UPDATE: Wow! This post just exploded with people checking this out. Thanks Kathy Lee and Hoda. This post is actually a couple of years old. I’ve been shampoo free for two and a half years now. My hair is very clean, I do wash it regularly, just not with shampoo. I get compliments on it all the time. Read on for more details of how to wash your hair without shampoo. Check out this post for my favorite wash, the egg yolk wash.
Every woman wants beautiful, healthy hair. We see those hair commercials of women with long, luxurious locks swaying back and forth and jump in line to buy the product that promises us such beauty. After all, our hair is our crown, isn’t it? I’m no exception–I fall for the advertising gimmicks myself. That is, until about eight months ago when I discovered that is exactly what they are: gimmicks. I don’t need a ton of beauty products. I don’t need shampoos and conditioners, pomades and anti-frizz serums, mousse and gel. I don’t need ANY of it. This is where my simplicity journey began–with a few natural hair cleansing techniques that in the end have not only left me with simply gorgeous hair, but have revolutionized how our whole house is run.
Eight months ago I decided to try a radical experiment in natural hair care: I ditched the shampoo. It was a bit like jumping off a cliff (and I’m so not a fan of heights) but I decided that there was nothing to lose, so I jumped. And four months later as I look back, I realize that it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Four months in to No Shampoo (often called “No-Poo” on the web) and my hair is so healthy that I have decided to make my experiment permanent: I will never go back to shampoo.
Still, when I tell people I ditched shampoo, I tend to get one of two reactions: they are either intrigued or horrified. Sometimes a combination of both. It’s always fun to see the shocked looks as they try to subtly check my hair to see just how gross it must be. (It isn’t–it is clean and shiny.) As my experiment has turned into an everyday habit, I find a lot more people taking notice and asking me how they can do it too. Yet it can be fairly scary, this idea of ditching shampoo. What about grease? Won’t I look horrible? No. While there was a month detox period for my hair, it rarely looked bad. And once that detox period was over, my hair has never been greasy again. Never.
My hair has more shine than it ever did. It is softer than before, it is cleaner than it was before, and it stays cleaner for a longer time as well. It has so much natural body that I don’t have to use any styling products whatsoever! My hair is fine and super-straight, and often had a mind of its own before starting this. In the shampoo and condition days, if I didn’t use styling products, it laid there limp and bland–or my cowlicks made it stick up in funny patterns. Not now! I use no products at all, and I now wash my hair every ten to twelve days, depending on what my hair needs. I rinse my hair with water every three to four days, but nothing else. I am working towards a goal of washing it only once a month, which I hope to reach by Fall.
You can read my previous blog post about the why and the how of what I did. Over the four months I’ve tried a lot, and learned a lot! My original post on No-Poo has a lot of information on why shampoo is so bad for you, for your hair and for the environment. Surprisingly, the No-Poo post has been one of the hottest topics of the past few months! I still get dozens of emails and comments a week, asking me for more information and updates, so I thought I would share with you some of the things I’ve tried, and my results. Remember that everyone’s hair is different, so you may experience slightly different results than I have.
My hair after eight months of no-shampoo.
Baking soda wash: The baking soda wash works really well. I use one tablespoon of baking soda in one cup of warm water from the shower. It removes most of the oils from my hair, without stripping it of the natural protecting oils, the sebum. However, I began to experience some issues with an itchy scalp, and after some research found that using the baking soda too often was causing a reaction on my scalp. This doesn’t happen for most people, but it did for me. So I moved to using baking soda once a week, instead of every time I wash. Because baking soda is very alkaline, you MUST make sure to follow with an acid wash of some sort–Apple Cider Vinegar or Lemon Juice both work really well. Contrary to what many people think, the acids in the vinegar or lemon juice actually smooth and soften the hair without damaging it. I prefer to use lemon juice on my hair. Do NOT use baking soda on color-treated hair. It will remove coloring on the hair. The other methods listed below are completely safe for color-treated hair. In fact, they will help your color last longer! UPDATE: I no longer recommend Baking Soda washes for long term use. They are great for beginners, but not for long-term (as in, more than six months of regular usage.) Why? Because the extremely high alkalinity of baking soda can damage your hair over the long term. It is perfectly safe for the short term, but do not use it more than a few months. Use that time to experiment with other types of no-poo washes.
Natural or Castille Soaps: I bought a bar of Dr Bronner’s Castille soap not long after starting No-Poo, and have really liked it. I do find that it does really strip quite a bit of the oils, and used it a good bit during the greasy detox period. Now that the detox period is gone, I have tapered off my use to 1-2 times a month. I love the lather that it provides, giving me just a little of that shampoo feeling, without any of the nasty chemicals or stripping off all the protective oils. I find that when I use castille soap too often that my hair doesn’t have the same body, so it is removing quite a bit of the oils. When buying natural soaps for use in your hair, it is important to make sure there are no sulfates in them, and that the lye content is low.
Beer Wash: This is an oldie but a goodie. I washed my hair with beer leftover from the holiday party the weekend before–it had sat open overnight and was now flat. The beer made my hair very soft and shiny, but didn’t do a great job of cleansing. However, I will use it again as a great conditioning treatment, especially as my hair grows longer.
Brown Sugar and Honey Hair Scrub: I’d read several people touting a brown sugar and honey scrub for cleansing your scalp and your hair. I tried it but found it didn’t really clean my hair all that well. My scalp was certainly clean, but my hair wasn’t. The honey rinses out very easily in water, so stickiness wasn’t an issue. It just didn’t remove any of the dirt or oils that were there to begin with.
Egg Wash: This has quickly become my favorite choice for washing my hair! You can use a whole egg, or just the egg yolk, it doesn’t matter. I prefer to use just the egg yolk (let’s just say I had a little egg white “cooking” in my hair one time) and find that it leaves my hair fantastically clean and shiny! It infuses my hair and scalp with a good dose of protein, and leaves my hair more ‘fluffy’ than it was before. To use I simply take one large egg yolk and pierce with a fork, adding a tablespoon of warm water and scrambling slightly. I know, I know. The Ewwww factor is high, right? Wrong! It actually feels a lot like the slipperiness of shampoo. I rub it along my scalp where my hair is dirty, and then out through the ends of my hair. I follow this with the lemon juice rinse. My hair is super-silky after an egg wash! It is possible to have too much protein in your hair, so I use the egg wash a maximum of twice a month.
Conditioner only: Most people don’t realize that conditioner has enough cleaners in it that it will wash your hair as well as shampoo, but won’t strip your hair of the protective oils. Right now my kids are using a bottle of Trader Joe’s conditioner, which is all-natural and only costs $3.50 a bottle. I have used conditioner only a couple of times myself, especially when caught somewhere without my normal supplies. I was travelling recently and wasn’t expecting to need to wash my hair, but did. I used the little bottle of Crabtree & Evelyn all natural conditioner that the hotel had in the room, and found it did a great job of cleansing my hair!
If you are really nervous about the idea of giving up shampoo altogether but still want to try this out, I suggest starting with either the castille soap or the conditioner only method. Really, for most people the baking soda method works wonderfully–but it can be a bit scary for some. It really only took about four weeks for my hair to adjust to the new regimen. Since the end of the first month I haven’t really had any greasy haired days. I was sick a couple of weeks ago with strep–it really knocked me for a loop. But even after being in bed for six days straight my hair wasn’t bad! It needed a good rinse and styling, but it wasn’t greasy or oily by any measure. That was totally new to me!
I’ve also found through this process that my hair has a natural wave to it–something it has never had before. It is very wavy and almost curly when wet. It holds curls really well now, something it has NEVER done before. I am currently in the process of growing my hair long in the hopes that I will be able to curl it more often. I’m finding that my hair is growing faster than ever before!
So, have you tried no-poo? What did you think? Do you have questions about ditching shampoo? Tell me what you think!