Shampoo failures

Are you familiar with the concept of frequency illusion? Basically it’s the idea that while we think the frequency of something is increasing, it’s only because we notice it more. An example often used is that when you get pregnant (or are trying to) you suddenly see pregnant women and babies everywhere. It’s not that there are more of them, it’s just that you’re paying more attention to their existence. Frequency illusion is what led me to decide that everyone makes their own shampoo and I was the last sucker paying money for fancy bottles of it in a store, and that led me to a terrible failed experiment.

There are probably fifty or so people who actually make their own shampoo, and every single one of them has written a blog post, plus they all comment on each others posts, so it seems like there are just millions of them sitting around with nice clean chemical-free hair smelling faintly of essential oils and superiority.

I try to eliminate unnecessary chemicals from my daily life, both for environmental and health reasons, so of course I thought maybe I would be better off without some of the unpronounceable ingredients in my store bought shampoo. After copious research (ie an hour or so), I decided that I’d make my own with coconut milk, aloe vera gel, a little bit of almond oil, and some essential oils for scent. It took two days to gather the ingredients, because pure coconut milk is apparently hard to find and I didn’t feel like making my own.

My first mistake was my choice of essential oils. I went with sweet orange, because I am allergic to the lavender that so many of my online inspirations used and I didn’t like smell of the recommended rosemary oil. Unfortunately, sweet orange mixed with coconut milk and aloe vera smells a little bit like someone threw up a bunch of citrus.

My second mistake was actually using the shampoo and making my family use it too. I had read that there is an adjustment period, and we could expect greasy hair for a few days. After three uses I found myself wondering if I should explain to Wildling’s teachers that we were experimenting with shampoo, she wasn’t just a greasy unkempt mess. I ended up in a perpetual slicked-back ponytail. Mellow, who has a surprising amount of hair for a baby, looked greasy and dirty. Will was fine – his hair is short and thick, and while it took on a bit of a sheen, it looked perfectly stylish with his haircut.

After a week of grease, I again sought information online and learned that spritzing apple cider vinegar on one’s hair after shampooing and letting it sit for awhile before rinsing would eliminate the grease.

Mistake three: falling for the apple cider vinegar (or ACV as the DIY shampooers call it) mythology. First off, that stuff stinks. I had to hold my breathe to spray it on my hair, and I swear I kept smelling it all day. Secondly, we only had one spray bottle, and it’s the one we use to wet cloth wipes when we change Mellow’s diaper, so during the course of this horrible experiment we had to keep running to the bathroom to wet the wipes in the sink instead, and of course we’d never remember until we had a naked pee soaked baby lying on the changing table. And we all know we can’t leave her there unattended.

And the ACV didn’t work anyway, so now my hair was greasy and smelly.

I considered continuing the experiment, because the frequency illusion showed me that practically everyone in the whole world was doing it, and if it worked for them, shouldn’t it work for me? Plus, I’m a sucker for the bandwagon effect, and I wanted to fit in with all these awesome online strangers with whom I will probably never interact. But fortunately, Will is persuasive, and we had a formal event that we had to attend with my colleagues, and I’m not going to network in a nice dress with a grease stain on the shoulders caused by my lank and nasty hair.

I gave in and purchased shampoo from a store. But I might make Will use the other 16 oz of citrus-vomit scented failure currently taking up too much space in the fridge.


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