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About a year and a half ago, I wrote about how I joined the “No-Poo” movement, and stopped using shampoo and conditioner in my hair. No, it didn’t mean I stopped washing my hair — I just started washing it with baking soda, and doing an apple cider vinegar conditioning rinse.
I’ve gotten a couple of comments and a few emails recently from people who landed on that post on this blog, and they wanted to know if I was still doing it and if it was working. So, I figured I’d give an update that is long overdue, and frankly, quite entertaining if you ask me.
My “No-Poo” Experiment is Over
I’ll just say right now that I am no longer using baking soda and vinegar to wash my hair. I am back to using bona-fide shampoo and conditioner, although I am using Aveda products, which are plant-based.
First, let me back up and let you know that I did not use typical shampoo/conditioner on my hair for 6 months. It was awesome. Much to my initial surprise, when I was using the baking soda/vinegar combo on my hair, my hair was shinier, softer, stronger, and healthier than it had ever been. My hair has always been course and prone to frizziness, and when I started going “no-poo,” it was no longer frizzy. At all.
In addition, my scalp, which never could quite make up its mind on whether it was dry or oily, finally calmed the fuck down and was normal. I had no flaking or itching, and surprisingly, no oil.
You see, the baking soda/apple cider vinegar combo is ph balanced, and your scalp eventually regulates itself once it doesn’t have all of the harsh chemicals turning it into a schizophrenic mess.
So why did I quit going “no-poo?”
A freak accident.
A Hell of a Doctor’s Bill
So allow me to set the stage for a moment.
We had just pulled into a new marina and had only been there for about 3 days when Chris took a freelance gig in Atlanta for a week. No big deal. I was used to him traveling for work occasionally, and when you’re on a small boat together all the time, a week alone can be a good thing — even healthy.
He’d been gone for two days when I went up to the bath-house of the marina to take a shower, loaded with my shower kit — razor, soap, washrag, and yes, baking soda and apple cider vinegar. The bathrooms at this marina were somewhat typical in that you had one big women’s bathroom with separate shower stalls. In this case, the showers didn’t have doors — just curtains for privacy. Again, pretty typical for most of the marinas we’ve seen/stayed at.
I get in the shower, and start to “wash” my hair. When you wash your hair with baking soda, it’s pretty weird until you get used to it, because it’s just powder. It doesn’t lather up like shampoo, and there’s no smell, so it’s very unfulfilling. I would sprinkle a handful in my hand, add a tad bit of water, and put globs of the paste on various parts of my head, and rub it into my scalp really well.
Once I washed and rinsed, I reached down to grab my bottle of apple cider vinegar (ACV). I used the organic kind, that even had the “mother” floating around in the bottom. It was pretty amazing stuff.
I twisted open the cap and heard a hiss — like when something is pressurized and you suddenly relieve the pressure. Before I knew it, the ACV was spraying into my face. More accurately, it sprayed into my left eye.
I dropped the entire bottle of vinegar, both out of surprise, and out of pain. That shit burned! I immediately started rinsing my eye with water from the shower. Funny, it was not helping. In fact, it started to hurt worse.
So let’s stop here for a minute. I want you to get the full picture — the full ridiculousness of the situation at this point.
There I am, naked in the shower. I’ve just dropped the entire contents of the vinegar bottle and it’s spreading over the floor of the ladies bathroom. I’m not sure if you’ve smelled apple cider vinegar lately, but it stinks.
Here’s where it gets pretty comical. My eye is burning like crazy. But for whatever reason, I decide I should clean up the mess in the bathroom before attending to my eye. I don’t even think of putting clothes on before cleaning up my mess.
So there I am, on the floor of the bathroom with just my towel around me, wiping up my spilled vinegar, while my eye is on fire. Once I clean it up, I throw on my clothes and start to make my way down to the boat.
Once on the boat, I try rinsing with water again, to no avail. The pain in my eye is becoming even worse. I remember that our First Aid Kit has an eye-rinse. Yes! I pull that out, take the cup, fill it with saline solution, and rinse my eye for several minutes.
Nope. Still not helping. Pain getting much worse. Oh, and I should mention that at this point, I could no longer see out of that eye.
I headed up to the marina office to ask where the nearest hospital was. I explained what happened, and then, for the first time, I broke into tears because the pain in my eye was unbearable at this point. I couldn’t take it any more, so someone graciously offered to drive me to the nearest emergency room.
Here’s where the story starts to get even more interesting.
I went in, and they did a quick emergency assessment to see how bad my emergency is. Luckily there was only me and one other guy in there. He had broken his wrist. They asked me what my pain level was from 1-10. Now, just so you know, I take this question very seriously. I imagine having a dismembered limb as being like a 9 or 10… I’d guess a broken bone is probably about a 4. My eye? I told them I was at a 9. And I was serious. They rushed me right in.
I got back there, and someone came in and gave me numbing drops for my eye. Holy Jesus, it was the best thing I’ve ever had. It immediately took the pain away and I could actually remember what it was like to function like a normal person for a minute.
The doctor came in and started asking me questions. He put a dye in my eye, and then looked at it with a light to assess the damage.
Doctor: “Oh, I see you’re wearing contacts. We’re going to need to take them out.”
Me: “Ummm… I don’t wear contacts.”
Doctor: “Hmm… that’s strange. Hang on a sec.”
He came back a few minutes later, and let me know that he was going to send me to a specialist down the road. I asked him how far it was, and he said about 2 miles. He asked if there was anyone to drive me. I told him no, but that I would walk as long as he’d give me another drop of pain medicine in my eye before I left. He obliged, then put a patch on my eye to protect it, and off I went.
So I walked the 2 miles to the opthamologist, still feeling so much better after the drops.
As soon as I got there, they took me right back, and the doctor came in and we went through the same routine as I had at the emergency room. A little dye in the eye, shine the light…
Doctor: “Oh, I didn’t realize you were wearing contacts. I’m going to have to take this one out – it might hurt a little.”
Me: “The other doctor said that, too, but I don’t wear contacts. Frankly, now I’m a little freaked out.”
Doctor: “Hmmm… that’s strange… Ahhh – I see. It’s not a contact lens. It’s a blister. How odd that it’s perfectly round like that.”
He looked further, did a couple of other tests, then says perhaps the worst thing I’ve ever been told: “So… you have a chemical burn on your eye, and you’ve burned 80 percent of your cornea. That’s extremely painful, and frankly, I don’t even know how you’re even functioning right now.”
I about lost it. Chemical burn? 80% of my cornea gone? Am I BLIND?
He did some vision tests, and we assessed that yes, I was at that point, legally blind in that eye. But there was good news! He said luckily the eye has so many blood vessels going to it that eye injuries like this can heal fairly quickly, and that although I may not have quite the vision I had before, he anticipated a full recovery of that eye within 2 weeks.
Cool. So… just write me a prescription for those numbing drops, and I’ll be on my way. Right?
Nope. As he explained, the drops were a steroid, and actually prevent the eye from healing, so he couldn’t give me anything. Even regular pain meds wouldn’t help — I’d just have to endure it for awhile.
What he did do was put a big contact lens on the eye, to keep dust and hair from getting in it (since my cornea was gone and all), with instructions to “whatever you do, don’t rub your eye — your cornea will be growing back, and you could rub it right off,” and gave me a patch to wear. Yes. A real pirate patch. We scheduled a few more visits so he could monitor my progress.
I asked him before I left, “So is this a typical reaction to apple cider vinegar?” He said no. In fact, he was totally perplexed by it. He said that at most, it would sting a little, but shouldn’t cause a chemical burn like that. He said that either the ACV I used was NOT pure ACV (not likely in my opinion – my bottle indicated it was organic and 100% pure, and from a reputable company), or that somehow, I had gotten baking soda in my eye, and the ACV came in contact with it, causing a chemical reaction.
So… essentially a real life baking soda/vinegar volcano science experiment — on my eye.
And if the entire story couldn’t get any worse, I walked back to the marina (about 4 miles) because I didn’t want to call the marina for a pick-up. And since Chris was out of town (and we didn’t have a car there yet), I had to walk 4 miles each way to the doc, with a patch on my eye, for the next 2 days for follow up visits. It’s comical now.
Oh, but in case you’re wondering, my eye did fully heal. It was excruciatingly painful for about a week, but it eventually got better, and now, a year later, I have no adverse effects (except my own mental anguish over the whole incident…seriously, wouldn’t wish that pain on my worst enemy), but my sight was fully restored. In fact, I had an eye exam the other day, and my damaged eye has better vision than my non-damaged eye! Amazing.
So there you have it. That’s the reason that I stopped using baking soda and apple cider vinegar to wash my hair. No-poo was great, until it almost made me blind.
Ouch. I’ve torn a cornea pulling a dried contact lens off in the middle of the night and for the next day and a half, I wanted to put a gun to my head.
Your incident was undoubtedly ten times worse. (I even reported the pain to be a 10–what a baby)
Keep your posts coming! I really enjoy them & plan on joining your lifestyle soon.
Eeeek! Yours sounds horrible!!! I tell you, eye pain is NO JOKE. Seriously the most painful thing I’ve experienced, and I think I probably would have considered it a 10, but I figured there was probably something worse. I hope yours is fully healed now. 🙂 Thanks for following along!
Holy crap. That is horrible. But thanks for sharing it. I was considering going No Poo, but just never got around to it. This gives me a perfectly legit reason for not doing it!
PS Glad to hear your eyesight is back – and even better.
Honestly, although I missed the nice smells and lathery suds of shampoo, I loved the way my hair felt way more, but it’s definitely not something I’ll risk again!
I wonder if it would work if you were to alternate. Wash one day with soda and rinse the next with vinegar… I might give it a try.
As I’ve already had Lasik surgery, I am familiar with weird eye things – and really want to avoid your eye science experiment.
The doc said it might have been the mixture, but he also said that it could have been fermented ACV or even non-pure ACV. He was incredibly surprised because he said that although ACV is acidic and might sting, it should never have caused an actual chemical burn, so I’m wary to try it at all, even though I know it was probably just a weird freak accident. One idea I did have was to put the vinegar in a spray bottle so you have a little more control over where it goes.
OMG, this is crazy! I have been no-poo for over a year now and thankfully no issues. I do water down both my BS and ACV into separate spray bottles so both are nicely diluted solutions that are easily applied. BS is 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon to 1 cup water and ACV is a 50/50 mix. I am certainly going to be more careful though.
I am curious, how is your hair since you have gone back to the traditional ways? Traveling with my diluted solutions is a pain but I can’t imagine going back as my hair is so much more manageable.
I’m so glad you’ve not had any issues! Watering it down in a spray bottle is a fantastic idea, and one I wish I had had before my incident! 🙂 I have to admit that my hair isn’t as “frizz-free” or soft as it was when I was going no-poo. What I’ve done to try to offset the traditional shampoo/conditioner is to just wash my hair no more than twice a week, but usually just once. Since my hair was used to no shampoo/chemicals from before, I’ve found that I can go a week without washing it, and it doesn’t get the least bit oily and actually looks much better after several days of not washing than it does right after I wash. I may eventually go back to the BS/ACV – but much more carefully next time. Thanks for reading and for chiming in!
I showed this to my daughter, who wanted to try the No Poo method this summer. So scary, and I’m glad you didn’t have any permanent damage!
We’ve just purchased a 46′ trawler and I’m trying to find recommendations for eco-friendly soaps (I know there are no perfect choices, but I’m trying to minimize our impact as much as possible). So far it looks like Dr. Bronner’s is a popular choice. I think I’ve read that you and your husband try to be environmentally conscious boaters. Any plans for a post on green boating? 🙂
Hi Kari! I don’t want to discourage anyone from doing it, as it worked great. The doctor told me that ACV shouldn’t have done that to my eye, but for some reason it did. If she does do it, just tell her to open the bottle AWAY from her face, just in case, 🙂
As far as eco-friendly soaps, we use Dr. Bronners. You can get the big bottle of it at Trader Joe’s for cheap, and you can also find it on Amazon, although it was more expensive than I saw at Trader Joe’s.
I don’t plan on doing a post on green boating, as now I’m focusing the blog on ways to work remotely and make money online while on a boat, since that’s what people really are interested in. However, another AWESOME product is called Unique (you can find it online, and some stores carry it). They have everything from bilge cleaner to safe drain openers, pet stain removers, and even a wine stain remover. All eco-friendly, and won’t hurt the water. We love their products.
Congrats on your boat purchase!
My God, you poor thing! This sounds so incredibly painful. You are tough! Of course, now that I know your survived, all I can think about is the part where you said your hair wasn’t frizzy anymore… I have very thick, coarse hair that tends to get frizzy no matter what I do. So now in spite of your horror story, I’m thinking about trying it (if I can avoid burning my cornea with the vinegar!).
What a hilarious but informative and freaky story!! ? Glad you healed up well!
I blistered my cornea with my contacts (stupid me) and remember (clearly!! ) driving home from nursing school (yes I was learning to take care of others but not myself) with searing pain and tears streaming from my eye and light from cars coming toward me intensifying the agony…I wasn’t sure I was going to make it home alive!! I should have walked ?
Thanks for sharing you very interesting story ?
Yikes! I can’t imagine driving with a blistered cornea! I’m so glad you’re ok now!