Update: Gone shampoo bar low-poo.
There seems to have been a tipping point with my quest to go water-only. Things got better, and then they started getting worse. My scalp was unhappy and the oiliness came back again. Most tellingly, my hair and scalp just plain didn't look healthy.
It was just out of control, and unacceptable for my profession. I had tried citrus rinses, honey, tea, waiting it out, and a bunch of other things for good measure. I fiddled with my scrubbing technique, brushing frequency, brush type, and on and on and on.
At a certain point, I had to sit down and think about how I was approaching this.
It's entirely possible that without some kind of true soap, this is just what my hair is like in the polluted civilization in which I live. In our quest to have more natural lives, we have to remember our environment isn't natural.
I looked at my cat. She's a fastidious groomer, like most cats. But sometimes, she still gets smelly. Sometimes, her fur still gets oily. And her hair is only an inch long at the most. Mine is over a foot.
It might be kind of a misnomer that anyone can have clean, clear hair and scalps going W/O, or even more traditional no-poo routes, with how much air pollution and water grime we're exposed to (which my cat generally isn't).
But I don't want to go back to sulfates and silicones. My hair wasn't healthy then either. It was limp and thin, and had gradually been becoming more so over the course of my life. Since getting off them, I have a lot more curl and body. It reminds me more of how my hair looked as a child, when I had fewer years of damage.
I don't want to go to baking soda. I am quite convinced it is WAY too harsh. I honestly don't understand how it became a staple of no-poo. And from my first attempt, I know it makes my sensitive hair absolutely horrible.
What's a girl to do?
Then I realized something.
I (and I think a lot of no-poo'ers) have an associative aversion to suds. We associate suds with sulfate shampoo, thus suds on our hair are bad.
I have a natural shampoo/body bar, nothing but saponified oils and essential oils, sitting in my bathroom, and I use it for everything except my hair.
Meanwhile, my shower is cluttered with bottle after bottle of concoctions from my kitchen that I was hoping would accomplish the exact same thing soap does: clean my hair.
That is ridiculous.
So I tried out the shampoo bar, at last.
My hair is clean. My scalp feels better.
And at the same time, I have kept all the benefits I had before. I'm not using harsh chemicals. I'm not spending extra money. My hair still retains the natural curl it had before sulfates destroyed it. And my oil production is still down, so I only have to do it once a week or so.
The only difference between this and what I was doing before is that, one, it works, and two, it suds. That's it.
I follow it up with a restrained ACV rinse, and that's it. I may try honey again as well.
This is where I'm staying, I think.
There is nothing wrong with suds. Most of us go no-poo to avoid putting chemicals on our heads that are strong enough to strip rust out of our tub. We don't do it to avoid suds.
As far as I'm concerned, this is still no-poo. It's just no-poo when you live in a city and you can only fight your situation so much.
I'm quite happy with it, and I wish it were put forward as an option more often. I think it could avoid a lot of frustration, and I truly do think it's gentler than baking soda.
I have happy hair, and that's what counts!