by Niall Doherty

Read this article in other languages: Italiano

So back at the start of February I read this article by a lad named Sean Bonner, who had been showering with nothing but water for a month. Sounds crazy, right? Why would anyone do that? Sean’s words…

…it seemed silly that we would have evolved into creatures that needed a bunch of corporately produced and marketed chemicals smeared all over our bodies everyday just to get by.

Hmm. That actually made a lot of sense to me, and there was Sean reporting lots of good results from his experiment. I decided I’d have to try it for myself, and so I stopped using soap and shampoo the very next day. That was over three months ago now, and I’m still going strong showering with plain old water and none of the fancy stuff.

Let me be clear though: I continue to use deodorant every day, and I still wash my hands with soap after I use the toilet or when I’m about to go into surgery prepare food. But when I’m in the shower, nothing touches my body pero el agua.

Here’s how my hair looked yesterday morning:

Not too shabby, right?

The benefits

For me, the main benefits of showering without soap and shampoo are as follows:

1) It really doesn’t make much difference to my hair or skin.

Since I started with this back in February, I’ve found reports from several other people online who have tried the same experiment. Many of them report their hair feeling softer and their skin feeling amazing after the change. Can’t say I’ve noticed a big difference with that, personally.

Washing my hair only with water gets it about 90% as clean as shampoo ever did, but then it doesn’t get dirty as fast. With shampoo, it seemed like my hair would smell all nice and peachy right after washing, but then it would pick up dirt and grime faster and look kinda shitty by the end of the day. With the no-shampoo approach, my hair will look good right after washing, and then it still looks good at the end of the day, and even fairly decent when I get out of bed the next morning. It’s also a bit more manageable methinks, not flopping around as much.

As for odor, that hasn’t been a problem at all. Even when I get all sweaty from working out for a few hours at the gym, I’ll shower right after, spray on my usual dose of deodorant, and come away feeling perfectly clean, no lingering B.O.

I was in a relationship for a couple of months back in Ireland, and only told m’lady about the experiment after six weeks or so. She was surprised that I hadn’t been using shampoo at all during that time. To her, nothing seemed amiss.

2) I save a good chunk of money.

Shampoo in particular ain’t always cheap, especially if you insist on buying some that hasn’t been tested on animals (like I try to do).

3) I can shower much faster.

I still like taking a long shower every now and then, but it’s easier for me to rush through the process if I’m in a hurry. Just 3-4 mintes and I’m done. Screw lather, rinse, repeat.

4) Easier to travel.

This is actually a bigger deal than you might think. I no longer have to carry a bottle of shampoo with me and worry about them binning it at the airport. USA airport security especially loved to throw my shampoo bottles, even when they weren’t making a ticking sound.

It’s a little handier going to the gym now, too. No need to bring soap or shampoo along. No chance of the bottle opening in my bag and spilling all over my jeans (and you know that when that happens, nobody ever believes it’s a shampoo stain).

The downside

Many people (like Vlad) report a brief transition period after giving up shampoo where their hair becomes greasy for a while until it figures out how to look after itself and gets all its natural oils working. Apparently this takes about two weeks. Personally, I didn’t have to worry about that since my hair was extremely short at first, having just shaved my head for Random Acts of Courage.

Beyond that though, there really doesn’t seem to be any downside to giving up soap and shampoo. Unless you really like having your hair smell like grapefruit or ylang-ylang.

A female perspective

I wanted to get a female take on all this since I’ve only found guys writing about it online. Luckily, I discovered that my buddy Spyros Heniadis and his wife Kim had also stopped using shampoo a few months back, and Kim was happy to write up a quick note about her experience (emphasis mine):

I have short(er) curly hair. There was a few days of transition where it felt like straw and oily on the crown. Some days it still feels oily to me but it doesn’t look oily, and Spyros tells me it feels softer. It feels a little less soft to me now that I don’t use shampoo or conditioner. My hair is easier to manage without any product than it was before. It styles easier, and since I don’t add anything it’s more efficient as well.

I have naturally curly hair, so there may be a difference for people with straight hair.

I decided to stop using soap and shampoo because of all of the toxins and chemicals in them. Now when I browse through magazines I see all of the “natural” products and read the ingredient list and see just how unnatural all of it is.

I still use deodorant and lotions so I don’t smell like an unwashed hippie :-D. It’s natural deodorant and lotion from Bubble and Bee.

I have a very sensitive nose and I don’t like stinky things. If Spyros forgets to put on his deodorant he gets smelly and I have to remind him to put some on, but when he uses deodorant he smells good (unless he’s just done an hour of his naked yoga, and then he’s all sweaty and smelly anyway!)

Overall I like not using shampoo and soap. Unless I tell people no one else knows because I don’t smell or look greasy. The Bubble and Bee products are more expensive, but without buying soap and shampoo the costs are even or maybe less since the lotions and deodorants last quite a while.

Muchas gracias, Kim!

So, is this for keeps?

Yeah, I really don’t see the point of showering with soap or shampoo any more, so I plan to continue with this indefinitely. It’s no longer an experiment for me, as I’ve proven to myself that it works well. The only way I could see myself using shampoo in future would be to get something nasty out of my hair. Like ectoplasm.

Testing assumptions

I believe this whole experiment is a great example of why it’s important to test our assumptions. We grow up doing things a certain way (like washing our hair with shampoo) and believing that’s just how it’s supposed to be done. But it’s important to stop and ask why every now and then.

Why do we put all this weird shit in our hair to keep it clean? Didn’t humans get along just fine for thousands of years without it? Why did we suddenly start spending all this money on hair product? What would happen if we stopped?

I came across a short TED Talk recently that made me reconsider something else I thought I had all figured out: How to tie your shoes.

What assumptions have you tested?

Thinking of trying your own no-shampoo experiment? Or have you ever abandoned conventional wisdom and found yourself better off? Share in los comentarios, por favor.

P.S. My latest, monthly traffic report drops this weekend, but it’s only available to email subscribers. If you want to see exactly what I’m doing to build my audience, and what the latest numbers look like, scroll down to the subscribe bit and pop in your email address. I must warn you though that I intend to eventually print out all those email addresses on little slips of paper, cover myself in almond butter, then roll around in them. Hope you’re cool with that.


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