When the “no shampoo” (abbreviated as the unfortunate-sounding “no poo”) movement first emerged on the scene years ago, it was a fringe concept at best. Today, however, it’s likely that you have at least one friend or coworker who ascribes to the philosophy. While there are various levels of no poo practices (some claim that switching to a detergent-free cleaning solution counts, while others go full-on and shun everything but tap water for their hair), the one commonality is that going shampoo-free is a big commitment. But for those hardcore hair fanatics who have been without so much as a bottle of Pantene for years, the decision is clear: They’re not going back.
It’s common knowledge that the beginning of any journey into no poo territory is… unpleasant. While your scalp adjusts to the shock of not being smothered in sulfates, things get very greasy. As one six-year (!) convert to the no poo lifestyle told Good Housekeeping, “My hair was the greasiest it's ever been. I sometimes dealt with dandruff before, but there was a lot more during my three-week trial. It was really unpleasant and I was so embarrassed that I didn't want to show my head to anyone. I nearly cracked a couple of times and gave up on it. I felt like my scalp was going crazy.”
Perhaps the hardest part of going no poo is pushing through this adjustment period — it’s tempting to quit and head back to the hard stuff, which effectively restarts the process. But after a brief period of sacrificing style, you’ll start to see benefits. “One of the biggest sacrifices you’ll have to make during this whole process is that you can’t use any mousse, gel, or other styling product during this stage,” relates Lauren O’Neal, who has now been without shampoo for years, “because they’ll mess up the whole ‘hair finding its natural balance of oils’ deal.” While greasy hair and no styling aid may sound like a nightmare for some, these women say it’s worth it. “After about three years without shampoo, my hair is noticeably softer and fluffier than it used to be. I never use any product — I just blow-dry it with a finger diffuser and it stays in beautiful perfect waves all day. And when you know your hair looks great, it’s like a magical girl-power spell that grants you confidence and erases worries about the rest of your looks,” Lauren explains.
While converts to the no poo movement cite various reasons for making the switch (from eco-consciousness to thriftiness), it’s hard to argue with those who say their hair just looks better without shampoo. “The first time I heard that not washing your hair is a thing was when I ran into an old friend, who I had remembered as having bushy, dry, wavy hair. But this time, her hair was really shiny and smooth. She looked amazing! When I asked her secret, she told me it was because she had stopped shampooing it,” says Sarah Theeboom, who later achieved similar results herself.
Sarah’s no poo method is perhaps the most extreme, relying only on water and manual scrubbing to clean her hair, but others have found success this way, too. Jacquelyn Baers, who went shampoo-free for five years, told the Huffington Post, “I came across using baking soda and apple cider vinegar...but it wasn’t working for me — it was making hair dry, and greasy, and back and forth.” She now only uses water, as well, and claims her hair is all the healthier for it.
But for those who are incredulous about just washing their hair with water, there are some less-drastic variations on going no poo. Many converts, like Ashlee of The Crunchy Moose (who actually launched a no poo resource site after detailing her own experiences going shampoo-free), use a combination of apple cider vinegar and baking soda to “wash” their hair without using commercial shampoo. Other common alternatives include clay masks, aloe rinses, egg washes, and other methods using natural ingredients to clean hair without stripping it of its natural oils or upsetting its pH balance.
When you're having the best hair day in forever...If you've read my blog you know I ditched all the chemicals from my face and hair care and went pretty much all natural last January. The road to today was a bit bumpy and there were times I wanted to grab that shampoo and take a friggin' bath in it but I didn't and five months later my hair has never been this soft, strong and healthy before (well, since I first started treating it bad as a teenager). living proof that you can clean your skalp and hair without the harsh detergents and soaps 😍 Totally worth it! #nopoo
Not ready to say goodbye to soap? Then a “low poo” method might be for you. Castile soap (such as Dr. Bronner’s) can be diluted and used to wash the hair, followed by an apple cider vinegar rinse, to create a less abrasive alternative to shampoo. With the growing popularity of this movement, some salon brands are even getting on board. Hairstory, founded by an alum of Bumble & Bumble, recently released an all-in-one wash and conditioner called New Wash which claims to be the antithesis to traditional shampoo. One benefit? It claims a shorter “adjustment period” than many of these other methods, meaning less greasy wait time before you start to have the soft, healthy hair of your dreams. No poo for commitment-phobes? Worth a try.