That’s no “shampoo” for those of you with the confused look on your face. Wait, you’re probably still confused, aren’t you? Let me explain:
What the heck is “no poo”?
No poo is a method of cleaning your hair by removing excess oils with a baking soda solution and conditioning with diluted apple cider vinegar (ACV). It is supposed to drastically slow down oil production and keep your hair silky and healthy by allowing your natural oils to condition your hair.
I realized I’ve been using this method for over a year now and it’s been working so well that I haven’t really even considered switching back to shampoos and conditioners. That’s not to say I won’t ever switch back but what I’m doing right now is working great. There are a few downsides but I think the benefits greatly outweigh these. In this post, I’m going to talk about my experience with this method over the past year, including what I do and don’t like about it.
Just a little bit of background: I have fairly thick, very coarse hair. My sister says it feels like plastic doll hair which is scary accurate. It is also completely untreated, meaning my hair is not dyed, henna’d, permed, chemically straightened, etc. I also don’t use any hairspray, mousse, gel, or dry shampoo. The only product I use is a hair sunscreen and I use that very rarely – just when I’m going to be out in the sun for a long time because I really don’t look good as a blonde! My experience with no poo will likely be different from your experience because we probably have different hair types. For example, if my hair were thinner but I produced oils at the same rate, I would probably have to clean my hair more frequently.
No Shampoo? Why would anyone want to do that???
There are a few reasons I was interested in trying no poo. I learned of all the shampoo ingredients that were so bad for the environment and they seemed unavoidable. I also learned about how shampoos strip too much oil from our hair and we start to overproduce oils to compensate. I’m not going to lie, I definitely wanted to wash my hair less often too. I was alternating shampoos and conditioners every few months because using one for too long would make my hair feel dirty like there was some sort of product buildup in it.
I think the biggest reason I wanted to switch was because I have had bad reactions to seemingly harmless beauty products and cleaning chemicals before. In particular, I had a bad reaction to a conditioner and it caused a sort of burn on my scalp and my back where my hair touched. It made my psoriasis flare up real bad and I still have the scalp psoriasis right above my neck over 3 years later. Later, after I learned I was gluten intolerant, I looked up the product ingredients but it appeared to be gluten free. I don’t know what ingredient was in there that I reacted to but I now spot test everything before using it. So that was a long way of saying that I’m terrified of almost anything that comes in a bottle. The fact that I can now make my own “shampoo and conditioner” using inexpensive ingredients from my kitchen means I have two fewer products to stress over.
Let’s talk about how I do this no poo thing. It took me a while to figure out how much baking soda and ACV to use as well as how often I needed to use it. The recipe I’ve come to like for my hair is this:
Clean with 1 1/2 Tbsp baking soda plus 1 C water
Condition with 2 Tbsp ACV plus 1 C water
Adding more baking soda removes more oil and adding more ACV conditions more. To make things easy, I just keep these solutions in spray bottles in my shower. Each batch lasts several uses.
To use these mixtures, I start by wetting my hair. Next, I spray the baking soda solution on my scalp and only where my hair feels oily. I never spray it on the ends because it gets too dry. I then scrub my scalp while I think about how much I miss feeling shampoo lather up in my hair. I don’t rinse it out until my hair starts to feel somewhat slick, about a minute or two. I think the slippery feeling must be the excess oils being drawn away from the hair but I really don’t know.
Interesting fact: The person who does my hair recommended baking soda to strip out the sixteen thousand cans of hairspray applied to my hair for my wedding. It works and when I first heard about the no poo method, I remembered this and it just made so much sense.
After rinsing out the baking soda, I spray some of the ACV solution onto only the ends of my hair and use my fingers to work it in. I don’t rinse this out until I’m ready to get out of the shower, meaning I leave it in as long as possible.
Another interesting fact: The apple cider vinegar is supposed to rebalance the ph of your hair. I’ve tested the ph of my baking soda solution and it was high – more than my low range strips could read. When I tested the ACV solution, it was acidic despite the fact that it was diluted with water.
I wash my hair at night so the next day, I refer to as “day one”. Before no poo, I washed my hair every other day. By the end of day two, the oils would begin to surpass socially and hygienically acceptable levels. Now, I can typically wait until the evening of day 3 or 4 before needing my first rinse. Meaning, I just rinse my hair with water so I only strip out a little oil. If I do between one and three rinses, I can typically wait until the evening of days 6 or 7 before doing another full wash. Otherwise, I just rinse my hair or wear a shower cap.
It was, admittedly, difficult when I first started this method. I heard there would be a transition period where my hair would seem really dirty the first week or two but it only lasted a few days for me. I went from washing my hair every other day to every three days, then every four pretty quickly. It took quite a bit longer to start making it all the way to days six and seven but I hear some people can go even longer than that! I wash more or less depending on how I style my hair, how often I’m outside, and how often I exercise.
My biggest apprehension when starting this process was smells. Hair tends to hold smells really well so I was worried about my hair smelling like whatever I cooked for dinner the night before. Fortunately, baking soda is great at deodorizing. My hair always has a neutral smell to it. It even seems like when I do my rinses the baking soda gets re-activated and neutralizes any bad smells my hair may have picked up that day. The only exception is cigarette smoke. If I’m around that, I start over at day one because it’s just too difficult to get that smell out of hair.
Overall, my hair seems much healthier. It’s both softer and has more volume at the roots. My hair is also much easier to style now and responds to very low heat settings on my flat iron, which reduces damage to my hair. It never looks, feels, or smells dirty. I also love that I don’t spend as much time washing and styling my hair and it actually saves me money.
I have noticed a few downsides too. It’s much harder to run a brush through my hair so I tend to lose more hair in my brush than I used to. I also never enjoy “Day 1” hair because it’s very dry and tangles easily. I think adjusting my recipes could help fix this. Which leads me to my next point:
Do what works for you!
If you decide to try out the no poo method, take some time to experiment with what works for you. And if going back to regular shampoo and conditioner is what works for you, that’s perfectly fine! I am constantly experimenting with this and changing my method. I’m definitely not on any set hair washing schedule and just play it by ear most of the time. If you’re open to recommendations, try this:
Start with my recipe at the beginning of this post. Allow at least a week for your body to adjust to this new method. From there, adjust the recipes to what works best for your hair.
It’s not for everybody :(
No poo isn’t for everybody. Some people absolutely love it and others can’t stand it. Update: Since posting this yesterday, I read about some people who have been doing no poo for a long time and possibly damaged their hair from the high ph of the baking soda. I’ve always been pretty hard on my hair as far as heat and styling and my hair is near-impossible to damage. That may be why this method has worked so great for me. I actually heat damaged my bangs really badly a few years ago and there’s still damage present but it has continued to improve over the past year and did not get worse at all. I will however, keep an eye out for signs of damage in case I’m wrong. I’m very open to try other methods. I read about several people using more acidic alternatives to baking soda to prevent damage and cowashing interested me too. For now though, I love my no poo method!
Do you no poo?
I would love to hear what you think! Have you ever tried the no poo method? Are you open to trying it? Is this the first you’ve heard of no poo and now you think I’m a disgusting weirdo? Let me know in the comments below!