I pour some of the cloudy mixture over my scalp and begin scrubbing. There’s no satisfying lather to let me know I’ve covered and cleaned every inch of my hair, so I flex my fingers over and over again, massaging my scalp deeply, using my fingernails and rubbing my hair against the grain. I gave up shampoo almost six months ago.
Sometimes I still instinctively reach for the shampoo bottle that’s still sitting in the shower caddy under the flow of the water. And then I remember, laugh to myself about how long it takes to break a habit you created decades ago, and reach instead for the white porcelain pump bottle that holds a mixture of a homemade cleansing mixture. Sitting beside that bottle is a second one just like it, but with a water-vinegar mix to clarify my hair after scrubbing it. I wrapped a little green ribbon around that bottle’s neck so we can tell it apart from its twin.
The liquid is cool when it reaches my scalp, much cooler in comparison to the hot water coming from the faucet. It drips down my temples and neck, around my ears, down onto my face. There are no ingredients here that can harm me if they make it my lips, although I still try to avoid them getting into my eyes.
Honestly, I don’t know for sure that my hair is better off now than it was before I gave up shampoo. Although I love that my hair feels more natural and less weighted down by man-made potions, I won’t profess to know if this is the right way to wash your hair, and I won’t tell anyone they should do it too. What I do know is that this feels more right to me than what I see in magazine ads or television commercials that are selling me hair that will never be mine anyway. It feels more honest and good to me, more true to the hair I was born with. And I also know it cuts down on waste with less plastic bottles added to our recycling bin.
I’ve been on a journey to find small ways of reducing the layers in my life that feel artificial to me. I’ve been on a journey to find small ways of reducing the influences I didn’t know I was under, that I didn’t consent to in the first place. I don’t want to be influenced by the parts of our culture that value beauty over substance, that tell me I have to look a certain way and use a certain product, that forget I was born with the image of God already inscribed on my skin.
On the surface, giving up shampoo didn’t really change anything or simplify my life. Really, it’s added steps to my process if anything. When we run out now, I have to go down to the kitchen with my bottles and a funnel and mix up some more. And simple is not how I would have described the weeks when I was still getting used the way my hair feels now. My morning routine was definitely not simplified as I pulled my brush through tresses with a new texture, a little rougher with a few more tangles. It took me much longer in the morning to negotiate the natural oils and the whim of my crazy curls. But as I acclimated to this new way of washing my hair, I now appreciate it because it feels more natural. It feels more the way my hair was born to be, which is a little bit more tangled perhaps, a little bit more unruly. But also a little bit softer, a little bit stronger.
That is a trend that I can trace through so many areas of my life: I get a little bit more tangled perhaps, a little bit more unruly, but I also get a little bit softer, a little bit stronger as I grow and mature. I am more and more tangled up in the world and its problems, a little bit more unruly in the face of them, unwilling to contribute to hurtful systems, refusing to look away from injustice, using my voice to comfort and call out. All the while, I am softer to those same problems, hit more acutely by them as I watch the world suffer, as I see the ways we refuse to work together, to live in service to each other. Yet I am also stronger, more resolved in my capabilities and my hope for a better world.
I won’t do something a certain way because that’s how everyone does it. Rather, I will make my decisions based on the how connected they make me to my body, to others, to nature, and to God. Maybe it’s that unruly nature coming through. Making my own hair cleanser, drying my clothes on a line outside, buying only fair trade products … These things don’t simplify my life by making it more convenient, they simplify my life by making it more holistic to who I want to be. And I want to be someone who is more connected and conscious of the impact I make on the world and the impact the world makes on me.