No ‘Poo: The Nitty Gritties

Okay, now that you have all had a great laugh at last week’s post, it’s time to get down to business.  Hopefully I can restore some of the dignity I just lost by providing you with some stellar information on the whys and wherefores of quitting shampoo.  The original inspiration for this “No ‘Poo” thing was from my friend Cat, over at Finding Our Feet.  Having a real person that I actually know (with nice hair) going “No ‘Poo” inspired me to try it myself.

PicMonkey Collage

First, let us get one one serious issue out of the way: quitting shampoo and conditioner does not mean you have quit cleansing and softening your hair or that you are going with the Rastafarian look.  When I first heard of “No ‘Poo” a few years ago, I thought it meant I’d have to have flat, greasy, unstyled hair.  Which is not how I roll.  Happy was I to find out that “No ‘Poo” simply means you have ceased being a consumer of commercial shampoo and conditioner products in favor of alternative cleansing methods.  Why and wherefore in the world would you do that?  I will tell you.

1.) Natural oil production.  Commercial shampoo is a detergent which strips the hair of its natural oils produced by the scalp (the proper name of those oils is “sebum”).  When your follicles are stripped of sebum, your body naturally responds by super producing more to make up for the loss.  When that occurs, you get that middle school grease factory look that will definitely make you want to shampoo daily (or at least more than you’d have to otherwise.)   In my case, frizz happens. Once you have started that vicious cycle of removing the sebum from your hair,  your hair will be in desperate need of some moisture and softness.  So, you’ll have to use conditioner to be able to actually run a brush through it.   Because commercial conditioner basically just coats your hair with derivatives of petroleum, it does a number on your hair in the way of build-up.  So now that your hair is all weighted down, you’ll had have to put some more products in it to pump up the volume, and so on.  Now I feel like I want to go to the library and check out “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.”

2.) Avoiding Chemicals. Science lessons make me want to daydream about what is for lunch, so I won’t get into detail here, but if you read the back of your shampoo bottle, you probably have a hard time pronouncing about 90% of those ingredients listed.  A load of them are carcinogenic, and overall just bad for your hair.  Sodium Laurly Sulfate (SLS) is the most commonly known chemical in shampoo.  It is in most things that we expect to “foam up”, like shampoo and toothpaste.   It’s cheap for the shampoo companies to add and apparently the foaming action makes us feel good about our level of hygiene.  So SLS is pretty much all about marketing.  Bottom line, it is a skin and eye irritant, and is also considered a carcinogenic.  Not worth it.  (In doing this research I just looked on the back of my “natural” Tom’s of Maine toothpaste and found the ingredient SLS.  Yeah, it’s in the trash.)  If you do not want to give up your shampoo, you can purchase a good quality, toxin-free brand, like Avalon Organics or Nature’s Gate.

3.) No Poo Saves Money. I’ll admit, this saving money is almost always the initial draw for me when I try something “crunchy” (like cloth diapers or not using commercial shampoo and conditioner)  Let’s see, which is more expensive?  A.)  Daily loading my hair with commercial shampoos, conditioners, and hair care products, or B.) A simple box of baking soda and a bottle of apple cider vinegar, which will last for months on end.  If you picked B. you are correct  If you picked A., you are also correct, but only if you are a TLC extreme couponer who steals other people’s Red Plum rounders and has racked up tons of CVS bucks.   (If so, and I hope you find some fabulous SLS free commercial products and comment on the bottom of this post so you can hook a sista up).  Other than that, the correct answer is B.

My New Routine

There are a number of ways to cleanse and soften your hair without using shampoo and conditioner.  It’s what I call “No ‘Poo/No ‘Dish”:  rinsing with plain water, the curly girl method, the traditional Mexican no shampoo, and finally, baking soda and apple cider vinegar.  The most popular method is baking soda and apple cider vinegar, which is what I use. I cannot believe how easy this is and how well it works.  (I have Trader’s Joe’s brand pictured here, but I like Bragg’s best).

(Mixing these up is not a big ordeal.  It takes like point eight seconds.)

Baking Soda Mix

  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1 Tablespoon of Baking Soda
  • Mix together in a cup or squirt bottle.  Mix well so the soda is mostly dissolved.

Why baking soda?  Baking soda is better than basic soap because regular old soap is very alkaline, which will make your hair weak and rough.  Baking soda is the weakest form of alkaline, making it better for your hair than soap.  Plain water can remove almost all of the dirt in your hair, but baking soda further clarifies hair by removing dust, dirt and chemical build-up without removing sebum.



Baking Soda

Apple Cider Vinegar Mix

Why apple cider vinegar?  ACV is a mild acidic which detangles your hair, seals the cuticle, and balances your hair’s PH.  This is what my great-grandma used on my gran’s hair when she was a girl.  She would cleanse with homemade soap (later Ivory) and then rinse with apple cider vinegar. Grandma says she did not try commercial shampoo (Prell) for the first time until around 1945 when she moved from the farm into town and started 6th grade.

When I told my sister what I was doing with the ACV,  she said “Have fun smelling like an Easter egg dying party.”  And that’s pretty much what it smells like in the shower when you are pouring it all over your hair.  My best advice is breathe through your mouth, and try not get any in there.  Although ACV is pungent,  fortunately, that odor is not left behind on your hair.  When I smell my hair after I style it, it smells like nothing.

Apple Cider Vinegar

  1. Before I shower, I mix these two up and put them in plastic cups.  My husband’s sacred Taco Bell cups, actually.  It works great, but I’ll be repurposing my old shampoo and conditioner bottles to use for my “No ‘Poo” routine after I transfer my leftover shampoo to some other containers.  I hear it is easier to use a squirt bottle.
  2. First I cleanse with the baking soda mixture by wetting my head with warm water.  Then I pour the baking soda mixture on slowly and evenly all over my scalp.  I concentrate mostly on the scalp, since that is where most of the oil and dirt gathers.  I let it set of for a minute or so.
  3. Now, the key here that you cannot miss is to SCRUB that entire scalp!  I mean scrub it old-school, like when mom used to wash your hair over the kitchen sink. (“Moooooom”)  You’ve been able to skip this step with your commercial shampoo, but you cannot do that when you are using baking soda and water.  You need to give your head a fabulous massage, and then when you think you are done, do a little more.  You have to distribute that bakings soda and loosen the dirt, oil, and chemicals.  Your head should feel generally awesome when you are done.
  4. Now rinse very thoroughly, massaging your scalp and the ends of your hair while you rinse.  This rinses the baking soda mixture through my ends and ensures that those get clean too.
  5. Next, I soften and clarify the my hair with the ACV mixture by pouring it over the ends of my hair.  I wad up my hair up on top of my head and let it set for a few minutes while I shave my legs. Then I turn the water on to cool and rinse thoroughly.  Cool water will also help to close up your hair cuticle.  The first time I did this, I was expecting my hair to be a rough, tangled mess.  To my surprise, it was not!  It didn’t have that oil slick feeling that I’m accustomed to when I use a quarter bottle of conditioner, but it was surprisingly smooth and combed out easily.  The last time I washed it, I was excited to note that my hair was already feeling softer than ever!

What Happened? Before:

How about some No Poo pictures? See it to believe it. This is how my hair looked with regular shampoo and conditioner (Nature’s Gate).  It was a little heavy and weighted down.  This is something I noticed started happening when I switched to a toxin-free, natural shampoo.  My hair is air-dried and then given a wavy texture by styling with a flat iron (I use it as a curling iron).

Regular Shampoo Regular Shampoo 2 After:

This is a picture of me after week one of going “No ‘Poo.”  This is my hair in it’s natural state.  I styled it by scrunching it when it was wet right out of the shower.  Then I used a hair dryer and a diffuser to dry the hair.  After drying, I used my flat iron to polish the curls a little.  Then, I applied a little bit of Rosemary oil to the ends.  That is it!  The ends are still air-drying.

No Poo Hair 1No Poo Hair 2

After quitting shampoo, I was on alert to expect a hair “detox” period, in which my body would be producing sebum at a high rate (as it’s used to being shampooed regularly).  Over time, sebum production is supposed to balance out and the hair should become a waterfall of shining locks like the Pantene commercials.  This detox period can last up to a month or so before the Pantene commercial comes true.

However…I did not have the detox period!   I repeat, there was NO oily scalp!  In fact, I noticed my hair feeling so much lighter after a couple of weeks.  I found out that if I use hairspray (or too much oil), I will have to wash every two days.  Other than that, my hair can simply be rinsed with water and last up to five days before needing to be washed!

The thing about going “No ‘Poo” is that you cannot try it for five seconds and then say in a whiney voice “I don’t like it.”  You will need to give yourself time to tweak and customize your methods. For my hair, it is really important to scrub the scalp and not over-use baking soda, because my scalp is dry.  Too much baking soda and not enough rinsing will make my scalp scary flaky, as I found out last week.  If my hair isn’t looking oily or dull after a few days,  it is best for me to skip the baking soda and simply give my scalp a vigorous scrubbing and rinse with water.  For my hair, it is allll about the scalp massage.

Styling My “No ‘Poo/No ‘Dish” Hair

So I’m still experimenting in this department.

Hairspray will probably be used less frequently in order to increase the longevity of my clean hair, but I’ll definitely break it out on those occasions when I want my hair to stay perfectly in place.

I use a little bit of natural oil on the ends of my hair.  I will probably always have to, as I have dry, curly hair which does not get brushed.  (Brushing is known to distribute the sebum throughout the ends.)

Rosemary Oil

Tonight, I rinsed my hair with water (I washed two days ago) and applied coconut oil to it.  I scrunched it and it is air drying.  I also plan to try aloe vera, in place of gel.  More on these results later!

Coconut Oil The Conclusion

My original results with “No ‘Poo/No ‘Dish” have been stellar.  I’ll be keeping my routine.  I  think “No ‘Poo” is a great option for natural curlies.  My “No ‘Poo/No ‘Dish” routine has yielded about the same results as my regular shampoo and conditioner.  My hair acts about the same as it did before I stopped using shampoo, but each time I wash it, I notice it feeling lighter and softer without the oil slicked or greasy feeling I get after slathering on conditioner.  In a few months, I’ll let you know if the Pantene commercial is coming true.

(Now that I have written this, I hate to admit that I have really challenged myself about those chemical-laden items in my bathroom that I just could not let go!  Once you start on the crunchy train, there is really no getting off…)

Some very good bloggy sources on the subject are Simple Mom,  Uniquely Normal Mom, and Crunchy Betty.

(Here is an update on my hair 9 months later!)

So, would you ever consider going “No ‘Poo/No ‘Dish?”  Does this post make it seem a any more do-able?  Are you relived that my hair is not dreads, or just glad to see me sans baby bangs?



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  • Jen Antoniou

    Ive been interested in trying this, but with all the health stuff I’ve been researching, hadn’t made it to this point. When I washed this evening, I was thinking about how much I wanted to know more, and here it is! Yay! I’m totally going to try it. Maybe, if I remember, I can take some pics and pass them along. I’m up for the challenge. I love saving money, avoiding chemicals, and really dig the idea of being frizz free. :)

    You rock!

  • Catherine Lamb

    You have no idea how pleased I am that you said I have nice hair. That was a day maker. Ha!


    Now I have to give this a try. your hair does look amazingly shiny and the texture is gorgeous! Are you all done with coloring it too? Im liking the current color mucho!

  • Jessica Hinson

    I’m trying it. I’m almost out of shampoo and have all these ingredients on hand. I’m scared. And excited. I struggle with my hair and the delegate balance of sebum. Especially since giving birth!

  • Eco chic mama

    I love it & I’m sharing all over the social media world!

    As for my hair I use avalon organics and only wash my hair 2x a week…
    I can’t give that up!!!
    Also my hair is so long I’m afraid of tangles!!
    I have both on hand and I’m going to try it either way.

    Far as a bottle… Would spraying it on work better than pouring it on??!!

    Your hair is divine and I need a lesson on flat iron curls ASAP!

    • Rachael

      I thought your hair looked cute today BTW!

    • beth

      I spray it on

  • amy s

    I tried this for a few weeks maybe a year ago, but I have straight hair that gets greasy quick. It was not pretty! I just wasn’t sure my hair would ever get out of the detox period. But I’ve heard that no poo works better on curly hair. I never shampoo my kids who have curly hair and they’re just fine, but not so for me.

    • Rachael

      I wondered if you already did this! Yeah I do have ta dry scalp, which helps a lot! I’m not sure if I could go No Poo so easy if I had more oils, I think I would have to do it in the winter when I could wear a cute hat every day!

  • Rachel @ Grasping for Objectivity

    Fascinating!! I’ve been intrigued by the concept for a while, but my hair is SO long…and SO oily…that I’m scared to try it. I’m glad to hear a good review, though – the last one I heard gave up after a month.

  • Theresa Hazen

    Well, now I’m afraid. I just tried no ‘poo for the first time and my hair is straight as a board and gets pretty oily after not washing for 2 days. But I so wanted this to work. After reading the comments is it even worth it for me to keep going or should I just go organic? By the way, I made my mixtures before I got into the shower of course and made them with cold water! That was fun. Lesson learned!

    • Rachael

      From what I hear, it can take up to one month for your scalp to balance back out! If you really want to give it a go, you could try it in the winter time when you can wear a lot of hats! That is what one of my friends did. It will definitely take most people a few weeks before their hair is not a hot mess! But it all depends on what works the best for you, mama! For some people no ‘poo might be more stressful than what it is worth! I am so impressed that you are trying it… busy mama of four boys!

  • Hannah

    I remembered you writing about this… I came back to see what you said, because I’m being inspired by your encouragement! I’m pretty low maintenance with my hair anyway, so I think this could work for me. I’ll let you know how it goes. 😛

    • Rachael

      Please do! I have an update on the state of my “no ‘poo” hair coming up soon!

  • Jenn

    I’ve really been wanting to try this no poo method for a while. My hair looks almost exactly like yours, so I hope mine turns out as pretty as yours is! I have a question though – did I read it right that after you rinsed with water, you just put coconut oil on the ends – and that’s it? No other type of gel or serum (whether organic or any other type?) And do you only do that on the days you water rinse, or on the days you use the mixtures as well? I’m looking forward to my hair feeling clean, but I am a little bit afraid of my hair not holding its curl naturally, with no product help, even if it is healthier! Thanks!

  • Sherree

    I was wondering if there was an update as to your results after months of ‘no poo. I am contemplating this and was wondering #1 if you are still doing it & #2 how your hair looks and feels

    • frugalfaye

      Yes Sherree I am still doing this! I just had my second baby and it is a life saver because I only have to wash my hair twice a week which saves me tons of time and hassle! My hair feels amazing. My sis just gave me a new style. There is an update coming really soon!

    • frugalfaye

      There IS an update! I actually just haven’t posted it yet because I need someone to take pictures of my current hair. (What I really need is a camera tripod!) Since you are asking, I will make sure to put it on my calendar to post in a few weeks!

  • briana

    Ok. I want to try this. I have natural curly hair as well, and I hate using conditioner because of the way it makes my hair look and feel. But I was just wondering. Do you use the entire mixture every time? Or do you have extra left when you are finished? Do you mix with cold or hot water?

    • frugalfaye

      Briana, yes I do use the entire mixture every time! I mix it with warm water only because I once dumped it on my head cold, and yeah, I never wanted that to happen again!

  • Patti

    Rachael, did I read somewhere that you add essential oil to the ACV mix?

    • frugalfaye

      Yes, on the No ‘Poo update post I mentioned adding essential oil to help neutralize the vinegar smell :) I use peppermint or lavender when I’m in the mood to! Either way, when your hair dries you shouldn’t smell anything.

  • Patti

    Rachael, any idea why ACV is any better than…white vinegar or any other kind?

    • frugalfaye

      Actually, that is a really good question! I like it because the vinegar smell is less strong, but I have been hearing really good things about white vinegar. I am going to try white vinegar and see if I like it better!

  • Krista

    Curious, do you get your hair wet on days that you aren’t washing? Forever I’m a wash one day, style the next kind of girl so I don’t have to use a hair dryer. My hair actually looks better on the second day usually.

    • frugalfaye

      Yes, sometimes I do! It does not seem to affect my hair much. My hair always seems to look better on the second day too!

  • chelsey

    Do you use the entire solution every time?

  • Laine

    Is it a good idea to alternate between baking soda and an all natural shampoo bar?

  • Ando

    I always use pure aloe vera as gel !! I love it!