The No poo method is as old as mankind. No poo means washing your hair without the use of commercially an synthetically produced shampoo. Good reasons for doing this are:
- healthier and better looking hair,
- no synthetic materials harming your body,
- cheaper and easier,
- better for the environment,
- a way to identify and connect to the daily life of your ancestors.
The last one is an interesting one, because it was one of the most important reasons why I started to abolish shampoo and other cosmetics like shower gel and deodorant. For ages people haven’t used the cosmetics we have, and they were healthier and more beautiful. Earlier, people washed their hair seldom to almost never. And when you look at old photographs the hair mostly looks very healthy and beautiful. I couldn’t find an summarized article on the history of hair washing, so I gathered some information.
So, did people never wash their hair? Actually, they did. And the beauty of the hair was a very important way to show one’s wealth and status in society. Already in the Germanic and Viking period people used a lot of grooming tools for their hair. John of Wallingford (died 1214), an English abbot from Hertfordshire wrote about the heathen Danes in England: “the Danes, thanks to their habit of combing their hair every day, of bathing every Saturday and regularly changing their clothes, were able to undermine the virtue of married women and even seduce the daughters of nobles to be their mistresses.” And a lot of other Icelandic sagas mention women washing the hair of men as a way of showing affection. Less is known about Germanic women in the early middle ages, but I suppose they combed and cared for their hair even more than men as it was a sign of beauty. Tacitus’ description of cutting of their hair by their partners as a punishment when they committed adultery shows a way to ‘take away their beauty’.
From the Middle Ages more sources are left to give some insight in the hair washing habits of people. One important source is the ‘De Ornatu Mulierum’, which means something like ‘recipes for cosmetics’. It is written by Trotula di Ruggiero, an important female professor of medicine from 11th century Salerno. She wrote a lot about women’s health, and also left some recipes for hair caring. For example she wrote about a mixture of barley bread, salt and bear fat to encourage hair growth. She also talked about a mixture made of agrimonies, elm bark, root of vervain, willow, southernwood, reed and pulverized linseed. These things ought to be cooked with goat milk and greased into the hair. Another recipe for washing your hair is vinegar, rosemary water, nettles, mint, thyme and much other herbs. One could compare this with a herbal tea flushing used by a lot of people in the No poo movement.
In Victorian times washing your hair was very important for the upper class. They spend a lot of effort in keeping themselves clean and fresh. Actually, they didn’t wash it as much as modern people. It was simply not necessary. An average woman from the upper class would have washed her hair once a week. This was already quite often due to the absence of running water and the amount of water available. In the 19th century people used nothing else than water and soap to wash their hair. And since the 1930’s washing your hair with soap and other commercially produce shampoos became more common. But it was still not as much as modern people. I can remember when I was a child, my grandmother said to me that she washed her hair seldom. And when she did it she used just soda.
So in conclusion I would say; we don’t need commercially produced shampoo. Our scalps are addicted to it, but they can be freed from it too. If you take the time and effort to research and adopt the cleaning methods of earlier people you would be amazed about the results. They got their natural beauty with natural ingredients without poo. So try it out!