I Finally Found a Perfect Shampoo Alternative

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After years of no-shampoo approaches, I found a way to clean my hair that actually works for me.

In my first ever article about the sketchy ingredients in personal care products, I wrote of shampoo and conditioner that I was "staggered by the parade of probable toxic ingredients listed." That was in 2006, and I've been seeking a non-toxic solution for my lackluster locks ever since.

It especially hasn't been easy because of the nature of my hair. There are people with thick shiny hair that glistens in the light, that is heavy enough not to frizz, but light enough to sway. The kind of hair that looks lovely and effortless. My hair is not like that. My hair may be more accurately described as "wimpy tumbleweed" or "excited wispy dandelion." Basically, like a brunette version of the photo above, but not messy-cute, just messy-messy.

So I have spent more than a decade trying every all-natural product I came across. I have tried no-shampoo and quasi no-shampoo approaches. While TreeHuggers Katherine and Margaret were going viral with their no-shampoo shimmering hair, I was looking like a toddler with bad static cling. I have broken the bank trying fancy all-natural shampoos, to no avail. The only time my hair looked almost okay was when I used industrial strength shampoo and conditioner to force it into submission, chockfull of all the bad chemicals I wanted to avoid. What a mess; what to do?

Well, I have seen the light. And my salvation comes by means of a novel new detergent-free hair cleanser called New Wash (view at Hairstory), a formula that replaces traditional shampoo and conditioner. After I wrote about shampoo being to blame for thinning hair, the people at Hairstory (the company that makes New Wash) got in touch and offered to send me a sample of their product. It kind of falls in a happy place between no shampoo at all and a light, all-natural shampoo, though it isn't really "shampoo," since it is lacking in the things that make shampoo, shampoo.

What Is This Shampoo Alternative Made Of?

Hairstory bottles being held by hands.

Courtesy of Hairstory

Rather than detergents, New Wash relies on a proprietary blend of essential oils and fatty alcohols which naturally occur in plants like jojoba, aloe, and sunflower. These act as gentle cleansing agents without stripping away the natural protective layer on the scalp and hair, the company explains. And it is 100 percent biodegradable.

I especially like that Hairstory doesn't hide behind FDA labeling loopholes. I was surprised to not only see every product ingredient listed on the company's website but accompanied by explanations of their purpose as well as their Environmental Working Group (EWG) rating. EWG is one of the toughest rankings out there, so to be voluntarily flaunting these scores says a lot.

They even go so far as to list the ingredients used for fragrance, a usually anonymous listing that hides all kinds of synthetic ickiness (scientific term, there). And New Wash scent is amazing – rather than smelling like a fragrance bomb detonated at the department store perfume counter, New Wash smell like roses and a bit of spice; it's both subtle and rich, likely because it is made from all naturally-derived fragrance.

Meanwhile, many of the ingredients are organic. From the site: "The formula is made of naturally derived saturated cleansers instead of detergent, and is 100% biodegradable. You can find our complete ingredient list on each Hairstory Product page. We choose to include every single ingredient in our formulas, including those that are in such small amounts that FDA rules do not require us to include them. We believe in full transparency."

Anyway, I was intrigued and decided to give it a go. I don't accept a lot of free samples because the ethics of writing an honest review of a gift can be tricky, but I was hoping I would love New Wash. And I do! #phew

How to Use New Wash

An Asian woman washes her hair in the shower.

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There are three formulas to choose from, and there is a quiz that helps you determine the best option. The experience of New Wash is a bit different from traditional shampoo and conditioner. Because it lacks lathering agents, it doesn't get super sudsy. And it is a two-in-one product, so you don't need to follow it with conditioner. So apply, massage and scrub, let sit while showering, and rinse rinse rinse.

I really couldn't see how this was going to be any different for my mopey mop than everything else I have tried over the years. But I was wrong. Somehow, my hair looked, what do you call it? Shiny? What is this?! And rather than looking like a grown-out perm gone rogue, as it usually does when there is no intervention, it now has just the right amount of body from roots to tips. And it is sooo soft. I have been using it now for months and it continues to make my hair behave, it's almost like I have good hair now!

Downsides to New Wash

An Asian woman towel dries her wet hair.

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Alas, there are few caveats – which I will list and then promptly dispel.

It's Pricey

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An 8-ounce bottle costs $40, but:

  • You don't need to buy a conditioner too.
  • I have found that I need to wash my hair much less frequently. My hair is pretty short, but I have been using the same bottle for three months and I'm not even halfway done.
  • If you join the New Wash Club subscription series, there is a 10 percent discount.

It's Not Zero-Waste

Hairstory bottles in a tin container and plastic bag.

Courtesy of Hairstory

The packaging is plastic, but:

  • I don't want to buy things in plastic bottles, but at least there is only one bottle instead of two since it replaces shampoo and conditioner.
  • Decreased frequency of washing will mean less plastic overall.
  • If you join the New Wash Club subscription series, you get a refillable aluminum pump bottle and the shampoo comes in less-wasteful pouches.

It's Not Vegan

A herd of sheep in New Zealand.

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New Wash includes keratin sourced from New Zealand sheep wool, but:

  • As the company notes of animal testing: "No, we have tested our products extensively on our own heads, our friends, family, and models, never on animals."
  • New Wash is perfectly suitable for pets. So there's that!

For all of you fortunate folks out there who can get away with baking soda and vinegar for your no-shampoo life, I applaud you. But for the rest of us who don't have it so lucky, this could be a game-changer. If it took me from wimpy tumbleweed to soft shiny pixie/bob, then anything is possible.

You can learn more about how Hairstory works in the video below (as told in emojis).

Learn More at Hairstory.com.