“No-Poo” FAQs, Resources, and Tips


If you haven’t already heard: me and shampoo broke up. It was a hard decision, but it was for the best. Definite irreconcilable differences. I’ve been jabbering away about this “no-pooing” thing for a while now, and I hope you’ll indulge me for just one more day. This post is a follow-up to Monday’s post.

I’ve compiled a list of questions that I’ve been asked over the last 4-5 months since I became a shampoo quitter. If you have a question that you don’t see answered here, feel free to post it in the comments, and myself or a fellow no-pooer can jump in to try and help (or at least point you in the right direction).

Here are the posts I’ve done on the topic thus far:

I’m Quitting Shampoo for a Month (and you can too!)
DIY All-Natural Dry Shampoo (2 Ingredients!)
I Haven’t Shampooed my Hair in 4 Months (no-poo update)
How to Get Started in the No-Poo Hair Care Method

And now, on to the questions at hand:

Q 1. How does your hair get clean without shampoo?!?
A. Most no-pooers start with baking soda and vinegar (ACV or distilled white vinegar). I use BS+DWV, and am enjoying it. I started out with ACV, but was told that the DWV is often better for those who tend to struggle with greasy hair.

Q 2. Does no-pooing get your hair as clean as conventional shampoo?
A. Yep, it totally does! Not a hint of dirt or grease anywhere… it’s squeaky clean!

Q 3. What’s the big deal about conventional shampoo, anyway?
A. Our scalp produces natural oils to make our hair shiny and strong. Inevitably it gets dirty (sweat, dirt, greasy hands going through it, etc.) and needs to be cleaned. The common modern solution to this is a shampoo manufactured with a cocktail of toxic chemicals that strip every last bit of oil and dirt away.

Obviously, more products are then needed to add moisture, shine, shaping, body, fragrance, curl, etc. Most people need to wash their hair every single day because their scalp is over-producing oil in response to having it all stripped away every morning.

Do you suppose the shampoo companies are happy about that? You bet your a$$ they are. The more shampoo you buy, the more $$$ in their pockets. Furthermore, once you’ve used shampoo for long enough (I used it for the first 30 years of my life!), your hair inevitably starts to need special treatment and expensive products to tame, moisturize, encourage hair growth, etc. My hair has historically been a lovely combo of frizzy and untameable to grease-ball city within hours. There was no middle ground. Fun, eh? (Shocker: my hair experiences zero frizz now, and has started to show a natural curl/bounce at the ends that had never really been there before!)

There are two things to note here: 1) the claims on your shampoo bottle are 99% bogus, and 2) the cause of most of these problems is usually the harsh chemicals in the shampoo itself!

Photo credit: D. Sharon Pruitt via Flickr CC

Q 4. What did people used to do before shampoo was invented? Weren’t they dirty and stinky all the time?
A. Well, our standards of personal hygiene have inevitably changed. The rise of the beauty products mega-industry in the 20th century has caused a bit of an obsession with being squeaky clean at every moment of every day. Our ancestors may not have been quite as obsessed as our society certainly is, but they weren’t walking around smelly all the time, either.

This post that I found gives some insightful quotes from 17th and 18th century publications on standards and practices of personal hygiene. The key is that their hair wasn’t getting greasy fast like ours because their scalps weren’t trained to over-compensate in oil production!

Q 5. Does your head smell gross?
A. Nope. You can come over and smell my head if you want. (Unless you’re a creepy stalker. You’re gonna have to just take my word for it.)

Q 6. Can people tell that you don’t use shampoo?
A. Absolutely not. Every person that I’ve told has been shocked as they looked at my hair and wondered out loud why it still looks normal and clean. It’s pretty amusing.

Q 7. How long is the dreaded transition period? Is there a trick to make it go faster?
A. For me, it only took a couple of weeks. It really depends on a lot of factors, so it’s hard to give a definitive answer… but for most folks it’s between a week and a couple of months. Beyond that you may want to do some playing and tweaking to your routine, but in general your hair is clean and lovely for at least a couple of days after washing. I told you my trick for a shorter transition period in this post.

Q 8. How often do you wash?
A. Again this totally depends. I go four days between washes, and can leave the house with confidence each and every day. I have to definitely wear my hair up (usually a sock bun) with my DIY dry shampoo in my roots by the last day, but it’s totally doable, and I’m confident that no one notices or thinks anything of it. Many people can go a week or more between washes.

Q 9. I’ve heard that no-pooing damages your hair over time. Is that true?
A. I have heard people say that using baking soda damaged their hair (a popular health blogger wrote about how this method damaged her hair). I’ve been at this for 4 months, and have not experienced that in the slightest. I do honestly think that my hair is healthier than it’s ever been right now.

If, down the road, I see some damage, I’ll reevaluate my method. I think this is one of those case-by-case things. My hunch is that those who tend toward greasy hair (like me) the baking soda is great, but those who don’t may be more at risk of the damage. Baking soda does a great job of busting the grease, and for some it may be overkill. This is corroborated by this doc in the No-Poo Facebook group.

Q 10. Are there no-poo alternatives to baking soda and vinegar?
A. Yes! There are tons! If you don’t want to use the baking soda + vinegar method, there are tons of other things to try. In the facebook group, I’ve seen people talk about experimenting with all sorts of things: castile soap, kombucha, coffee, egg, honey, tea, clay (rhassoul and bentonite), lemon juice, and more.


Photo credit: D. Sharon Pruitt via Flickr CC

Q 11. What about using… nothing but water?
A. Yep, this is a legit method that many people use! Lots of folks transition to this after using other no-poo methods for a while. Remember that shampoo wasn’t invented until very recent history, and people managed to stay clean. A basic soap and water was sufficient for centuries, and it still does the trick today.

Q 12. Is there a middle-ground between conventional shampoos and no-pooing?
A. I’m glad you asked! There totally is some middle ground. If you totally don’t want to try out the no-poo method, you could always try “low-poo”, which is a term used by no-pooers to describe some shampoo/soap options that do not contain the toxic chemicals that conventional shampoos have.

There are lots of options, but the easiest way to find out if something is “low-poo” is to check the ingredients. Some of the biggest red-flag ingredients that I avoid are:

– Sodium Laurel (or Laureth) Sulfate
– Silicones
– Parabens
– Sulfates
– Fragrances

There is also a doc in the facebook group with tons of info on low-poo alternatives.

Q 13. I feel like my hair is getting greasy every month around the same time… could it be…?
A. Yes, your hormones affect every part of your body, and many women report that they find their hair to be greasier in the days leading up to menstruation.

It makes sense, right? Everyone knows that women struggle with acne breakouts around that same time. Well, our hair is affected as well. Just use some extra DIY dry shampoo and things will calm down soon. Don’t freak out and think that no-pooing is suddenly not working for you, as I did. Ahem.

Q 14. What if I have especially hard water or soft water?
A. Different water types can make finding your no-poo groove challenging, but it can be done! I haven’t yet dealt with these situations personally, but many in the No-Poo Facebook group have, and they have the resources you need to figure out a solution that works for you.

Q 15. How long do I have to try this for to see if it works?
A. Please don’t be that person that washes once or twice with BS+ACV and then declares that no-pooing “doesn’t work for them”. It takes patience and a bit of sacrifice at first.

Like I said in How to Get Started with the No-Poo Hair Care Method, the transition period was drastically shortened once I bit the bullet and endured a longer time of greasy hair. Once you hit that hard reset button on your scalp’s oil producing cues, it really gets you through it quickly instead of dragging it out for months.

I would say to try it for 8 weeks, and if you see no improvement in the transition period, try something else. Start troubleshooting at 4 weeks if you see zero improvement (assuming you are going 4+ days between washes!)

Q 16. What’s your long-term plan?
A. I’d really love to get to the point where I am using water-only. My own daughter (she’s almost 4) has only ever washed her hair with water, for the most part. Technically, we use bathtub water which has about a tablespoon of castile soap (for the whole tub), but it’s so diluted that it still counts as water-only, in my un-official opinion. I really think that water-only is the most practical, simple, and least high-maintenance solution, and I’d love to finally get there.

Q. 17. What happens if you use shampoo during your no-poo journey?
A. I actually did this – when my life was topsy-turvy in March and April this past spring, I used shampoo one day when I was literally too stressed out one morning to rush downstairs and refill my vinegar and baking soda. Instead, I used my old shampoo, which was a low-poo, organic, natural one. I went back to BS+DWV no-pooing 4 days later, and it made no discernible difference.

Now, if you are going to use your regular ol’ toxic ingredient shampoo, especially in the middle of your transition period (a critical time!), then I would suspect it may be more of a setback.

Q. 18. Can I still use styling products?
A. You can if you really want to, but they usually contain not-awesome ingredients… and they contribute to a ton of build-up that you’ll have to get out every time. It would make things pretty high-maintenance. There are lots of recipes out there for DIY hair products made from natural ingredients – I would start there.


Resources for further help:

No-Poo & Low-Poo Hair Care Group on Facebook (with almost 10K members! Super helpful!)


The Ultimate No-Poo Troubleshooting Guide by Almost Exactly

No-Poo Update: Some Additional Tips for Going Shampoo-Free by Becoming Peculiar

I'm Beth. I created Red & Honey because I'm obsessed with the wild art of wellness.

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  1. Daryl says

    Hi I have been no poo for nearly a year. i didn’t dare tell anyone at first in case of -well you know…. anyway I started with baking soda and rinsing with ASV. I had also stopped dying my hair which was dying it out soo much. It’s now natural pepper and salt. I believe it’s all in the brushing. 100 strokes a day. it spreads the oil right to the ends and the roots don’t seem greasy any more. I wash with water once a week or more often if I’m sweaty. Brush 100 strokes first then massage well under the shower. No split ends and no grease.

  2. Alexis Loomis says

    Hi everyone! I have finally decided to try to go shampoo free! However, I am not sure if am doing it right? I have been using a simple baking soda and tea tree oil and water mixture, thinking that would keep my hair grease free. I have only washed my hair three times with it, yet my hair is SOO greasy already! I’m talkin like it doesn’t even blow in the wind greasy. Is my hair already going through the transition period, or is the no-poo method just not meant for my hair?

  3. VibeRadiant says

    I went no-poo May 2 2015. Despite using baking soda to wash my hair, it feels like it is greasy. When I run my fingers through it when it’s dry, it feels like running my fingers through long dog hair, not silky but not oily. ACV isn’t conditioning it at all. I cannot run a wide tooth comb through my hair when it is wet, and when it is dry, my hair looks dull and like hay. I’ve added coconut oil to the ends but it is still very dry.
    However, it holds a curl better than before, it looks textured and the curls are well defined. But I don’t want to have to use extreme heat to tame my hair and make it look sleek.
    Any advice?

  4. Elvira says

    Thanks for the post! Super helpful 😀
    I’ve bought all my ingredients and am wondering: Can I do a large batch of BS + water and put it in a large spray bottle and the same with the ACV + Water? Or do I need to mix them up each time before I shower? You da bomb girl.

  5. Erin says

    Radiantly You makes 2 awesome shampoo bars with Expeller-Pressed Coconut Oil*, Sustainably Harvested Palm Oil, Castor Oil, Pomace (Olive Oil), Tea Tree Essential Oil and Expeller-Pressed Coconut Oil*, Sustainably Harvested Palm Oil, Castor Oil, Pomace (Olive Oil), Mango Coconut Fragrance Oil *Certified Organic. You can check them out here http://www.radiantlyyou.com/ErinRF

  6. Jamael says

    Because of your post, I am a no-poo believer! I am always looking for environmentally friendly (and preferably hassle-free) personal hygiene ideas. I will always give something a fair shot at least once. I already go 4-5 days before I need to shampoo, so I felt ready to start no-pooing! Today was the first day I tried it, but was reluctant because I didn’t feel like I understood it enough to do it right and make it my own yet. I used a baking soda and water pasty mixture that was really only enough for my scalp, waited about a minute, then rinsed with water, then did a DWV + Lemon Juice + Water mixture (maybe 1 tbsp, 1 tbsp, 2.5 cups respectively), waited about 2 minutes and rinsed with water again. The vinegar mixture made me gag. I’m hoping I can either get used to it or use something else (maybe just lemon juice and water?) and I’m hoping my hair doesn’t smell like vinegar in the end. My hair is long and wavy, I always let it air dry and throw it in a ponytail, and it’s usually pretty dry. What other mixtures or proportions should I consider with no-pooing?

  7. says

    Great questions and answers! I tried an egg yolk wash with a coffee rinse – holy snikey! It was AMAZING! It’s been 5 days since I washed and even with my BS wash, 5 days was my max before I had to do a no poo wash! I’m dropping BS for clay, it’s drying my hair out too much :0( Glad it’s still working for you!

  8. Traci says

    Hi Beth,

    I’m seeing this idea of ditching traditional shampoos for the baking soda and cider a lot out there, but can’t help but feel conflicted, if not wary about the idea. I’ve begun making my own skin care products and have find myself digging deeper into ingredients’ properties, uses and the chemical properties and reactions of baking soda/water/cider allegedly create a ph nightmare for hair over the long haul.

    Check out this video (one of many sources explaining chemical properties of baking soda and cider)


    • says

      Hi Traci, besides the obvious conflict of interest in that video (made by the CEO of a beauty products company), I disagree with her claims. The amount of Co2 released by a tiny bit of baking soda and vinegar combining is not an environmental concern. Choosing to frame it like that was not an accurate depiction of no-pooing at all. Also, she admitted herself in the comments that one way to make no-pooing work well without damaging your hair is to use plenty of water. Which is why people do it in the *shower*. Personally, I have no concerns about damaging my hair. I had heard that claim but hadn’t fully looked into it. Now that I’ve watched this video and read up a bit more, I’m even MORE confident in my method. Thanks for the comment!

  9. says

    I’ve been doing this for almost six years now. I love it! No long-term damage here. I started using vinegar for conditioner with regular shampoo and then just used the baking soda when that last bottle of shampoo ran out.
    I never had any transition time. It worked great from the first try.
    I occasionally use shampoo (traveling) and never have trouble going from one to another.
    I love how long I can go between washings.
    I have super thick kinda wavy usually really long hair. It used to be SO tangled with shampoo and conditioners, but not any more.

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