Wednesday, May 9, 2012

No poo for my hair, thanks

An Alternative to Sham-poo
by Carla Ludington

What shampoo do you use to wash your hair?

I don't use poo.

Sounds deceptive, and a little frightening, don't you think?

Apple Cider Vinegar
Baking Soda

That's what I thought too, when I first heard of no poo shampoo.  It sounded like someone had fallen off the crazy wagon - why wouldn't you use shampoo???  That's a little too crunchy for me, thank you very much. However, after hearing the details,
I confess I have been converted.

Shampoos are (typically) detergents with chemicals such as mineral oil, sodium lauryl sulfate, and sodium laureth sulfate, just to name a few.  Sulfate detergents act as foaming agents and degreasers, and were originally designed to clean machinery.  When shampooing in a warm shower, the hot steam opens the pores on your scalp, allowing your body to absorb even more of the chemicals than they would otherwise.  This can be especially harmful for younger children, as the sulfates can affect their eye development.  (See herehere, and here).

My previous shampoo was "Sulfate-free", but still contained disodium laureth sulfuconate.
While is only half as toxic and irritating and irritating to the skin as SLS, that is only one ingredient in a list of many...
In the process of cleaning your hair, shampoo strips your hair of its natural oil, which is why most people add conditioner (to re-oil your hair).  With all the sebum (the natural oils from your hair) being stripped away, your hair produces even more oil, which ends up sort of over producing, leaving your hair even greasier.  Which is why it feels like you need to wash it every day (and with that routine, you do).  Hhhmmmmmm.......

Besides avoiding all the unfamiliar and unpronounceable chemicals in shampoo, here are a few other reasons someone might choose to try the no poo method:
      - very inexpensive (the ingredients are water, baking soda, and apple cider vinegar)
      - simple / easy to use
      - healthier hair (it will revert to a more natural state)
      - can save time and water (only need to shampoo every few days)
      - (usually) eliminates the need for additional hair products

Here's the skinny:

For washing your hair, use 1 Tbsp baking soda per cup of water.   This usually lasts me a couple of days.  If you have longer hair, just double or triple the recipe, but keep the proportions the same.  Too much baking soda will dry out your hair and leave residue. The theory on this is the baking soda mixture is a base and cleans your hair and scalp. You can recycle almost anything to store this in (I use a picnic style ketchup or mustard type bottle from the kitchen section at the grocers since it has a pointed tip with a lid that just slips on and off).  Apply to your scalp, let it sit for a minute, then scrub into your scalp with a circular motion, just like you would shampoo.  Rinse with warm water. (For those who prefer a visual run-through, Stephanie at Keeper of the Home shared a video blog.)

To detangle and clarify your hair, rinse your hair with a mixture of 1-2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (ACV) per cup of water. I use another picnic type bottle, but some people use a spray bottle.  Ideally you would rinse your scalp in cold water for this one, but I admit I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to cold water in the shower (or anywhere else, for that matter!).  The ACV rinse helps neutralize the pH of your hair after the baking soda mixture.

Can you say detox?

So here's the catch - remember when I said your hair will produce oil to counteract the oils being stripped by the shampoo?  Well, when you switch over to no poo, it may take your hair awhile to realize it is not being stripped anymore.  In the meantime, expect anywhere from 2 weeks to 8 weeks for your hair to adjust and revert to a healthier version of itself.  Emily at Live Renewed suggested a shampoo bar or decreasing your shampoo routine to every few days to try to decrease the amount of oil produced from shampoo stripping your scalp.  (She also mentioned that since the ACV rinse is not so much for your scalp as it is for the ends of your hair, it can actually encourage the natural oil production of your scalp, so when first starting out you may want to limit the ACV to just the ends of your hair.)  Katie at Kitchen Stewardship found that if things weren't going so well with her hair, sometimes the recipe just needed a little tweak.

I wasn't ready to go crunchy cold turkey, so I initially tried a shampoo bar (which lathers like shampoo).   It left my hair feeling a little weird, dried out and frizzy, but I think it was just going through the de-tox.  Once I ran out of the shampoo bar I switched to no poo, which was about the same initially, but got better fairly quickly, but again, I think that a lot of that was the detox for my hair. Whatever the reasons, my hair was pretty gross for what felt like forever.  I was ready to give up on several occasions.  Living with hair that felt thick, greasy, and dirty was not so pleasant.  Thank goodness it didn't last forever!  Now I am so happy with it.  It feels softer and has better body to it, and it just feels good to know I am taking care of it in a way that is easy, inexpensive, and earth friendly. My husband misses the flower-y smells of my previous shampoo, but ironically his favorite ones were advertised as having herbal types of smells like 'rosemary-mint'.  I am thinking I will try adding some essential oil to my ACV.

A few tips:

After the de-tox phase, if your hair is still too oily, try decreasing the amount of vinegar in the rinse, or switch to using lemon juice instead of ACV.

For hair that is too dry (i.e. from winter weather), add 2-3 drop vitamin e oil to the ACV rinse.

For hair that is too dry (not from winter weather), try using less baking soda or using honey in the clarifying rinse instead of ACV.

For an extensive list of suggestions on how to tweak the recipe for your hair type (i.e. greasy, frizzy, dry, itchy scalp, dandruff, etc.) and a list of herbs you can add to improve the health of your hair, see here.

Have you tried no poo before? How did it work for you? What factors make it more or less likely for you to try it out now or in the future, or to stick with it? If you aren't quite ready to leave the poo, how about trying a shampoo bar , using a greener option, or maybe just using your traditional shampoo 1 day less a week?


  1. Yes but how does it smell??? Especially after you are out of the shower and throughout the day I don't want to smell vinegar. Sounds like a win, win price and healthier hair.

    1. I haven't tried this before, but I have washed my hair with vinegar before. While you're washing it, yes, it smells just like you're putting vinegar all over yourself. Once you rinse it out, there is no smell. :) I know this is about a year late, but I'm just now looking into homemade shampoo.

  2. I tried no poo for about 2 months ad I was impressed with it until my super nose catches a whif of hair with a hint of ACV. I miss my pretty smelling hair. It doesn't smell bad, and I love how eash it is to brush my 14 inches, wet or dry. But I miss the fruity fragrance or freshly shampooed hair. Any recommendations?

    At first I had a really difficult time dealing with the oily scalp adjustment. But I found that brushing baby powder through my hair before showering helped to take care of extra oil before showering. Also took care of limpness between showering.

    It's hot here in AZ so I don't mind rinsing with cold water. My girls are another story. I rinse their hair in the sink. They don't mind the cold then and they think it's cool to use the sink for more than just hands!

  3. I always thought I had a great nose, but maybe it isn't as great at small fragrances after all because I don't ever smell the ACV. I asked my husband and he said he thought he had smelled it, and I asked if that was in the shower or later, and he confessed it was probably in the shower, but that he just really missed the flowery smell of my old shampoo. I will be trying a lemon grass essential oil with the ACV rinse soon :0)

  4. I have thought of trying this but I'm hesitant! I don't wash my hair very often as it is (two to three times a week, it doesn't get very oily and I'll wash it after workouts, too) but it feels so good to lather up, I don't know if I could convert! Might try it one of these days... :)

  5. Emily,
    Thanks for stopping by! It feels like such a big step, doesn't it? It's nice that there is not really too much to invest to try it: a little bit of time & (a tiny quantity of) two ingredients from your pantry. Worst case scenario you decide you don't like it & quit! Or there is the possibility that you decide you love it...
    If your current shampoo use is minimal, I would guess your detox phase would be considerably less to non-existent. If the lather is what is stopping you, you could always try a shampoo bar.
    Good luck on your journey!!

  6. My daughter has TERRIBLE exzema and since switching to no-poo her skin has cleared up so much!!! My super nose comes from pregnancy, so it's more of a reflection on that than a negative aspect of no-poo. But honestly... I LOVE the softness in my hair and the ease of doing it. No fly aways, no crazy tangles, such shiny tangle free locks and NO conditioner to make it so. Let me know how the essence of lemon works out. I was thinking about going to the local natural foods store and see what they could recommend to add fragrance to my hair.

  7. I have been no poo for a week. I had tried it once before this year and hated it but I honestly don't think I gave it the time it needed for the transition phase. I am back at it again and am using aloe vera gel before as a deep conditioner and then quickly running a little through my hair before I do the ACV rinse. Although it's only been a week my hair is really soft. It's super tangly but that might just be the transition phase. I'm going to keep at for another month. Fingers crossed!

  8. Ive been no poo for several months now. Love it and will never go back! I wash my hair every four days or so and not because it is greasy but because it feels dirty. My definition of "dirty hair" before no poo was that it was greasy, now I know theres a difference. Actually my whole family converted to no poo. Kids prefer it cause they never get soap in their eyes and hubby feels cleaner after. My hair is soft with more control. Healthier.
    Switching I found not so painful. During the switch I washed my hair daily no poo style, which I found kept the grease more or less managable. For me, it was a matter of 3 days before I thought my hair was good. However, after about 2 weeks I realized my hair was even better feeling then I had ever known it to be. I also use coconut oil in my hair which I think adds to the healthiness. I also use regular white vinager, which I find works great.
    As for the soapy lather, I missed it at first, but soon got used to it. Now I dont miss it at all cause im too busy enjoying my no poo hair.

  9. does the acv wash and the baking soda cause a problem with hair dye?

  10. Tried the no poo shampoo and loved it. My hair was full of body and actually stayed cleaner longer and didn't smell. I was able to go for about 5 days between washes. My hair is really long so I do struggle with the "conditioner" of ACV and water. My hair comes very tangly (is that a word?) Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  11. Jan, That is interesting hearing about your daughters’ exzema clearing up with the no poo. So glad, as that can be tough!

    Elizabeth, Hope it went well for you, I have also heard of people using glycerin in their hair as a humectant, and Miriam above mentioned she used coconut oil, which I have heard of even more than the glycerin (and which seems like it would be really easy since we have some in the house anyways!)

    Miriam, glad it went well for you! I will confess that there are times that I, too, miss the soapy lather. That is so neat that your whole family is no poo!! My kids love it, but my husband isn’t quite ready to give it a try.

    Anonymous, I am not sure about specifics (as in scientific evidence) about no poo and hair dye, but I know that baking soda and vinegar CAN be considered in some ways to be abrasive (think in terms of using it daily on your teeth or scouring in the kitchen), so I would guess that it is a possibility it would be hard on hair dye. Then again, processed shampoos and conditioners have all SORTS of chemicals in them, so it could be 6 of one, half dozen of another. I will be getting my hair done soon since I hypothetically may have some gray hair to cover (my kids recently commented on my white highlights) so I will see how it works out. The fact that you are not washing it as often would be a plus factor in my mind (less washing=less fading, right?). Secondly, I think it is a bit of a trade off - I typically don’t dye my hair, specifically because of the chemicals, so it is a bit of give and take on the chemical free argument in my mind (but it is sure nice to not see gray sometimes!). Last time I used a 28 wash temporary dye, it seemed to last a long time, partly because I wasn’t having to wash it everyday. I would love to hear how it works out for you!!

    Jamie, It may not be linguistically correct, but I would say tangly is a word, as in that is how my hair is too when it is long. I do notice that if I comb it out in the water, while in the shower, it seems to be MUCH easier. It seems like I lose a lot of hair that way, but I’m pretty sure much of it is hair I would lose anyway, I just notice it more when it is longer and because I am there in the shower pulling it out of the comb (call me weird, but I can’t stand to send it down the drain).

    Thanks for sharing and commenting everyone!!