It’s been over a year since I told you I stopped wearing deodorant, so I guess it’s about time I get fresh and honest with you again.
It’s also been over a year since I washed my hair with shampoo regularly.
It was June of last year when my last bottle of shampoo emitted its last drops, which signified my self-appointed deadline to try the “no ‘poo” baking soda shampoo method for washing my hair.
Lesson one: I wish I would have started washing hair with no shampoo NOT in the summer.
Why No ‘Poo?
There are plenty of reasons why you might want to go without shampoo; here are the two most prominent ones for me:
- Shampoo includes chemicals, which are absorbed into your scalp even faster than other products because of the steam of the shower.
- Shampoo strips your hair of its natural oils, which has a couple trickle down impacts:
- You need to use conditioner, another product with chemicals, to compensate for the loss of natural oil.
- Your scalp responds by producing more oil than usual, which means you’re more likely to get greasy hair faster.
As for why this method has been termed no ‘poo, I suppose people got tired of saying, “I don’t use shampoo. No, really – my hair is clean. I use baking soda, see? I’m not crazy…” No ‘poo is more fun. 🙂
Lesson two: This is not exactly something I advertise far and wide. People definitely think it’s weird.
The Basic No ‘Poo Method
The replacement for the chemical shampoo is baking soda and water, and a diluted apple cider vinegar acts as the “conditioner” rinse. People have to use varying amounts and frequencies depending on their hair type, but the general strategy is:
- Use 1 Tbs baking soda to a cup of water – you can mix in an old shampoo bottle
- Shake the bottle to combine, then sprinkle evenly on your scalp
- Allow to sit a minute, then scrub your scalp in circles with your fingernails, working the baking soda through evenly, especially on the top
- Rinse with warm water while scrubbing
- Use 1-2 Tbs apple cider vinegar per cup of water – I mix this in a spray bottle, but others just use a cup and dip their hair
- Apply as needed to detangle and clarify
- Rinse well, preferably in cold water on the scalp at the end to close the pores back up. This one I just can’t handle in the winter sometimes, but it is easier if you have a hand-held shower head so your whole body doesn’t have to frigidify just to get your scalp cold!
Lesson three: There’s a catch. Before your scalp adjusts to not having to battle shampoo by overproducing oil, you’ll have to endure a period of greasy hair.
The Oil Problem (Greasy Hair)
It makes perfect sense. Your scalp has been used to being stripped of oil every day or every other day, and its habit was to generate a bunch more to fill the gap. Now you’re not stripping it at all, and it takes a while for your scalp to realize what’s going on.
With nothing to cut the grease, your hair will likely go through an adjustment period where it’s quite greasy. This is why winter (at least in my climate) is a slightly better time to try it than summer, because you won’t have to deal with additional sweat.
Personally, I think my adjustment period lasted 6 weeks. It’s amazing I ever came out on the other side! That’s exceedingly long, and there a few reasons for it:
- I had really long hair. I don’t know if that hurt anything, but I doubt it helped.
- I wasn’t using enough baking soda at first.
- I wasn’t smart enough to look up the method again or try any experiments with amounts or procedures for quite some time. I just waited for it to “work” without trying to fight it. As soon as I increased the baking soda considerably, things started looking up!
- Some find that the vinegar rinse needs a lot of personalization: spraying on the scalp was important for me, but Stephanie found that her hair was greasier if the ACV rinse touched her scalp. Many also find that they only need the rinse every other wash or once a week. With my long hair, I needed it every time. At first, as with the baking soda, I wasn’t experimenting much because I didn’t know what to look for.
Lesson four: Do experiment and expect success, instead of waiting around for your greasy adjustment period to end.
My No ‘Poo Method and Results
It does work! I remain amazed that my hair is not greasy, and in fact, I’ve found that it’s less greasy on day two (I’m an every other day shower girl) than right after the shower since I did this:
Having a foot less hair changed the way the no ’poo system worked, in my opinion. It’s only been two weeks, so more experimentation is needed (see how I catch on?). I’m wondering if I should use less baking soda and/or fewer vinegar rinses.
Here’s how I wash my hair without shampoo:
- I pour baking soda in an old shampoo bottle to about 1/4 full, then top off with warm water. This separates and needs to be shaken every shower. I use quite a bit more baking soda than 1 Tbs/cup of water, but it’s what I needed to make the method work when I had very long hair.
- I shake the bottle over my head about 6-7 times, then scrub vigorously with my fingernails. I’ve also had decent success with putting about a 1/2-1 Tablespoon of baking soda directly in my palm, adding a little water, and putting it on my scalp. This is what I do when traveling, and I often just skip the rinse if I’m only gone a weekend.
- I spray the ACV water all over my hair and scalp and leave it in a minute or two, then rinse. I used to end the shower with cold water (I have a shower head that detaches, so I can hit my scalp and not the rest of my body), but I’m such a wimp in the winter. This may help my short hair adjustment period, though, so I may have to grin and bear it.
- Although I didn’t at all at first, because I was afraid of stripping my oils and having to go through 6 weeks of greasy hair, I do use a regular shampoo about once a week. Sometimes it’s the NaturOli shampoo bar, other times it’s an organic random shampoo I got at Rite Aid.
Added bonus to the method – when you refill the shampoo bottle, spill some of the baking soda (you will anyway) and use it to clean your tub. The tub that looked more or less clean at my house, with the power of baking soda and the palm of my hand, let loose more dirt and grime than I ever expected to be rewarded with.
The Drawbacks of No ‘Poo
- Your hair might smell like vinegar. If so, you’re probably using too much vinegar and should dilute it further with water. However, you’ll never have that shampoo smell, which may bum your husband out.
- Traveling can be more of a hassle. It can also be less, because you don’t have to wash your hair that often.
- It’s not a hands-off method. You might have to make adjustments, especially at first, but also when you cut your hair, get pregnant, or the season changes. It takes more involved thought than “lather, rinse.”
- Your hair will probably feel different. My mom is the one who cut my hair last week (thanks, Mom!), and she said that the texture of my hair was “awfully different.” How can I describe it? It’s almost stickier, but not sticky like tape.
- My brush gets full of baking soda residue. Or something residue. My brush is a mess. This probably is a sign that I’m using too much or something, but as we’ve established, I can be pretty dense sometimes. 😉
All in all, it’s still worth it to me to take this “crunchy” step, and it certainly makes for interesting conversation…or it would, if I was courageous enough to bring it up in person.
Other no shampoo resources and stories:
- The post I used to learn how: Shampoo Free (background on dangers of shampoo, troubleshooting, very comprehensive post)
- Simple Mom’s version
- Sorta Crunchy does it too
- The scalp scrubbing addition
Not brave enough for no ‘poo? Here’s my list of other green personal product options.
See my full disclosure statement here.
Photo by Mike Baird, Rowdy Kittens (link no longer available).