This is one of those things that I said I’d never do. When my husband and I were dating, he told me that he used the no ‘poo method to wash his hair (washing with baking soda and vinegar). I thought he was crazy and that it only worked because he had such short hair. But then he told me his sister had gotten him into it and she had been doing it for years. She’s got long hair that is thick and gorgeous and inspires hair jealousy, so I couldn’t continue that argument, but I was still skeptical.

I wasn’t ready to give up my shampoo and conditioner. I had thin, oily hair. I washed my hair every morning otherwise it was a super gross, oily mess. I couldn’t comprehend being able to go more than a day without washing my hair. Let alone 3-4 days without even using soap! Like seriously, these people must be crazy!

No ‘poo is short for “no shampoo” if you were wondering. Using shampoo strips away your skin’s natural oils. If your hair is oily and feels like you need to wash it everyday, it’s most likely because you’re constantly stripping away those natural oils. This makes your scalp freak out and try to balance everything by overproducing oils, which then makes your hair oily and makes you feel like you need to wash it more. Vicious cycle guys.

I finally took the plunge about two years ago (after resisting for at least a year) and have been no ‘pooing ever since. Oye that word. I wash my hair every three days and it’s much thicker and healthier than it’s ever been. Everyone’s hair is different, so you might have to do a bit of trial and error to find what’s best for you, but hopefully these guidelines help.

Why you should switch

  • No chemicals! Commercial shampoos and conditioners are full of chemicals that you’re putting on your hair and scalp. Yuck.
  • Your hair will be less oily. You won’t be stripping away those natural oils and your hair and scalp will thank you and reward you with great hair.
  • You’ll get more body to your hair. Mine got thicker, miracles do happen!
  • It helps to tame the frizz.
  • Easier to style – My hair never held curl before. Ever. Now, if I curl my hair it stays in place and doesn’t even need hair spray.
  • It’s cheaper (no more buying fancy shampoo and conditioner and tons of hair products to help)


Detox Phase and Adjustments

There is definitely an adjustment at first. There’s generally about a week or two of detox where your hair is extra oily and annoying and you’re going to be wondering what the heck you were thinking. Wear some hats, put your hair up, wrap it in a scarf if you want, but be patient. Some methods to make the transition are:

  • Go cold turkey and get it over quickly, but deal with extra oily hair for a few days. (I’ve heard that clarifying shampoo can be helpful to use for your last shampoo or two. It helps to remove any build-up of silicone in your hair from various hair products. It’s not necessary if you don’t have it, but can supposedly decrease the detox phase time.)
  • Make a transitional shampoo to use for a few weeks and then switch to no ‘poo. Your hair will still go through a detox, but it will be less severe. This is the way that I went because I was still dragging my feet and scared of no ‘poo and honestly only switched over when I got sick of making the shampoo. (I put the recipe for the transitional shampoo at the end of the blog post).
  • Ease into it over time by slowly adding some baking soda to your shampoo and some vinegar to your conditioner until you completely phase them out.

It’s also an adjustment to move away from lathering and massaging your hair with thick soapy suds. There are no suds here. It’s really weird, but it works.

How to No ‘Poo

Some people use squirt bottles, some people use spray bottles. I use a salad dressing shaker (crazy, but it works so good). My husband uses an old plastic jar. Honestly, you can use whatever makes sense to you or whatever you have around. We keep a mason jar of baking soda in the bathroom and a jar of apple cider vinegar in the shower.

The wash
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup water (if you have long hair, you might want to use 1 cup)

Don’t use more than 1 tablespoon of baking soda. The pH of the baking soda can be hard on your hair and scalp. The vinegar balances everything out, but if you change the proportions, it won’t be able to. Also, make sure you use at least a 1/2 cup of water, please don’t make a paste with the baking soda as that can be damaging.

The rinse
  • 1 tablespoon raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water (again if you have long hair, you might want to use 1 cup)

Don’t skip the apple cider vinegar. Baking soda is the wrong pH for your hair, but the vinegar rinse helps to balance it out. It also helps to make your hair softer and is even anti-fungal.

  1. Combine the baking soda and water and shake well to combine. I put a scoop of baking soda in my bottle as I’m getting in the shower and then use the nice hot shower water to fill it up when I’m ready to wash my hair.
  2. Carefully pour it all over your head. There won’t be any suds like you’re used to and you don’t need to massage it in. Just make sure you work it throughout your hair. If you have longer hair, you can focus on the area around your scalp and shouldn’t need to wash the full length all the time. I have short hair, so I don’t have a lot of experience with that.
  3. Let it sit for about a minute. While you’re waiting you can rinse out your container and add the apple cider vinegar.
  4. Thoroughly rinse the baking soda water from your hair.
  5. Add water to the container with the apple cider vinegar and swirl it around to mix it.
  6. Carefully pour that all over your hair and work it throughout. Again, no suds.
  7. Wait another minute (rinse out your container).
  8. Thoroughly rinse out the apple cider vinegar mixture from your hair so you don’t smell like salad dressing. Even when I’ve thoroughly rinsed, my hair will still smell vinegary at first when it’s wet, but once it’s completely dry, I don’t smell a thing.

What to do during the days that you’re not washing your hair? I still take a shower every day, promise. I wet my hair mostly because I usually have Jimmy Neutron style bedhead in the morning and it’s the only way to tame it. Some people will just wear a shower cap and not even wet their hair. Whatever works for you.

Depending on your hair and the length of it, you can go anywhere from 3-5 days of not washing. Try to wait at least 3 days between washes, but if you can go longer, go for it!


Transitional Shampoo

I started making this before I was ready to switch over completely to no ‘poo. I didn’t believe that my oily hair could be cleaned if I didn’t use soap. After a lot of stubborn research, I ended up with this recipe. I liked the idea of being able to use Castile soap with other nourishing ingredients and thought that would be even better for my hair. It worked and I think it helped in my transition to no ‘poo. I never felt like I had an intense detox phase.

If you make this, be aware that there are no preservatives so it will spoil. I had to make a new batch almost every week. It might last longer if you leave it in the fridge between uses. You’ll definitely be able to smell when it goes bad.

Also, I don’t suggest using this for a permanent solution. While it’s better than store-bought shampoo, the pH of Castile soap (and any soap for that matter) is wrong for your hair and scalp. Castile soap is much more alkaline at around 9, where as your hair and scalp are around 4-5. In the no ‘poo method, the vinegar helps to balance things out, but we don’t have that here. So bottom line, this works and is better than store bought shampoo, but I still highly suggest going no ‘poo. After a few months of using this shampoo, I ended up switching to no ‘poo one day simply because I ran out and didn’t feel like making more. And as you can see, it worked.

  1. Add all the ingredients together into an airtight container. Mix thoroughly to combine.
  2. To use – wet your hair, pour some into your hand (about the same amount as regular shampoo) and work it into your hair. It won’t lather as much as normal shampoo, but will soap up a bit.
  3. Rinse it out and you’re done. I didn’t follow up with a conditioner. My short hair didn’t need it and the honey and coconut milk help to condition. If you have longer hair, I’ve read that you can use coconut oil or aloe if you feel like you need extra conditioning.
Hope Reynolds

I’m a tea obsessor, book addict, Sci-Fi junky, archer, traveler and wife to William, a guy who is incomprehensibly loving and patient. We live in our favorite city, San Francisco, where we want to stay forever. And, as you’ve already gathered, I’m also super into experimenting with healthy food and natural skincare.

1 Comment
  1. Gonna try this. I have some itchyness on my scalp and I wonder if the whole ph thing might help….I’ll let you know.

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