Yes, you read that correctly. I have not used shampoo or conditioner on my hair for a full year. “But why would you go to this extreme” you might ask. Because I am trying to use less chemical on my body (I mean, do you even know what half of the ingredients are on the back of a bottle?!?) as well as it is saving me a boatload of money. After a full year of going “no-poo” I can confidently say this works well for me. My hair is healthier, my curls are more consistent, and I have little to no frizz. Prior to going “no-poo”, my hair could frizz out like Bozo The Clown. Not a good look!
So when I say I have not shampooed my hair for a full year this does not mean that I don’t clean my hair. I just have been using what is often referred to as a “no-poo method”. Many shampoos nowadays clean too well and strip the hair of all of the naturally producing oils (as well as using many chemicals which I sometimes question). As a result, we have to use conditioner and other leave in or styling products to add the moisture back in so that our hair is not dry and is manageable. This was especially true for my super thick, curly/wavy and very unruly hair. Even when I was using the traditional shampoo/conditioner cleaning method for my hair I only washed it every couple of days because it was actually frizzier if I washed it too much.
Last year I started to do a little reading about going no-poo and what this actually entailed. Now I am not at all an expert but here is what I have learned. Shampoos have many chemicals in them and I would rather put products on my body that I can pronounce. Now let’s review one of the important aspects of your skin/scalp health: sebum. Sebum is an oily secretion of the sebaceous glands. It helps to protect your skin and hair from the drying effects of wind and water. Finding the right balance of sebum for your scalp (and skin) is very important as too much can make your scalp oily but too little and your scalp can get dry. Shampoos tend to remove oil and sebum and as a result your body may adjust to make more and compensate for the reduction. Using a lot of styling products can also increase the production of sebum on your scalp, especially if they are applied directly to the scalp. But like everything else, when it comes to the body everyone is a little different. Some people’s bodies just create more and some not enough.
So What All Natural Alternatives Are There?
Great question! There are many alternate washes and rinses that you can make in your home that are not only cheap but also healthier for your hair and scalp. Finding the right one for you is important as everyone’s hair is a little different so it may take a little time to figure out exactly what it right for you. I came across a blog of a woman who had hair similar to mine so I used her recipe and I only tweaked it a little.
Here is a list of some washes.
Basking Soda (what I use)
Soapnuts or Reetha – considered to be very gentle
Soapwort Root – gentle cleanser that works well with hard water
Yucca Root – gentle cleanser that works well in hard water, not to be used if you have sensitive skin or latex allergies
Honey/Aloe Shampoo – more moisturizing for most hair types, does not remove sebum and not suited for oily hair
Rhassoul Clay – best suited for drier hair types
Bentonite Clay – best suited for oily hair types (can be drying)
Shikakai & Amla
Fermented Rice Wash
Rye Flour Wash
Lemon & Cucumber Shampoothie
Baking soda washes need an acidic rinse as a follow up to rebalance the pH levels and keep from causing damage to the hair. Baking soda has a pH level of approximately 9 where the normal pH level of the scalp is 4.5-5.5. Here is a list of rinses that help balance the pH.
Apple Cider Vinegar (what I use)
Distilled White Vinegar
Aloe Vera Juice or Gel
The Baking Soda Wash
1 Tablespoon + 1 Teaspoon baking soda
1 Cup filtered cold water
Stir together in a measuring cup and then pour into a plastic spray bottle. Depending on the season I sometimes add 8-10 drops of tea tree oil (good for dandruff, split ends, fungal infections, and itchy scalp concerns) and lavender essential oil (has calming properties and also smells good).
To use, thoroughly wet your hair in the shower. Spray the wash on your hair and directly on your scalp. The amount you use can vary depending on the thickness of your hair. I apply enough so that my fingers can easily move through my hair and scalp. Scrub throughout and wash your scalp in circular motions. Rinse all the way out.
Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse
I use apple cider vinegar as my hair is naturally dry. If your hair is not naturally dry reduce the amount of apple cider vinegar or try another rinse listed above.
1/2 Cup apple cider vinegar (I actually used a little less last time I mixed this up)
1 Cup filtered water
Mix together in another spray bottle.
After washing your hair with the baking soda, apply the ACV all over. If your hair tends to be oily then you might want to concentrate more on the ends. I don’t have this problem so I use it all over and sometimes apply to my scalp as well. Leave in while you finish your shower and then thoroughly rinse out. I sometimes worry that there might be a lingering smell of vinegar after my shower and have even asked Mr. SFF to smell my hair to make sure but I have never had any problems. You could add some essential oils if you want but it is not needed.
My routine is usually washing my hair every 3-4 days with the BS wash and ACV rinse (3 days seems to be the best for me right now). Sometimes on my off days I will give my hair just a couple of spritzes of ACV while in the shower to give me a little more moisture, especially during the dry winter months.
Remember you can adjust the ratios of the recipes to find what works well for you. I started this using this no-poo method last December but adjusted the BS up just a little in the spring up from only one tablespoon of baking soda. If you have drier hair, reduce the amount of BS in your wash and increase the ACV in your rinse. For oily hair, increase the amount of BS in your wash and decrease the ACV in your rinse. Play with it until you figure out what works but make sure not to use too much BS as it can be damaging. Keep in mind that every body is a little different so the BS & ACV wash and rinse may not work well for you but there is likely something that will.
Making the Leap to “No-Poo”
Once you have figured out which wash and rinse you want to try then you are ready to make the leap. This type of change is not something to be taken lightly as there is a transitional period so you have to be committed. The way you switch is sort of like going cold turkey – you just stop shampooing your hair. Just use water to rinse your hair for as long as you can (a week if possible). As your scalp will be adjusting to not being stripped daily it will likely be creating an excess amount of sebum/oil so don’t do this right before some big event. Get out your hats or be ready to wear lots of ponytails during the transitional time.
When you get to the point that you can’t handle it any more as your hair is a greasy mess, start using your new wash/rinse. Only clean your hair every 2-4 days as this is really all it needs (even with the traditional shampoo method). Your hair will continue to adjust over time and some people say it can even take a couple of months. For me the transition was pretty uneventful I think because I wasn’t washing my hair every day anyways. But stick with it, remember I said to commit. You may need to tweak your recipes a little but continue until you find out what works for you.
Using a Boar’s Bristle Brush
Another step to your hair/scalp health is using a Boar’s Bristle brush. This will help to break up the waxy sebum build up on your scalp and distribute the healthy oils down towards your hair ends where it is needed. I don’t do this often enough but many people swear by it.
Styling Your Hair
I am pretty low maintenance. My styling regime has always been towel dry, scrunch with leave in hair product, and go. Remember, I have naturally curly/wavy hair. Sometimes I still use my special (ie: expensive) curly hair leave in products but I have found that I don’t usually need them, especially on days when I wash my hair as the ACV is a great moisturizer. Now I use just a little bit of coconut oil on my hair, scrunch and go. Another money saver here as well!
Overall, I have been very happy with my no-poo method. It doesn’t work for everyone but for me it made a huge difference. My hair is healthier and looks better, I am using less products, and I am saving money. It is hard for me to calculate the exact cost savings as Mr. SFF often would pick up my styling products on his way home but I estimate I am saving more than $100 annually. Every few months I will ask my hair dresser for her honest opinion of how my hair and scalp look and she agrees that the no-poo method is working for me. I do miss the great shampoo massages when she washes my hair but I don’t miss the endless cursing of my frizz.
The one downside I have had with being no-poo is travel. I have smaller spray 3 oz bottles for travel but because the wash and rinse are water based they tend to leak. I usually will double bag them but if they get squished while in transit I can lose most/all of it. If I can, I try to time my washes around travel days so that I don’t have to worry about it while on this road but this is often not possible. But I suppose this is a trade off I am willing to take to have healthy hair and more money in my bank account.