21 Sep Why I wash my hair with eggs
I’m commonly asked, “But how does it wash your hair?” along with, “Doesn’t it smell?” – I’ll get to the answers shortly, if you’re wondering the same!
I was looking for a natural way to wash my hair for three reasons. Firstly, stripping hair of its natural oils and then coating it in conditioners to make it look healthy seemed daft. Secondly, I try to avoid putting chemicals on my skin. And, finally, I’m trying to buy less things that come in plastic containers – especially single-use plastics.
I tried a few things – a natural shampoo bar (left my hair waxy), soap nuts (left my hair dry) baking soda and a cider apple vinegar rinse (itchy scalp). Finally, I tried eggs – hallelujah – it left my hair shinier, softer and bouncier than ever before, and my hair needed washing less often. See photo – I’ve not used conditioner and my hair is typically dry.
What’s wrong with sulphates?
It’s worth noting that some shampoo bars still contain hair-stripping sulphates, like regular shampoos do. Sulphates, for those that don’t know, are used in all kinds of cleaning products. Some studies have linked them to cancer – inconclusively – but linked all the same. Lush bars contain what they argue are ‘gentler’ surfactants – ammonium laureth sulphate (ALS) and sodium alkyl sulphate (SAS). The jury may be out on this one but I just don’t want to put chemicals on or in my body, or into the water, if I can help it.
Why does egg work as shampoo?
Egg yolks contains lecithin, which is an emulsifier. It combines with water, dirt and oils from your hair, then everything rinses out. Amongst its many other health benefits, lecithin is also a good moisturiser. Eggs are also high in protein and packed with vitamins – A, D, E, B12, biotin (dubbed the ‘hair growth vitamin’), iodine, selenium and pantothenic acid (along with biotin, this is sometimes added to commercial conditioners) for example – so egg naturally strengthens your hair and makes it healthier and happier.
The pH balance is one of the most key aspects of a good shampoo. As you probably know, hair strands have an external cuticle layer, a bit like fish scales. When washed in alkaline substances, the fish scales stand up, leading to tangling, dullness and frizziness. Acids, on the other hand, flatten the cuticles, keep moisture in and make them stronger. The problem with baking soda, generally a brilliant reasonably green do-it-all cleaning product, is that it’s alkaline (pH 9.5) and hair doesn’t like that. Adding the cider vinegar as a rinse afterwards helps restore acidity – but guess what? Eggs have a pH level that is slightly acidic to a level that hair naturally loves.
How to do it
Crack an egg into a mug and separate off the white. If you have very long hair, you might need 2 eggs. Whisk up the yolk. I take this in the shower and rub a little at a time into my scalp and then work it through to the ends before rinsing. It doesn’t lather up. I rinse it out really well with cool water to avoid the scrambled egg effect and reduce the smell! I’ve found I need to wash my hair significantly less using egg – I wash it twice a week. After a couple of months I found I had protein build-up in my hair, so I gave it a wash with regular shampoo and conditioner.
Other things you might like to mix in with the egg:
1 tsp honey – moisturising
1 tsp lime juice – removes build-up and adds shine
1 tsp olive oil if your hair is really dry
1 tbsp fenugrek powder if you get dandruff
Essential oil of your choice to smooth ends and help with the eggy smell! – I add this when my hair is dry
A bit of shampoo history
Did you know that shampoo is a relatively recent invention? Over the course of history, plenty of things have been used for shampoo – including many of the ingredients ‘no-poo-ers’ love today, like vinegar and eggs. Ash mixed with water (preferably rainwater for even more softness) was a really common old-fashioned do-all cleaner. You left the ash to settle in the water then scooped the resulting liquid off the top and maybe boiled it to reduce it a little – apparently it left clothes and hair silky. ‘Lye soap’, made by mixing this with animal fat, was commonly used as a shampoo up until at least the 20th Century.
‘Shampoo’ comes from the Hindi word ‘champo’, meaning massage. The entrepreneurial Sake Dean Mahomed, who incidentally also founded the first curry house in Britain (The Hindoostane Coffee House was in Portman Square, London), is generally credited with introducing the word to Britain. Initially it was a medicated vapour massage. The idea caught on and he became the esteemed ‘shampoo surgeon’ to George IV and then William IV. Later, hairdressers began making ‘shampoo’ by shaving strips of soap into water and adding herbs for shine and fragrance. In 1908, The New York Times ran its first article on how to shampoo your hair at home – until this point shampooing had mostly been considered an occasional salon treat. Modern shampoo as it is known today (based around synthetic surfactants instead of soap) was introduced in the 1930s.