conditioner if your hair feels oily
    or sticky.



The ‘no poo’ method aims to regulate the hair’s oil production and reduce the need for such frequent washing. The plan is to wash hair only once a week. But the transition period can be tough, here’s our guide to getting through the first week or two.

Dealing with oily hair in the adjustment period

• Do not over wash your hair no matter how much you are tempted. If need be just rinse your hair with plain water.

  • Start this experiment at a time when you don’t have too many social engagements.
  • Just like any other bad hair day, tie ponytails or uses carves or hats.
  • Dryshampoo–sprinkleyourhairwithcornstarch(if you have light hair) or cornstarch and cocoa powder (for darker hair) overnight. Talcum powder is another option.
  • Another option–mix a quarter cup of cornstarch with a quarter cup of rubbing alcohol and one cup water. Spray into hair and let it dry.I have used all of these ‘cheats’ and attended social parties with hair not washed for three days and with the cocoa powder and cornstarch concoction in my hair. Believe me it works and no one even notices.

    Cost wise

    I have bought shampoos from every imaginable place supermarkets, beauty centres, pharmacies, salons, organic stores. I wish I had checked my grocery store first!
    Regular – AED 28, SLS free – AED 110, Professional range – AED 160, Organic variety – AED 200. On the other hand, a 200gm box of baking soda is AED 5.95 and a massive one litre bottle of Organic Apple Cider Vinegar costs AED 22.50 which will probably last me for a few years. Do you see the difference?


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