Wanna know a dirty little secret…? Of course you do! Everyone wants to know secrets!
Here’s one of mine… I haven’t shampoo-ed my hair for months.
I know what you’re thinking – eewww! Am I right?
Seriously though, I really don’t use shampoo and conditioner any more, and haven’t done for months.
Before we go any further, let’s take a look at how shampoo and conditioner actually work.
Traditional shampoos are really just detergents. They use chemicals to strip your hair and scalp of dirt and oil. Sounds good right? Well, no. You see, as well as getting rid of all the dirt, shampoo also strips the hair shaft and scalp of sebum (the natural oils created by your skin).
So after you shampoo, you need condition your hair. Why? To replace the natural oils in your hair that your shampoo has stripped away. The result, clean hair that has to be shampoo-ed daily (or almost daily).
Shampoo today and you’ll likely have to shampoo again tomorrow. Why? Because the detergents in shampoo have stripped your hair, and more importantly your scalp of it’s natural oils (sebum). I know, you might think, “Well, if the oil has been stripped away, why do I wake up with greasy hair in the morning?” The answer is simple – your scalp is panicking and over-producing sebum to try to make up for what was stripped away by your shampoo.
It’s a vicious cycle.
Your scalp is trying to stay in balance – so it replaces the oils you washed down the drain – the result is oily hair which needs to be shampoo-ed and conditioned daily.
So what’s no-poo hair care?
Basically, it’s cleaning your hair without the use of shampoo and conditioner.
There are various ways to no-poo, but the most popular is to use baking soda followed by a vinegar rinse.
Erm… did I forget to mention that no-poo hair care is cheap as hell?!
When you wash your hair using the no-poo method you use baking soda to remove the dirt, oil and debris from your roots and scalp. Since baking soda is not a detergent, the sebum your scalp produces doesn’t get stripped away. The result – your hair becomes healthier because natural oils aren’t stripped away and, because your scalp keeps its balance, it will produce less oil. You’ll also find that you don’t need to wash your hair as often – I can go anywhere from a couple of days to a week before I have to wash my hair again.
What other benefits are there?
Please note that your hair will go through an adjustment period when you start using no-poo, but when your hair and scalp are back in balance, you can expect…
- more body
- easier to style
- less oily hair
- less frizz and fly-aways (great for curly hair ladies)
- added shine
- SAFE for dyed hair
- GREAT for grey hair (commercial shampoos can cause grey hair to yellow)
- wash hair less often as your scalp will no longer be over producing oils (I know I already mentioned that, but it’s a really good point)
- no chemicals on your hair, scalp or washing down the drain (the Earth will love you too!)
- more money in your pocket – let’s face it, baking soda and vinegar cost pennies per wash (a big difference from those fancy-looking shampoos and conditioners)
- new hair growth (for some people) – I’ve noticed lots of new growth coming in. I put it down to the fact that my scalp is healthier and my follicles are no longer clogged with oil and debris.
Before we start
Firstly, let me share with you a little tip which I found invaluable when I first went no-poo… you need to clarify your hair before you start.
Let me explain. Most commercial shampoos and conditioners contain silicones (usually found on ingredients lists usually ending with “zane” “xane” “cone” or “conol”). Silicones are not water soluble so they aren’t going to just “wash down the drain” – they get stuck to your hair and can cause damage.
Get your self a clarifying shampoo (there are loads on the market which will work for this purpose, and they tend to be fairly cheap) for your final wash with commercial shampoo. Follow the directions. Lather, rinse, repeat. You want to get all the silicone off your hair.
This will help ease your transition phase and help you get your gorgeous no-poo hair a bit faster. If you forget this step, don’t worry, it just may add a week or two to your transition period.
When you’ve clarified, simply wait until you would normally wash your hair again and then start using the no-poo method.
How to wash your hair no-poo stylee…
It’s really very simple.
Use sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to “wash” your hair – remove dirt, debris and excess oil from your scalp and hair roots, and then use vinegar to “condition” the length of your hair.
- clarifying Shampoo (if you’ve used products with silicone in the past for your last wash before you start No Poo)
- baking Soda
- vinegar (Use Apple Cider Vinegar for Dry to Normal Hair, White Vinegar for Normal to Oily Hair)
- squirt Bottle with Pointed Tip (use a mustard bottle or 12-oz. Squeeze Bottle)
- spray Bottle
- no-poo hair care journal (I’ll explain more on this below)
Let’s get to it!
- create a solution of baking soda and water – 1 tbsp of baking soda to 1 cup (250ml) of water. Try to use distilled water if you live in a hard water area. Make sure the baking soda has completely dissolved. The solution should feel slippery in your hands (if it doesn’t add another tbsp of baking soda). Store in squeeze bottle.
- create a solution of vinegar and water – 2 tbsp of vinegar to 1 cup of water. Shake to combine. Store in spray bottle
- WASH: wet hair and, using the pointed tip of the bottle, apply the baking soda solution to the roots of your hair and massage into your scalp with your fingertips using small circular motions. DO NOT apply this mixture to the entire length of your hair. Leave on till it starts to feel “slippery” then rinse well, I mean REALLY WELL.
- CONDITION: spray the vinegar/water solution on the length of your hair, focusing on the ends. Leave this on for a minute or two before rinsing.
NOTE: the vinegar may smell quite strong while you’re using it but don’t worry, your hair will have no odour once it dries.
NOTE: You could add a few drops of essential oil to your hair brush – no only will this fragrance your hair, but your hair will benefit from the properties of the essential oil. Ylang-ylang is great if you want luscious locks, but lavender, chamomile, rosemary, and many others are also good.
What’s gonna happen?
Let me say this now – don’t expect no-poo to be like washing your hair with shampoo. There is no lather. It is a bit weird at first, but you get used to it. And don’t be surprised if your hair feels like hay, straw, or cotton the first few times (days or weeks) that you wash no-poo style (I know, I know, it’s gonna suck for a while, but the pay-off is worth it!).
Just plan on wearing your hair up or under wraps the first week or two. In other words, when you start the no-poo method, don’t have a big meeting, date, or event where you need your hair to be perfect. I just kept my hair pulled back and no one noticed.
I’ll admit, I did get a bit paranoid for a while and kept asking everyone if my hair looked clean, and everyone said yes.
Dealing with the straw-like texture
Here are a few ideas to help you get through those first few days or weeks…
- deep-condition your hair with a non-oil conditioner. You could try fresh aloe-vera gel mix with honey, or how about using a beaten egg, maybe you’d prefer mashed banana… the possibilities are endless.
- apply a tiny (I mean teensy–tiny) amount of coconut or jojoba oil to your hair after it has been washed and is dry. Simply add a few drops to your palms, rub your hands together until there is just a light sheen on your hands, and then run your hands through your hair, avoiding the roots. NOTE: Coconut oil has a fatty acid that penetrates the hair shaft the deepest and provides the greatest benefit. Jojoba oil is most like our natural sebum and is great for hair and skin, but does not penetrate as deeply as coconut oil.
- allow your hair to dry naturally – using heated styling products will dry the hair out even more.
- wear your hair up, pull it back, or try wearing a hat or scarf.
What if my hair goes oily?
It’s possible that you might end up with oily hair rather than the straw-like texture during your transition phase. Here are a few tips to dealing with it…
- between no-poo washes, try a hot-water wash. It’s as easy as it sounds – simply wash your hair with the hottest water you can stand (don’t burn yourself!), then dry.
- increase the amount of baking soda you use when you wash your hair by 1/4.
- decrease the amount of vinegar in your conditioning solution by 1/2.
- switch from apple cider vinegar, if using, to plain white vinegar.
- remember, don’t apply your vinegar solution to the roots of your hair.
- remember to rinse, rinse, rinse.
- try using a dry shampoo, and I don’t mean any of that spray-can rubbish! Blondes and red-heads, use corn starch or arrowroot powder on your roots and brush through. This will absorb the excess oil. Brunettes, use coco-powder as you might find that corn starch or arrowroot leave your hair looking “grey”.
My scalp’s all itchy and flaky!
If you find that your scalp starts to get itchy and flaky, try the following…
- decrease the amount of baking soda you are using
- be sure you are rinsing the baking soda completely from your hair
- do a scalp rinse with your vinegar solution to condition your scalp
What’s this “hair journal” I mentioned?
When you try anything new, it’s always good to keep a journal of the experience. Get a pretty notebook, use an app on your phone, find something that you’ll keep up with and write down your journey.
Keeping a hair journal will allow you to see what works and what doesn’t. No-poo can be very much “trial and error”. Keep a journal will help to limit the amount of time you spend in the “error” phase. It will help you remember how much you used when you washed and how long you’ve gone between washes. Your hair journal will keep the transition phase to a minimum.
Things to track in your hair journal:
- days since last wash
- current condition of your hair (shiny? dry? over-conditioned? anything note worthy)
- amount of baking soda used
- amount and type of vinegar in rinse used
- results (after your hair dries, how does it compare to before you washed?)
- tweaks/notes (this is a personal journey to find what works for you, so track any tweaks you’ve made to ratios of baking soda or vinegar rinse or any other notes you find important)
What happens after the “adjustment phase”?
Hey girl! You stuck with it! How amazingly fantastic does your hair look and feel right now?!
Your scalp and hair are now in balance. You only have to wash your hair every few days (or less) and your hair has never looked better! Keep up the great work, and be happy in the knowledge that you’re not only treating your hair, you’re treating the environment, too!
I was going to write a follow-up article to answer the many questions which have been left in the comments section, and which I get in emails and messages, but after reading through all the comments left below, I found that most of them have already been answered by other comments.
I love how our little community is evolving with everyone helping each other!
Before asking a question, please take the time to read through all the comments – you’ll most probably find the answer you’re looking for.