The 'No Shampoo' Movement Is Catching On

A curly haired redhead stands in front of water.

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Shampoo sales have plummeted over the past year, partly due to the fact that many women realize its pointlessness.

When I was a teenager, my father told me that shampoo didn’t exist a hundred years ago. His statement made a big impression on me. I pictured people walking around with slick, greasy hair, scratching relentlessly at their scalp. How awful it must have been, I thought, and how liberating the invention of shampoo must have seemed.

Since then, however, my perspective has shifted. I’ve realized that people who lived a century ago likely did not suffer from perpetual bad hair days, but that the itchy, greasy problems we suffer today have been created by the very industry that is praised for solving them. In other words, the arrival of shampoo in the world’s bathrooms has actually resulted in worse hair days.

Shampoo is unnecessary. The ingredients strip the hair of its natural oils, signalling to the scalp to produce even more:

“This results in oil overload – greasy hair – which we then attempt to ‘fix’ with more shampoo. It’s a vicious circle and quite a brilliant coup for the shampoo industry, because the more shampoo you use, the more you need to use and the more frequently you need to use it.” (The Telegraph)

A woman shopping for shampoo at a grocery store.

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A growing number of people have noticed the misleading marketing of shampoo and the weird cycle of washing addiction it creates. They are rebelling against the widespread acceptance of shampoo as normal by refusing to use it anymore. It’s called the ‘no poo’ movement and takes various forms. The result? Fabulous, soft, luxurious, non-frizzy tresses that require a fraction of the work to maintain. (I can attest to this, having given up shampoo for good old baking soda and apple cider vinegar three years ago.)

The anti-shampoo movement has caught on so widely that the shampoo industry is taking a real hit. Sales in the United Kingdom have plummeted £23 million (US $28.2 million) in the past year, according to a recent study by Nielsen, a consumer analyst company. A spokesperson for the study, Jessica Ragoschke, told The Grocer that there are a few reasons for the drop, and no-poo is definitely one of them:

“People are working from home, detoxing and using no shampoo, and fewer people are smoking, so females are using less shampoo less frequently than before. Consumers are simplifying their hair care routines and opting for a more casual or natural style, as well as increasingly using substitute products like dry shampoo.”

The study also cited longer hair styles as a reason for less washing, presumably because washing long hair is an inconvenience, and can also be styled creatively in ways that hide any greasiness.

Shampoo brands Pantene and Head & Shoulders have seen sales decrease by 7.9 percent and Herbal Essences has dropped by 14.6 percent. When people do purchase shampoo these days, they opt for cheaper store brands, instead of forking out for overpriced luxury brands.

I like Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett’s take on it in The Guardian. She views the decrease in shampoo sales as part of a broader backlash against female grooming. We are tired of the outlay in effort and money to maintain appearances. She writes:

“Around my mid-20s, I discovered feminism and, more importantly, came to the realisation that not only can you not polish a turd, but that rolling it in glitter takes ages and costs a bomb. Suddenly, the swizz was exposed: my hair looked the same – middling – whether I washed it with 99-pence own-brand apple shampoo or the really pricey stuff.”

It seems unlikely that shampoo will make a comeback, particularly while conventional manufacturers continue to churn out nasty chemical-laden products of which customers are increasingly leery. Simple is beautiful, they say, and that’s precisely the direction in which hair care is heading.