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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mikveh Sham(poo)

One of the few things I dislike about going to the mikveh - because really, what is there to hate about a place where they basically order you to take a half-hour soak in a warm tub, and don't make you clean up afterwards??? - is the shampoo.
 
I love not using shampoo.  I'm a total convert from shampoo.  I have a special no'poo method instead using baking soda and apple-cider vinegar (it's here if you're interested, though these days I sometimes just dump baking soda on my head because it's quicker). 
 
Call me a total wacko, but I have come to believe that shampoo is a scam.  Hear me out!  First, it strips your hair of its natural oils, then, so it won't feel dry, coats it with conditioner instead (this is either one or two different products and different steps in your daily routine).  And then, you wash it again the next day because it's lank and unpleasant.  I believe that if you leave hair for a couple of weeks, it will regain some of its natural balance and require washing FAR less often. 
 
I understand that this is a very big IF for some people:  going a couple of weeks without shampooing while your hair recovers.
 
Not NEVER, you understand:  I point this out for anyone who thinks this whole business is pretty gross.  How often will depend on the individual woman, and on different times of your life.  Whether you are pregnant or menstruating or using hormone-based birth control could affect how often your hair will need (really NEED) washing.  Certainly, it will NOT be every day, or every other day, or whatever schedule - slash - short leash your current brand of shampoo has you barking on.
 
Anyway, back to the mikveh.  Specifically to the one on Sheppard, which is very nice and has several "kallah suites," each with a small, personal mikveh in the same room as the bathtub.  You can't really request it, but it's lovely and private if you happen to be assigned to one.  I usually go to the Village Shul, because it's closer, and really quite nice, but on this particular evening I wanted to go during suppertime and the Village Shul one wasn't open yet.
 
If I remember, and if I have time and leisure, since I've been no'pooing, I try to wash & brush out my hair before going to the mikveh, then wash everything else when I get there.  On this particular evening, no time, no leisure.  I got a final bedikah in before sunset, which was early; that's about the extent of my leisure time that afternoon.
 
In past, if I haven't had a chance to no'poo at home, I've used the chemically squirt-dispenser shampoo they give you there.  It smells nice; I'm sure it's not terrible.  But actually, the fact that the scent lingers in your hair feels, to me, actually LESS clean and LESS ready for the mikveh than just the faint vinegar smell after no'pooing.  It usually feels and smells like I've just coated my hair in a cosmetic product; how pure is that?
 
So this time, I took my no'poo on the road.  Had to stop at Shoppers first because I forgot a brush and comb for my long tangly curls, and then I was on my way.  And I happened to luck into one of the aforementioned kallah suites.  Yay!
 
The only problem was the smell.  By the time I'd finished no'pooing, the whole room STANK of apple-cider vinegar.  I thought the mikveh lady would faint, or, even if it dissipated a little, assume I'd been cooking, or drinking, in there.
 
But what could I do?  I finished the rest of my preparations as quickly as halacha would allow (the reason I went early is because we had a committment later on).  And yes, there was a faint vinegary tang in the air when I pushed the buzzer.  I could smell it, but I was pretty sure it was ALMOST at an acceptable level.  Certainly, it couldn't be as bad as the bleach and nail polish remover I'm sure some women use in there.
 
Anyway, of course, the anticlimactic climax to the story is:  the mikveh lady came in and didn't say a word.  (what could she possibly say?)
 
My other fear was that baking soda would get everywhere and leave a powdery, dusty mess.  I'd brought along the whole industrial-sized box of Arm & Hammer because I was in a hurry to get out of the house before prying teenagers got home from school.  In future, I would probably bring a reusable container with just the right amount.
 
And yes, I suspect there will be a future for the mikveh no'poo experience.
There's no way around the vinegar smell, I think.  I may mention it to the mikveh lady next time, if I'm brave enough.  At least to let her know that the smell will clear pretty quickly... in time for the next customer, I would hope.
 
Speaking of smell, I just want to say one more time:  the smell DOES completely dissipate.  It leaves your hair TOTALLY.  There is NO TRACE of vinegar smell.  Because, beyond the one or two weeks of greasiness at the beginning, that's usually people's main objection to no'poo.  It certainly was mine.  And it was no objection, as it turns out because, miracle of miracles, the smell does leave your hair very, VERY fast.
 
(Which is also true, by the way, of white vinegar as a rinse agent in the washing machine:  it does NOT leave a lingering smell of vinegar on your washload.  In case you were worried.)

3 comments:

Yonina said...

Once I used a Mikvah in Kiryat Sefer. They had what they called "Mineral shampoo". The ingredients? Demineralized water, sodium ether sulfate, sodium sulfate, glycerine, mercury, lead, arsenic , copper, chromium, zinc, barium sulfate, perfume, 2-bromo2-nitro-propane-1,3,diol.
Then it said, "Not tested on animals" and "Approved by the ministry of health". Scary. I mentioned something to the woman running the place and she just laughed at me.

Jay3fer said...

Well, mercury, lead and arsenic ARE minerals, right? And minerals mean natural, and natural means healthy!
(just like poison ivy...)

nava said...

Ok, I just started reading your blog (after following you from the JATP forum) and you are AWESOME.
I use baking soda + apple cider too, and my husband complains every. single. time. but my hair is so soft and clean and shiny that he's gotten over it. oh, and thanks for mentioning the Buff; I am going to see if I can get some for myself! Especially now that I hacked off all my hair, there isn't much for my scarves to cling to :)