I’ve been through many types of shampoos and conditioners and after years I remain underwhelmed with my in-shower haircare. In my teen years I was washing my hair every second day and by the start of Day 2 I could see greasy roots.
I couldn’t possibly wash my hair daily?!
Learning that it was healthier to wash less frequently I set out on a mission to reduce my hair washing days.
The oiliness was epic and going straight from every other day to twice a week was a shock to my scalp. Thinking dry shampoo would come to my rescue I began to employ its oil sucking power. The following day my hair became a strange combination of greasy and crusty that no amount of styling could hide. I simply had to wash it.
Recalling a time I saw a morning show TV segment about a woman who hadn’t washed her hair in 5 years I began my research. Many were ditching commercial products commonly found in stores, and hopping on board the ‘No Poo’ trend by using natural products and ingredients to cleanse their hair. I didn’t have much to lose. If it didn’t work out, I’d just go back to the products I’d used for so many years.
Scouring different websites, I found The No Poo Method and opened my eyes to the possibilities.
What is it?
Giving up shampoo doesn’t mean giving up showers or washing hair, instead ‘no poo’ (or no shampoo) refers to methods of washing hair without commercial shampoo.
Involves washing hair less often and using soaps that are more natural, like Dr Bronner’s Castile Soap.
Also co-washing, or conditioner only washing, involves cleansing your hair with conditioner instead of shampoo.
What are the benefits?
Traditional shampoos contain Sulfate (sodium laurel sulphate which produces that rich lather that many people love to see in shampoos) and Paraben (a chemical preservative used to prevent bacteria and fungus growth in shampoo), which are washed down the drain with negative impacts on the environment and our water supply.
While there are natural shampoos with gentler ingredients, they will always contain some chemicals.
Eliminating the purchase of commercial in-shower products reduces your household wastage. Most of the No Poo alternatives come in larger quantities and last a very long time.
Many people make the switch to natural products for environmental reasons alone.
But just as the chemicals have a negative impact on the environment, they will also on your body possibly causing sensitivities, allergies and developing skin conditions. All of the No Poo ingredients I use can be put into my food, if its ok to eat its ok for you hair!
If you’re taking your hairdresser’s advice or using ‘good quality’ and branded shampoos and conditioners you can easily be paying upwards of $20 at a time. And we all know that conditioner mysteriously disappears twice as fast as shampoo. Your No Poo bill will be significantly less, of course depending on if you’re purchasing organic products.
My usual No Poo bill:
1kg Rye Flour purchased 5 months ago and only half gone: $7 470mL Apple Cider Vinegar purchased 5 months ago and only a quarter used: $3
My Hair Type
I used to have waist-length balayage that caused a lot of damage. Sick of the split ends, I chopped it all off to collar bone length and began my hair rehab.
It’s now back to the natural colour and texture, off-black, slightly wavy, and currently shoulder blade length.
Baking Soda Wash
Most websites will mention Baking Soda as the main alternative to shampoo when starting the No Poo journey and so was my first stop. I tried both the paste method, pouring a small amount onto my palm in the shower and mix with water to create a paste, and the spray method, diluting baking soda with water and spray at the roots. The recommendation was to wash with Baking Soda at most, once a week, and I really tried my best. The more I persisted the more I hated it.
I googled frantically.
I read that this horrid, greasy, transition period was due to my scalp purging the chemicals its been fed all these years… while this may have been partly true my deduction is that the baking soda was so alkaline and abrasive that my hair was stripped of all its moisture (despite my Apple Cider Vinegar rinse afterwards) and over-produced oil to compensate.
I’ve continued to use Baking Soda as a household surface cleaner - it does an amazing job in the kitchen and shower - but haven’t let it touch my hair ever since.
I went down the list on The No Poo Method and tried this one next.
At first I used the whole egg and strangely saw what looked like dandruff! As I normally don’t have dandruff and live in a humid climate I was surprised.
As one does, in moments like these, I called my mum. Reliably she informed me that the egg white on my scalp (despite rinsing well) left its mark as snow-like dandruff residue. Since then I used the egg yolk only and my hair looked healthy, felt soft and no white flaky scalp to be seen. You can make a yummy egg white omelette in the morning.
Although its not necessary, I follow with the Apple Cider Vinegar that makes my hair feel amazing. You don’t want to do this too often and add too much protein to your hair.
As a variation on the Egg Wash above, I decided to include some natural yoghurt I had in the fridge and loved the cooling effects. I don’t often have yoghurt available but when I do I pop some in.
Wash off with cold water and follow with Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse.
This one is one of my two favourites.
Depending on how finely milled your rye flour is you may have some grains left in your hair after your shower. Once your hair has dried, flip your hair upside-down, give it a shake with your hands and all the grains will fall out easily as long as your hair isn’t knotty. You may also wish to sift your flour before using it.
I always follow this with an Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse because it leaves my hair feeling amazing but this part is optional. Rye Flour has a slippery consistency and after you’ve washed your hair it will feel smooth and silky - just amazing!
My other favourite and a family recipe.
My parents migrated from Bangladesh and I’ve grown up slathering oil to my hair and leaving it on for hours before washing it out. I’ve seen my aunts and grandmothers leave it in for days.
This recipe brings back nostalgic memories of when my mum mixed it herself and massaged it onto my hair. There aren’t many things in this world that are better than a head massage.
The longer you can leave it in the better. I’ve noticed my hair grow faster, become softer and healthier.
Because there is castor oil in this you will feel an oily residue if you only rinse out with water. I will either do an additional wash with Rye Flour or occasionally go Low Poo and use Dr Bronner’s Castile Soap followed by Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse.
What about travel?
After months of experimentation I was overjoyed to discover my perfect No Poo and Low Poo alternatives with my hair looking and feeling better than ever. I was also spending less than ever on haircare!
But I faced a major obstacle when I was making travel plans. In the past I would take my shampoo and conditioner bottle or find travel sizes to pack into my toiletries bag. Although I wash my hair every 5-6 days most of my travels involves durations greater than this. How would I travel with No Poo.
I googled but got nowhere.
I managed to find a solution. As the Rye Flour wash was my favourite I simply transferred the appropriate amount into a zip lock bag or travel friendly tub, mix with water in the hotel bathroom and wash as normal. While I’m travelling I usually go without the Apple Cider Vinegar rinse and just apply a few drops of my face oil to the tips of my hair.
While I truly love No Poo and have reaped the benefits I don’t like to be too strict on myself and cause undue stress so as an alternative, I choose to go Low Poo and take Dr Bronner’s Castile Bar Soap which is great to use as body wash, shampoo and conditioner, and no leakage involved!
Does your hair smell?
Come over and have a sniff! I always get this question when I reveal my No Poo hair secrets, and they’re always surprised at how ‘normal’ my hair looks. As long as you have diluted your ingredients correctly (and this may take some experimentation) and rinsed your hair well, no one will know any different.
If you’re overly worried about unwanted food odours add a few drops of your favourite essential oil.
What happens after a workout?
If it’s not your hair washing day then just rinse out with water and give your scalp a good massage in shower. If you feel like you need something extra then use a natural dry shampoo, or just the Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse.
Can I still style with heat?
Using blow dryers, curlers and straighteners is absolutely fine. I let my hair air dry after washing and usually style my hair with braids and hair accessories instead of heat styling tools so I can’t attest to any damage that may be caused over time. However on the occasions I have straightened or curled my hair I noticed no damage or deterioration caused.
Can I use styling products?
Of course! It’s your hair and you can go as No Poo as you want.
Some people eliminate all commercial products and other continue using hair spray and heat protectant. But keep in mind these products contain chemicals that contribute to build up in your hair that you will have to wash out later.
How long is the transition period?
It took me a solid month and I blame this on baking soda. The moment I switched to the Egg Wash or the Rye Flour Wash it immediately settled down.
What happens if I do use shampoo?
Not a thing! Life occasionally gets in the way of our efforts and on a particularly stressful day while travelling I used shampoo and conditioner and it didn’t make any noticeable difference. I am an advocate of being kind to oneself and if going No Poo is stressing you out, then take a break and come back to it later.
However make sure not to succumb to the temptation during your transition period just because you have greasy roots. Instead try some DIY dry shampoo. Hold on there, it won’t be long now!
What are the cons?
The biggest disadvantages is the adjustment period for either getting started or during the transition period. During this time many people actually have greasier hair as their oil production glands are rebalancing and becoming accustomed to a new routine.
It’s easy to give up at that point and succumb to the call of your old shampoo, feeling embarrassed to step out looking like a greasy mess, or just feeling dirty in general. It’s understandable, as breaking old habits can be pretty hard and when you’re used to the feeling if your hair being stripped of all it’s natural oils, any amount of grease can be enough to make you feel unclean.
My strategies are outlined in my Hair & Travel article where braids, hats and hair accessories were my best friend. The tips of your hair will never get oily or greasy so a hat is such a quick and easy way to hide what’s going on underneath.
Travel is tricky
It took a long time to find the best travelling solution with No Poo products. Where I would simply throw a couple of travel sized bottles in my luggage I had to find creative ways to transport my Rye Flour and Apple Cider Vinegar. I haven’t cracked the ACV yet as its low viscosity will easily lead to leakages, but putting some Rye Flour in a medium sized tub is doing the trick nicely for now.
Road trips aren’t too much of an issue as you can throw your ingredients into the trunk. But if flying with carry-on luggage only, you’re subject to liquid restrictions, not to mention the suspicion involved with a container of unlabelled white powder in your suitcase.
For now I have settled to do my very best and if I need to use shampoo or a low poo equivalent I don’t stress too much. On average I wash my hair once a week so even if I’ve away for a month I will only be washing 4 times in total! Remember, the point is to enjoy your travel and do the best you can.
Will No Poo work for me?
Experimenting with no poo is relatively low risk. Daily showers and shampooing is probably worse for your scalp and hair.
If you have any skin issues, its best to seek some medical advice before you begin experimenting, otherwise, nearly anyone can try no poo.
So, was it worth it?
Big fat YES!
I’ve noticed my hair become healthier, thicker, softer and shinier. Where I thought my hair was straight I’ve now discovered my natural texture is wavy, and that shampoo and conditioners were weighing it down.
Once again, take it easy and be kind to yourself. We’ve been conditioned (haha, get it?) to need the convenience of commercial products and it takes practice to get into the groove of a lifestyle change. If it’s just not working out and you’re stressed, take a few weeks or months off and try again later, maybe you’ll find another recipe that works wonders for you.
I wish you all the best in your No Poo journey.