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The New Wash verdict: does it work?
Yes, and no. On the plus side, after using it for just three weeks an annoying patch of dermatitis at my hairline which I'd experienced off and on for years was gone. Unfortunately, that's the only real piece of praise I can offer.
On the negative side, my hair just didn't feel clean, despite diligently following the instructions to vigorously massage during application and rinsing.
I even varied the amount of the product I used, and the frequency with which I washed, and while there were a few days when my hair felt OK, I failed to experience the kind of hair epiphany that other users wrote about in their reviews.
It also took me much longer to wash my hair than I was used to and as a time-poor working parent that was a definite downside.
All of that, coupled with the cost of the product and the fact that it has to be shipped from the US means I won't be signing up to a subscription any time soon. However, it has made me curious to try other products that claim to be alternatives to detergent-based shampoos, many of which are a lot cheaper than New Wash and a lot easier to buy.
New Wash and the 'No Poo' movement
As I've been washing my hair all by myself for several decades now I didn't believe there could be much that was new to learn about the process.
While the look of my hair may have changed a bit over the years – 80s perm, anyone? – the steps taken to keep it clean remained the same: wash-rinse-condition-rinse-done.
Sure, sometimes I dabbled with conditioning treatments (I'm pretty sure there was a phase in the 90s where I regularly wrapped my hair in clingfilm for half an hour after applying conditioner) but for the most part the process and ingredients used were more or less static.
Then came the arrival of the 'No Poo' movement which claims shampoos are the cause of dry scalps, split ends and excessive oil production among other hair-related woes. Instead of shampoo, No Poo advocates clean their hair with water only, or perhaps with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and baking soda, or other homemade concoctions.
Fans of the method claim that after a period of adjustment their hair is healthier, they're putting less petrochemicals into the waterways and saving money to boot.
Unfortunately, the big downside to No Poo is that period of adjustment. This is often blamed on the idea that when we wash our hair with conventional shampoos the chemicals strip the natural oils from the scalp, which our scalp then helpfully compensates for with more oil production. When we stop using shampoo our scalp continues to produce the same amount of oil for a while, despite the fact it's no longer needed.
While there's lots of anecdotal reports that reinforce this belief, scientists at McGill University in Canada who have studied the phenomenon say there's no actual evidence that your scalp overproduces sebum after you stop using shampoo.
Whatever the reason, it can take anywhere from two to six weeks for hair to adjust to the absence of shampoo, during which time your locks may look oily. Not surprisingly, this is a big turn off for many of those who might otherwise wholeheartedly embrace the chance to break their shampoo habit.
'No Poo' and 'low poo'
New Wash is a product that, at first glance, seems to promise to do much the same thing that going without shampoo will do, boasting on its website that it will, over time, "revive hair abused by detergent, damaged by bleach and fried by heat styling", adding that "troubled scalps become so much happier". It claims to do all of this without detergents, instead using a blend of essential oils and "naturally derived saturated cleansers".
Like No Poo it also comes with a period of adjustment. On their website New Wash say this can take "up to three weeks" and many of the users who leave positive reviews agree with this estimation.
Unfortunately, many who expressed disappointment with the product claim that even after giving themselves up to a couple of months and carefully following the directions – which call for vigorous massaging after application and while rinsing – their hair simply didn't feel clean.
How much does it cost?
That lengthy adjustment period wasn't the only criticism levelled at the product by some unhappy users. Many expressed dissatisfaction with the cost.
For Australian customers it's $60 for a 236ml bottle for your first order and after that if you decide to keep using the product you can save a bit of money on the product with one of their subscription options – $135 for 590ml if you join their New Wash Club.
The downside of this subscription model is that when you sign up the maximum time offered between deliveries is 12 weeks, which might be too frequent for some users.
However, one user we spoke to says that after they contacted the company they were able to extend the time between deliveries to up to 48 weeks, and better still, some Australian salons are starting to stock New Wash, too. Finding them, however, will take some detective work as the New Wash website doesn't list local stockists.