Monday, September 3, 2007

How to live without Shampoo (a.k.a. no-poo)

Confession: I have not bought or used shampoo for a year. (Except for the once at a salon back in December 2006 when I couldn't bring myself to admit to a hair professional that I hadn't used shampoo in two months --- sort of like lying about flossing daily when the dental hygenist asks.)
BUT, my hair is cleaner than ever!

You too can be free from the bonds of shampoo and/or conditioner. Shampoo is very good at what it does. It strips your hair of dirt and oils, just like dish detergent does for a frying pan. Many people find this to be excessively drying, and thus they use conditioner to counter it. The kicker is that everytime you shampoo, your scalp says, "Hey! There's no more oil on me. Let's make more!" So your head is a greaseball in a day or two or three, and you have to wash it again. You could stop this cycle just by no longer shampooing it!


  1. Your hair will be cleaner than ever.
  2. Your scalp will be healthier than ever.
  3. You will get to know your hair and scalp more intimately than ever.
  4. You will save mucho bucks.
  5. You won't have to wash your hair anywhere near as often as you do now.
  6. You won't have to submit to buying a bottle of unknown-to-you chemicals.
There are many variations on the basic no-poo scheme. Since everyone's hair and scalp are different, there is no single solution. The basic idea is to stop using shampoo, soap, and conditioners on your head. Instead, wash your scalp (not hair) with a baking soda/water solution. If necessary, balance your scalp's pH by rinsing with an apple cider vinegar or honey/water solution. Someone told me that the combination of baking soda and scalp oil creates a similar chemical reaction as does lye and lard in soap making. When the two combine, it makes a slippery substance that helps dirt be rinsed away.

I have very thick, straight, medium length hair and a scalp that tends toward being oily and acidic. After the initial breaking-in period of about a month, I wash my hair with baking soda once every five days or so.

Here's how I do it:
  1. Dump one to two tablespoons of baking soda in a cup at the beginning of a shower.
  2. Add to it a cup or so of hot water.
  3. Shake until the baking soda is dissolved.
  4. Pour it in small amounts over my scalp, thoroughly massaging the portion of the scalp that the baking-soda-water hits, until it feels slippery (at first it will feel gritty).
  5. Continue the pouring and massaging until my whole head feels slippery.
  6. Rinse thoroughly. It should feel squeaky clean now.
Some others find that it works better for them to put the baking soda in their hand and mix it with a bit of water, making a paste that they massage into their scalp. I have tried this, and it just feels gritty to me, and never dissolves sufficiently.

When you first ditch the shampoo, you will go through a definite breaking-in period that lasts two weeks to a month. Your hair and scalp need too recover from the years of shampooing. For me, this recovery period included my hair feeling very gunky or sticky. It was hard to endure those weeks without going back to shampoo to save me. However, that phase is experienced by everyone who goes through the no-pooing process, and DOES end. My hair is shinier, silkier, less greasy than ever, and I only have to wash it with baking soda once a week or so. And I'm no longer buying shampoo.

Help for curly hair
A good FAQ for no-pooing
Collection of advice from folks on being shampoo-free

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