No shampoo week four: stimulating growth?

When I’m not washing, I’m ‘scritching’ and ‘preening’

By Sophie Isbister, Life & Style Editor

As I near the end of my no-shampoo project, I’m beginning to notice a few good things going on with my chemical-free mane. For one, it seems to be growing faster and thicker. I haven’t necessarily noticed this in the overall length of the hair, but I have noticed an increase in the amount of new hair (baby hairs) that my scalp is growing, and in the fullness of my hair. Additionally, I’ve been engaging in a practice called scritching and preening—much like a bird—which I will describe in detail.

To explain how I can tell my hair is growing faster, I’ll tell you a little bit about how hair growth works. A hair-growth cycle has three stages; the anagen stage, the catagen stage, and the telogen stage. The latter two stages are concerned with the end stage of a hair’s life cycle (around 100 days), and they make up a combined total of approximately 10-15 per cent of the hairs on your head.

The rest of the hairs on your head are in some part of the anagen stage, a stage of active growth that lasts anywhere from two to six years (fun fact: if your hair is able to grow super long, then that means you have a long anagen stage). In this stage, new hairs either appear, or push out hairs that are at the end of their life. Hair grows pretty fast in this stage, about a centimetre per month.

No-poo comes into the equation because a lot of people who practice no-poo or low-poo feel that by leaving their hair natural, their anagen stage of hair development is stimulated. I can anecdotally say that this is a definite possibility (caveat ahoy!); as I said, I can see a lot of new baby hairs along my hairline, indicating that new hairs might be growing faster. My hair overall feels thicker and takes longer to dry when I wash it with water only, but that could be from all the oil.

No-pooers also preach the benefits of scritching (no, that’s not a typo) your scalp, preening the length of your hair, and regular intense brushing with a boar bristle brush. All this is supposed to stimulate the scalp, cleanse the hair, and move oil from the roots of your hair, down the length, all the way to the ends, helping you avoid scarecrow hair.

Scritching is done by using your fingernails or fingertips to lightly scratch all over your head. This process loosens the oil on your scalp so that it can be rinsed out with water or brushed out. It’s an important step in cleaning your no-poo hair. Preening is when you physically move the oil from your scalp and down the length of your hair. This can also be done by brushing with a boar bristle brush, but make sure you detangle with a wide-tooth comb first, as the light natural bristles of your brush won’t detangle it.

So far my hair journey has been interesting, but I would be lying by omission if I didn’t come clean and admit that I would really love to work up a good lather in the shower. I have actually had dreams that I’m using shampoo; I wake up in a cold sweat thinking that I’ve ruined the experiment. Two more weeks to go…