How to Get Started With the No-Poo Hair Care Method

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In January of this year, I declared my intention to quit shampoo for a month and experiment with the no-poo hair care method. I ditched the shampoo bottle like a boss, and I went all crazy hippie on you.

Pfffffffft. Okay, total and complete lies, yes. I already went all cray-cray on you a good long while ago. You know that, I know that. We can’t have the Circle of Trust unless we’re honest with one another, so let’s ‘fess our crunchy ways one to another, amen?

Earlier this week I shared a little update on how the no-poo thing is going, four months later. (Spoiler alert: I don’t smell like a dirty hippie.) I promised you a detailed low-down on how exactly to get started with no-pooing, and that’s exactly what you’re gonna get today.

Step One: On the first day, wash your hair with shampoo. While in the shower, say your last goodbyes to your shampoo and conditioner bottles. Have a moment of silence if you wish. Or, laugh maniacally and say “toxic body care industry and lying scumbag marketing departments: ZERO, me + nature: ONE. MUAHAHAHAHAHAAHA.”

Okay, okay. Serious Face on now. Here’s the 411. (Do people still say that? I’m kind of stuck in the 90’s. Apologies.) Note: there are lots of ways to approach the no-poo method. These are my personal recommendations.

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The How-To:

Before You Begin…

  • For an easier transition, start by stretching out your washes while still using shampoo. The ultimate goal in the transition stage will be to train your scalp to slow down its prolific oil production. It is producing oil like crazy because commercial shampoos strip every last bit of natural oil away, which then causes the scalp to overcompensate with more. If you can train your head to go longer between shampooing, your no-poo transition will likely be easier.
  • Once you are using shampoo as minimally as you can without getting fired from your job or shunned by society, it’s time to take the plunge.
  • If you’re nervous, decide on a day ahead of time. I chose February 1 to be my last shampooing (that’s the day I could get to the stylist for a last trim so my hair was healthy and ready).
  • Get two containers to use in the shower. I use two of these small jelly canning jars simply because that’s what I used to take my baking soda and vinegar with me when I recently went away overnight. They just sit in my shower, and I add the baking soda and vinegar each time. I use roughly 1 – 2 tablespoons (I don’t measure – I just glug it out. That’s the technical term, obvs).
  • Get a box of baking soda and some vinegar to keep in your bathroom, to make things easier. You don’t want to be running through your house, naked, between your bathroom, laundry room (vinegar), and kitchen (baking soda), every time you go to step into the shower and realize you forgot to grab your supplies… again. (This is purely a speculative and fictional situation. This definitely has not happened to me. Nope. Not me.)

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In the Shower…

  • On the next day that you are due for a wash, instead of shampooing, use baking soda and vinegar instead.
  • When you’re in the shower, wet your hair thoroughly. Use your fingertips to tousle your hair to get it ready. Try to get it tousled up a little and not slicked onto your head – this will make it easier to get the baking soda mixture distributed throughout.
  • Add a bit of water to your baking soda and stir it up with your finger. How much water you add is up to you. Some people like just a tiny bit of water to make a watery paste. Some people add lots of water and even use a spray bottle instead of a cup or dish. Generally, the greasier your hair tends to be, the more paste-like and concentrated you want your baking soda. Like I said in my update post last week, I tend to get greasy hair really easily, so I go with less water. I wind up with about a third of a cup or so to pour on my head.
  • Slowly pour it onto your scalp, mainly around the crown area, and on the back of your scalp. Use your fingers to tousle and distribute while you pour (FYI, it does hurt if it goes in your eyes… be careful!)
  • When you’re done pouring, use both hands to finger-massage your scalp vigorously. Try to get every inch of your scalp, especially around the areas that get the greasiest. Do this for 1-2 minutes. Often you will feel a distinctive slippery feeling in your hair after a few minutes. You know that it’s good and clean for sure at that point.
  •  Rinse thoroughly, again using your fingertips to tousle your hair and make sure every last bit gets rinsed.
  • Next, add water to your vinegar to dilute it. How much you dilute is up to you. I am actually planning to get a spray bottle and make mine much more diluted than what I can do in a 4oz jelly jar. I recommend diluting by half, minimum.
  • Pour into your hair and work it with your fingers. Many no-poo’ers advise that you must pour it right over your scalp, but some agree that it’s okay to just use it from the neck down. I use it from the neck down only – I gather my hair in my hand and pour it over the “ponytail” part. I have tried using it on my scalp as well, but it made my hair way too greasy. Your mileage will vary.
  • Rinse the vinegar out well by vigorously working your fingertips throughout your scalp and length.
  • You’re done! I air dry my hair for the most part, but you can use a blow dryer and/or straightener if desired. A boar bristle brush is recommended, but not strictly necessary (I’ve been meaning to get one for ages now, but haven’t yet. I use my regular hairbrush).

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Continuing On…

  • At first, your hair will rebel. It will get greasy at the usual time (or sooner) and you’ll want to wash it. Resist the urge to wash at the same frequency as before, even if you’re using baking soda and vinegar. Your scalp will just continue to produce oil at that same rate, and you’ll never reap the reward of being able to go 4+ days between washes with awesome hair.
  • The longer you stretch it out, the faster transition will be over. When I started no-pooing, I was washing with BS+ACV every 2-3 days, and I was stuck in perpetual transition. Then I was advised to bite the bullet and stretch it out as long as I could stand it. I went five days before the next wash, with lots of DIY dry shampoo in the last few days, and that was the magic bullet. One more stretch of 4 days after that, and transition was done.
  • Once the transition period is finished and you are getting a solid 3+ days of awesome hair, you need to find your own sweet spot. Some people can get a full week or more before needing a wash. Some people (like me) who tend toward greasiness do only 4 days. And some people even move on to water-only. You can experiment to find what’s best for you.

Note: The entire process only takes a couple of minutes in the shower… don’t be intimidated by that big bunch o’ words up there. I’m just a very verbose writer with a tendency to over-explain. Also: I needed some serious hand-holding before diving in myself, so this is for my fellow control freaks conscientious peeps.

In Wednesday’s post I will talk a bit about troubleshooting, and I’ll point you to some resources that will be invaluable in your no-pooing journey.

I know I said I was going to include FAQs with this post, but because I’m skilled in the art of clarity but seriously lacking in brevity, I used up all of my words for today. Blog readers are like goldfish, I’m told, with short attention spans, so you’re probably not even reading this anymore. You’re probably playing Farmville or creeping on Facebook friends from high school or taking a quiz to find out which Pride & Predjudice character you are. That’s okay. I cut the amazing FAQs that I wrote and tossed them into a new post, which shall arrive in your inbox on Wednesday.

Until then, peeps! Over and out.

If you’ve never tried no-pooing, what’s holding you back?

Are you brave enough to try ditching the shampoo in favour of a more natural method? It's better for the planet, your wallet, and your hair! Find out more on www.redandhoney.com.

Note: apple cider vinegar image via Flickr CC


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

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Comments

  1. says

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  2. Jenny Yaxley says

    I can highly recommend this. I’ve been doing it about 7-8 months now. I had an ‘easier’ start though as I shaved my (long) hair off to support my sister going through chemo and to raise funds. This obviously helped as I didn’t have to deal with to much grease as I’d just wash my head with warm water in the shower. It was about 4 months till I needed to use vinegar and baking soda. I now can just about stretch to a week. Actually the shaving of my head was quite liberating so although extreme I’d recommend it! My sister is doing really well now, am very proud of her. Xxx

  3. Joelle says

    Hi! I currently have problems with my scalp specifically dandruff and dry & itchy scalp. I tried almost all anti-dandruff shampoos in the market. But despite all these regimens, I ended up thinning my hair, had severe hair loss and I just couldn’t 100% remove the dandruff. I wanted to give up and just live with it but then I came across with this “No poo” method recently and I wanted to give it a try. I started today with mixing baking soda with water, same goes with the apple cider vinegar. I noticed that my hair is getting a little bit greasy, it is normal right?

    Any advice for a beginner? How long until I can wash my hair again? Btw, I do workout everyday so what alternative can I do to clean my hair? Can I rinse it with just water?

    Thank you very much and hope to hear for you soon!

    Best regards!

  4. says

    Beth, thank you for these posts! I’ve been poking around at different techniques for the last few days and this one seems the most informative and helpful. (I’m one of those people who needs step-by-step instructions, at least initially!) I can’t wait to see the other DIY products you’ve discovered!

  5. SG says

    I invested in a boar bristle brush for this adventure (I’m doing Water Only, because my mom won’t let me into the kitchen. Even though we have moderately hard water, WO is actually going better than I thought.), but after I cleaned my brush with shampoo it started stinking like wet pig. I couldn’t bear the smell, so I sprayed my mom’s heavily scented perfume on it, but I’m still afraid the pig smell will give off and get into my hair, so I’m reluctant to have my brush near my hair. Any ideas to battle this smelly problem?

  6. says

    Hey! I’ve been doing the “No-poo” for a while, and it’s been going great!! I absolutely Love it! But recently I’ve had split ends, and I saw how to repair split ends with hot olive oil. But I thought hot was not good for your hair? Do you have any tips for repairing split ends naturally? -Rebekah

  7. Bethany says

    I second Lottie’s questions about cheating. What happens if I’m on a trip and have to borrow shampoo from someone or something? Does that mess everything up? I’ve also been intrigued for a while, and the money saving aspect may just be enough to get me going, but I guess what’s stopped me is wondering if there’s no going back? And also the handholding you mentioned, so I appreciated the detailed post! Thanks!

  8. Michele Mangan says

    Thanks for the update!! I’ve been pondering this and have been on the verge for a while now… guess I just needed a few more posts to push me over the ledge. I am blessed to have hair that for its length and wavyiness is amazingly low maintainence. It’s never terrible oily or dry (though I find at time my scalp to feel a little itchy) and I can usually go several days without washing it easily. I’m hoping that it will make the transition less painful!!! Lol. I second the question about rinsing in between BS/ACV washes. Yay or Nay? The ultimate goal is to eventually get to just water washes if possible right?

  9. Lottie says

    Thanks SO MUCH for this post – I appreciate all the details and over-explaining :) as I am considering going no-poo but as of yet have not gone for it, as I am nervous about the transition time. Another question I have always wondered about and never seen answered is this… if I go no-poo successfully, what happens if I then use regular shampoo the odd time? am I back to square one? Does it undo all the hard work? if I get a shampoo at the hairdressers or use the freebies at a hotel or borrow a friends shampoo in a pinch while camping or after hot yoga will I have to start over? or is an occasional cheat OK? I’d love to know this! Because… life happens, right? The other question i have is… I still want to shower every morning and the humid ontario summer is fast approaching, so, if I want to just freshen up my head/hair/scalp is it OK to just rinse my hair out with water while showering for that clean feeling, or will that interfere with the transition etc?? I hope you don’t mind all the questions! Thanks! Lottie :)

  10. Katherine says

    Excellent post. I am actually just starting in the process of trying to shampoo less frequently by recommendation of my hairdresser and hasn’t heard of the no shampoo at all method, but you’ve got my interest peaked. Do you find that your hair smells like vinegar? Would putting essential oil on my hair help it to still smell good? I love the smell of freshly shampooed hair…

  11. says

    Great post! I have been going no-poo a little less time than you, since April. I experienced nearly no transition because I was already only shampooing my hair every 4 days. That was a huge help. I had tried going no-poo twice in the past, but I hadn’t found a method that seemed to clean my hair. I had been trying baking soda+water solutions, but now I use dry baking soda in my hands and massage it into my scalp. Such a huge difference! I also have long hair and still only use 1 1/2 tbsp of ACV. I know you mentioned before that your hair tends to get greasy, so you may want to use a little less than 2 tbsp for yourself. I put the diluted ACV into a small cup and actually dunk my hair up to as close to my neck as I can get into the cup and let it soak. I’ve also found this to be a better method for myself. I’m glad to hear yours is going well!

    • says

      Oh, so interesting that you use the BS dry! I hadn’t heard of doing that before… but I like the idea of it! And yes, I am definitely planning to dilute my vinegar more. Thanks for the comments – glad it’s going well for you too! :)

  12. says

    I’ve been doing this for a while and love it! Can I just give a warning about glass jars in the shower– my sister recently dropped one, it shattered and pieces bounced and I had o take her to Urgent care for 7 stitches. Not worth the risk!

    • says

      YIKES! That’s definitely an important point, and I hadn’t thought it breaking, but I am totally going to heed your advice and find another container to use. Thanks! :)

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