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We Try It! Going “No-Poo”

Despite the name, going “no-poo” has nothing to do with intentional constipation.

The idea of going no-poo had been a mere minor notation on the vast “I should try that” list that is ever expanding in my brain.  It all started when I read this The Beheld post about her experience with water-only washing.  I had met Autumn soon after reading her post and her hair was, undoubtedly, kind of awesome.

But it was nearly a year before I decided to try no-poo myself.  It was a confluence of things that made me decide to try it.  I have the kind of oily hair that requires daily washes in order for me not to look like a avian victim of an oil spill, and no-poo, according to its true believers, is supposed to eventually “fix” my scalp so that it will no longer produce so much oil.  And I color my hair, so I’ve been admonished more than once by hair dressers that the key to keeping my hair color longer is to not wash it so damn much.  Plus, it seemed like a pretty environmentally friendly thing to do, which might assuage my guilt about ordering takeout so much.

Allegedly, shampoo wasn't really invented until the early 20th century. (Image courtesy of wikipedia.)

The No-Poo Spectrum

So I started to do some no-poo research, and found a treasure trove of blogs and message boards where people share their no-poo stories, tips, and tricks.  I learned that there are a variety of ways to no-poo.

At one end of the spectrum, there’s co-washing, or conditioner-only washing.  To do this, you select a conditioner with no silicone (silicone coats the hair and somehow messes up the whole process).  You then massage the conditioner into your hair, and leave it on for at least 5 minutes, then wash it out.  The theory is that conditioner cleans the hair without stripping it of its natural oils.

Somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, you use various non-shampoo things to wash your hair.  Some of these include baking soda, egg, or beer followed by an apple cider vinegar or lemon juice rinse.  (The shampoo substitutes are alkaline and open up the hair shaft and follicles so they can be cleaned, and the rinses close the shaft and return your hair to it’s perfect, slightly acidic state.)

And finally, at the other end, there’s water-only washing.  I believe that this involves just rinsing your hair when you wash, sometimes giving your scalp a rigorous scrub-down in the shower.  Some water-only washers will do a baking soda/apple cider vinegar combo every once in a while.

The Transition Period

No matter where on the spectrum you begin, most people say there is a much dreaded “transition period,” where your hair is just oily and icky.  From what I’ve read, this transition period can be anywhere from non-existent to about 6 weeks.  This is a time of hat wearing and head powdering that many don’t have the patience or fortitude to move through.  I would say that my hair is still transitioning, and it is certainly testing my mettle.  I may have to do a follow-up report, and I hope that I come through this period as a proud no-pooer, but I can’t be sure.

What I Tried

I really wasn’t joking about how oily my hair is.  It’s kind of a nightmare.  So I decided to start slow by using conditioner-only washing.  I used V05 Tea Therapy Vanilla Mint ( V05 is a favorite of many no-pooers due to its inexpensiveness and lack of  ‘cones (silicones, to you poo-ers).  I just didn’t dig it.  So I started using a conditioner I had in my apartment, Jason’s Thin To Thick.  This is by far my favorite for co-washing.  It’s not too pricey, and it has tea tree oil, which has a minty freshness that almost gives the illusion of a shampoo-ed head.

Breck Messed With Your Head (Literally) (Image courtesy of the Smithsonian)

Initially, my hair was insanely lustrous and my waves and turned into luxurious curls.  And then, I don’t know, I started to transition?  Uch.  So I decided to give baking soda washes a go.  I did the baking soda wash noted below, followed by an apple cider vinegar rinse.  My hair definitely felt a little cleaner, but the length was feeling drier and drier.  Then I stumbled upon an amazing egg and apple cider vinegar mixture that may be my favorite thing thus far.  (Recipes below!)

Accoutrements

Powder/ Dry Shampoo — I’m going to lay it out on the line on this one.  I was walking down the street feeling particularly greasy, and there it was shining like a beacon.  Sephora.  So I went in and, in the interest of research, tried every dry shampoo in the place.  I was told that Bumble & Bumble hair powder is the end all and be all.  Maybe it is for some.  I also tried organic cornstarch, which did almost nothing.  But if I can be honest with you (and I feel like I can) the best powder that I tried in my hair was straight up Vagisil.  Vagisil is magical for hair greasies and it last for hours.  You can take that to the bank.

Boar Bristle Brush — I had one already. Perhaps I had a no-poo premonition at some point.  This is important as it helps distribute the oils from your scalp to the rest of your hair.

Favorite Recipes

Baking Soda Mixture
2 tbsp baking soda
2 cups of water

Mix it up with a spoon or shake it (I like to shake it up in a thermos).  Pour the mixture on your hair and massage it into your scalp.  Rinse thoroughly, and always follow with an acidic rinse, like an apple cider vinegar rinse.

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) Rinse
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup water

Put these ingredients together into any bottle you have handy.  After rinsing out the baking soda mixture above, pour the ACV rinse over your whole head, massaging it into hair and scalp.  Rinse thoroughly with cool water.  (Don’t worry if your hair smells like vinegar.  It won’t by the time it dries.)

Egg & ACV Wash (2 in 1!)
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup water

Break the yolk and mix the above ingredients.  (I just mix it all in a mug and bring it into the shower.)  Wet hair with cool water. Apply to hair and scalp and massage in.  Leave on for a few minutes, then rinse with cool water.  Particularly great for curly hair.

Do you “no-poo” or “low-poo”?  Have you tried it before?  Let me know how it went in the comments section below!

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13 thoughts on “We Try It! Going “No-Poo””

  1. Couple of questions – does it have to be ACV or will any type of vinegar work? Also, is it just the egg yolk or is the whole egg ok? I’m trying to not use as many chemicals (and the plastic bottles they come in) in my hygiene routine, but I am also incredibly lazy. If I can just dump a little vinegar and an egg in a cup, take it in the shower, mix it with water and use that as shampoo, I am totally down. That would be awesome.

    1. Good questions!  I heard that you can also use white vinegar, which I think is the more common kind of vinegar. ACV is great though, and relatively cheap (esp. when you’re only using about 2 tbsp at a time).  I’ve never tried it with a whole egg, but it might be a bit too frothy and/or make your hair a little clumpy.  Some people even use the egg white for gel.  So I would go with egg yolk for this process, but if you get a little of the egg white in there (as I invariably do) I wouldn’t worry about it.

  2. I have been debating trying this, but am nervous for two reasons. 1) I have super duper try hair. I wash it a few times a week only already, but I am a person who can go on a ten day backpacking trip in the middle of nowhere and my hair will come out looking basically the same as it did when I left. 2) I have a pixie cut and thus use a teeny bit of product in my hair, it is all silicone free but I am afraid of the leftover goop if I stop washing.

    1. Truthfully, I would keep doing what you’re doing.  I basically did this because my scalp is super oily and I wanted to reset it.  You might really dig the egg yolk/acv thing though, because it makes you hair feel clean without drying it out.  I might up the amount of ACV though or just follow the whole thing with conditioner to give you more moisture.  One other thing you might like — jojoba oil.  It conditions your hair in a really lovely way, and is one of the closest things in nature to our own bodily oils.

  3. So interesting!

    I have extremely thick hair, and at some point in my adult life, I stopped washing it every day. I don’t remember why. I didn’t notice any negatives, and it was a huge time saver in the morning.

    Now I wash my hair with ‘poo about once every 7-10 days. But after reading this, I’m wondering if I can just find a conditioner that might do what i need it to do. Hmmm…..

    1. I, too, have a horse’s mane for hair, so washing every day is way too much of a hassle. I wash it about once a week, and that’s only because my husband says it’s gross to work out 4 times a week and not wash my hair. Freaking peer pressure. I wear a sweat band! Seriously though, I am pretty gross. I would go days without a shower if I didn’t work out. Yep, dirty hippie, party of one.

      Let me know if you find a conditioner that works for you! I am always down for removing steps from my beauty routine.

      1. You know, I think what you’re both already doing is kind of fabulous.  Maybe try the egg yolk/ acv wash once a week or so.  It makes your hair feel really clean and also conditioned.

        Also, I’m a bit jealous of your horse mane hair.  :)

  4. I haven’t had the guts! But as a curly girl I really ought to try it; I’ve always gotten the sense that my hair is unmanageable because I’m forcing it into a routine it isn’t suited for. All I’ve done so far is switch to a sulfate-free shampoo and skip one or two days of washing a week. Good luck and keep us posted!

    1. Ya know, it’s weird.  After writing this, I actually did water only washing for about a week, and it got kind of magical.  My hair stopped feeling so oily, got super manageable, and looked kind of awesome.  I think sometimes it’s almost better to jump in and try it for a week than for just a few days, because day 2 of water only washing was was yuckier than day 6.  It’s just weird.  Good luck to you too!

  5. I’m a co-washer. I love it. I have to admit though, I occasionally use shampoo, usually every two weeks and whenever I go to the hairdresser. I try to only use the Loreal silicon and paraben-free shampoo and conditioner, but now that I know VO5 is silicon-free, I’ll probably give that a try too! It will definitely give my budget a break =).

    1. Wow, cool!  I’ve actually now dived in to water only washing, which I think is actually better for me than co-washing was, probably because my hair is not that dry to being with.  Anyway, I hope you dig the VO5.  The .99 pricetag is definitely fabulous.

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