Update on Oil Cleansing Method

… and also, on washing my hair with baking powder.

Previously: I am 32 years old and have acne. I decided to try the oil-cleansing method for washing my face. I also simultaneously decided to stop using SLS-shampoo and conditioner. My Chemical Romance, who is — you guessed it! — a chemist, rolled his eyes at how many variables I was changing in my experiment. He said I’d never be able to pinpoint the cause of my acne if I kept manipulating everything. (For the record, Miss Manners said the exact same thing!)

The oil-cleansing method was strangely enjoyable. Once I got past the weird feeling of putting that-which-I-had-previously-spent-years-trying-to-remove on my face, I kind of liked it. My face felt kind of wet, yes, but also more even than it had in years. I didn’t have patches of dry skin combined with patches of oily. Plus, no need for moisturizer in the morning.

That said, I really have no explanation for washing my hair with baking soda (and yes, this relates, just bear with me) except that I have bad hair. I own that. My hair is fine, limp, prone to greasiness, and also between weight-loss surgery and pregnancy and postpartum/nursing, I lost a bunch of hair and it’s growing back in tufts and I kind of look like I’m rocking a mullet or growing out bangs, except for the fact that I AM NOT ROCKING IT.

And I thought, as long as I’m not rocking my hair, I have nothing to lose with this whole baking soda thing.

Mary F. Poppins had started washing her hair with baking soda, and she has good hair and got good results. And I know — I totally know — that Sodium Laurel Sufate/SLES is not good for me. It’s an irritant, it strips oil so that my hair cannot regulate oil production (and thus, I have to keep using it over and over), and it’s a harsh detergent, even when diluted with water. My Chemical Romance is a chemist; I know about this stuff.

(Also, he’s totally obsessed with not throwing away batteries because they leak something… radiation maybe? So, he keeps boxes full of dead batteries with grand plans to do whatever it is you do with batteries so that they’re recycled. Then the kids find them and put them in electronics. Then the electronics don’t work. Then they remove them and put them in a drawer in the kitchen. Then I find them and have no idea what’s a good battery and what’s a dead battery, and I have the urge to just throw all the batteries in the trash. But I can’t. You see, My Chemical Romance likes to eat Ramen Noodles and Cheez-Whiz. So I feel like I have to take his crunchy-ness when I can get it.) 

So, one day when I had to wash my hair, I made a pitcher of baking soda and filtered water, and used that. And… meh. It wasn’t horrible. It wasn’t fantastic. It was okay. Which was actually better than I expected, so I continued with it. I traded not-washing-daily-because-I-want-the-oil-production-to-regulate to washing-daily-because-I’m-using-baking-soda-so-it-doesn’t-matter.

And my skin had a mutiny. Or mutined. Or, really, I looked like a mutant.

But I persevered. I tried. My Chemical Romance said, “Keep your hair in a ponytail all the time; the oil from your hair is irritating your skin.”

I said, “Why don’t I just shave my head; then I won’t have any issues?”

I felt very very self-conscious about my skin. I do not wear much make up, and I certainly don’t wear concealer. I am out in public, at your homeschool co-op, at your Farmers Market, ROCKING my acne.

When I went back to Charlotte, Miss Manners said, “Is it really worth it, to keep washing your hair with baking soda?”

And I said YES! ABSOLUTELY! but later that day, I thought, This is totes cray-cray. I went to Whole Paychecks and bought a non-SLS/SLES shampoo and started using it every day. My skin is improved somewhat. I use oil, and I also sometimes use a bar of homemade organic face soap that I got at a local cloth diaper/baby item store that has terrible TERRIBLE customer service.

My skin is meh. My hair is meh. Right now that’s enough.


5 Responses

  1. Ramen noodles are good. Cheez-Whiz is nasty. I do not like it. I do not like it , Sam I am.

  2. I have the fine, limp, prone-to-greasiness, hair as well. I have not had the guts to all out try the baking soda method. I use a non-SLS shampoos as it is, but I really wanted to take the leap from using shampoos at all. I used to alternate days of real shampoo with a day of baking soda, but could never get it to stop being oily (and it used to be too short for a pony tail). I’m considering a repeat in the summer when there’s no one (i.e. 140 middle schoolers) staring at me every day….

    • It’s worth a try — and I’ve heard there is a learning curve, so the summer might be a great time to practice. I would have kept it up if not for the acne. I can wear a hat to cover bad hair, but I can’t wear a bag over my head. Unfortunately.

  3. I can do nothing but empathize. My special joyful addition to what you describe is rosacea on my face and also a bit of psoriasis on my oily scalp. So, everything I try for acne irritates my rosacea, and vice-versa. And my scalp is just a hot mess – oily, itchy and with huge painful zits. I’ve resorted to taking minocyclin, an antibiotic, around my period for acne break-outs and using a special high-intensity UVB light on my scalp. Have you ever tried red and blue wavelength light for acne? I bought a bulb to give it a try but haven’t started yet – I don’t know if it’s total hokum but at this point anything is worth a go. Oh, and I alternate between Neutrogena build-up-destroying shampoo (that stuff WORKS!) and Mane-and-Tail shampoo. Who the heck knows? Whatevs. I’ll let you know if the red and blue light helps with the acne (that one is UV-free so there’s no harm in trying).

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