Going Shampoo-Free

Day 2 shampoo free

Last month I decided to try no poo. It’s short for ‘no shampoo’, and it means that I’ve ditched my traditional hair cleaning products. And I am not alone. No poo’s following is growing, and people choose it for a variety of reasons.

Why did I choose to give up shampoo? Modern shampoos typically contain artificial colors and fragrances, and a variety of ingredients that haven’t been specifically tested for safety. Shampoo and conditioner come in plastic bottles, and there are problems with recycling plastic. Also, as compared to the more environmentally-friendly organic shampoos and conditioners I was using, this solution is super-cheap. And of course I was intrigued by many claims that hair is healthier and more manageable without shampoo.

Ditching shampoo does not mean that I have stopped washing my hair. Instead of using shampoo and conditioner, I have switched to baking soda and apple cider vinegar. I am able to buy organic apple cider vinegar in glass bottles at my local grocery store, so the solution is plastic-free. I committed to two weeks of no poo, to see how it went. I was sort of hoping for miraculous hair results. My hair is long, naturally blond, thin and fine, and somewhat oily. My ideal result would be that my hair color remains the same, my hair doesn’t tangle, it loses the oiliness, and it gains some shine and (dare I hope?) body.

So how do you actually do it? What I do is wet my hair, and then mix 1-2 teaspoons of baking soda with a little water to make a paste. I spread it through my hair, starting at my scalp, and then rinse it well. I re-purposed an old 8-ounce shampoo bottle for the apple cider vinegar. I put in about 3 tablespoons of the vinegar, filled the rest of the bottle with water, and added a few drops of peppermint and chamomile essential oils (which is what I happened to have on hand) to make it smell not so vinegar-y. After rinsing out the baking soda I squirt a few tablespoons of this solution over all of my hair and rinse it out.

I have also tried using lemon juice instead of vinegar, and that worked. It is a good alternative, I think, if you absolutely cannot stand the smell of vinegar. At this point I don’t even notice the vinegar scent anymore, but I know other people find it highly irritating. The theory behind the mildly acidic rinse is that it restores a more natural pH to your scalp, but I don’t know if it matters what kind of rinse it is.

It’s been almost a month now, what’s the verdict? I would say my feelings are mixed. My hair feels very much like it did when I was a kid – it’s super-soft, but also very thin and fine. I have not achieved the results that some people report, where they can go days without washing their hair. I have tried skipping a day, and I end up having to keep my hair in a ponytail when I do that, because giving up shampoo hasn’t eliminated the oil for me. Since I shower every day anyway, if I have to wash my hair it’s not exactly a huge inconvenience.

Any changes seem to be detectable only by me. No one else has noticed a difference since I ditched shampoo. No poo seems to be getting me the same results at a fraction of the cost and with less environmental impact. For me, the pros outweigh the cons, so I am continuing on with no poo, even if I am not necessarily a shampoo-free evangelist.

What about you? Have you tried no poo, or would you consider it? Any tips or tricks? Please share!

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You can catch up with the rest of Amber’s hair-raising adventures on her blog at Strocel.com.

17 Responses to Going Shampoo-Free
  1. Michelle
    April 1, 2010 | 12:22 pm

    I don’t shampoo my daughter’s hair (blogged about it yesterday! http://www.theparentvortex.com/wordpress/works-for-me-wednesday-to-shampoo-or-not-to-shampoo/), but I haven’t quite mustered up the courage to no poo myself. My hair is also very fine and oily and it’s also short, so it really shows when it gets greasy. My friend sent me a link to a wet washcloth method of no poo which works just as well without fussing with baking soda & vinegar. http://thephoenix.com/boston/life/40141-no-poo-do/

  2. rae
    April 1, 2010 | 12:41 pm

    I’ve been poo-free for 18 months now, but in order to get my hair to forget about shampoo, I went water-only initially. I brushed my hair with a wet washcloth in the shower to distribute the oil throughout my hair. I kept that up for 3 months, and my hair looked somewhat greasy most of the time, but not totally horrible like I expected. Once I was pretty sure that my scalp had adjusted the oil production, I started using baking soda and white vinegar. I was able to go about 6 days between bs/wv as long as I did a water only scrub about 3 days in.

    With a nine month intermission for pregnancy where my hair was unbelievable and I could almost go weeks with only water and then only needed an acid, not the baking soda, my hair is pretty much the same today as it was when I started using baking soda. I do have to scrub my scalp and apply the acid directly to my scalp in order to keep flakiness at bay.

    Basically, give it more time, and be ok with your hair looking oily at first if you want to stretch out the time between washings. The brushing with a wet washcloth in the shower (called Mexican washcloth method or something like that) helps distribute oil to the length of your hair to keep it well conditioned. Hope this helps and good luck!

  3. Susan (5 Minutes for Mom)
    April 3, 2010 | 2:06 am

    Wow, I’ve never heard of that.

    I could NOT imagine going without shampoo. LOL. My hair is very fine and limp and I have always had to wash it daily.

    But it’s very interesting to hear that your hair is very similar with this approach as with regular shampoo.

    I’m very impressed with your dedication and commitment.

  4. J Mintuck
    April 3, 2010 | 9:55 am

    I wonder if I would try this when I DO run out of sham-poo? I don’t know yet. Would be interesting to try it out.

  5. Amy Whitley
    April 3, 2010 | 1:41 pm

    I have not tried this, but I have tried to switch from traditional shampoo (in its plastic bottle) to a shampoo bar. I have to admit I really hated it. I committed to doing it for a week, and it made my hair very greasy. It took almost 2 weeks after going back to shampoo to get rid of the oily feeling. Maybe I’ll try no poo next.

  6. Dede
    April 6, 2010 | 11:35 pm

    I use a lot of hair products which is definitely not part of the “green” philosophy. Does this mixture also remove heavy hairspray and gel?

  7. MommyGoesGreen
    April 14, 2010 | 1:38 am

    I’ve been shampoo free for a couple months and it’s worked really well for my curly hair. I wrote more about the method I’ve used here: http://mommygoesgreen.com/2010/04/the-no-shampoo-method/.

    I don’t know how well it works for straight hair but definitely recommended for curly hair!

  8. Anne Bender
    April 17, 2010 | 11:48 pm

    I have thick hair and it’s best if I only wash it 1-2 times per week. I’m going to have to try this no shampoo thing and see if it works for me. I had never heard of this before so I am thoroughly intrigued and more than willing to give it a go. Thanks for the great information [and all the comments were very helpful as well].

  9. Bonnie Hussey
    April 19, 2010 | 5:18 am

    I am definitely going to be trying this when my husband deploys in a few weeks… he already thinks I’m crazy with the cloth diapering, babywearing, cleaning with vinegar, etc… LOL

  10. Monica
    May 25, 2010 | 7:28 pm

    good thing to know if times get bad enough that you can’t get shampoo. Fuel prices go up and the shipping cost of goods will go up, you know the story. Good to know! Thanks!

  11. Emily
    June 5, 2010 | 10:01 pm

    I’ve tried this with good results, but stopped because my hair was so long and thick my arms were getting sore… Now that I’ve cut my hair, guess I should go back to it.

    Anyway, I re-purposed a parmesan cheese container for holding the baking soda, which solved the problem of keeping it in the shower without turning it to mush. I use a spray bottle for the vinegar rinse – otherwise I use way too much and it feels too cold on my scalp. Good idea about the oils, I’ll give it a try.

  12. Gracie
    August 25, 2010 | 6:58 pm

    I’ve been going no poo for a couple of days and I’m seeing results already! I’ve got long, THICK hair and its been really clean and manageable the past few days, though its still getting used to the oil balence!

  13. Meredith
    February 16, 2011 | 1:07 pm

    I’ve done vinegar for years and Slept with Mayonnaise in my hair too. ugh not the funnest but you’re hair is so amazing the next day.
    But for the LOVE don’t mix vinegar and baking soda in the same washing cycle! Any residual baking soda will foam and eat off your hair! LOL

  14. Kim
    April 1, 2011 | 10:10 pm

    I switched a month ago to a organic, shampoo bar and it made my hair feel very sticky and stringy and it became even oilier. I then read about the BS/ACV wash and started it on Monday. Now my hair feels even oilier than b/4. I, like you, have very thin, fine, straight hair that I washed daily. I’m going to tough it out and hopefully the BS/ACV wash will work. Do you continue to use both daily now??

    • Amber
      April 2, 2011 | 1:35 am

      It’s been over a year and I do still use both daily. I would say that I’m still satisfied with it. It generally works, my hair is healthy, and no one seems alarmed. It isn’t amazing for me, but it works.

  15. MB
    June 28, 2011 | 2:11 pm

    I used to shampoo my hair every day. I went cold turkey to the bs/acv method. It was a disaster. My hair look horribly greasy for months. You know it’s bad when a coworker asks if you just got back from a workout at the gym! So I thought I’d ease into it by using conditioner instead of shampoo everyday. Then I tried conditioner (no shampoo) every other day for 6 months. I used a conditioner for normal hair. Oil replacement ones gunked up my hair. When I was sure my scalp was producing less oil I was able to switch to water only. Once a week I use baking soda. My hair has never felt more healthy or fuller. During the transition period you can’t cheat and shampoo once in awhile. You’ll have to start the process all over again!

  16. Chase
    August 15, 2011 | 3:07 pm

    I’ve been shampoo free for almost 3 years not.

    I started out reading blogs about people
    going without washing their hair at all and
    after a few months they had a head full of
    beautiful, healthy hair.

    Working so closely with people the way I do
    I quickly found out that going cold-turkey
    was NOT the route for me. Your hair does
    take a while to adjust to your new no-poo
    lifestyle and it’s usually not pretty.

    I started off using all natural hair cleansers
    free of any harsh chemicals. After my first
    bottle of hair cleanser was used up I switched
    to using only conditioner every 2 or 3 days.

    Now I clean my hair about once a week with baking
    soda then rinse with apple cider vinegar.

    During the summer my hair will get a little oily
    sometimes so I throw in a bit of corn starch
    and hairspray in between washes.

    Once you get used to it it is a lot better
    for you hair and a lot better on your wallet.