When I first gave up shampoo, three and a half years ago, I had no idea there were so many natural alternatives. In fact, it took me months of gross locks to figure some of these out. Even after having written a book about giving up shampoo, every so often I am still presented with new options.
One ingredient having a big moment on the Shampoo-Free scene (it’s true, there’s a scene, it’s full of glam women shaking their gorgeous tresses!) is rye flour. It’s strutting about, twerking its organic self all over the red carpet.
Despite raving reports I couldn’t help but feel a little dubious. Flour is for baking, right? Or, at a push, making glue or old-school wallpaper paste or gnarly clay. All things that you would never, ever take into the shower with you.
The Internet tells me that it is the mixture of the naturally occurring saponins within rye, combined with its slight abrasiveness that turns it into a goo shampoo alternative.
As well as this, there does seem to be lots of other great properties in rye flour. Pantothenic acid occurs in it naturally–an ingredient often added to enhance skin and hair cosmetics and it boasts almost every well-known skin and hair vitamin going. It’s also the perfect pH level for our scalp. But can it clean? I’m not sure I believe it.
I start by sifting 2 tablespoons of dry organic eye flour through my tea strainer. This will get the worst of the flakes out. Then I mix it with enough water to make a paste. I jump in the shower, wet my hair and then massage the paste into my scalp. See my Before and Afters in video form right here.
I expected it to feel so, so wrong. Like working dough through my locks. Although it smells like dough it doesn’t actually feel that way. In fact, it feels good. More like traditional shampoo than any of the alternatives I have used in the past.
I can feel it getting soapy in my hair, and there are even bubbles as I wash it out.
It does take a while to rinse out. My arms ache from the effort. (Mind you, getting buff arms from washing your hair has to be a bonus.)
Once I’ve washed it out I do get that silky feeling that is instant proof my hair is clean. However, when my hair is dry there are still a few flakes left in leading to another workout brushing them all out. I have been warned that rye flour shampoo can result in a bit of a flake-fest, but this isn’t the case. The tea strainer does seem to have done most of the work.
I had gone 10 days without washing my hair at all, so my hair was ready for a good old clean. It wasn’t as greasy as I’d have liked it to be for the experiment, however. My “No Poo” routine of brushing regularly with my boar bristle brush means my hair just doesn’t get scalp-clingingly greaseball these days.
I’m actually a bit fond of my sebum loaded, naturally voluminous, slightly grungy “before” hair.
In a way, perhaps rye flour got let off lightly with this challenge.
I do recognize though that my hair isn’t the light and fluffy style of hair we value in society these days. I was aiming for the kind of bouncy haired bonce you spot on shampoo billboards.
Did rye flour achieve this? Absolutely. My “after” hair is soft, shiny, and squeaky clean.
I currently rely on bicarbonate of soda, eggs, soapnuts and coconut oil for my hair care routine. But now I have a new one to add to my growing list of kitchen ingredients on my bathroom shelf! Rye flour is the rising star of the shampoo-free movement, an accolade duly deserved.
This article first appeared on Cosmo UK