Water Only Update, One Month Later


 
This post has been updated. Click here to read the updated post.

I am so pleased! At first I was afraid no-poo would be gross, but my husband and passengers seated next to me on the plane assert that isn't the case. "You don't have a smell," says my friend Nathalie, who thinks my curious non-scent is weirder than water-only washing. I'm only using water on my face, too, which does wonders for horrible, Paris-induced cystic acne and closed comedones (that magically clear up whenever I leave town). Previously, I resembled a beginner's gluten-free pie crust, all flaky and bumpy, like a topographical globe.

My mom says that in Korea, there are generations of women who wash their hair with nothing but plain water. They comb their hair and scalp every day with a special brush, and they don't smell. Their hair looks bouncy and shiny and clean. I think the secret to water-only washing is scalp massage: Scrub the dry scalp as if shampooing, for a minute or more, then spread your fingers at the roots to pull oils, running them along the length of hair. Repeat before brushing, twice daily or more, if you have time for it. I have an adversarial relationship with haircare products, so this feels very gratifying. It's cathartic, pouring a big pot of cold water all over your head and scrubbing away. It's psychologically cleansing.

A few years ago, I could have never imagined a beauty routine consisting of only water, a bar of soap, and a few pats of baking soda for deodorant. Now, I'm satisfied opening the bathroom drawer to see so few grooming tools- a shiny stainless steel razor, pretty wood brush, washcloths purled at home. Right now I'm focusing on beautifying from the inside- not my personality, because that's never going to get better- but eating lots of fruits and vegetables, drinking two liters of water a day, snacking on legumes, nuts, and good fats, eliminating all animal products except honey, and sprinkling superfoods (chia, goji, acai) liberally, like salt. I wash my face twice a day, splashing with cold water, massaging, then exfoliating gently with a hemp washcloth. And I sip mulberry tea first thing in the morning, which is a very Korean thing, I've heard (my friends call it "highway tea" because I gathered the twigs and leaves from the side of I-90).

I promise, you can go no-shampoo without being disgusting, or turning into some crazy off-grid foraging nature warrior. You can still lead a normal life, even in a cosmopolitan city like Paris- I went to Le Meurice recently for a gluten-free financier, and for the first time in a while, a girl told me she liked my hair. "I only use water," I announced proudly. "Really? I thought that made hair greasy, but yours looks quite dry!" she said, sincerely. Clearly, I have a long way to go. But I think if you build up to water only- trying clay, aloe, rye flour or yogurt first- and regularly brush and massage your scalp, you won't have a nasty detox period and can enjoy the benefits of a cheap, truly chemical-free beauty routine. Don't put anything else in it, except maybe some lemon juice for flyaways and a little oil on the ends. Just protect your pillowcase with a silk scarf or towel at night :)
Paris to Go

39 comments:

  1. Dear Ariana, thank you for such an honest post!
    It is one year now, that I suffer from a light neurodermatitis on my scalp (stress-related). So my first step was trying to only wash it every 3 days - but my scalp itched terribly. So I try to switch to a shampoo with soothing formulation - no change :( So I tried ale soap followed by a citrus or apple vinegar rinse. Since the water in Hamburg is pretty hard, my hair is still very waxy afterwards.
    At the moment I use a handmade soap from a fine lady in germany wich already includes vinegar (here are the ingredients: http://www.steffis-hexenkueche.com/haar-u-koerperseifen/apfelessig-shampooseife-goldapfel-unbeduftet) The effect is okay now - but I am so curious to try a routine with just water. I wash my face with water only too and it helped me so much to form a stronger protective barrier.
    Such a long story… but now my question: do you use the hard parisian water to clean your scalp after the massage? Or do you prepare it in some way? Did you do it every single day at the beginning? I would really love to try it out - since I went through so much trial and error.
    I am sending you many hugs and much love!
    Your sister Carolin from germany. (CallinGr at instagram)

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    1. Hi dear Carolin!!

      Ah, I am so sorry about the stress, but glad water only works for your face. That is the reason I switched to water too- I wanted my skin's natural barrier to come back. The soap looks just beautiful! But yes, I too have trouble rinsing out any soap with the Paris hard water, and water only got rid of the itching and dandruff I've had ever since I started using shampoo. I found that with vinegar or tea rinses, flakes started coming back within a few days. Now I don't have to worry about itching or anything!

      I don't use Paris water straight away- I boil and cool it first (when I boil water for tea in the morning, I add a few extra cups and leave it there), or distill it if I have time. Here are instructions to distill water:

      http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Distilled-Water

      Since I started doing that my hair breaks less. I actually don't do it every day because my hair is so coarse and doesn't get very oily, once a week only. I hope that doesn't gross you out! I read some people with fine hair rinsed every day in the beginning and now go two weeks without washing. Please tell me how it goes if you try it out. When I sit next to people at Kingdom Hall I ask them if I smell ok and look clean and they always say yes, so I think it's okay!
      Love,
      Ariana

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  2. Wow, Ariana, what a difference between this and the last post! I had no idea hair could heal so quickly! I've been considering switching to water since I can't find castile soap outside of a plastic recyclable bottle (and making it is just a disaster), but the long transition period is what scares me. If this is all it takes, sign me up! My hair already has no silicones or nasty chemicals in it, from washing with castile and coconut milk for so long.

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    1. Hi Candace! Yea I had no idea either. Oh, I tried making castile soap too! I tried it with lye and KOH. Actually the KOH worked better for me but it was too time consuming and risky I decided. You are so sweet! My skin is still terrible- it has a lot more healing to go- but it definitely is smoother and glows somewhat since switching to water. The hemp cloth removes dead skin cells and that must help too. My husband couldn't believe the difference!

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  3. P.S. No wonder you can go makeup free- your bare face is stunning!

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  4. I concur with Candice- jealous of your flawless skin!

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    1. Darcy, you are always so sweet! It is far from flawless still- the iPad selfie camera just doesn't show the fine details -but if water only works, I'll be so happy! Thank you for making me feel better though Darcy :)

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  5. I wash my hair with baking soda and rinse with diluted white vinegar. My hair looks and feels so much better. Every three days I condition with a mix of almond oil, castor oil and rosemary the night before I wash it in the morning. This is to regrow thinning hair. Have almost given up my regular shampoo which I use every third time I wash my hair. When it's gone I won't replace it.
    P.S. I buy vinegar and baking soda in bulk and use glass containers in the shower.

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    1. I love the smell of almond oil and rosemary together! How cool that you can get white vinegar in bulk. I've never been able to find that still! How long have you been washing with baking soda? I found it too harsh for my hair but I know many people swear by it.

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  6. You've inspired me, I'm going to give it a go. My hair is curly but recently has been lacking body and the natural curl seems to fall out during the day without lots heat styling or product. I'm hoping I can restore some of its natural state after years of styling abuse.

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    1. Hi Meredith! I think curls just love water only. Do you have thick hair? Baking soda ruined my natural curl, so like you, I hope to turn back the clock, and it's bouncing back somewhat.

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  7. I've worked 17 years at P&G (like you, I'm a biochemist) and before that at Loreal. While I loved my team and think that they truly wanted to innovate and make an impact, half the products we tested didn't work. They did the same job as water, only faster, and with harsh side effects. The amounts needed to say, clean your face or wash your laundry are much smaller than the recommended amounts published on the label, which means unnecessary chemicals are running down the drain into the water supply. I quit using most of my face creams and makeup at Loreal (you would be shocked at the disgusting things that show up in a simple lipstick, and we're eating that every day!), and shampoos, conditioners, and lotions at my current job. It's no joke that shampoos as they are now are carcinogenic, fragrances contain styrene, and none of it is even necessary. I understand what my European family members mean when they say Americans are destroying their hair by washing too much. There needs to be a big change in the way we formulate consumer products today, but until consumers stop buying shampoos that foam up and smell fruity, there won't be.

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    1. Wow, that is amazing! Thank you for this comment! Are you from Ohio? I ask because I'm from Ohio and some of my friends worked for P&G. They said the same thing about the amounts recommended on the packaging. For instance, dishwashing soap- you need way less than the instructions say. And my friend Hallee's mom worked for Loreal and said that Kerastase is the exact same formulation as their lower-priced brands! I watched a program here showing how much lead was still in lipsticks and how many dead insects. I'm sure you've read Paula Begoun's books... what an eye opener!

      Also, my Parisian friends are always saying Americans wash their hair too much haha.

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    2. One of my best friends is a brand manager at L'Oréal in Brussels. She loves to treat her friends to goodiebags, but I am the only one allways having problems and giving away my goodiebags from her.

      Now, we just drink coffee together, or rosé in the sunshine :)

      Also, if I may ad, I am really intregued by your water only face routine. Please, if you feel like sharing, could you give an update on the hemp cloths you use, and how often and how hot you wash them.

      Thank you for the courage and inspiration!

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    3. Hi Emma! I'm sorry I didn't reply to you before :( It took me forever to answer the comments that week! What a good way to handle your friend's gifts. I am constantly wondering what to do about the unwanted gifts my friends give me!

      So, I use these washcloths:

      http://www.paris-to-go.com/2014/09/earth-friendly-hemp-washcloths-knitting.html

      Plus two old cotton ones that I had in Cleveland. I used to have seven, one for each day of the week, but the cotton cloths are over a decade old now, and one disintegrated... I wash them once a week with my other towels, at 30° C because I can't change the water temperature on my machine :( It adds nothing to my laundry routine, because I used one once a week anyway. I'm not sure how well they exfoliate, but the flakiness on my face has subsided, and my skin is smoother and more even-toned. It could be unrelated, but I think the hemp especially does a good job exfoliating!

      Thanks for being so patient :)

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  8. do you have any tips for getting olive oil out of hair naturally? i'd rather not use baking soda, since my experience seems to mirror yours somewhat.

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    1. Hi Peachy! Egg works really well. Or, if you can stomach it, tie up your hair and brush it vigorously every day for a week or more, depending on your rate of sebum production, before washing with water only. Oil cleans oil!

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    2. Oh and rhassoul / ghassoul clay is perfect for that also :)

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  9. You're beautiful, Ariana!
    Your water-only experiences are intriguing me. I use mostly natural/homemade/crunchy products already, but I think after my health issues resolve and my inflammation calms down, I'm going to try it for myself, too.
    My two daughters are mostly using water only for their hair, and they're both gorgeous. But I'm probably biased. ;c)

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    1. I'm sure they're gorgeous ! Ah, I hope your health issues resolve quickly, sorry to hear that. Have you always used sustainable products? If not, what made you switch?

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  10. Hi Arianna,
    I have been following your blog and looking at your beautiful apartment. Can you tell me what furniture you have and where you got it from.
    Thanks
    Louise

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    1. Hi Louise! Thank you! Our furniture is secondhand, from Leboncoin, except for our mattress and chair.

      The chair is Eames from Le Bon Marché. The couch is Ikea Soderhamn, secondhand, same with the dining set. The bed frame is Habitat (secondhand) and the mattress is new; the TV stand and coffee table are secondhand Habitat (they had some scratches but were otherwise nice). We have a vintage Kartell Componibili from Leboncoin (ditto for the scratches), the previous owner said her parents got it for her in middle school so I'm not sure they make that color anymore- mint green. I don't know if they count as furniture, but the shelves in our kitchen are Nkuku and the paper lanterns on our light fixtures are from the Chinese store. We have one folded paper lantern in the kitchen that is secondhand Habitat from Leboncoin.

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  11. We have the same lion's mane!!!...but maybe not the same scalp. I saw your first post about 2 weeks ago while visiting my g'ma in Hawaii and decided to try fresh aloe to wash my hair (she has a huge bed of it). I squeezed the juice from the leaves and rubbed my scalp vigorously for about 10 minutes each day. Unfortunately, after the second day the grease from my head seemed to coat my hair near the scalp and it felt very waxy and didn't allow my hair to dry. Even by the end of the day it was still damp near the roots and my hair looked crazier than ever. I only managed to go a total of 4 days before getting tired of the thick waxy feeling.

    I might use shampoo once a month, if that, but CO wash about every other day or when I exercise heavily. I like you, have tried nearly EVERYTHING to wash this beast that lives upon my head. Maybe one day I'll manage to get rid of the conditioner too...

    Two Questions, did you experience that waxy feeling and if you did how long did it take to go away?

    P.S. My desk is still cleared off! It's much easier now that I'm graduated...let's see what happens at my work desk.

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    1. Oh no Amber! I'm sorry that happened with aloe. I never experienced the waxiness with aloe, probably because my scalp is so bone dry. I experienced waxiness with alep soap, and it didn't go away until I washed it with an egg. But how awesome that you went to Hawaii! And that's so great about the desk :) Congratulations on your graduation!

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  12. Hey Ariana!
    First of all I have to thank you for amazing blog.
    I gave this no shampoo method a try yesterday and I am amazed. Hair aren't greasy at all. In fact it looks better then any day in the past few months. Really surprised by the result and how curly it is. Top of the scalp is a bit oily though because I couldn't find my brush. Will definitely purchase the boar one. Hopefully it will give even better results.

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    1. Hi Anamarija! Thank you so much for your kind comment! I'm so glad it worked for you. My husband has been doing the water only method (not because he wanted to, but because he broke his hand!) and his hair looks amazing. Our hair isn't falling out anymore- I used to have to sweep up every day!- and he still smells fresh.

      Yes, I think the brush makes a huge difference! I haven't tried the boar bristle yet, but on the forums I've read, people rave about the boar or agave bristle brushes. It seems like everyone who has had difficulty with water only alleviated it immediately with scalp massage and a good brush. Please let me know if that does the trick with your roots!

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  13. Hi! I've been using water only for 6 weeks now. I swim in the ocean everyday and rinse with warm water afterwards. My curls look amazing but the top of my head has a waxy feel that I can't seem to shift...Any suggestions?! Thanks, Katie

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    1. Hi Katie! That's so awesome that you swim in the ocean everyday! And it's great you've been doing water only; the waxy feel is probably sebum I guess. It takes lots and lots of scalp massage and brushing to get rid of it- at least twice a day, if not more. The idea is to move the sebum off the top of the head and down to the ends of your hair, then you shouldn't have to deal with it anymore.

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  14. Hi Arianna,

    I must visit your haircare pages once a week it seems like. It gives me hope! I'm so done with my hair--my hairdresser seems like it is the thinnest, most lifeless hair she has seen on someone so young. I know the shampoos and conditioners ruined my hair and made them brittle, but the shampoo bars (today especially) leaves so much gunk that I'm afraid it's damaging my hair as well.

    I wan to transition to no-poo but I'm trying to get a job in a corporate setting and I fear the bad impression I'll make through detox. I want to make the jump though eventually--I wish I could find someone with similar hair as me who has made the switch as well. But your hairdresser (in your last post) telling you to stop washing your hair as a child sounded familiar!

    Two questions: Excuse the minutiae, but when you say you scrub your scalp do you do so with your nails, finger tips, or with a brush? Also, what is the significance of hard vs. soft water? I want to figure out how that affects my strategy.

    Thanks so much! I don't eat enough rice for fermented rice water--but maybe I can call on my Japanese boyfriend's super rice making powers to help me with my haircare :)

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    1. Hi Danielle! I scrub with my fingertips and my brush. I don't like scratching up my scalp with my nails, I don't know why. You may have hard water because I know that makes it difficult to rinse shampoo bars, soaps and other no-poo options out, resulting in lots of gunk. Hard water deposits minerals that aggravated my hair and scalp. I had a friend move here from Australia with gorgeous hair and she lost a ton of hair, all her moisture, and shine because of the water in Paris. I lost so much hair it was alarming, but it seems to be growing back after going no-poo. Here is a great article on hard and soft water's effect on hair:

      http://www.chagrinvalleysoapandsalve.com/idascorner/shampoo-hair/how-does-your-water-affect-your-hair

      I don't eat enough rice for the fermented water either! I really liked the results but I can't stand rice :( I think, as for your job, you would look very cute in wide band headbands and scarves during the detox! I look bad in them, so cornstarch and perfume got me through, plus lots and lots of brushing and massaging the oil down my hair with my fingertips. Also I kept moving my part over- like, when I first washed it, I'd part it on the opposite side, then gradually move to a middle part, then a right-hand part and finally a ponytail. I noticed only the exposed portion of hair got greasy.

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  15. Hi I love that you're using only water to wash your hair, and I'd love to try it. When you massage your scalp, do you use your fingertips or fingernails? Do you massage your dry scalp then follow it up with a water rinse? If I have only hard water to use on my hair, is there any method to get rid of the hard water build ups on my scalp?

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    1. Hello! I use my fingertips on dry scalp and follow either with brushing or a rinse... if I rinse every time it's too drying but brushing removes the stuff loosened by the massage. You can only use distilled water, not hard water, I noticed the hard water doesn't clean well and is way too drying.

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  16. Have you ever tried fermented rice water?

    I’ve been doing a bit of research about using it for my face and have noticed that many people are also using it as a shampoo substitute, à la Yao women of China (and I’m sure other Asian cultures as well). Apparently there are quite a few beneficial properties to it, such as amino acids, antioxidants, minerals, B vitamins, vitamin E, and something called “pitera” (I have not idea what this is, but people on the internet seem to love it). If you do a bit of digital poking around, you’ll find videos showing different techniques for low-mess, low-waste application. Also, I suppose that if the hard water in Paris is also causing issues, you could always try distilling a few cups of your own water for hair rinses at home.

    By the way, thanks so much for the Savon de Marseille article! I’ve found it extremely helpful. I’ve recently been using it in combination with an olive oil massage to remove my makeup at night… I’d never in a thousand years imagine that I’d be using bar soap on face, but it’s been working well for me.

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    1. Hi! I'm glad the Savon de Marseille is working for you! I did try fermented rice water but I don't eat rice often enough to use it regularly. In Korean culture they like the rice water trick too! I distill my own water though and use only that for hair washing.

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  17. Hello,

    I'd like to know, if anyone with seborrhoic eczema has ever tried any of these no-poo-methods or water only.
    I tried to wash with a spelt flour/water/essential oil-mixture, but this was horrible the first time, I won't try this again. I've still got to try honey "shampoo", and egg or egg+vinegar+essential oils is working okay. Rhassoul and similar is not working, it leaves my fine hair crunchy and stiff and with a deserty dry feeling to the touch.

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    1. Oh no! That is so hard to deal with. I have read a few forums where people with seborrheic eczema tried water only. Some had great experiences, others initially had a good experience but it was very shortlived. For seborrheic dermatitis there are a lot of experiences out there: http://patient.info/forums/discuss/seborrhoeic-dermatitis-of-the-scalp-62058
      https://www.reddit.com/r/NoPoo/comments/3vlamu/seborrheic_dermatitis_only_water/
      I don't think I had anything as severe but I did have severe dandruff- bleeding, rashes, and boil like things too- when I used shampoo that went away with water only.

      Rhassoul made my hair too dry too! You are not alone. I hated that crunchy feeling. It was like a pretzel.

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  18. Hi, wow, what a great blog! I have curly hair and have been doing WO for some time. I'd love to use a brush to distribute the oils but wonder if it will be too harsh on my hair and pull too much out. What do you suggest? thank you!

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    1. Hi Leslie, when I wear my hair in its natural curly texture I can't brush it or it will dread. So I just use my fingers and pull the oil down the strands of hair. You can still do scalp massage, just sort of shake your hair out after :)

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  19. Hi Ariana I love your hair! I know I'm a little late to the party but I'm hoping against all hope that you just might see this message lol. Do you ever have to clarify your hair? I've been water only washing for a little over a year now and i love the simplicity but i cannot get away without clarifying at least once a week, which seems excessive to me. I just cannot go that long with that dull, grayish tint to my hair. Plus my scalp starts to flake. As you mentioned rhassoul and any other clay is just too drying for my hair. Btw i have TRULY COILY hair, so i think a bb brush would be a no-go, although i am considering trying it. Thanks in advance!

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