5

votes

Is there any scientific basis to no-soap and no-poo approaches to grooming?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created April 16, 2012 at 7:38 PM

It's often said, both inside and outside the paleosphere, that soap and shampoo strip the skin and hair of beneficial oils and bacteria, leaving us aesthetically diminished in one way or another, reliant on expensive and unnatural chemicals and (I might be imagining this one) more vulnerable to skin-based bacteria invasions.

One idea that keeps cropping up for oily people like me is that excessive washing actually exacerbates oiliness, because our skin/hair thinks it needs to produce more oil to compensate for the sudden drying. However, I've also heard it argued that this common idea is unscientific nonsense.

I'm not sure what to think. Is anyone aware of any REPUTABLE research on this, or is everything we know about skin and hair care based on old wives' tales, n=1 anecdotes and advertising?

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10490)

on March 21, 2013
at 03:54 PM

That's assuming that all shampoos and soaps have toxic chemicals in them. They don't. And as far as psychology, I think that fear tactics by the great unwashed trying to scare people into being frightened by soap are just as damaging, or the social alienation from being poorly groomed. Easy to observe, and we both have observations that support opposite conclusions. This is why we have science.

2006ccb2b60f9cc5ba5e8eff8a7abc46

(1533)

on March 18, 2013
at 01:35 PM

environment and body=chemical exposure. no one thinks about the fact that they are lathering themselves up with chemicals don't just disappear when they go down the drain. psychology=advertising creates a need for products and a surreal expectation of beauty. I don't need to quote studies, all of this is easy to observe

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10490)

on March 18, 2013
at 03:35 AM

So there are no studies on it, but it is damaging in three ways, and you did not provide any reason for those assertions. All you have is your experience. Which was not the question.

A3bb2c70384b0664a933b45739bac32c

(951)

on April 17, 2012
at 01:01 PM

Worked for me too, until I moved to a city with softer water. I had to go back to soap to lessen my acne.

1568416ef28477d1fa29046218d83ddd

(6235)

on April 17, 2012
at 12:16 PM

On the skin issue, which is a different thing to me, limiting my use of soap has coincided with fewer staph infections for me.

1568416ef28477d1fa29046218d83ddd

(6235)

on April 17, 2012
at 12:12 PM

Hum, I haven't used shampoo more than a few times a year (when I get my haircut) for three years. My hair is still there, in fact I frequently get comments on how thick it is. I simply have not experienced sebum clogging my pours.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on April 17, 2012
at 08:37 AM

Same experience as David above, oily skin gone after no soap. No shampoo also works well, although I don't have oily hair.

1d9af5db8833413037be3ac48964714f

(3789)

on April 17, 2012
at 01:29 AM

Bill: do you have evidence to support that contention? Most mammals are covered with hair which doesn't fall out with lack of shampoo. Humans evolved without shampoo, but I don't know of any evidence that they all went bald until shampoo was invented.

1d9af5db8833413037be3ac48964714f

(3789)

on April 17, 2012
at 01:26 AM

I always had oily hair and skin. Stopped using soap, shampoo, and conditioner 8 months ago (except for hand washing). Hair and skin no longer oily. Everything seems fine just taking a water shower every day. Hair and scalp got a little dry over the winter, so I used coconut oil to fix that.

1c67bc28f4e44bbb8770b86df0463df3

(6719)

on April 16, 2012
at 09:59 PM

Sorry, but if you do not clean your hair and scalp that so called beneficial oil will build up, and clog your pores and the area around your hair follicles, which, unfortunately will lead to your hair - falling out.

870fdea50f2a9f1cd2890c8e22549300

(2056)

on April 16, 2012
at 09:02 PM

To help folks in their further research I created the "skin-microbiota" tag because that seems to be one of the buzz words in this area.

5af4bc9d2c390b0bcad9524f149c1b4f

(1101)

on April 16, 2012
at 07:55 PM

I've always been interested in trying nopoo, but I've never had problems with my hair and I work in nursing... so I've got to use something to get the "unknowns" out of my hair. I'd love to hear more on the subject though.

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13 Answers

5
870fdea50f2a9f1cd2890c8e22549300

(2056)

on April 16, 2012
at 08:22 PM

This isn't a direct response to your question, which is whether no-poo/no-soap is physically healthier. This response is intended to point out that it may be socially damaging: keep in mind that some people may believe they don't smell when they don't use soap because they can't perceive androstenone.

Reportage in the popular press in 2007, referring to studies: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070916143523.htm and here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071030080645.htm

I haven't been able to find anything relevant yet about improving skin health by abandoning soap.

EDIT: This article kind of hints that soap might not be a miracle cure: "Current data contradict some historical classifications of cutaneous microbiota and suggest that these organisms may protect the host, defining them not as simple symbiotic microbes but rather as mutualistic." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18275522

FURTHER EDIT: The buzz phrase is "skin microbiota." See this article here: http://genome.cshlp.org/content/early/2008/05/23/gr.075549.107.full.pdf It looks like work is just getting started. Apparently there is lower diversity in skin microbiota between people than there is in gut microbiota. I would caution against overanalogizing.

STILL FURTHER EDIT: People with more diverse skin microbiota may, repeat, may be less appealing to malaria-carrying mosquitoes. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0028991

2
0905a0f8cd1e48f6d39fe625a65b6ef1

(2890)

on April 17, 2012
at 12:03 AM

I am one of the Great Unwashed!

A few years ago, about a year after I fell into ancestral eating, I was thinking about animals in the wild. They all wear sleek, sumptuous furry coats, coats that never carry a coat of grease or need a swipe of deodorant. Animals in nature know how to clean themselves by preening, by dips in fresh water. Why should I be different?

I chucked the soaps and cosmetics and decided to go thirty days without, just for laughs. I can experiment in these ways perhaps easier than most as I am a poet and people expect me to be gross and smelly.

The transition took several months, to be honest. My hair, which extends to my tailbone and is thus considered Damn Long, morphed from Breck Gal with bouncy waves and silicon-enhanced shine to Get-Outta-Town Gal with clumps of sebum-crusted tresses. Not my finest moment, y'all.

I did a procedure called "preening," where I moved my natural oils down the length of my hair using my fingers. I was as careful as a resting cat, as my companion parrot. One small sector of hair at a time. Weeks passed and my hair started looking soft, shiny, full of body, wonderfully REAL. It didn't have the shimmer and bounce of my Breck (and Aveda, let's be honest, I am a Hair 'Ho) days, but it had an integrity.

The rest of my body followed suit. I moved from a perfumed and pampered middle-aged mom to a wild and self-scented Amazon, with long, wild hair, and a Paleo curvy body to match.

Watch out world!

(Yea, this was scientific as shit. I know, I know. But I think you should TRY it. What's the worst thing that will happen? People will just call you a poet.)

2
E55906cdb6839a23fd740ad85d160cc8

(1159)

on April 16, 2012
at 09:08 PM

Not Scientific:

No Shampoo for me. Baby fine oily hair to start with. It's working out well so far. I use soap on pits, tits, bit's, and feet only unless I'm actually dirty. I exfoliate my face with sugar and honey twice a day and follow up with an aloe based moisturizer. When I've had experimental breakouts with dairy, they heal up super quickly now. If my skin gets scratched...it heals much quicker. I also don't get razor burn now from shaving. I just use water to shave. I'm sure there are lots of variables, but all of my skin feels healthier now. And my hair is getting much better too.

2
E68bdbd83e45fd5be130e393ace9c9a9

(2063)

on April 16, 2012
at 08:23 PM

I don't know if there's a scientific basis, but anecdotally -- I stopped washing my hair with anything but water about two months ago, and I have definitely noticed that it doesn't get oily any more. I never had super-oily hair to begin with, but it's long and thick, and I used to notice things getting a bit greasy after 1 to 2 days without shampooing it. Now I only rinse it with warm water about 2 times a week, being careful to massage the scalp and brush it out afterwards, and I have found that I can go as many as 5 days before it starts to look even slightly oily.

1
D2adcedbc45e78479c332af6740c0b4c

on July 10, 2013
at 09:25 PM

How would get "scientific evidence" for no soap no shampoo. People in the 50's used to ask is there any scientific evidence that smoking is bad. At the time there was not enough. I think a good rule of thumb would be if it is un-natural (eg soap , shampoo) it needs to be proved that it does no harm and that may take 100's of years to figure out. So I think a better question would be " is there enough evidence to prove that soap and shampoo is not harmful?"

1
5247bd6f7d9a5eb9e770ae1795285b13

on April 16, 2012
at 11:00 PM

I have very oily dark hair, so when it gets oily it looks like it's wet and it feels waxy and sticky. I have been doing the No Poo since january 2012. I would use a baking soda/water mix as a shampoo every time it got oily and now I am down to using it once or twice a week. I also used a 50% apple cider vinegar mix as a conditioner and it works great. not sure if the health benefits are 100% true but I do know that my hair gets less oily and baking soda is far cheaper than shampoo

1
707342e3cb97e0fc088917919a154b8a

on April 16, 2012
at 09:54 PM

I use only shampoo, soaps and moisturizers that I can safely ingest-- I use Dr Bronner's Castille Soap-- and I use it to clean my hair and body (it can also be used as toothpaste and 30 so odd other uses-- it's organic and fair trade, too) For conditioner, I use shea butter or coconut oil. For moisturizers, I use food grade, organic oils--- mainly apricot and coconut oil. My hair and skin are happier than they were previously when I 'pampered' them with expensive (and dangerous!) lotions and potions-- and it's also greatly simplified my beauty routine.

0
Dd61f42b211a69f5899fc1ae1d2460bf

(71)

on July 10, 2013
at 10:11 PM

I went no poo in 5/12. I did this because my frizzy hair was starting to fall out and break off. My hair was a mess so research brought me to the "curly girl method". I use coconut oil once a week as a conditioner and I use a sulfate free shampoo maybe 2-3 /month. I also follow with a silicone free conditioner. Granted I should be using baking soda and ACV but my scalp is very dry with episodes of seboratic dermatitis that gets pretty nasty and the sulfate free system is working pretty well. 2-3 times a month folks :)!! my hair is beautiful long and pretty thick considering a 1 1/2 ago I saw a dermatologist I was so concerned about the hair loss and breakage.

for skin I use organic castile soap on pits and for shaving once a week. other than that just hot showers and coconut oil for moisturizer. My skin looks pretty good. Much less dry than it use to be.

interesting fact. I was reading the answers above and I just realized I have been "preening" my frizzy areas without actually knowing that was a "thing" I just did it instinctively to calm down the frizz. neato.

0
2006ccb2b60f9cc5ba5e8eff8a7abc46

on March 17, 2013
at 08:52 PM

nobody is going to study something that doesn't benefit an industry. the soap and body care industry is ridiculous, and extremely damaging to our bodies, our environment and our psychology. I don't use soap i just skin brush, which is amazing for your skins circulation as well as exfoliates, although anymore i just have smooth soft skin, even after a week of no brushing. I use a maximum of dr. bronners + apple cider vinegar rinse for my hair (its long, I farm, grease+dirt=needs to be washed for real sometimes) I eat a diet high in animals fats, minerals, water and low in carbs, my skin is resilient and does not need moisturizer. it took about 5 years to get to this point and probably would take less for someone with a less compromised system, its well worth it.

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10490)

on March 18, 2013
at 03:35 AM

So there are no studies on it, but it is damaging in three ways, and you did not provide any reason for those assertions. All you have is your experience. Which was not the question.

2006ccb2b60f9cc5ba5e8eff8a7abc46

(1533)

on March 18, 2013
at 01:35 PM

environment and body=chemical exposure. no one thinks about the fact that they are lathering themselves up with chemicals don't just disappear when they go down the drain. psychology=advertising creates a need for products and a surreal expectation of beauty. I don't need to quote studies, all of this is easy to observe

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10490)

on March 21, 2013
at 03:54 PM

That's assuming that all shampoos and soaps have toxic chemicals in them. They don't. And as far as psychology, I think that fear tactics by the great unwashed trying to scare people into being frightened by soap are just as damaging, or the social alienation from being poorly groomed. Easy to observe, and we both have observations that support opposite conclusions. This is why we have science.

0
5c94900002a867dfa2a8fcd91a576c5e

(456)

on April 16, 2012
at 08:32 PM

I use a homemade facial scrub from extra virgin olive oil and castor oil. Here's a website that I really like that gives info about the recipe and how to adjust it for your skin type:

http://www.simpleorganizedliving.com/2011/02/23/homemade-facewash/

It took me a few tries to find the formula that works best for me, but now I love it.

0
361e96d70d6d3b91d63f6ad975e60ab6

(840)

on April 16, 2012
at 08:28 PM

Whether or not it is biologically benificial (which I like to think it is) It has a lot of lifestyle benefits if you like simplicity, as well as economic benefits. My n=1 is that I have super sensitive dry allergenic skin that is happy if I simply don't touch it. That being said I have not been able to give up regular soap on my body, but poo', facewash etc yes.

0
778b36f4f699f202de135ef176fe9ab7

on April 16, 2012
at 08:20 PM

I use a homemade shampoo, which leaves my hair a little more oily, naturally, but nothing unmanageable. I don't know about the science behind it, either, but I'm an oily person and have found that excessive washing leads to even more washing. I've also stopped washing my face, except when I take my evening bath. I've noticed a general decrease in oil on my skin. But I do put coconut oil on it most afternoons as a moisturizer. Is it connected? Maybe. This is my experience, and by no means scientific...

0
1568416ef28477d1fa29046218d83ddd

(6235)

on April 16, 2012
at 08:08 PM

I have never heard of any studies. I have found the decrease in oil production happened for me, but it is n=1.

1d9af5db8833413037be3ac48964714f

(3789)

on April 17, 2012
at 01:29 AM

Bill: do you have evidence to support that contention? Most mammals are covered with hair which doesn't fall out with lack of shampoo. Humans evolved without shampoo, but I don't know of any evidence that they all went bald until shampoo was invented.

1c67bc28f4e44bbb8770b86df0463df3

(6719)

on April 16, 2012
at 09:59 PM

Sorry, but if you do not clean your hair and scalp that so called beneficial oil will build up, and clog your pores and the area around your hair follicles, which, unfortunately will lead to your hair - falling out.

1568416ef28477d1fa29046218d83ddd

(6235)

on April 17, 2012
at 12:12 PM

Hum, I haven't used shampoo more than a few times a year (when I get my haircut) for three years. My hair is still there, in fact I frequently get comments on how thick it is. I simply have not experienced sebum clogging my pours.

1568416ef28477d1fa29046218d83ddd

(6235)

on April 17, 2012
at 12:16 PM

On the skin issue, which is a different thing to me, limiting my use of soap has coincided with fewer staph infections for me.

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