Who Needs Shampoo?

One of my ongoing goals is to reduce the amount of random and largely unknown chemicals in my family’s immediate environment. I’m trying not to let it make me crazy – there’s only so much I can do at one time – so to start I’m picking and choosing little things I can rethink and replace.

Project number one was my face wash, which I replaced with honey and the oil cleansing method. My 5-year-old daughter now thinks it is totally normal (and lots of fun) to wash her face with honey.

With this little success under my belt, it was time for my shampoo and conditioner to exit stage left. I have to admit, I was skeptical about this. My hair is super thick, and has always tended toward dry and frizzy (or so I thought). I was the one that could leave regular supposed-to-be-rinsed-out conditioner in my hair, and it still wasn’t enough to weigh it down. But after reading Crunchy Betty’s No ‘Poo to You Too, I decided to give it a try. I rarely leave my house anyway. Who would notice if things went poorly?

In an inexplicable fit of confidence in my hair, I decided to try to go all the way completely shampoo-free at first, as in, rinse with water in the shower and that’s it. No washes of any kind.

Now, any change like this is going to require a few weeks before you can see how your hair is going to react. It needs an adjustment period where you promise not to get angry at it for being oily or dry or heavy or greasy or totally out of control. Give it ample time to figure out just what it’s supposed to be doing in the absence of being daily stripped of natural oils and having them replaced by fake ones. Your hair will remember what to do, but it won’t be on day 2.

But, if, after a few weeks, things are not going to your liking, you might have to be the one to make some adjustments. After three weeks of being left completely to its own devices, my hair had decided to morph into a helmet. I’m not talking about the kind of helmet any high school girl in the 80s could build with a can of AquaNet and some backcombing. No, this was much more serious than that. This was a helmet that could protect a person in an NFL collision. And since I have no intentions of becoming involved in any NFL collisions, this was of no use to me.

I had to admit it: my hair is not capable of taking care of it self. Call it immature, call it lazy, but it needed help.

So I started a fairly standard no ‘poo routine:

  1. Baking Soda Wash: Dissolve 1 Tbsp baking soda in 1 to 2 cups water. Rub into your scalp and rinse completely.
  2. Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse: Mix 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar in 1 to 2 cups water. Focus on the ends of your hair. Rinse out the vinegary smell with clean water.

The first baking soda wash was a helmet-busting miracle. In just a few seconds, the baking soda wash dissolved the hair helmet and I left the shower with hair back to normal. Actually, better than normal (by which I mean shampoo/conditioner normal): soft and swingy, to be exact.

For the next week or so I used the baking soda wash almost every day, with the apple cider vinegar rinse every other time. Now my routine is to use the wash two to three times a week (simply rinsing with water in between) and using the ACV rinse once or twice a week. My scalp is happier if I keep the ACV rinse to the ends of my hair only.

[Side Note: I was convinced my head was going to smell like vinegar after using this, because the vinegar smell was strong while I was mixing up the rinse and was super strong when I put in on my hair in the shower. However, a quick rinse with water takes it out completely, and I’ve never noticed any vinegar smell in my hair after leaving the shower. And I’ve tested, because no one wants to smell like vinegar.]

The only thing I’ve noticed that I don’t absolutely love about this new system is that my hair is more prone to static.


Ok, not that bad, but with the dry winter air, if I run a hand over my hair, the resulting static will send a few strands here and there shooting off into the air or sticking to my face. I’m sure there is a natural remedy for this – maybe just a very VERY small amount of coconut or jojoba oil smoothed on the top of my hair after showering – and if I ever get motivated enough to try something, I’ll let you know.

My plan was to post a picture of me, with my hair that has been no ‘poo (and no product of any kind) for several months now, but I have to be honest: a stomach flu ravaged my entire household this last week. If I post a picture of myself, you will not notice the healthy hair, because you will not be able to focus on anything other than the picture of death that is my face, after having the flu myself for about 36 hours and dealing with three young children who had it before and after me. You witnessing that would really run counter to the idea of this blog, so instead I’ll try to add a picture later.

Yikes, I just realized this really rambled. Here are my no ‘poo results and tips, in a much more organized and succinct fashion:

  • Do not throw in the towel in the first three weeks. Have patience with your hair.
  • Adjust your wash/rinse frequency as much as necessary. Neither the weather nor your own hair chemistry will stay constant.
  • I don’t use a hair dryer or any styling products on a regular basis (umm… or at all). I would guess that the baking soda wash is pretty effective at cleansing most styling products, but it will be up to you to experiment.
  • Your hair will not smell (dirty, or like vinegar). I promise.
  • It’s winter. You get to wear hats all the time anyway. Just give it a try! No one will be looking down on you if it seriously does not work and you have to go back to shampoo now and then.

Next item to come from my kitchen instead of the health and beauty aisle: deodorant. Yes… I’m slightly terrified of aluminum collecting at the base of my brain. Yes, I’ve tried aluminum-free deodorants from the store and hated them. Yes, I’ll let you know how it goes…


2 thoughts on “Who Needs Shampoo?

  1. OK, question: What happens if you need to use shampoo for some reason? (Say, your sick toddler pukes and it gets in your hair. Ew.) Can you use shampoo once, then go back to ‘poo-free without the crazy break-in period? Or would the baking soda and cider vinegar be enough to get your hair really, really clean in the case of something horrific?

    If you haven’t tried one random shampoo yet, will you please try it and report back?

    • I mentioned we had the flu in our house, right? Right. Toddler puke challenge has been met, and honestly, the baking soda wash cleaned just as well as my old shampoo would have (it can cut through baked on grease on pans and clean a clogged drain… I was pretty sure it could take care of kid sickies). I was perfectly ready and willing to do a traditional shampoo if the baking soda didn’t work, because I am definitely not walking around smelling like the flu, but there was no need! However I have heard that it’s pretty common to drop shampoo 90% of the time and use a natural, organic shampoo (a lot of people have recommended Aubrey Organics) once in a while without a problem. I honestly wouldn’t be opposed to using it all the time if it wasn’t so expensive… I just can’t do it when baking soda works just fine!

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