With shampoo, at least. (I do wash sometimes with natural ingredients and/or water.)
Today I’ll tell you what I’ve tried in my no-poo adventure and how it has worked for me. I’ll also point you in the direction of some resources I found helpful.
But I can’t tell you how to go no-poo. (If you’re interested. You might also just be grossed out.)
My hair is different from your hair and yours is different from your friend’s and your sister’s and your dad’s and your co-worker’s. And even your same hair will likely behave differently with different climates, seasons, stages of life, and air/water qualities.
So read up if you are interested in giving no-poo a try (or if you’re just weirdly fascinated). I’d love to hear how it goes or, if you already do it, what works for you!
I use diluted raw honey every 10-14 days. But really, my hair seems healthier the longer I let it go without washing with anything.
I haven’t used shampoo since the end of September of last year; I got lazy on a weekend trip and just decided to keep brushing it but not washing. I’d been reading about folks who go “no-poo” and thought I’d give it a try for the health benefits (seriously, endocrine disrupters?? yeesh) and the low-maintenance factor. And I just think it’s cool that our hair is designed to keep itself clean without any chemical intervention.
It’s been an interesting journey, but here’s how my hair looks today – let us note I need a trim:
Just to get that out of the way in case you thought I might look like a greaseball.
Lest I sound like a self-help book: this is a journey. I’ve been doing it 10 months and, just like everyone else whose no-poo adventures are on the internet, I’ve been through several approaches to figure out what works for my hair in different contexts (see disclaimer above). You’ll probably have to go through a similar trial and error process to figure out what works for you. But when you can figure that out, it’s cheap, easy, HEALTHY and lovely so in my opinion it’s worth it. :)
So. Many online guides to going no-poo recommend starting out with a baking soda (BS) wash to get all the silicones and chemicals (SLS, parabens, phtalates, etc. – scary stuff) out of your hair, followed by apple cider vinegar (ACV) wash to balance pH and make your hair silky and smooth. Basically, natural alternatives to shampoo (the BS) and conditioner (the ACV).
That’s how I started – using this combo about once every 5-7 days and working on going longer between washes. There was an initial greaseball period as it took awhile for my hair to figure out that it didn’t have to over-produce to compensate for all its natural oils being stripped out by shampoo.
I got through that with frequent brushing to distribute oil and applying a mix of cocoa powder and cornstarch to particularly greasy spots with a makeup brush. (I adjusted the ratio of cocoa to cornstarch to roughly match the color of my hair.)
I used a boar bristle brush to distribute the oil my hair produced naturally and after the initial greaseball phase it was quite luxurious – I wanted to pet my hair all the time because it felt so soft and luscious.
BUT after every BS/ACV wash my hair was dry and straw-like and did not look happy. It would always take a few days for the oils to balance out the harshness of the BS in particular, but I thought that’s what it took to clean it so I did it. (I was way too lazy to look into rye flour, rhassoul clay, and all the other natural alternatives out there that I couldn’t just buy at the grocery store.)
Then I read about this lady who dropped BS/ACV in favor of a raw honey wash that was moisturizing and naturally antibacterial/antifungal. Her description of glossy, healthy hair with little fuss appealed to my lazy, cheap self.
So I stopped using BS and ACV altogether, bought some inexpensive raw honey at Aldi, and scrubbed my scalp with some of it diluted in water and squirted through an old icing bottle. (Pro tip: make just a one-use batch and rinse your applicator container out thoroughly after a wash. Raw honey is RAW and will grow mold if you leave it exposed to the air.)
My hair started looking and feeling much better! It was still dry the day of (and maybe the day after) washing, but some coconut oil rubbed into the ends and lightly run through the rest did the trick.
I also dropped the boar bristle brush because it was pulling all the wave out of my hair and, as the seasons changed, the nylon bristles interspersed for thick hair were weirdly static-izing it. (They were poky on my scalp, too.) And it was a pain to get really clean.
After reading about this woman’s journey, I switched to a wooden bristle brush and scalp massage (finger pads only, no scratching) + finger combing (think running your fingers through your hair but doing so from root to tip, all over).
Scalp massage/finger combing was the game changer. I massaged my scalp in the morning (on the toilet, say) and in the evening (during my kiddo’s walk or bath) and then combed the scalp oil/sebum accumulated on my finger tips down through my hair. It brought back the luxurious feeling and seemed to really, really help with the dandruff and/or dry scalp that’s still an issue in some spots. And it’s a great way to make time stuck in traffic or walking at my toddler’s excruciatingly slow pace feel useful/like a mini spa visit. (Note: this does leave some oil on your fingers so have a cloth or a sink nearby to clean off afterwards.)
More on flakiness: I did try a tea tree oil/coconut oil treatment for my scalp to moisturize and antifungal the flakes but man, that just gave me greasy hair for a week. I think I overdid it. The only thing that’s killed the flakes for several days straight was a dip in a lake, but that really dried my hair out. Consistently massaging/combing seem to keep it to a manageable level but it ain’t perfect.
I’ve read comments from several no-pooers who love getting their sweat on and who therefore wash (albeit with water/natural alternative) after sweaty workouts, and I’d been doing the same. But every time I washed my hair, even with the moisturizing honey, it ended up dry and limp and not luscious for a day or two until I could get it recoated with sebum. After reading in Happy Hair (link below) that sweat is a major component of the juicy acid mantle that protects our hair, and reconnecting with my inner lazy woman, I decided to try skipping the wash-after-run altogether, even in July in Atlanta. Lo and behold, it works great – the pictures in this post are from about two and a half weeks of no washing + having a good sweat 2-3 times per week.
(I do still rinse after chlorine, though. I try to avoid chlorine in general, but sometimes your spouse squirts you with a pool noodle and gets your hair wet and you decide to be a good sport about it instead of telling him he’s ruining your no-poo glory.)
Please note: the brushes and e-book below used to be affiliate links, but nobody bought anything through them, so now they’re just regular ol’ links :)
–BS, ACV, cornstarch, cocoa powder, coconut oil, makeup brush: I already owned these and didn’t use enough to have to buy more of the consumables
–Raw honey was $7 for a 24 oz jar at Aldi (it was a short term offer; no longer sold :/ )
–Boar bristle brush was a super nice Morocco Method version and cost $40 (Christmas present) but here is a cheaper version
–Wooden bristle brush was $10 (birthday present)
–Tea tree oil was $7.50 for 0.5oz (you dilute it in a carrier oil like olive oil or coconut oil)
–e-Guide to going no-poo $6
Factoring in gifts (thanks Ma & Dad and Patricia & Mandy!) I spent $20 on new items and probably used up a few bucks’ worth of things we already owned.
WHAT I WOULD CHANGE
Other than magically learning my hair’s needs faster, I wouldn’t change much.
I would probably skip the baking soda/apple cider vinegar stage after the initial cleansing wash. It seemed to do more harm than good and was more of a pain than the simple, one-step wash I switched to.
And I would DEFINITELY massage/finger comb from the beginning to help shorten the greaseball phase.
Another thought: the boar bristle brush really distributed oil well in a way that wooden bristles might not have, so that was helpful in the beginning. But maybe wooden bristles + scalp massage/finger combing would work fine. If you try this, let me know how it goes!
ONE LAST TIP
DON’T SCRATCH! Seriously, if your head is itchy, do everything you possibly can to massage with finger pads (not nails) to alleviate it. Scratching will 1) lead to more itchiness and 2) give you raw spots that crust over and flake and just hurt. Massaging or brushing with wooden bristles usually makes my scalp feel better AND stimulates exfoliation/oil production to help cure the itchiness problem.
RESOURCES I found useful
(race/ethnicity of writer listed when known in case you think only hippie white girls do this and/or are interested in learning about a no-poo experience for a hair type similar to your own)
Basic BS/ACV instructions – she is Latina (she was still using BS/ACV 3 months in and it seems to work for her so it may not be harsh on everyone!)
How a chic zero-waste advocate living in Paris went water only – she is Euro-Asian
Happy Hair e-guide by Lucy AitkenRead – quick read, good trouble-shooting advice, natural recipes for different hair types/problems. She is Euro-Caucasian with dyed hair (I think)
Hair journey of a minimalist, natural hair beauty blogger – she is African-American
Raw honey recipe – scroll down to the “recipe” part if you don’t want to read all the mumbo jumbo (but you might find her hair journey interesting). She has dyed Euro-Caucasian hair and loves getting dolled up and wearing trendy clothes – in case you were worried you had to be granola-y to try this
More on raw honey wash
A bunch of great natural recipes for various hair ailments (I’m super lazy and only try ones with ingredients I already own)
What do you think about no poo? Have you tried it? Would you? And please, particularly if you had a long/greasy transition period, comment below, because I have friends who are looking for your tips to get them through!