Backpacking And The Benefits Of The Hair Cleanse

As a backpacker, I’m clearly a fan of the least demanding beauty routine as possible. Hair is no exception.

This past summer, I walked the Camino de Santiago, and during almost 3 weeks of the journey, stopped using shampoo.

Why did I let my hair become a greasy mess?

I wanted to depend less on shampoo and chemicals to keep my hair clean. Commercial shampoos contain harmful chemicals and often strip hair of natural oils. In fact, the more you wash your hair, the more greasy it becomes and therefore the more frequent your washes become.

There are plenty of alternatives to washing hair with commercial shampoo. These home remedies often include vinegar and baking soda (the blog Aires de Cambio explains the process here).

beach in cadiz
Hard to wash your hair when you sleep on the beach in Cadiz. Photo by Kimberly Lucht

Because I was traveling, I didn’t want to carry around more weight than necessary. With
Kimberly’s encouragement (she’s done this before, and in fact doesn’t use any shampoo now!), I stopped washing with shampoo, and only rinsed with hot water.The first week without shampoo, I did see a noticeable increase of grease. I can’t confirm that if I hadn’t been walking the camino I would have had the strength to continue.

After the second week, I was able to have my hair down, and people who knew I hadn’t been washing with shampoo couldn’t believe how “normal” it looked!


morocco desert
no one cares what your hair looks like when you’re covering up from a sandstorm! Photo by Kimberly Lucht

Finally, around the third week, I decided it was time to wash with shampoo. My hair was visibly non-greasy, but it felt thicker and denser to me. Although I am aware of the harmful aspects of it, for convenience purposes I used the shampoo that I already had in my backpack.

From then on, I’ve only had to wash my hair 1-2 times/week or every 3-4 days. The frequency changes depending on activities (salt water seems to affect the way it feels).

In general, I advocate for backpackers to adopt this method because,

1. It’s cheaper (less shampoo used means less money spent on products)

2. It’s easier (I’m more concerned with planning and activities than the look of my hair. I don’t think about it too much)

3. It’s less time consuming (sure, shampooing only takes a few minutes. But when you’re tired or focused on other things, you notice the difference)

Have you done a hair cleanse? What have your experiences been? Do you agree with my rationale?



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