I was 11 years old when I found a woman's magazine at the bottom of a pile in my pediatrician's waiting room. There was an article about weird shampoo substitutes, and my little pre-teen mind was blown. I, too, could have gorgeous, moisturized hair if I slathered it in mayo. My wavy mane would shine if I coated it in beer. How could my mom have kept this information from me, especially when we had both of those things in the fridge?
I experimented with those products the way that most 11-year-olds do: Without measuring properly, and with poor execution. On mayonnaise day, I went to school with disgustingly greasy hair and was told I smelled like a "dog's vagina" by the class bully. On beer day, my father found the empty can in my bathroom and spent a couple weeks suspecting that I was doing a little pre-pubescent drinking in between hanging with my Barbies and writing diary entries about how it feels to be a dog's vagina.
That's the nature of beauty experiments, isn't it? We read things, try them for ourselves, and most of the time, we end up learning that no, you can't really wash your hair with soda, and now your hair is all stuck together in a lump. Beauty DIYs are often a crapshoot, especially when they involve things that aren't actually sold in the beauty section. Sometimes, our experiments actually work. Other times, well, we learn our lessons. Here are some of the best and worst ideas for shampoo and conditioner replacements, as told by the DIY victims and aficionados in my circle of friends.
1. Rye Flour
By now, most people are familiar with one incarnation of the classic no-poo treatment: Washing your hair with baking soda and conditioning it with apple cider vinegar. However, baking soda might not be the best solution for your hair, as it is incredibly alkaline and has the tendency to strip your strands. One solution to this problem? Use rye flour instead. Rye flour has a pH that's much closer to your scalp than baking soda, and it's much less drying as a result.
"Basically, I'd been washing my hair with a baking soda rinse for a couple of years," rye flour shampooer Anna Marquardt tells me in an email. "It seemed like it was breaking my hair off. This was before it was blue, so I know it wasn't the bleach doing it. I hunted around to find an alternate no-poo solution and stumbled upon someone who suggested using a rye flour solution about the consistency of pancake batter. According to my Twitter feed, I've been doing it since Dec. 23 and I still really enjoy it. I alternate it with a sulfate-free shampoo."
When I first read that you should wash your hair in mud, I briefly considered waiting for the next rainstorm, heading to a spot in Central Park where there's no grass, and collecting a batch of fresh new mud for my follicles to feast on. As it turns out, there's a much more dignified way of giving your hair all the benefits of rich soil without the risk of finding worms and rusty tabs and New York City's finest condom wrappers in the mix.
Instead, wash with rhassoul clay. When mixed with water, rhassoul clay is essentially fancy mud and contains silica, magnesium, potassium, and calcium — all greatly beneficial to a good mane. The trick to making this alternative shampoo option work is to use a healthy dose of deeply moisturizing conditioner afterwards. You hair will be voluminous, but won't lack moisture. While you're waiting the 10-15 minutes it takes for the mud to treat your hair, you can also use the mask on your face to unclog pores.
3. Peanut Butter And Jelly
Peanut butter is a great way to get sticky things out of your hair, such as gum or food that you gobble up so quickly that you haven't noticed that your hair got in the way. The preferred method is to rub peanut butter through your hair, then scrub out the intruding substance with a toothbrush. There are also some people who use peanut butter as a protein treatment: Simply warm the peanut butter and spread it through your hair, then leave it on (under a shower cap) for one to two hours before rinsing.
The jelly thing is a little bit less effective. According to former PB&J hair masker Brittney Richmond, the use of jelly to remove gum from her hair was the result of a rumor.
"My mom said it was just an old wives [tale] to help loosen the gum out of my hair," Richmond recalls in an email. "Turns out, it was a bunch of bullsh*t because they had to cut [the gum] out anyway. But it did help loosen it a little?"
4. Mayonnaise, Greek Yogurt, And An Egg
Like most weird beauty tips, mayo-egg-yogurt aficionado Courtney Paige found this trifecta on the Internet when she was a teenager.
"I was 15 and had just dyed my hair for the third time," Paige explains in an email. "I had attempted to go blonde, but my hair turned orange. I read about mayonnaise possessing healing properties and egg being a good source of protein for damaged ends. The Chobani was to give it shine, which I lacked at the time."
However, time and wisdom has deterred Paige from using this blend of lipids for her locks. While eggs, mayonnaise, and yogurt all seem to have some hair treatment clout on the Internet, they're probably best used separately.
5. Dish Soap
Bustle writer Courtney Mina recently experimented with washing hair with dish soap, and she found it to be pretty effective. She recommends not using dish detergent every day, as it can strip and ultimately damage your hair. However, some people still sing its praises when it comes to tackling super greasy locks.
"I used Dawn on my hair when I was a kid because I ran out of shampoo," former dish-soaper Francesca Strahm writes in a Facebook message. "It seriously made my hair squeaky when I washed it!"
6. Olive Oil
"I've used vinegar to wash, as well as baby oil or olive oil as a hot oil/conditioning treatment," olive oiler Anna Lienhop tells me in a Facebook message. "Both work well."
Using olive oil on your hair might leave certain types in a greasy spot, but those who have dry hair can definitely use olive oil as a moisturizing treatment — even if they haven't washed their hair with shampoo ahead of time. As an added bonus, olive oil is also great for your skin, so as it seeps down your scalp to your face, it's doing double duty.
While many of us aren't afraid to experiment with a little weirdness to get the best mane possible, there are definitely some lines to be drawn when it comes to perfecting our mops.
"When I was a child I slept over at another kid's house and she washed her hair in her own pee at the end of our bathtime," Lienhop remembers. "She said it made it shiny. Needless to say I never slept over there again. I'm still not sure if that's a legitimate 'thing' and I don't want to know."
Images: Amanda Richards; Courtesy Interviewees