Julie Hambleton has a BSc in Food and Nutrition from the Western University, Canada, is a former certified personal trainer, a competitive runner, and a staff writer at The Hearty Soul.
It is no secret that conventional, store-bought shampoo is not good for us. Numerous studies have been done exposing the dangers of the chemical ingredients found in even the most popular hair-care brands.
Beyond the potential cancer-causing toxins that you are rubbing into your scalp every time you wash your hair, you are also causing your hair to become dried out and damaged. While many of us have or would like to switch to using natural, organic shampoos and conditioners instead, these usually come with a hefty price tag. (1) (2)
So what’s a girl (or guy!) do who wants to have shiny, healthy, clean hair without increasing their risk of cancer but also without draining their wallet? The answer is simpler than you think: Don’t use shampoo.
How Shampoo Destroys Your Hair
You know that squeaky-clean feeling we all love when we get out of the shower and have freshly washed hair? Yeah, turns out that is not a good thing.
When you wash your hair, even with organic shampoos, you are stripping your scalp of it’s natural oils. These natural oils then can’t travel down and moisturize the shaft of your hair and the ends, leaving your hair dry, damaged, and dull looking. To make matters worse, in response to these removal of natural oils, your scalp begins to overproduce oil to try a rectify the problem. Of course, these oils never actually make it to the ends of your hair, instead they just cause your hair to look greasy much faster than it normally should. (1)
The No-Poo Movement
Before you scoff incredulously at the thought of not shampooing your hair and clicking away from this article, hear me out:
I, too, was once skeptical about the no-poo movement. I have reasonably thick, curly/wavy hair that can unruly on the best of days, and the thought of discontinuing my usual shampoo routine was asking for trouble. Like you, however, I was tired of spending ridiculous amounts of money on organic shampoo but didn’t like the thought of practically massaging cancer-causing chemicals into my brain.
After reading several blogs written by women who had decided to forgo shampoo for a cheaper, healthier alternative, such as this girl who had a similar experience to my own, I decided to take the leap and give it a try. She swapped her store-bought shampoo for apple cider vinegar and baking soda for 6 months, and the effect was fantastic:
My Personal No-Poo Experiment
I first decided to try the no-poo movement, which involves using baking soda and apple cider vinegar instead of shampoo and conditioner, in January 2017. By this point in my life, I had already worked my way down to only washing my hair once or twice a week, so it wasn’t a huge stretch for me to start trying this new form of natural hair care.
My No-Poo Routine
My no-poo shampoo routine was as follows:
1-2 tablespoons of organic baking soda, mixed with water to form a runny paste
1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a medium-sized spray bottle of water
To shampoo, I wet my hair, and then massage the baking soda mixture into my scalp (not down the shaft of the hair). After a few failed attempts at fully cleaning my hair, I learned that if part way through washing I flip my head upside down, I can more easily reach the crown, though not everyone has a problem with this.
To condition, I spray the apple cider vinegar-water solution on the shaft, focusing mostly on the ends of my hair. I let it sit for no more than a minute, then rinse it out.
The first week of my experiment went great. I had read that most people have to go through a “transition period” of anywhere from two to six weeks while their scalp adjusts to not needing to produce so much oil, so I was pleasantly surprised how clean my hair felt. I was also shocked at how well the apple cider vinegar solution de-tangled my hair!
The second week, however, was a bit of a reality check. I struggled to get my hair clean, especially with certain places on my head, the crown in particular. The challenge is getting used to not having that squeaky-clean feeling, and being able to tell if you’ve missed places. I essentially had to re-learn how to wash my hair (insert head-flip discovery here).
I was ready to give up and go back to my old routine, but I had promised myself I would stick it out for one whole month before making my final verdict. It was then, in the fourth week of my experiment, that it clicked. My hair was shiny, thick, and healthy. My split ends were gone, and my hair was less frizzy, even when I let it dry naturally.
I have now been using this no-poo method for six months and am still loving it. I’m saving money and my hair looks better than ever before. It was hard at first, but I promise you, going no-poo is worth every penny that you aren’t spending on store-bought shampoo.
Tips for Going No-Poo
Over the past six months, I have been washing my hair this way, I have picked up a few helpful hints that may ease your transition into shampoo-free life.
As I mentioned, I already was only washing my hair once or twice a week, so the amount of oil my scalp was producing was significantly less than if I had been washing it every day. To help shorten the transition period, start by simply washing your hair less. If you wash every day, wash every other day, if you wash four times each week, move down to three. You should be able to work your way down to once or twice a week relatively quickly.
Don’t Worry About Sweat
I often hear women, especially active women who sweat often, say they “have” to wash their hair every day because they sweat every day. I have been involved in sports my entire life, and have been a competitive distance runner for the last twelve years. I workout five to six days a week, sweat a lot, and sweat often, but rarely has this made my hair look bad. Once the sweat drys, your hair looks like normal. Occasionally, after a particularly steamy summer track session, I may rinse my hair with water, but I still stuck to shampooing only a couple times.
Use Lemon Juice
One common complaint is that you tend to get more dandruff washing your hair this way. While I haven’t had too many problems with this, if I ever find my head is getting itchy, I mix a teaspoon or so of lemon juice into the baking soda-water mixture, and this solves the problem.
Don’t Deep Condition
Trust me when I tell you: If you deep condition, the no-poo method will not get all that oil etc out of your hair! Deep conditioning still has a place in my hair care routine, and can in yours too, however when I do choose to do this (roughly once a month), I use an organic shampoo to wash the hair mask out. I still use the same apple cider vinegar conditioner, though.
You May Need to Adjust Your Measurements
Those with thin straight hair can get away with using less baking soda, but if your hair is thicker, and especially if it is thick and curly, you may need to use more. Over time, you will find you need to use less and less.
Don’t start washing your hair everyday again
You worked your way down to washing a couple times a week, and you should stick to it! Remember, the natural oils need time to travel from your scalp down to the ends of your hair. Washing, even with no-poo, can sabotage that.
Your Hair Won’t feel “Clean” In the shower
This was hard to get used to at first, but your hair, in particular the shaft, won’t feel clean while your in the shower. Once you get out and your hair drys, however, you’ll be left with shiny, moisturized hair!
Your Hair Won’t Smell Like Salad Dressing
You may be taken aback by the smell of the apple cider vinegar when you first put it on in the shower. Once you rinse, and once it dries, you won’t smell it at all. Your hair will just smell like, well, hair.
Stick it Out
Like I said, the first few weeks can be tough. It took me four to six weeks to fully adjust, but now, just like the girl in this article, have been happily no-pooing for six months. Stay strong and keep trying, because eventually, your scalp adjusts, you figure out exactly what your hair needs, and you’re left with gorgeous, healthy hair!
Not ready for the no-poo method yet, but still want to try something other than store-bought shampoos? Try these homemade shampoo recipes to help ease your transition into a more natural hair care routine.
What is your hair care routine like? Have you tried more natural approaches to hair care, or would you consider trying the no-poo method? We’d love to hear your thoughts!