A Year Without Shampoo: What You Should Know Before You Start No Poo

by Krista Davis on April 14, 2014

No Poo

Before No Poo, despite trying a variety of shampoos and conditioners, including expensive “all natural” brands you find in salons and on TV, my hair was always thin, oily, and filled with tangles. Due to my hair problems, it is typically chin length or shorter. I decided to grow my hair to donate to Locks Of Love and wasn’t able to manage this with my hair cleansing method. I began looking at ways to make my hair healthier and stronger, discovering No Poo.

In 2012 I began buying Dr. Bonner’s Organic Shampoo, which left my hair very clean but dry and frizzy (this might not have been a problem if I had used a moisturizer like coconut oil). To remedy this, over the past year, I have followed the “No Poo” method. No Poo is where shampoos and conditioners aren’t used; and water is used by itself, or along with things like baking soda  and apple cider vinegar  (for other options, such as lemon juice, search online). No, this does not mean for the last 12 months I have gone around with dirty hair. I clean my hair once a week and rinse when needed. Yes, with the No Poo method I clean my hair only every 7 days!

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Using baking soda and apple cider vinegar (the vinegar smell disappears after your hair dries), my hair grows faster than it did before, I can see new hair growth, and my natural hair color (I haven’t dyed it since November, 2011) used to be a dull monotone light brown, but now my natural highlights pop out and there is dimension to my color. My hairstylist explained that traditional shampoos and conditioners make hair look dull and monotone since sulfates (what deep clean your hair) are stripping away your natural oil and silicones (what make your hair feel silky) create a buildup since they are being left behind. For more information about sulfates read this article, and for more on silicones click here.

Why is a shampoo’s ability to strip away natural oils considered negative? Think of the natural oil on your head and your cleansing method as a supply and demand relationship. When you wash your hair you remove the oils, therefore, your body compensates by producing additional oils. Previously, I had to use shampoo and conditioner every day to two days due to how oily my hair got. The conditioner was required due to the shampoo drying the ends of my hair out and making it break. With No Poo, now I only wash my hair once a week and by the end of the week my hair is only as oily as it used to be after one day.

How NOT to Use The No Poo Method

By reading articles and watching YouTube (My favorite No Poo vloger can be found here) over the past year I have learned a lot about various ways to apply the No Poo method. Let’s begin with what I now consider the wrong way (at least for my hair). Like everyone, I went through a transition period, but luckily I had already removed sulfates and silicones (no –cone, -xane, -cate, or copolyol) from my hair care routine by using Dr. Bronner’s organic shampoo. My transition period (a time where your hair looks dirty and oily and is unmanageable every day due to your body’s continued over production of oil) only lasted two weeks. However, my sister washed her hair every day with traditional shampoo and had a 7 week transition period. In the beginning I kept 3 spray bottles in my shower: 1 to clean/clarify my hair, 1 to rinse/smooth my hair, and 1 for a leave in conditioner.

  • Cleaning/Clarifying Mixture: 3 cups Water + 3 ½ Tbs. aluminum-free Baking Soda
  • Rinsing/Smoothing Mixture: 3 cups Water + 3 Tbs. Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Conditioner Mixture: 3 cups Water + 3 Tbs. Organic Coconut Oil

Why do I consider this the wrong way to use No Poo?

  1. My baking soda mixture stayed mixed for about 2 months, due to how frequently it was used. Baking soda needs to be fresh and potent when used. It should be stored in a dry and air tight container and be able to create a few bubbles when added to water.
  2. The baking soda and water mixture is used to cleanse your roots and scalp, so I didn’t need to spray it on and saturate all of my hair. I also needed to be more efficient at applying the solution directly to my roots.
  3. Spraying doesn’t soak hair like pouring does. This means mixing apple cider vinegar with water was requiring me to use more of the mixture to get the soft and silky hair I desired.
  4. Spraying a coconut oil moisturizer was getting more oil on my naturally oily roots than needed.

How I FIXED My No Poo Routine

Using the above mentioned No Poo method, my hair was looking better than before but I was struggling not washing for 7 days and my hair felt like it had a slight oily buildup on it, which I could continue feeling on my hand after touching it. To fix my No Poo method I made a few alterations to my hair care routine.

  1. Instead of storing baking soda in the box/bag it comes in, I store it in a glass airtight container.
  2. I mix my baking soda and water together right before washing my hair. I use 1 cup of COLD  distilled/filtered water with 1 Tbs. of baking soda.
  3. I apply the baking soda using a condiment bottle, since it has a tapered tip, allowing me to focus on one section of my scalp and roots at a time.
  4. I decided to keep my spray bottle for my apple cider vinegar, but I no longer mix it with water. I try to focus this part of the process on my hair shaft (I do spray a couple of times on my roots, just to close the follicles but I don’t saturate them).
  5. Instead of using the coconut oil as a leave in moisturizer on a regular basis, I make a deep conditioning mask every 2 weeks, or as needed. This can be a finger tips worth of organic coconut oil left on for a couple of hours (I have trouble getting it out of my hair without having to wash with soap, but this works great for my sister), or making a deep conditioning mask (my favorite is 1 Tbs. honey + 2 Tbs. plain Greek yogurt + 1 egg). Tip: Wet hair with warm water, apply deep conditioning hair mask, wrap hair with clear wrap, and wrap with a towel to keep from dripping.

These changes left my hair healthy, soft, silky, tangle free, and where it takes 7 days for it to look oily and dirty in-between washes (I do rinse my hair with warm water every time I shower).

Rules and Tips for Starting and Following No Poo

  • Be creative styling your hair during the transition period without adding hair products. Try wearing caps, cloth headbands, bandannas, scarves, or braids. The transition period can last 1 week to 8 weeks, depending on how much silicone buildup you have, how healthy your hair already is, and how often you wash your hair with traditional shampoo.
  • To speed up your transition period try washing with Dr. Bronner’s Organic Shampoo for a month before beginning or for a couple of days before try  applying egg yolks (however many you need) from root to tip, letting it sit for a few minutes to 1 hour before rinsing with cool water.
  • Don’t comb/brush hair while wet. Some No Poo advocates say to comb through hair during each wash to distribute solutions evenly, which I was gullible enough to try without thinking about what would happen.  Combing or brushing while wet results in the pulling and breaking of hair. Instead, use your fingers to comb through hair, then brush your hair when it is almost dry.
  • Use only a natural brush, such as a boar’s hair brush. This distributes natural oil from root down through the shaft. Don’t use a metal or plastic bristle brush, they will pull and break your hair.
  • Clean your natural brush once or twice a week. Remove hair from brush, and then clean with castile soap and water.
  • Use the ingredient combination that works for you. Oily hair will need more baking soda than apple cider vinegar, and dry hair will need more apple cider vinegar than baking soda. Try ¼ Tbsp. to 2 Tbsp. for every cup of water. You also may need to increase your solution quantity if you have long and thick hair.
  • Make sure you always use Apple Cider Vinegar after Baking Soda. Baking soda makes hair follicles stand on end, since it has a different pH than hair and apple cider vinegar closes hair follicles.
  • Dilute apple cider vinegar if pouring and use pure if spraying. I recommend Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar since it has mother in it, and in comparison to other brands my hair feels softer and silkier with it.
  • Wait for absorption. Wait for about 1 minute while you massage your scalp with the baking soda mixture, and 3 to 5 minutes with the apple cider vinegar. Use this time to clean your face and body, and to shave.
  • Begin with warm water and end with cold water. Make sure to rinse the apple cider vinegar out with cold water to aid in closing hair follicles. You will still rinse your baking soda our with warm water. Make sure during each rinsing process you scrub your scalp thoroughly, this will remove any baking soda flakes you didn’t shake up well and get blood flowing to your head.
  • Exercise is allowed. You can get sweaty; I do every day without hurting my hair.
  • Between No Poo days rinse your hair with warm water.
  • You can dye/perm your hair. Ask for a sulfate and silicon free shampoo at a salon, or use castile soap to remove hair product chemicals as directed at home.  (If you don’t use some type of soap you risk chemical burn.)
  • Use sulfate and silicone-free hair products or try to minimize use.
  • Use a dry shampoo to remove excess oil. Some No Poo users recommend baking soda, which works great, but it can cause drying and breaking of the root. Lightly sprinkle corn starch (for light hair) or cocoa powder (for dark hair) on roots and brush through. Store them in a sealable spice shaker.
  • Apply baking soda solution on scalp only, to keep at roots (Try this bottle for application).
  • Go at your own pace. It will take time to heal your hair and get the look and feel you desire. You can lengthen your transition period by washing every 3 days and building up to every 5 to 7 days, or you can make the transition period shorter by beginning with 7 days between washes and just hiding your hair.
  • Hard water is your enemy! Invest in a showerhead filter or home water filter. The minerals and sediments will make your hair not feel clean and feel weighed down.

 

I hope my year of No Poo can help you get the hair of your dreams. Feel free to ask any No Poo questions you have.

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Written by Krista Davis

Krista Davis

Krista is a self-proclaimed “health nut” and eco-friendly enthusiast.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

corey April 25, 2014 at 1:01 PM

Great post! i will definately be giving your truths to practice! ive been poo free for 4 months and im having trouble balancing the oilyness…
Must say i never considered the water source! great thinking, definately going to be getting a filtered shower head :)

Reply

Krista Davis April 25, 2014 at 6:09 PM

Corey,
I hope my suggestions work for you. Keep us updated on your No Poo journey.

Reply

maria May 2, 2014 at 9:27 AM

Great article. I’m in my week 2, starting the week 3 and i have seen good and bad things. From the one hand i haven’t had dermatitis seborreic anymore, and my ends look heathlier. However, my roots are VERY greasy, especially at the back, i’m worried about that. Even when i have my bs and apple vinegar looks greasy, is like… i can`t remove it! D:
from that reason i’m thinking of giving up, i don`t know what to do.

Reply

Krista Davis May 2, 2014 at 9:48 AM

You could still be in transition. Different parts of the head can take longer. Try doing an egg yolk and honey mask to help with the oil and try a little corn starch.

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maria May 2, 2014 at 10:26 AM

the corn starch as a dry shampoo or i have to put it and rinse it?

Reply

Krista Davis May 2, 2014 at 10:38 AM

The corn starch as a dry shampoo. It doesn’t take much, so just sprinkle a little at a time on your roots and brush through.

Reply

George May 26, 2015 at 9:18 AM

I’m definitely in my transition period with my hair but it seems to get so tangled it’s unbelievable. I apply my bs solution at my roots with a barbecue brush lol and pour my water/vinegar sol. over the shaft and tips but it gets soooooo tangled… My water isn’t exactly “hard” but it’s not soft either.. I haven’t died my hair since I shaved my head last and I’m wondering: Would getting a filtered shower head and a different (not plastic) hairbrush make a huge difference for me?

Reply

Krista Davis May 31, 2015 at 7:10 PM

Try more ACV. Mine was always extremely tangled until using more. Also, let the water straighteb your hair for you before getting out of the shower then dry your hair by rubbing the towel down, instead of rubbing all around.

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