We try it!

We Try It! Going Deeper Down The “No-Poo” Rabbit Hole With Water-Only Washing

Remember two weeks ago, when I wrote this post about “no-poo?”

Those were the days, huh? The salad days, if you will. The apple cider vinaigrette hair wash salad days, if you will.

A lot can change in 2 weeks, let me tell you. Back when I wrote that post, I was really just dabbling in no poo.  I was co-washing then — essentially using the ever so gentle cleansing power of conditioner to “wash” my hair each day. 

The day before that post hit the interwebs, I had a little hiccup in my co-washing adventure.  I went to Spa Castle here in Queens, New York, a multilevel spa experience that sucks you into a vortex of hot tubs and body scrubs and turns you into a pile of jelly just before spitting you out onto the mean streets of College Point. I got one of the aforesaid body scrubs, and after you’ve seen rivulets of dead gray play-do-like skin fly off your body as the steam rises off hot pools to melt your brain, you’re not really in a position to explain to the nice lady scrubbing you that you don’t want the hair washing that signifies the end of your personal sandpapering.

And thus, my no-poo, co-washing experimented ended quite abruptly that day, and I was faced with the question — do I go full on “yes-poo” again, do I go back to co-washing, or do I do the thing that is calling out to me on wispy strands of baby-fine intuition?

In other words, I asked myself, “Should I try water-only washing?” And the answer was a resounding, “Yes!”

So here’s what I did:

Day 1 (day after body scrubbing/ hair washing):  Shampoo & Condition with “Cone Free” Conditioner
For any sort of no-poo to work, you need to wash out any conditioner that may have silicone in it.  And because I wasn’t sure what the scrubber lady had used on my hair, I had to wash my hair so that I could start over.

Alan Rickman as The Sherriff of Nottingham (Original No Poo Specialist)

Day 2 & 12: Did Not Wash Hair At All
As I mentioned in my last post, my scalp is super oily, so my hair looked gross on day 2. I weathered the storm by using my favorite dry shampoo (a/k/a Vagisil powder, which 2 out of 3 weirdos like me prefer to Bumble & Bumble).  I also brushed my hair with a boar bristle brush in an effort to extend the greasies through the length of my hair to give myself a sexy Sheriff of Nottingham look.

Nearly Every Day In The Last 2 Weeks: Water Only Washing

On these days, I washed my hair only with water.  I wish I could say that this process was actually easy, but it’s really a pain in the ass.  Through some serious trial and error, I found that it works the best if I do the following:

Using luke warm water, flip your head over under the water.  Now you do something known as “scritching” where you use your nails or a natural comb to “scritch” your scalp.  (Note: Scritching is the word used by most to do this.  Somehow scratching sounds awful while scritching just feels right.)  Essentially, you want to break up any sebum and oils that have accumulated on your scalp by scritching. I also try, as best I can, to move any oils from my scalp through the length of my hair with my fingers. Do this for as long as you can without getting lightheaded, and then flip your head over and do a bit more scritching.  At some point, I turn the temperature up on the water and rinse my head again. Then I take a wide tooth comb and comb and detangle my hair (I find that it’s easier to do with hotter water, and I feel like the hot water helps the oils move through the hair). Then I do other shower stuff, and finish up with a cool rinse on my hair.

It’s slightly complicated. Oh, and you may get a waxy build up which feels kind of different than an oily one. There is some biological reason for that, apparently sheep do it. I read a blog about it at some point and can’t find it now, but trust me, it was interesting.

Days 9 and 11 (I think):  Egg & ACV Wash and Baking Soda & ACV Wash
Seriously, I don’t know why I did these washes. It was my birthday weekend, and The Man that lives inside my head made me feel like I should be sparkly and cleaner. But all the things I loved about these washes somehow fell away now that I’m doing water only washing. The egg & ACV wash, which I used to love, left me with hair that felt a little dry, and the baking soda & ACV wash was way too drying. But both left my scalp feeling much cleaner, for good or for ill. I’m thinking that from now on, I’ll only use the egg and ACV, and if I use baking soda, I’ll use a much smaller amount, like 1 teaspoon per cup of water rather than 1 tablespoon per cup of water.

Ned Stark Could Do With A Bit Of Plopping (Image Courtesy of HBO)

Every Day:  Plopping

If it weren’t for my foray into “no-poo,” I never would have learned the awesome curly/wavy hair technique of plopping or plunking explained here. Basically, it’s a way of wrapping your hair in a towel that allows your curls to form and adds a bit of volume.  Without it, I probably would have looked a bit more like Ned Stark from Game Of Thrones.

Nearly Every Day:  Brushing With Boar Bristle Brush

I’ve determined that boar bristle brushes are kind of magical. Some people actually say that brushing with a boar bristle brush is a form of dry shampooing. And this is one instance where I agree with these people. Here’s the trick I learned — after you brush your hair with a boar bristle brush, your hair is kind of flat against your head (like Ned Stark’s, above). But then, if you touch your head and sort of push up, your hair suddenly doesn’t look oily. You go from Ned Stark to Veronica Lake in like 3 seconds.

Veronica Lake Seems Like She Could Work A BBB (Image Courtesy of J.Zee of Flickr Creative Commons)

Results — The Good

Where a results-oriented society right? So I can’t hide the ball from you guys.

  • Most days, my hair actually looked really good.  It felt thicker (which is nice if you have fine hair), and I got a lot of compliments on it.
  • As most people who do this will tell you, you sort of stop needing any hair products. I straightened my hair one day, and it stayed the same all day. When it’s curly it’s curly and when it’s wavy and it’s wavy and when it’s straight it’s straight and I don’t have to do much of anything with it. Every once in a while I put a little jojoba oil in the ends if they’re looking dry, but that’s it.
  • Once you get your boar bristle brush, some sort of dry shampoo, some jojoba oil, and some apple cider vinegar, you really don’t need anything else, so you’ll save money on shampoo, conditioner, and hair products.
  • Truthfully, I probably spend about the same amount of time in the shower, but I feel a little better not pouring detergents down the drain.

Results — The Bad

  • My hair never smells bad, but it doesn’t smell great either. I’ve been playing around with different essential oils just to give myself a bit of that good smelling vibe that I like from shampoo.
  • I’m not really sure how my hair’s going to look on any given day. I believe that once I’m fully out of the transition period, my hair is going to look more like my hair, but there are days that are unexpectedly oily and some that are unexpected not oily, and I’m not always sure how to anticipate it.
  • I have nearly full bottles of shampoo and hair products that I can’t use, which kind of bums me out.
  • I’m still in a transition period, so my hair has not reached full awesomeness potential yet.
  • I still don’t know what to do about coloring my hair, although you may be seeing a “We Try It! Henna!” edition soon.

Anyone out there doing water-only washing?  Questions?  Let’s chat!

14 replies on “We Try It! Going Deeper Down The “No-Poo” Rabbit Hole With Water-Only Washing”

Thanks also for the pic of Sean Bean, yumm-o. I have a scalp that loves to produce oil, and I have often wished that I could collect this oil and use it to fill some energy need on the planet. Or at least light a tea light or something. The no-poo method scares the other kind of poo out of me, yet intrigues me as well. I have fine, wavy hair too, so I’m pretty excited by the idea of it looking thicker and curlier. You go, Golda!

I love Sean Bean.  I think I wrote this post mostly to post pics of Alan Rickman and Sean Bean.

I hear you on the oiliness.  I’ve wished the same thing.  I truly have the kind of hair that, I thought, had to be washed every day, but as I write this, I didn’t even water-only wash it today, and it really looks great!

So me and Luci are apparently on the same page when it comes to hair, I don’t think I could ever get over the “dirty” phase.

However, ever since I was little I’ve had problems with my hands getting extremely dry in the winter (and my skins ultra sensitive to everything) and I often skip out on washing them after using the bathroom (urine is sterile OKAY?) because they just get too dry and lotions burn/bother my skin. (I do wash them before I eat/prepare food or if I do a 2, just to illustrate that I’m not that gross)… and well, your whole no-poo experiment makes me feel better about that. I’m listening to my body. If something burns when I try to put it on my skin, that’s probably a bad sign.

I totally understand.  I’m actually not trying to proselytize about no-poo at all — I think I just needed to write about it because I’ve been kind of obsessed with it for a month or two.

I’m sure that you’re not the only one who doesn’t wash his/her hands every time you pee, especially in the winter.  I think we have a really obsession with cleanliness in our culture, and not that it’s necessarily bad, but the truth is we’re going to have bacteria and viruses and dirt and whatever on our skin, and if we weren’t so obsessed with killing all of it, we wouldn’t have so many antibiotic resistant strains and cases of IBS.

Have you experimented with different soaps and soap alternatives?  You probably have already, I know.  But you might like something like A Wild Soap Bar soaps (I get the odds and ends pack which gives you about 5 or 6 bars for $10) or a very diluted Dr. Bronner’s.  Also, jojoba oil is magical for dry skin.  It sinks right in and it’s really healing.

I love your no-poo adventures!

My mom is one of those germ-o-phobes and in some cases it makes sense to me. You shouldn’t share drinks if you don’t want mono, etc. But I agree that ultimately it is kind of ridiculous.

I haven’t actually tried many alternatives. I’m really lazy when it comes to experimenting with that kind of stuff. But those Wild Soap Bars look really nice. Maybe I’ll treat myself. :)

Re: Brushing with the boar bristle brush: But I have curly hair that’s pretty defined? And I read/know from experience makes my curls unhappy and frizzy? I think the thing about going shampoo-free, aside from fear, is that I don’t think I’m supposed to brush my hair, so I would miss out on the boar bristling and the dry shampoo, since I can’t brush it through. Is no brushing something I should just get over and deal with my hair looking like hair on an old Barbie doll?

No-poo is actually supposed to be great for people with curlier hair, since we’re always told that curlier hair needs more moisture (and really, our scalps produce a lot of what we need if we let them do their job).

Here’s what I suggest — you could start by doing co-washing.  This is conditioner-only washing.  I wrote about this more in my first post, and that is what I tried initially.  You’ll still feel more like you’re washing it, so it’s like dipping a toe into no-poo.

If you try water-only washing, I would only brush it with the hard bristle brush when you’re not going anywhere, perhaps an ideal time would be right before you shower.  There are also some techniques for brushing curls that might not make your hair look bad, sort of like what people do after taking pin curls out, really intentionally brushing all of the curl down into the bottom.  You may also find that after doing water only washing for a while, your hair is less frizzy and doesn’t get weird about brushing.  (By the way, I’m totally not a stylist, I’ve just been reading about this stuff like crazy.)

The thing is, you can always experiment, and if you hate it, just wash your hair! :)


Thanks! I thought the brushing thing was for, like, the beginning of the day or something. I usually only use conditioner already, but I shampoo about once a week. I think I’m going to work on not doing that, but I do use product, and probably always will, just because there’s never a time when I can go weeks without washing it to “reset” it or whatever it’s called. I just can’t risk crazy hair when I’m trying to look professional for a job interview, for example, and after a certain number of days of product with no shampoo, plus my daily workouts, I start to feel scared by how dirty my hair it. I am going to try brushing my hair, though, like you recommend, and I am investigating these alternative methods of brushing.

This post made my head itchy.  I have gone back and forth about whether I would want to do no-poo and basically I am not at a point where I feel like I can wait out the period where your hair is dirty. The other night I woke up and couldn’t sleep and I ended up getting up and washing my hair because it felt dirty.

1) Thank you for the Alan Rickman pic.

2) I’m down to three days a week for hair washing … It’s Lush solid shampoo and solid conditioner so I believe it’s a bit better for the environment.

3) If you do the henna post, be sure to warn anyone with blonde hair to avoid henna that has indigo in it (blonde/yellow + indigo/blue = hilarious/green). This may or may not be the reason why I went back to a pixie cut last Fall.   ;)

I feel super encouraged by your post! I have been lowering my ‘poo (I now use  a sulfate-free bar ‘poo twice a week after jiu jitsu practice- I get super sweaty/have other people’s sweat on me so I feel like I need this for the time being). My hair is looking better, is generally less staticy etc. I might try the boar bristle brush though, I think though I have super dry hair and skin, I do get that waxy stuff like sheep- which is annoying, but I am glad sheep get it too.

Also, I lol’d at your Alan Rickman reference.

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