Update 31/5/15: Since writing this post over a year ago, things have changed. I have stopped using bicarb soda for my no poo hairwashing routine. After over 2.5 years of bicarb & ACV washing, my hair became brittle and prone to split ends & breakages. I have since learnt this issue is caused by the extreme alkalinity of the bicarb soda when applied to an acidic environment (the scalp) and the changes in the hair follicles as a result of the bicarb. I am currently washing my hair with ONLY the apple cider vinegar (diluted in water), and slowly experimenting with other natural ingredients. I now recommend only using bicarb soda during the transition period (to help with oil build up as your scalp learns what scalps are supposed to do in the absence of commercial shampoo/conditioner), and dropping the bicarb once you get through the transition period and your scalp starts to regulate. If you have questions, please ask away in the comments below. I’ll be writing a longer post on the topic in the coming weeks. Sarah xoxo
No, we’re not going to talk about poop today. We’ll talk about that later this month. 😉
For today, we’ll stick with hair. ‘No Poo’ refers to washing your hair without shampoo. Yep, this dirty hippy girl doesn’t use shampoo.
Now, before you go thinking I am either
d) any combination of the above
- It’s usually filled with toxins. Chemicals that make your skin itch, and your blood boil
- You keep a really clean diet – why put that stuff on your skin? Newsflash: your skin covers your entire body, and it’s an absorbent little sucker. If you wouldn’t put it in your body, don’t put it on your body!
- If it’s ‘natural’ – it’s probably not. And some ‘natural’ things can be pretty durn scary too.
- If it’s genuinely natural and harmless – it’s probably really expensive.
- You have stuff in your kitchen pantry that you could use instead!!!
- The shampoo & conditioner cycle really messes with your head… Shampoo strips your hair of the natural oils, and conditioner replaces them. All this leads to one very confused scalp – to produce oil, or not to produce oil?
My shampoo contains one ingredient: bicarb soda (as per my note at the top of this post, I now only recommend bicarb for use during the transition period)
My conditioner contains one ingredient: apple cider vinegar
Easy peasy. Cheap. Natural & toxin-free. Convenient. Simple!
I used to shampoo. And I used to condition. And I used to use all kinds of styling products that left my hair constantly wet, crunchy, crispy, overly stiff, frizzier than when I started, greasy, and/or just plain weird. Because I have crazy ridiculous hair that didn’t like to do anything I wanted it to curly hair.
I had read about the No Poo method – just caught snippets of articles for years. But never really thought it was something I could do.
My hair is definitely on the dry side, so I thought surely I neeeeeeed conditioner for the oils!
Then a few things happened, and you better believe I was proven wrong.
I decided (with some convincing from friends) to grow my hair out again. I was loving my long locks, but growing increasingly discontented with the fact that I couldn’t find a shampoo/conditioner product range that I was perfectly happy with. I was using a natural-ish shampoo, the best I could find, and then one day… My local organic store stopped stocking it.
This was exactly the final push that I needed.
I decided to embrace the No Poo method, to at least give it a whirl, even though fears of a transition period lurked in my head (see bottom of post for explanation).
I started using bicarb soda and apple cider vinegar and nothing else to wash my hair. And my hair LOVED it! My hair took to it like a duck to water and I felt liberated. Liberated from the grips of commercial and chemical-laden shampoo & conditioner!
I made the change a good year or two ago, and I’m still going strong. Oh, and I only need to wash my hair ‘properly’ (using the following method) about once every 1-2 weeks. In between, I just rinse with water straight from the shower nozzle.
Here’s the No Poo method that works for my dry, curly hair:
1) Wet hair thoroughly.
2) Put about 4 Tablespoons of bicarb soda in a small bowl (I use a metal one, it’s probably has about a 3/4 of a cup capacity). (Edited 31/5/15 to add: in light of what I have learnt over the last 6 months about the pH of bicarb soda and the effect it has on the scalp, I now recommend only 1 Tbsp of bicarb soda – and only during the transition period)
3) Apply almost all of the bicarb soda evenly to your scalp and roots by wetting your hands, taking a small handful, rubbing hands together to create a very thick paste, and massaging evenly over scalp (working in sections).
4) Grab the last handful of bicarb soda, rub your hands to create a thick paste, and apply from the roots down the length of your hair (you only need to do the top approx. 5cm of your hair).
5) Massage scalp well once more, and rinse thoroughly.
6) Fill a small bowl with approx. 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar and top up with 2/3 cup water. Grab the ends of your hair together and dunk into the bowl (getting as much hair in as you can), then pull your hair out.
7) Top up bowl with a little more water (to even further dilute the apple cider vinegar), then pour over your hair to rinse, starting from the scalp. *beware not to get it in your eyes – tilt your head back!
8) Add 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar to your bowl and top up with 3/4 cup water. Rinse your hair by pouring over.
9) If you have long hair, repeat once more.
10) Rinse thoroughly with only water.
11) And a bonus, this is the drying method that works well for my hair: Gently scrunch dry with a towel (if you have curly hair, pleeeease don’t rub it dry), wrap your hair up in a towel for 30 mins so it stops dripping, then let it down and air dry. I always wash my hair in the evening and go to bed with it just slightly damp, as I find that by morning I will have much neater and better set curls than if I just let it air dry.
HOT TIP: If you have lots of thick, really long hair like I do… this is all so much easier in the bath rather than the shower.
Transition period: Word on the world wide web is that some people experience a ‘transition period’ when switching to No Poo. Basically, the scalp goes all, “er mah gerd freederm!” and starts producing oils like crazy to make up for all the oil production that has been stifled by the lather-rinse-repeat routine. This settles after a short period, and your scalp gets used to a new life in paradise. Not everyone experiences a transition period – it didn’t happen to me and hopefully it won’t happen to you! If it does, just wash more often and persist. Once your scalp resets, you’ll be golden. 🙂
Once your hair is dry, there is NO lingering apple cider vinegar smell. If you want that shampoo-y smell, either fill a spray bottle with water and add a few drops of your favourite essential oil and spritz with that before air-drying… or if you’re feeling really indulgent, spritz with diluted rosewater.
I don’t regularly spritz with anything, because I like to cut corners & save money, but also because people already tell me my hair smells nice so I don’t bother.
How bizarre, hair that actually smells like hair smells nice! (That was a little bit of sarcasm, by the way.)
This post was written for the amazing 31 Days to Better Health and Wellness Challenge. It’s not too late to join us! Click over to read all about it and sign up.
Michele @ The Hills are Alive says
My 8 yo has beautiful long curly hair and tempted to give this a go. How do you go with the knots and tangles. And what about after swimming in the pool/beach? Hers gets super knotty then and seems to need the conditioner and also knot spray to get it all untangled again
Orleatha Smith says
before i swim, i put my hair up in a ponytail and braid it making sure to tuck the ends. I use vinegar to rinse it after the pool/beach then use flax gel spray to get all of the tangles out. I also use marshmallow root to detangle but find that flax makes my hair softer and shinier so i stick with that. Plus flax is easier and cheaper to find…
Thanks for your awesome tips Orleatha! You have gorgeous hair!
Michele, my hair doesn’t seem to knot/tangle as much as it used to – I only ever brush it right before I wash it and get tangles out then. Honey and water might be helpful too, but have a read of Orleatha’s suggestions because they sound amazing! 🙂
Orleatha Smith says
I’m a no-pooer too and, being black and asian, i have SUPER thick coarse curly hair. my hair LOVES me for it. I use an old t-shirt to dry my hair then I use flax gel (1 Tbsp flax seed boiled in 1C of water for 10 minutes then cooled) in a spray bottle with a few drops of essential oil to detangle. Been doing this for over a year and have no plans on making any changes 🙂
Awesome tip on the flax gel, thanks Orleatha! Love hearing your experience too, it’s amazing to find a way of avoiding chemicals that works for so many people! 🙂
How exactly do you use the flax gel? Do you spray it on your hair when they are wet, after washing? Do you comb it through? I am a bit confused … Can you please explain?
Hi, do you know if you can go from your method to only water after a while without a serious transition period? My kids’ hair have never been washed with anything (except the ocasional granny ‘treat’). I only rinse their hair with water and they have beautiful soft and shiny hair!! Even after a swim in the pool or ocean. So I was just wondering if I went from shampoo to your method, if there would be some stage where I can just use water as well? Don’t know if you have tried it, and if it would work. I have very similar hair to yours by the way.
I couldn’t tell you for sure, as I haven’t done the water only thing. My guess would be that there would be a transition, but I don’t think it would be as bad as the transition from shampoo to bicarb & vinegar. I would give your hair plenty of time to adjust to bicarb & vinegar before trying to move to water only. My hair stays dry on the ends, but the roots get a little oily after a week or two (depending on weather and activity in that time range) – if your hair is much the same, I think you will need to brush it more often when you transition to water only, to help the oils move down away from the scalp. And wash more during the transition also.
A side note – no matter which washing method you use, if you have curly hair like mine, always brush dry before you wash. Never brush curly hair when wet, it’s more prone to breaking which then leads to more frizz.
Hope that helps! 🙂
Yes thanks! I’ll give the bicarb and vinegar a go, thanks
I tried no poo for about 4 months but my scalp STILL hadn’t made the transition I finally switched back to ‘natural’ shampoos because I couldn’t take the grease anymore! I tried multiple ratios of bicarb soda/vinegar but nothing worked. I have thick, wavy, dry hair and a very sensitive scalp/skin on my face. I’d love to go back if you think there’s any hope!
Hey Jessica! Was your hair greasy all over, or just near the roots? Mine gets greasy at the roots when it’s close to wash time. If I find my hair is getting greasier sooner than usual, I will sometimes do a bicarb only wash (this is akin to doing shampoo only). OR I avoid using the vinegar on my roots (because that acts like the conditioner). Some people find they have to do one bicarb and vinegar wash, then later in the week a bicarb only wash. That might work for you. Another ‘no poo’ washing method is to use raw honey diluted in water to wash their hair. I think you can find a way to make it work for sure! 🙂
I’ve been using the no-poo method for about a year now. At first I was super frustrated with it because I hadn’t figured out what worked for my hair. My method is a bit different then the one described here. I mix the sodium bicarbonate (baking soda, Bicarb Soda) with water saturating it (almost all the baking soda dissolves). I use this as my “Shampoo” squirt it on my hair from a squeeze bottle. Massage it in then rinse out. I also use a apple vinegar rinse mixed in water (VERY little vinegar). Then rinse with water.
During super oily days I have a backup plan! Ok maybe this is cheating but it’s either this or shampoo and I would rather not go back to that. I use “dry shampoo”. I have a small jar filled with cornstrach. I use a powder make up brush and in sections apply powder to my scalp. Just make sure you get all the oily parts not just on top. Then you need to use a boar hair brush(maybe others would work, but it needs to be dense to pick up the cornstarch). Brush your hair until most of the white look is gone. After you are done shower. Wonderful less greasy hair! Recently I have gone 2 months without having to ungrease and I still don’t need to.
Happy hair washing!
Monica, those are great tips re: oily days! Thank you for posting your experience. 🙂
I’m glad you’ve found a no poo method that works for you. Keep it up!
Brooke Johnson says
Thank you for sharing, Sarah! Your hair is gorgeous and I love that blue dress you’re wearing! I’ve been poo-free since April. I have to say that I’m loving it! At first I was skeptical because I was one of those gals that ended up over-producing oil for a few weeks. I was very pleased once everything mellowed out. I wash my hair with bicarb soda and condition with white vinegar once a week. I use 1 Tbsp bicarb soda with 1 cup hot water (hot water helps open up my hair cuticles) and 1 Tbsp white vinegar with 1 cup cold water (cold water helps smooth my hair cuticles). I pour the bicarb soda mixture over my scalp, massage it in and I rinse it with hot water. I then pour the vinegar mixture over my ends and rinse with cold water. Afterwards, I add a little Vitamin E oil to my ends for added moisture. My hair has never been so lush, curly and healthy looking. Someone asked me the other day how long it takes to curl my hair. I told them I just comb threw it and let it air dry. They didn’t believe me! They thought for sure I spent an hour curling it or that I had a perm. lol! Anyways, My hubby just jumped on board with the no-poo method and his hair is looking amazing. I will give your method a try next week. Thank you for letting me share my experience with the no-poo method and thank you for reading. Love your site! 😀
Thanks for posting your experience, Brooke! It’s awesome to hear about others doing the no poo routine, and so cool that your hubby has joined in too. 🙂
Hey, has anyone experienced a decrease in curls with this method? I have been doing the no poo method for a couple of months now, and I really like the principle of it, but It seems like my hair has less body with less ringlet-type curls and is more dried out with more split ends than before. I have wavy/curly hair that is not particularly oily (even before no poo I could go a week between washes). I would appreciate any insights/comments! Thanks!
Hi Katie. Thanks for your comment. My hair is still just as curly as before… Are there any other things that could explain your change in curls? Big diet change? Hormones? If it seems more dried out, I would try washing even less often with the bicarb/acv and/or reducing the amount of bicarb/acv you use. Hope that helps!!
Thank you for this great post! Do you use (or make) any styling product? I have chin-length curls and feel nervous about not using any styling product.
I don’t use any styling products, but sometimes use just a tiiiiiiny bit of coconut oil on the ends if they’re quite dry. I never brush wet as that encourages frizz with curly hair (curly hair breaks more easily when wet), and I always scrunch to dry it slightly rather than rubbing dry, then let it air dry. If I’m feeling particularly fancy, I’ll use a blowdryer with a diffuser attached – maybe a few times a year! 😉
I have been doing this for a few months now and love it. I have read alot of methods that say to brush your hair to spread the oils. I have very curly bouncy hair and do not brush it. I do use a wide tooth comb in the shower when wet but that’s about it. Thoughts?
Curly hair is more prone to breaking when brushing wet (as opposed to dry) – which then encourages frizz as the shorter broken bits aren’t weighed down like the rest of the hair and become frizzy fly-aways. I brush my hair dry, before washing. I only brush it if I’m about to wash (or at least wet) my hair because otherwise it’s just a huge head of frizz to wear around. 🙂
I’ve started the no poo method a little over a week ago and had an awful transition, although it seems to have gotten a little bit better. I have not used baking soda though, and will try that out. I had just read a few random articles, mostly of people who did not wash their hair with anything at all. I decided to use diluted Apple cider vinegar at least, but I was using it all over my scalp and hair…(maybe that’s making it oilier?).
I was wondering though, because I read so much about boar bristle brushes and brushing hair a lot, does your hair get tangly in between washes without combing or brushing it? I have pretty tangly, frizzy curls, and I was using a Wet Brush to detangle my hair when my hair was wet or dry….(didn’t realize it made curly hair frizzier to brush while wet). I see that you mention you usually only brush your hair before you wet or wash it. Do you have a recommendation on a good brand or type of brush?
Hi Victoria. Sorry for the delayed response! As per my edits to the post above, I now only use apple cider vinegar on my hair as the bicarb led to some yucky effects over time (very dry/brittle and broken hair). However, I would recommend bicarb during the transition period to help break down the oils as your scalp overproduces. Once oil production settles, move to apple cider vinegar only. My hair seems to be doing much better with vinegar only.
I have a cheap plastic brush, have never tried a boar bristle one so can’t comment on that. I rinse in the shower between ‘proper’ washes, and usually brush my (dry) hair before that rinse to distribute the oils a bit. My hair gets a little tangled sometimes as it is so long and curly, but not terribly so.
I found this really helpful thank you, I’ve always struggled with build up near my scalp and really dry ends so really looking forward to trying this. However I was wondering if you ever style your hair, or use a heat protector, hairspray or any styling products? I was wondering if you do what could you use without ruining it?
Thanks your website is amazing, I love it!!
No worries! Glad it helped. I don’t use any styling products, with the exception of a tiny bit of coconut oil on any extra frizzy bits! Although that being said, a couple of friends have gotten married lately and I had my hair styled on both occasions using hairspray. I wouldn’t use it regularly myself due to the ingredients, but on those occasions I did and just went back to regular No Poo methods afterwards. 🙂
Inspired by your post i am about to start this no poo thing. Can you let me know how to prepare for it.? And i sweat a lot due to work out, how many times will i need to wash my hair? And when n how to comb your hair?
I don’t think there’s really anything special to do to ‘prepare’ for it, but know that you will probably have to wash quite frequently at first to get through any oil build up/transition phase. I can’t really tell you how many times, everyone’s hair is different, so you’ll just have to take it as it comes (with the knowledge that more frequently does help at first). Same with combing, it will be different for everyone. If you have straight hair, then brushing more often is a good thing. For people with curly hair, they will usually brush less often as it all just turns to frizz when you brush. I brush right before I wash my hair (whether it’s just a water rinse or an apple cider vinegar wash). Hope that helps.
Hi love your beautiful hair! I was just wondering how you “tidy up” your hair in between wash days, I feel kinda messy if I don’t brush my hair but obviously brushing turns my hair into a giant puffball and then I have to spritz all over to get my curls back. Any tips? Thanks xxx
As I wash ‘properly’ so infrequently, I simply brush my hair well before I shower and do a shower rinse (literally just stick my head under the water, no vinegar etc) to ‘re-set’ the curls.
I started doing no-poo (baking soda and acv) about 2 months ago and is going okay. The issue I have is that my hair too is curly but with oily roots, and the only way to distribute the oil is to brush it. The problem is that destroys my curl! Any ideas? I brush it quite frequently and it looks better (less greasy scalp) but then my curls turn frizzy!
I do a water-only rinse every time I shower, so you could brush right before you hop in the shower as when you wet your hair it will re-set the curls. Alternatively, spray your hair liberally with water from a spray bottle after you brush, although this won’t be quite as effective.
Thanks for sharing your no-shampoo method. I have dry and somewhat curly hair (I’d love for the curls to be curlier), and I’m planning to start no-shampoo today.
Do you use any particular kind of apple cider vinegar?
Have you used any other washing methods, like rye flour or clay? If so, thoughts about how they worked for your hair?
I haven’t tried any other methods yet, although I am meaning to. Actually, I did try washing with honey once, but I was NOT a fan of the result at all. I use unfiltered apple cider vinegar from a company called Honest to Goodness (www.goodness.com.au) as it’s the cheapest good quality ACV that I can get. I buy it in 5L bottles!
do we have to keepthe apple cider vinegar in a fridge? for exampleif I go on vacation for two-three weeks and I don’ t have access to a fridge, is the vinegar goingto turn bad?
I have lots of fine curly har and I wanted to know if this was doable for a curly hair girl, seems it is! thanks for your post.
Nope, you don’t need to store it in the fridge! I keep a big 5L bottle of it in the bathroom ready and waiting. 🙂
Nadda Mansour says
Hello! thanks for the tips. Is it bad to use gel afterwards?
Bad is relative. Not my cup of tea due to the ingredients that may be in the gel, and it could make it harder to stick to no poo… let us know how you go if you try it! 🙂
I am wondering if anybody colours their hair on this method? I am quite grey now and am not ready to stop colouring it!
How does the colour get washed out or how does it affect the process? Does anybody tell their hairdresser to just rinse?? Thank you !
I’m not sure on the colour question, sorry! I have really short hair now, and I find many hairdressers are happy to cut it without washing first. 🙂
I’m really keen to start this no poo method. I have oily hair, I think. I wash it one day and by the next day it’s be oily and my curls would flatten out. So I kept washing it everyday. I’m sick of this so time to do somthing. After reading your instructions, If I wash my hair with the baking soda and rinse with acv, how do I know when the transition period is up? Do I wash my hair every day with the baking soda and acv?
Thanks for you help,
Your hair will tell you when the transition period is up! It will likely go through a more oily stage, then once it starts getting less oily again you can start reducing the baking soda until you can cut it out completely! 🙂
Thank you for the specific info Sarah!! I am going to begin tonight! I also have long, thick curly hair. Mine is really dry too :(. Question…do you ever blow you hair straight?
No, I don’t – I have way too much hair to bother, haha! It would take me aaaages.
It was nice reading your post.
My hair is similar to yours in curls and color.
I have been No poo for nearly two years now, i started with Co washing, as i love the feel of conditioner, now I am using only water and ACV, but I feel I need something to help me with frizz later in the day, the hair starts out good but as the day goes on the hair gets frizzy and the curls “un” curl them selfs, any idias?
Hmmm…. Possibly some oil during washing, if your hair runs on the dry side? Coconut oil would need to be washed out though, otherwise your hair will stay really oily (but I reckon enough would stay in to help out). A lot of people seem to love Argan oil, but I can’t say I’ve tried it before. I daresay your ends are a lot drier than your roots (my hair is like that too), so I’d say your best bet is to find a way to moisturise the ends. Hope that helps!
I am ready to give this a try! I was reading through the comments and I’m shocked to read that you brush your hair when it’s dry! I haven’t brushed my hair dry since I was a kid because it’s so knotty and I can hear the hair breaking when I do that. I’ve always combed it when wet. Have you always done it this way?
Hi Kerri. I have brushed dry since I was a teenager. There are a lot of resources for curly hair out there that say brushing wet increases breakage and thus frizz, which seems to be true for my hair. My hair doesn’t get too knotty though, so it is probably less prone to breaking. If brushing wet works for you, then keep doing it! Maybe it’s less prone to breakage if you’re using a conditioner or other de-knotter while wet though, that might change things. Hope that helps! 🙂
HI I’m Stephanie and I barely started using the no poo method but my after my curls dry they get super dry and crunchy. What should I doo???? Also how often should I wash my scalp if it gets sweaty often?
If you’re using bicarb soda, try to wean yourself off it (so that you’re just using apple cider vinegar). I found that over time the bicarb soda was extremely drying for my hair and made it really brittle and prone to breaking. Wash your hair as often as your hair tells you to – that’s my unofficial mantra! I do water rinses in between apple cider vinegar washes, which rinses out the dirt/sweat so that it doesn’t build up too much between washes. I do my apple cider vinegar washes when it starts to get greasy – every week or two, usually.
Hello! I need help! I stoped using shampoo on october last year. My hair was beautiful por a period after the transition, but now my hair is awful. Full of dandruff, and Kind of greassy and thick. Trying to figure aout what to do, bacause I dont want to use shampooo again.
Are you using bicarb soda? If you are, try just using the apple cider vinegar. If not, it may have gotten greasy due to build up and the bicarb soda used for a short time might help to break down the grease again.
Julia R Santana says
HI!, I also have long thick curly naturally red hair. I started the no poo last summer and loved it at first. But then my ends started getting very dry, ugly and breaking and my hair very flat, lifeless and greasy. I don’t want to go back to commercial shampoos though! Glad I found your blog! Going to try just the ACV… what about doing BS just on the scalp and not the ends every couple of weeks? I miss my wild mane of hair!
Alexis Barajas says
I’m thinking of going No-Poo as I’ve been battling with dandruff for a few months now. I also have curly thick hair like you. It’s also somewhat long, but not as long as yours YET! Haha!
My questions are besides the 1-2 times that you do the ACV washes, you only do water rinses to your hair? How often do you do water rinses? Do you use any conditioner when you do water rinse?
Alexis Barajas says
I recently left a comment a while ago. I had another question. The times I don’t wash with ACV or baking soda, can I wash with a natural, pure soap? Because I put coconut oil in my hair and I was reading that coconut oil can’t come off with just the baking soda. What are your thoughts?
Sarah O says
I want to become a no-pooer and start using it on my daughter, she is mixed with super curly dry hair and think this will be great for her. My question is my hair is dyed black, will this strip the color out? I want to stop dying it too so I dont mind as long as it won’t turn funny colors.
I’m really not sure about the effect on hair dye, sorry!
Hi ! I am ready to give this a try! I was wondering about how often you would you use the bicarb soda and vinegar to wash the hair at the beginning stage ? Every day? Every other day? Less?
How about once you are passed the transition period? Thanks in advance 🙂
Everyone’s hair is so different, unfortunately the best answer is “it depends”! I would start with washing every couple of days, and increase if your hair gets too greasy, decrease if your hair seems too dry. You could also alternate washes with bicarb (as in, sometimes use bicarb followed by vinegar, sometimes just use vinegar) as this is a little more gentle on your hair and scalp. Once I was past the transition period, and still now, I generally only wash with vinegar once a week and just hot water rinse every couple of days between vinegar washes. Although if I get extra sweaty or use sunscreen, I tend to vinegar wash a couple of times a week.