In January of 2014, I declared my intention to quit shampoo for a month. It was an experiment in the practice of no-‘poo hair care (using non-shampoo means of cleaning your hair) .
If you’ve been a long-time reader, you might remember the updates that I posted a few times throughout the year. Here they are again:
I Haven’t Shampooed My Hair in 4 Months (No-Poo Update)
How to Get Started With the No-Poo Hair Care Method
“No-Poo” FAQ’s, Resources, and Tips
DIY All-Natural Dry Shampoo (Two Ingredients!)
How 9 months of no-‘poo success came to a crashing end
Everything was going great for the longest time, until it all came to a screeching halt in November last year.
I had been using the baking soda + ACV method exclusively for over nine months, and was 100% thrilled with it. I even got a trim at the hairdresser somewhere around the six or seven month mark, and the hairdresser commented that I didn’t have a single split end!
Then in November, we accompanied the hubs on a work trip and spent 2 days in Niagara Falls at a hotel with an indoor waterpark. It was a whirlwind of a trip, and I was going 4 days between washes anyway… so I waited to wash my hair until we got home. My hair was a total mess of smelly chlorine, so I decided to wash my hair once with the natural shampoo that I had kept from before my no-poo adventure.
For whatever reason, that weekend was a turning point in my no-‘poo method.
I went back to baking soda and ACV briefly, but from that point onward I began to notice split ends everywhere. My hair went from shiny and healthy to broken and frizzy. I could hold up a section of hair and see literally dozens of broken, split ends. It was so disheartening!
It appeared to be so healthy and strong for that entire first nine months – I had absolutely zero indication that anything was wrong. But after that weekend, it was game over.
The only thing that I could figure was that the chlorine had really done a number on it, and had damaged it beyond repair. After thinking about it some more, I now think that it’s most likely that the baking soda and ACV routine had been gradually weakening my hair over time, and the weekend of chlorine was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I stopped using the baking soda and AVC right away, but the damage just continued like a chain reaction. After a few months I went to the hair dresser and had about 4 inches cut off. That was in January, and I’ve been using a “low-‘poo” (low-poo = shampoo product without certain harmful ingredients) shampoo ever since, and the damage seems to have stopped.
Why I’m actually not all that surprised
I knew before going in that some people experienced damage to their hair with the baking soda method. I read the posts like this one from Empowered Sustenance that talked about the lack of PH balance in the method, and how bad it is. I heard plenty of others saying how it had damaged their hair.
And yet I also knew that some people had used this method for years successfully, and since I’m not a fan of generalizing when it comes to our health and our bodies, I figured there was no way to find out if it worked for me other than to try it for myself.
I don’t regret trying it. Not at all. Obviously, the baking soda and vinegar method is too harsh for my hair, but I don’t regret detoxing from shampoo (conventional or natural) for a period of time. And I don’t regret not having to buy shampoo for almost a year – that part was pretty awesome.
Where I’m going from here
As I mentioned in this post, there are plenty of middle ground options when it comes to alternate methods of cleaning your hair. I am now using a ‘low-poo’ shampoo and conditioner, but want to continue to experiment with some more frugal options.
The main ingredients that I avoid are:
I will be publishing a post soon about how to decipher the back of your shampoo bottle, but for now – those ingredients are relatively easy to tuck away in your mind for when you’re standing in the aisle at the store in front of the eleventy-billion shampoo and conditioner options. These all equal an automatic no for me.
If nothing else, this whole experiment has taught me to be bold in trying new things, even if you’ve always done it a certain way. It’s just hair. Greasy transition periods as you adjust to new methods or split ends as you realize a method fail are par for the course… and besides – those things are much less detrimental to your health than the toxic chemicals found in conventional shampoos.
There are so many options out there for cleaning your hair without resorting to toxic shampoos. Embrace the ride and get crackin’ on finding out what works for you!
I’m so sorry that happened to you! I’ve been transitioning to a non toxic zero waste beauty care routine and it’s been quite the experiment. What I’ve been using that really seems to work is this company called plaine products. I think there are other companies like this luxe refill is another one but I really like the ingredients in plaine products. I feel good about not putting chemicals in my hair and I love that they have a closed loop refill system so I’m not creating waste. As for the dry shampoo I really haven’t found a solution yet. The arrow root powder does not agree with my hair and causes it to break and get horribly tangled and static. I’ve been reading into acv and water to refresh but I do wonder if that slowly breaks down the hair. I’m at a point where it’s scary to try something that will break my hair.
I’ve used baking soda and vinegar for 10 years. It cleared up a scalp condition and I often received compliments on how healthy my hair looked. But things started going downhill during the last year. Nothing serious – dryer hair, more static, less luster, and just not loving it anymore. I blame the baking soda more than the vinegar. But ultimately I’m looking for a change without going back to shampoo. Which is how I came across your blog! 🙂 I’m currently playing with a castile/honey concoction but worried about the high pH of the castile soap. I recently used an egg yolk to combat my current transitional greasy hair – it worked beautifully but I don’t see it as a regular option. I’m enjoying ideas from bloggers and commenters as I explore the next chapter in my no-poo hair journey.
Have you considered Reetha and Shikakai? These are wonderful gentle cleansers that have been used for millennia in India.
I like washing my hair once a week with an egg/yogurt mixture. The egg really helps with oily hair! I beat one egg with some yogurt apply it to my hair. I leave it on for about half an hour and rinse with cool water. My hair is super soft afterwords. I seem to have lots more volume too 🙂
I’m going to try that! Thanks! -Andrea, R&H Assistant
Your nine month experiment reads like a clarifying shampoo I use by Avalon organics. I use it every one or two weeks. Every time I use it my hair is as clean as a whistle. Once a week is all my hair needs for clarifying shampoo.
Mrs. Linda Jean Hawkins
It has been many years since I’ve had dandruff or split ends. The cheapest shampoo at the discount store has no “bad” ingredients, but I still pour 1/2 of it in another bottle and fill both with water. I wash once a week and color twice a year because the cheapest ten minute hair dye I get off the shelf seems to last almost that long.
I bet that leaving chlorine in was the culprit. You really have to wash chlorine out of your hair thoroughly and ASAP, not wait until you get home. I had the same experience years ago, ruined hair because we got home late and I wasn’t able to wash my hair until the morning after. If you really aren’t able to wash it ASAP, at least avoid any styling or combing.
I am surprised no one has mentioned Ava Anderson Nontoxic products. They are 100percent natural and clean hair wonderfully !
Can you give the name of some “low poo” products? I went to Whole Foods but am having difficulty finding a product that doesn’t contain one of the forbidden four you listed. Thanks!
Sally beauty supply sells one called hair one. I don’t remember all the ingredients but I remember it didn’t foam up like regular shampoo. Right now I’m using one by doTERRA and it leaves my hair so soft.
I have to agree with the corn starch as dry shampoo. If you are looking for a natural option what about washing with a bit of Dr Bronner’s then using a tiny bit of coconut or olive oil as a leave in conditioner?
I’m sorry to hear that not everyone has had the positive experience that I have had! This month is my 2 year anniversary from just using baking soda and water (not even ACV) and my hair and scalp have never been healthier. My hair dresser just commented last week how amazed she is that this works. I also stopped coloring my hair at about the same time and have totally gone natural and I am so glad that I did. Be sure that you are properly hydrated and have a nice variety of nuts in your diet and your hair will be healthy from the inside out. 🙂
I’m surprised that you stuck with it that long using only vinegar and baking soda…I heard that most no poo-ers quickly go from that to more nourishing ingredients. My hair and scalp became so unmanageable that I had nothing to loose from going no poo. I had terribly oily hair and horribly itchy dry scalp and dandruff. I started with acv and baking soda and stopped after I found gentler options. I now wash with egg yolk (it’s emollient so it is the shampoo and conditioner in one) and some times do a bentonite clay mask followed by a coconut oil treatment. After a few months of this my hair is shiny and soft thought my scalp is still dry and itchy. at least I can go 4 days without washing now though and my hair isn’t stripped dry. I’m also using essential oils for the itching, which helps but I still have dandruff.
I use a melaleuca oil for the eczema in my scalp.
I tried the “no poo” method before but with no luck. This post makes me want to give it a shot again, though! Maybe if I adjust some things and do it a little differently it can work. I have heard so many success stories, just like yours, that I find it hard to believe that it wouldn’t work for me. I must have done something wrong! Thanks for sharing, I think I’m going to try again.
I use a combination of no poo, low poo and regular poo depending on my mood really. I prefer Cake Hair and Body Powder for lighter shades for no poo. It is tinted, has a really mild perfume and lasts forever. I shampoo my hair about twice a week. As for the brands I use, they totally vary because a hair dresser told me that using any one brand consistently would result in build up. I like Alba Hawaiian shampoo and conditioner mostly because of the smell! I also use L’Oréal sometimes or Philosophy Shampoo, shower gel and bubble bath (three products in one) because I love the smell and it does such a good job on all three counts. My hair went through a dry spell and during that time I used mayonnaise as a hair mask, which works awesome, and I used conditioner made with Aloe Vera, an egg and Rum. It’s a recipe from a book but I saw it on line once. Try go googling Dessert Wonder Conditioner I found eventually it left a residue, but at first it left my hair super soft.
Hi! First time to your blog. I tried the baking soda/ACV thing for a few months. Some time after that I noticed my hair was damaged and got it cut short. it was weird because I didn’t do a lot of heat styling. I never put two and two together but maybe there’s a connection. . . . Since then I try to use shampoo w/o all the bad stuff you mentioned (I like Acure, which is now available at Target). And I stretch out the time between shampoos as much as possible. I can usually go at least 3 days.
On another note, I noticed a lot of hair loss around a year ago, even though I wasn’t post-partum. I started taking Floradix (iron supplement) regularly and *instantly* the hair started growing back and I had less hair loss. Even now, if I slack off on the Floradix for a few days, I notice more hairs coming out in the shower. Just thought I’d throw that out there for anyone who may be interested.
Hello! Well, it sort of seems like you are happy with where you are at now, but I still thought I’d share my own routine! I have been No Poo for three years now but only recently have I been increidbly happy with my hair. The difference has been involving much more nourishing elements to my hair care – ie using oils and avocados every so often. I have seen a massive break through, using a six weekly rhythm.
Good luck! x x
Rebekah from Simply Rebekah
I have often been tempted to try going no-poo, but I’ve heard that hard water (which we have) makes it especially difficult to figure out the perfect ratio. Hearing your story is the nail in the coffin for me. I’m officially giving up any dreams of being a no-poo girl. (And honestly, it is a bit refreshing. Ya just can’t do it all, right?)
Both my sister and I have done bs and acv for about 3 yrs now and it works great for us. Definitely a minority that can stay with those basics and not have to try something else! My hair is waaaay nicer now. I have thick wavy hair and it used to be horrifically frizzy too.
So glad it’s worked well for you, Kate!
Right now, I’m a little over a month in to my second ‘no poo’ attempt. For my first attempt, I did the baking soda and ACV program, and ended up at a dermatologist a few months later when my scalp was so irritated that it constantly itched and flaked.
This round, I decided to try alternatives. I’ve tried diluted honey, lemon juice, aloe, bentonite clay and egg, all with varying levels of success. With most of these it’s not my hair that’s the issue… it’s my scalp. It’s still producing quite a bit of oil and making my hair look pretty horrible. I’m chalking this up to the transition phase as it’s slowly starting to get better.
I’m currently cleaning my scalp/hair with a mix of aloe vera gel, bentonite clay, water and ACV that I blend. It ends up as a creamy jelly-like paste that is easy to smear on (as opposed to pour on).
I’ve noticed that my hair on day 2 after washing is MUCH easier to deal with than the day that I wash. Before doing no-poo, I had to wash my hair every single day or it was a horrible greasy mess. I’m hoping to continue spreading out my washes a little more bit by bit as my scalp adjusts.
Wow, Jenna! I’m impressed by how dedicated you are to figuring out the right combination for your hair. Thanks for sharing what all you’ve tried. Hope your latest efforts pay off!
I pretty much came to the conclusion around 8 months that anything baking soda or flour based was completely killing my hair. I’ve since given up on no poo because of our hard water, and even some low Poo is a nightmare. I can use alaffia for a while, but then it just builds up in my hair and I have to do something to strip it out. If I could use an egg wash every time I would be in heaven! But alas, I cannot. So I use Aubrey organics swimmers shampoo and conditioner – not my first choice but the only option for now with this darn hard water!
I usually wash my scalp (not my hair!) once a week with very low poo. The other hair-washing per week I rotate between the low poo, egg white, the herbal hair mask from bulk herb store (http://www.bulkherbstore.com/Beautiful-Hair-Blonde), BS /ACV, and random other stuff. It depends on what my hair feels like it needs at that point in time. Corn starch is a wonderful dry shampoo to take care of any greasy areas that come up in between. I did allow my hairstylist to wash my hair twice with whatever junk they use at the salon, and was pleasantly surprised that my hair didn’t revert to its transitional greasiness.
Thanks for sharing what works for you, Jacqueline!