About a year ago Jacquelyn Baers stirred up quite a bit of controversy when she posted an article on her blog entitled, “Haven’t Washed My Hair in Three Years”. Her story was picked up by various news sources, which debated her cleanliness. Baers’ blog stated that her decision not to wash her hair did not mean that she no longer cleansed her hair, rather she had chosen to give up shampoos and other store bought hair cleansers. Why was this so, controversial? Well, aside from the cultural norms associated with shampooing and hygiene, there was another, less discussed reason: Baers is a white woman.
For years the natural hair community, comprised primarily of curly haired women of color, has viewed traditional shampoos as detrimental to hair health. The impact of sulfates and other harsh chemicals that dry out our hair lead many women in the natural hair community to skip traditional hair cleansers. Knowing this key rule of natural hair care I found it interesting that this woman received considerable backlash because she chose to do what quite a few women of color have done for years.
A self-described “crunchy momma,” Jacquelyn Baers makes it pretty clear on her blog that she prefers organic and natural products over chemical laden items that fill store shelves. Still, it seemed that some thought she broke the unspoken taboo that “crunchiness” shouldn’t be at the expense of cleanliness. Especially since straight hair is prone to become oily and smelly after two or three days without washing because sebum (the oil produced from the scalp) travels down the length of the hair. Those of us with curly/coily hair know that after 2 or 3 days our hair may still smell like conditioner and we have to make an effort to add oils to our highly textured hair. It therefore, isn’t a taboo for many of us to opt out of washing our hair for one or even two weeks, nor is it an issue to forgo using shampoo altogether.
Another important aspect of Baers story is that she chose not to use any product to cleanse her hair. She tried baking soda and apple cider vinegar, but eventually decided to rely solely on good ole H2O. I know some naturals who have also chosen the “water only” method of cleansing, though they tend to cleanse fairly often and may use a baking soda rinse once or twice a year. Because those methods not only have positive implications for overall health, but healthy hair it makes such choices fairly uncontroversial within the natural hair community. Especially since “no-poo” is certainly no more controversial than applying a harsh chemical relaxer that would sometimes burn our scalps.
In case you’re wondering, Baers also uses a natural conditioner, coconut oil, daily to seal moisture in her hair. In her opinion her hair is more thick and healthy than it’s ever been. No harsh hair cleansers, sealing with oils…doesn’t sound too controversial to me.
Do you think the controversy over Jacquelyn Baers’ decision made sense? Have you ever received negative backlash due to your healthy hair care practices?