When I was born, a nurse took me away to a room full of other babies and slathered my head in a mild detergent. My fresh baby head was scrubbed clean with a sudsy lather that I would later come to know as "shampoo". Before I could walk, talk, or even see properly I was using shampoo. My mom used shampoo. Her mom used shampoo. My sisters used shampoo, just like every other woman and girl that we knew. Shampoo, shampoo, shampoo. It has been a constant.
Being a natural beauty blogger, I read piles of wacky grooming tips, ranging from crunchy granola to cuckoo bananas. Hair care is arguably one of the hottest, most contraversial topics of them all. As a people, Americans are more or less obsessed with hair. If you need convincing, pull out a copy of your local yellow pages and look under "salons".
The number of Americans without access to fresh produce or healthy food is staggering, but I'm willing to bet that neighborhoods in even the worst food deserts have hair salons. No matter where you live, there is someone nearby, ready and waiting to cut, style, perm, and primp you to your heart's content
So when the social norm says "shampoo", what do we do? We scrub our scalps with foamy liquid "soaps" that aren't much better than what we wash our dishes in, and we are willing to pay excrutiating prices for them. I was paying upwards of $20 per bottle at my most desperately frizzy points.
Natural beauty divas and DIY gurus have been coming up with anti-shampoo plans for years, but it's only recently that these methods are gaining steam. Thanks to the internet, thousands of #nopoo pioneers have been sharing proof that yes, it really does work, and no, you won't look like a crazy hobo.
About eight weeks ago I decided to follow suit. I took the plunge and began my life without shampoo. There are a lot of methods out there, but after reading this lovely post by Crunchy Betty, I decided to go with the Baking Soda/ACV method.
How to No Poo using the Baking Soda/ACV Method
- "Wash" your hair every 2 - 3 days with a solution of 1 tablespoon baking soda and 1 cup water.
- "Condition" your hair every time you wash with a solution of 1-2 tablespoons organic apple cider vinegar to 1 cup water.
- I keep both solutions pre-mixed in squirt bottles in my shower.
- With each solution, it's important to squirt it directly onto your scalp, not the long part of your hair. Rub the solution into your scalp very gently to avoid breakage. Rinse each solution out completely. Leaving residue in your hair, especially from the baking soda, will cause irritation and can make your scalp unbalanced (too greasy or too dry).
The Adjustment Period
For the first three to six weeks (Don't believe the 2 - 3 week rumor. Lies!!) your hair will be crazy, unmanagable, and unpredictable. One day it will be greasy and awful. The next day it will be dry and awful. Other days it will just be awful in general. Every now and then, your hair will surprise you and look amazing, only to turn awful again the next day. Embrace ponytails, and try to ride it out with as much grace as you can. It does pass. After the fourth or fifth week, you can start troubleshooting to get it under control.
Tips & Troubleshooting
Things to Know about this Method
- Baking Soda is the wrong ph for your skin, so it has the ability to really dry and irritate your scalp.
- You should never increase the ratio of baking soda in your washing solution.
- You should never leave the baking soda solution in your hair for more than a minute or two, and it must be rinsed completely after every use.
- Rubbing your scalp too roughly can break your hair, especially when you first start using this method. Be gentle!
- This method may not be ideal for people who use a lot of styling product in their hair. My husband is a pomade nut, so he uses a cold-process soap shampoo bar instead of the baking soda solution.
- You may need to make changes to the method if you have hard water.
Greasy or Waxy Hair
- Try adding extra water to the baking soda solution. The baking soda could be leaving a residue that makes your hair feel gross. Try adding another 1/2 cup to 1 cup of water to the solution.
- Take a little longer to massage your scalp after each solution. This helps break up the oil in your scalp, and it gives the solutions some extra time to do their thing. Don't leave either solution on your head for more than a couple of minutes.
- Wash more often. You should be washing your hair this way at most 2 - 3 times per week. If your hair feels greasy, try washing every two days consistently.
Irritated Scalp / Dandruff
- If your scalp becomes irritated, try adding extra water to the baking soda solution. The ph in baking soda can be super-harsh on your skin, which can cause a nasty reaction.
- Wash less frequently. You should be washing your hair this way at most, 2 - 3 times per week. If your scalp feels itchy, you might want to cut it back to twice a week, max.
- Rinse with water. Even though you should wash with the solutions less often, adding a rinse with pure water now and then can help break up excess hair oil (sebum) and refresh your scalp.
Overly Dry/Frizzy Hair
- Again, diluting the solutions can help a lot, as can reducing your number of washes per week.
- Start using coconut oil to moisturize your hair after washing. A little goes a long way, so I like to massage a few drops into my palms, then gently rub the oil onto the ends of my hair.
- Try a deep conditioning mask. Almost Exactly has a great list of masks to check out on her blog.
You can find even more troubleshooting & tips, including info on hard water, breakage, hair loss, etc. on the following blogs:
Frequently Asked Questions
- Doesn't your hair smell? While there were some moments during the adjustment period where I am pretty sure my head smelled like an old gym sock, now that my hair has become accustomed to the method it smells just fine. If you are worried about the vinegar, its smell fades completely after rinsing and drying.
- Doesn't it get tangled? A lot of no-pooers find that shampoo was the real cause of their tangle problems all along. Without shampoo forcing open the platelets in your hair, it doesn't tangle nearly as much. Plus, ACV is a natural detangler and conditioner. My hair is far easier to brush than before I started no-poo.
- It sounds like a lot of work. Really, it's not. I keep a box of baking soda and a bottle of ACV in my bathroom cabinet, which makes refilling the solution bottles easy. A dedicated "hair only" jar of virgin coconut oil sits on my bathroom counter, and has become my one and only styling product. If anything, no-poo has simplified my hair styling routine.
My Experience with the No Poo Method
There were times during the adjustment period where I really and truly grossed myself out. That was rough, but after that phase passed, and my hair and scalp started to calm down, I discovered that I have a whole new head of hair.
- It's curly. My hair has always been naturally wavy, but now that I've stopped using shampoo it has started to curl up in these amazing, perfect ringlets.
- It has been growing incredibly fast. My hair has always grown a bit faster than most, but now it is just ridiculous. A haircut used to last at least three months, but now I'm going back every month or month and a half.
- I have natural highlights. This summer my hair took on a whole rainbow of different shades. It seems like every time I went in the sun, more highlights would appear. When I got my hair cut recently, I watched the multi-colored hair pile up on the floor, amazed.
- It is shiny and smooth. My hair hasn't been this shiny since I was teenager, and with the exception of a little coconut oil, I have been using no product to manage it. My curls are naturally smooth and shiny, and the top of my hair has no frizz or fly-aways.
- Untamed hair monsters. As much as I am loving all of these curls, I now have little to no hope of straightening or taming them. My bangs, in particular, are like wild beasts. Rather than fight it, I've decided to change my hair cut to accomodate their new attitude. Luckily, my hair dresser is a genius, and is helping me find a solution.
- Farewell apple/coconut/fairy-princess scented hair. This is not really a sacrifice for me, since artificial fragrances kind of make me ill anyway, but for fragrance junkies this will be a huge bummer. According to reports (yes, I asked my friends to smell my head) my hair does not smell like much of anything. It just smells like hair.
- Random bad hair days. Now and then, my hair still decides to go all greasy/itchy/or crazy on me for no apparent reason. I accept this, because on every other day it looks and feels way better than it ever did on shampoo.
- When you tell people you don't use shampoo they usually think you are gross. Luckily, this topic doesn't come up too often for most people, but when it does, get ready for some really horrible reactions. People love their shampoo, so not only are you freaking them out, they can sometimes feel judged by no-pooers. Try to refrain from rubbing their face in your luxurious head of hair. It won't help.
Here are some shots of my hair, freshly washed yesterday afternoon. As you probably guessed, I have no plans on going back to shampoo any time soon.
More Natural Hair Care Tips:
- How to Make Your Hair Smell Pretty, Naturally
- Taming, Conditioning, and De-Tangling Naturally
- My Natural Hair Care Pinterest Board