My own personal journey from shampooing my hair every day to not shampooing for months. With lots of tips on how to make the transition to no poo yourself.
I have been hating on my hair my whole life. It’s thick and wavy, oily at the roots and dry at the ends. Some time ago I started practicing the “Curly Girl Method”. Curly Girl is a gentler approach to treating curly hair which is more prone to dryness and frizziness. It involves cutting out haircare ingredients that might jeopardise the curl.
After a while I had gradually progressed to washing mainly with conditioner (Aka cowash) and only shampooing it occasionally… Then I went to the hairdresser, had several inches cut off, but it was so frizzy after the shampoo I thought I’d see how long I could go without it. So almost out of sheer bloody mindedness I haven’t washed my hair for over three months. I feel like I have “transitioned” through the oily phase to the holy land of normal-ish hair that has no need for shampoo.
Here is my personal experience with so called “No Poo”. A phrase I don’t like because it sounds like it has something to do with poo. There are many other in-depth guides, I’ll link at the end, that are well worth reading if you’re interested in this topic. But this is my personal no poo journey.
How To Transition from Shampoo to No Poo- How To Start
First to say that I bet that no poo is not going to be for everyone. It’s kind of a hippie thing to do. I’ve had plenty of people saying “no way, that’s gross”. But for those who have major problems with frizz it’s worth exploring. I also enjoy the shock factor of dropping it into conversation, there are always lots of questions.
I seriously wouldn’t go cold turkey on shampoo. If you’re shampooing every day and just stop, it’ll be greaseball central. Try and eke out a few days by using dry shampoo or washing just with conditioner. Keep trying to push your hair to longer periods with no washing. When and if you get to the point where you feel ready to take the plunge into shampoolessness, here are a few basic things you might need-
- A good Boar Bristle brush or wooden comb. Here are a few products that might work- I got mine from TK Maxx. There are many options from Amazon, including this Kent one. Apparently the Boars are specially bred and cared for, the bristles are sheared off like a sheep’s wool. Wash your brush after every use to ensure it’s not just moving the dirt around.
- Apple Cider Vinegar– I just got 80p salad dressing cider vinegar from Tesco.
- You might need some dry shampoo. I would definitely recommend getting a natural product. Free People does a dry shampoo based on Arrowroot. You want to avoid any chemicals that could dry your scalp. I’ll list a recipe for a homemade version below.
- Familiarise yourself with scritching and preening. Scritching and preening is the process of massaging the scalp and trying to draw oils down the hair with the fingers. Brushing, scritching and preening are how yo mechanically clean your hair. Here’s a clip to a YouTube video to show you how it’s done.
There are many many other things you could try to help with the transition and I’ll list them below. I haven’t tried them all. I suggest reading thoroughly around the subject, I’ve included lots of great resources at the end of the post. Some terms you might come across-
- Low poo– washing less often or just using sulphate free shampoo
- No poo– washing with a shampoo alternative
- Co wash– washing with conditioner only. For me this would make my hair very greasy unless I shampooed sometimes.
- WO- Water only- only using water to cleanse- no products of any sort.
- SO- Sebum only– no washing of any sort, just mechanical cleansing with a brush or fingers. Crazy town.
- BBB- Boar Bristle brush
- ACV- Apple Cider Vinegar rinse
How To Transition from Shampoo to No Poo- My Journey Through Grease
As I said, my last shampoo was at my lovely hairdressers. The last shampoo you do should contain sulphates in order to rid the hair of any chemical buildup- called “clarifying”. This picture was taken minutes before my last shampoo-
I started to read about the benefits of no poo. It took about a week for my hair to get disagreeably greasy. I had been cowashing but decided that wasn’t going to work without any shampooing. Lots of the articles about no poo mention Apple Cider Vinegar as an alternative. I happened to have a bottle in the cupboard so when my hair started to get greasy, I tried it.
I was really surprised and impressed with how soft and clean the vinegar left my hair. It doesn’t smell vinegary at all once it’s dry. I have a water bottle with a sports cap to make ACV dilutions. Sometimes I add Tea Tree oil if my scalp is itchy.
The ratio of water to vinegar is three to one, or thereabouts. For a few weeks I was brushing daily and using Cider Vinegar rinses every other day. I reached peak greasiness at about 4 weeks.
My roots were greasy but the ends of my hair still dry. I started to explore other not shampoo options.
I used oat milk for a while, which I liked, but the grease kept coming. Next experiment was a clay mask. The recommendation was Bentonite Clay, but I had some white clay powder in the cupboard so I just used that. It was weird. It didn’t go in nicely and I had difficulty rinsing it out. The clay left my hair matte, pliable and sort of grey looking. Which was better than greasy.
I have to be honest, it wasn’t easy, I was sorely tempted to give up at some points. But I pressed on with the brushing and hot water cleansing and sure enough I was rewarded for my efforts. Gradually, week by week, my scalp has become less greasy and I don’t need to brush or water cleanse as often.
My hair is soft and full of volume and my scalp isn’t flakey. It does take much longer to air dry these days is the only issue I have. Sometimes I need to diffuse my hair with the hairdryer.
My routine changes in response to the state of my hair. At present it involves brushing and preening whenever the roots look oily. Cider vinegar rinse once weekly. I still use the Shea Moisture Weightless conditioner as a styling product scrunched into cold wet hair.
How To Transition from Shampoo to No Poo- Haircare Alternatives
Like I said, I’m not an expert in this field, and some of the things that work for me may not work for all. Here are some of the things I’ve tried and some things that are recommended by no poo experts-
- Massage the scalp with Warm water washes. You use the warmth of the water to help encourage the scalp oils to move down the hair. If you do some scritching and preening under a warm shower and give it a good rinse it works like a very gentle shampoo. My experience– hot water cleansing work really well for me.
- A diluted Apple Cider Vinegar rinse will help break down oils and lay the shaft of the hair strands flat leaving the hair smooth. Use one part vinegar to three parts water or it will be too acidic and may damage the scalp/hair. ACV isn’t best used frequently for a long time as it is very acidic- always make sure you dilute well. I like the effect ACV has on my hair, it feels really smooth afterwards. It’s quite smelly but the smell goes away after rinsing. My experience– thouroughly recommend as an occasional conditioning treatment. Even if you’re not no poo, you should give this a go.
- Get a powdered Bentonite Clay and make a Clay hair mask. This will detoxify the hair and cleanse the scalp. You can mix the Clay with water, cider vinegar, honey, oils as you wish. My experience- The Clay was really difficult to rinse out. I found clay made my hair matte, pliable and grey looking.
- Baking Soda– You can use a paste made of baking soda and water and use it to cleanse and exfoliate the scalp. I must point out that this is one I’m never going to try. The pH is too high. Alkalines can damage the skin and hair over time, here is a post which explains in more detail.
- Tea rinse with any tea of your choice. Tea can have many hair health benefits, depending on the tea you use. Tea is also acidic so conditions in the same way as ACV. My experience- I did a tea rinse with an infusion of Tetleys tea, I wasn’t that keen on the effect, it felt very waxy after. I’m definitely up for trying other sorts of tea though.
- Dry Shampoo will literally soak up the oils to make your hair look better. It doesn’t exactly clean the hair though so it should just be used as a cosmetic measure. There are some good natural products that you can buy. You can make your own using Arrowroot flour. If you have brown hair you can add some cocoa to this.
- Rye flour specifically is a good hair wash as Rye flour has a similar pH as human skin- about 5.5. You can rub it into the scalp and rinse out for an occasional cleanse. I haven’t tried it yet, I fear it would be very messy.
- Soap nuts– not something I know a great deal about. I refer you to the link below for more info. Available from Amazon.
- Oat and Rice Milk– make your own for a super cheap and available cleanser. Both are low in protein and contain natural saponins for cleansing. My experience– I really liked using the oat milk, it left my hair soft and cleansed. You need to be careful you strain it well or you’ll end up with white bits in your hair.
- Apple sauce– similar to Apple Cider Vinegar the acidity of the apples cleanses and conditions.
- Egg mask– mix a whole egg and massage into the hair for a nourishing, conditioning treatment. My experience– I was pretty scared putting egg in my hair. It was messy and smelly. You have to rinse out well with cold water which made my head numb. When my hair dried it looked great, curly and moisturised. But the egg smell persisted for a while despite my head freezing efforts. Not something I’m going to be doing regularly.
- Honey mask– Honey has an acidic pH so will condition the hair.
- Aloe Vera gel– rich in protein and minerals, is soothing to the scalp and has a skin identical pH. Ideal for cleansing and conditioning. Available from Amazon
- Linseed gel– can be used as a nourishing leave in gel for curls. Boil up one part linseed to 2 parts water until it’s egg white consistency, then strain out the seeds. Available from Aldi or Amazon.
- Essential oils– I have enjoyed adding a couple of drops of essential oil to my vinegar rinse. They add some perfume to the hair and are meant to have benefits. I use Tea Tree to help prevent dandruff.
I bet there are loads of other things I haven’t mentioned. I read in a no poo forum about a guy who was washing his hair in his own urine.
How To Transition from Shampoo to No Poo- Issues You Might Encounter and Solutions
- Greasy hair– You may still be transitioning through the greasy stage or having a grease-relapse. Try brushing with a BBB, cleansing with rye flour or a clay mask.
- Flaky scalp– scale back on the ACV and baking soda if you have been using these a lot. It could be dandruff, try adding a few drops of tea tree oil to your rinse. My flaky scalp has gradually improved on its own as I transitioned through.
- Lank hair- it could be that you have hard water. You can get a water softening shower head to filter the water
- Dry ends– I find scrunching some conditioner into the ends and leaving in helps. I would avoid using oils that you wouldn’t be able to shampoo out. Try a honey or aloe mask. Have a trim. There numerous YouTube videos on how to trim your own hair if you don’t fancy the hairdresser. I’m way too chicken for that.
- Lifeless stringy hair– try an egg mask to improve protein levels.
- Waxy build up– brush well with a BBB and “shampoo” with very warm water. Work the warm water in really well and rinse for longer than you normally would.
How To Transition from Shampoo to No Poo- The Hairdresser
One of the things I was anxious about going no poo was visiting the hair dresser. Would he be appalled by my lack of cleanliness or grossed out by my scalpy smell?
I told my stylist as soon as I sat down that I haven’t been washing my hair. He immediately said that he doesn’t recommend it. The wax and dead scalp skin will build up and weigh the hair down. He didn’t seem horrified though and he didn’t make me shampoo in the salon.
One thing he couldn’t do it blow dry my hair. He said the oils would start to come out with the heat and it wouldn’t work. He says diffusing the hair is better in this case.
I don’t think I’m in agreement regarding the build up. It’s not like I’m not cleaning my hair- it’s brushed and rinsed regularly. My scalp is better now than when I shampooed- less itchy and flaky.
How To Transition from Shampoo to No Poo- Useful Links
I’m not going to sit her on my post-transition cloud and tell you that no poo is easy breezy. The alternative methods can be smelly and messy. You’ll undoubtedly look less well kempt than usual for a while. I’ve really enjoyed the process. It’s been so interesting finding out how, actually shampoo isn’t necessary. Also my hair looks fab now.