“No Poo” is a method of hair washing that ditches traditional shampoos and conditioners, and replaces them with baking soda and vinegar, or even no products at all. No-poo recently hit the national consciousness when Jacquelyn from Little Owl Crunchy Mama appeared on the Today Show to share why she hasn’t needed to wash her hair in five years! The public reaction was a mixture of support, curiosity and snark. Many wondered if no-poo would work for them. Can you stop using shampoo and still have nice hair?
- Better for you – Most commercial shampoos and conditioners have a number of chemicals which are not so natural, and have limited safety data (check out your brand here)
- Better for the earth – less shampoo and conditioner on your head = less shampoo and conditioners in the waste stream, and no big plastic bottles to dispose of either!
- Saves Time – save time by not needing to wash and dry your hair every day
- Saves Money – baking soda and vinegar are cheap alternatives to pricey shampoos. No Poo is even cheaper if you skip products all together.
- All natural – replace chemically based products with natural, or eliminate products all together
- Adjustment period – the first 4-6 weeks can be quite a rough patch, especially if you’re used to shampooing every day
- There is a base level of greasiness that you will have to get used to
- Itchiness and flakes could come your way.
- After your hair gets used to not being shampooed, it can be very hard to manage for a couple of days if you decide to do a quick wash
- This method may not work for everyone especially for the work-out-hard-every-day exercise enthusiasts
For much of my life (at least starting with the part where I started caring about my appearance) I shampooed, conditioned, and blow dried my hair every. single. day. Then one day at work a crunchy friend told me that daily shampooing wasn’t necessary. I vehemently disagreed: my hair was so greasy I HAD to wash it every day. She gently told me that if I slowed down on the shampooing, my scalp would slow down on the grease production.
Over the next few years I slowed down a bit on the shampooing due to increasing kids, work, and life responsibilities, as well as the development of the “I don’t care as much” attitude that seems to come as the years pass. I realized I had settled into a routine of washing my hair only 2-3 times a week. I was happy with my hair. It was healthy, manageable, and only turned into a limp grease ball on the fourth day after shampooing.
I was taking some time off work after my 3rd babe was born, and decided it was a perfect time to try out the no-poo method. After doing a quick Google survey of no-poo recipes, I settled on the baking soda wash with a vinegar rinse method. The baking soda is supposed to absorb the oils in your hair, while the vinegar rinse makes it shine!
It took a few tries to get the hang of it. I recommend getting your hair really wet, stirring up the baking soda in a cup of water right before pouring it slowly around the crown of your head. (Hint: the baking soda doesn’t really dissolve into the water, so after the first pour, you’ll have some in the bottom of the cup to do a second fill-stir-pour). The baking soda felt really slippery on my skin and was salty in my mouth. And it made my hair literally squeak with clean.
I diluted apple cider vinegar with water in a squirt bottle, and did a full rinse of my hair just before stepping out of the shower. (Hint: leave the bottle in the flow of water during your shower so it’s not COLD when you squirt it all over your head). The vinegar smell faded quickly, leaving a very fresh mild scent behind – mostly from the baking soda.
I’ll spare you the daily journal entries, but can sum up my experience this way:
- Week 1: While my hair was soft and shiny, my scalp was itchy and greasy all week.
- Week 2: A little less itchy and greasy. Feeling comfortable with a twice/week wash.
- Week 4: I have gotten used to a bit more oil around my roots, and feel like everything had evened out.
- Week 6: Twice a week is working fine but I can’t stretch it longer than that without feeling really gross. I look forward to the fresh smell of the baking soda wash. My hair can be styled as usual. At this point I am at a scalp-oil equilibrium.
- Week 8: I’m a little annoyed by the constant low level grease around the crown of my head. My scalp is starting to get flaky. I really look forward to hair washing day. I go back to work and mention to couple people that I haven’t used shampoo in two months. The most common reaction is a startled “WHY NOT?!”
- Week 10: I “cheat” and wash my hair with shampoo one day. It is GLORIOUS! My scalp feels cleaner than it has for a couple months. But the fragrance of the shampoo and conditioner is overwhelming, and not in a good way. My hair is very difficult to style for two days until the low level of root oils returns.
- Week 12: I continue to feel annoyed by the constant mild oiliness of my roots. The flakes persist. I consider setting up a regular “cheat” day.
- Sometime during Month 3: I mention to my husband that I’m tired of my hair always feeling a little less than fresh around the roots. “Then why don’t you WASH IT?!?” he responds. “Hmmm… good point!” I think.
So after three months, I gave up No Poo.
I think for me the main issue was the root oiliness. My hair was always in pretty good shape. It looked nice and styled well as long as I did the baking soda and vinegar rinse twice a week. But my scalp just never felt clean. The only solution to cleaning my scalp was to wash it with shampoo.
So that shampoo with the scary chemicals with limited hazard data? I’m still using it. I’ve switched to a much milder scent, but I’m using (and enjoying!) it 2-3 times a week. See the thing is, I’m not concerned about the little amount that gets on my skin and is then rinsed right off. I’m going to enjoy my feeling of clean that only shampoo can give me, and focus on removing chemicals from my home that have a much greater skin contact potential. Things like deodorant, body lotion, and fabric softener.
Perhaps my hair really is too oily to give up shampoo. We all have different body chemistry, and some things work better for some than others. (As a side note, homemade deodorant didn’t work for me either). Whatever the reason, I find I’m happier when I shampoo my hair. Hats off (hee, hee) to Jacquelyn for her dedication and willingness to put herself out there!
Have you ever tried washing with baking soda, or any other variation of No Poo? How did it work for you? I’d love to hear about your experience too!
PS – a little historical note… I spoke with my grandmother, who grew up in the 1930’s and 1940’s. She said she had always washed her hair once a week, and brushed it 100 strokes a day to keep it shiny. She was shocked when I suggested that some people wash their hair every single day. And like me, she noted that her hair always behaved better the day after it was washed.
For more info, check out this cool read on the history of personal hygiene, and innovations in hair care over the centuries.