Going No ‘Poo: Yea Or Nay?

No ‘Poo. It’s a term I’ve heard quite a bit on the internet — and one that’s always intrigued me, although I’ve never mustered up the courage to try it myself… until now. Maybe.

For those who are new to the term, “no ‘poo” refers to different methods of washing hair without any commercial products whatsoever. Now, I’ve tried things like apple cider vinegar rinses and homemade coconut shampoo and conditioner, but I’ve never actually given up store-bought shampoos and conditioners. With the new year already here, I’m all about trying new things, so I must ask you: Should I go no ‘poo? I’d love to hear any thoughts, tips, and experiences from those of you who have done it! I want to hear everything – whether good or bad!

But first…

Why I want to go no ‘poo:

Why? First and foremost, no more chemicals! As much as I try using products that are as natural as possible, I haven’t been able to find any that are truly made of purely healthy ingredients – let alone ones that work for my hair. With the no ‘poo method, I’ll likely be using just baking soda and apple cider vinegar on my hair. That’s all.

Secondly, the hair benefits! From the research I’ve conducted thus far, it appears that those living the no ‘poo lifestyle are graced with quickly-growing, frizz-free, shiny hair that feels healthier than ever – and only has to be washed about once a week.

Thirdly, the cost! I have a lot of hair… it’s dry and gets tangled very easily. Because of this, I go through lots and lots of shampoo and conditioner. With the no ‘poo method, I’ll be washing my hair a lot less frequently, and I’ll be using supplies that are relatively very inexpensive. I mean, I’m all about splurging on products that make me feel good, but putting chemical-laden products directly onto my head just does not bring about good feelings to me!

No 'poo shampoo and conditioner

(The typical no ‘poo routine uses baking soda for shampoo and apple cider vinegar for conditioner, both mixed with water.)

What’s holding me back:

Two things. First of all, I’ve heard all about the dreaded adjustment period. This is the period of time when your hair is getting used to these new methods and kind of, for lack of a better phrase, goes buck wild. Your hair is no longer being stripped of its natural oils, but it takes a bit of time for your scalp to adjust to this. So for a time that could last anywhere from a few days to a few months, you’ll be dealing with hair that’s pretty darn oily. So oily, in fact, that many people give up during this phase because they just can’t take it.

Secondly, I’ve also read accounts from people who have gotten past the adjustment period, found themselves loving being no ‘poo for a few months, and then – BAM — the scalp gets itchy and flaky, the hair becomes dry and brittle… it’s as if the hair has done a  complete 180. Supposedly, the baking soda may be what’s to blame for this adverse reaction. This frightens me.

Red hair, dried flowers

So, that’s why I’m coming to you all for advice! If you’ve tried the no ‘poo method, please share your experience below! Let us know the type of hair you have… how long it took you to adjust (if you made it that far)… how long you’ve been living the no ‘poo life… or what made you stop. Please, spill it all. Discuss!

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9 years ago

Hmmm…very interesting. I have actually never heard of this. Not sure I could give up my pretty smelling shampoo…


9 years ago

I have never tried it but the no-chemical route intrigues me. I have the same things holding me back too…I don’t know if I could get thru a period of time with oily hair. Once I switched to a sulfate-free shampoo I saw a totally new side of my hair and I think thats the route I’m going to go.
I use Davines products, that I discovered through my BirchBox. Right now I am using the Love Smoothing Shampoo & Conditioner. Although I totally fell in love with the product for the way it makes my hair feel…I truly love the fact that it stays clean for 2-3 days with no signs of becoming oily or yucky.

9 years ago

I’ve never heard of using baking soda and I’m a little weary of the vinegar! But! I have a friend who makes her own shampoo that I haven’t yet tried but would love to. She used castille soap, and “essential oils” (whatever that means) including jojoba oil for conditioning!
Happy no-pooing!

9 years ago

I’ve never tried this, but hey why not! You can always switch back. I only shampoo once a week, but I condition every other day. You should definitely give the no ‘poo method a try, why not! If your hair gets dry, just moisturize with coconut oil! If it’s oily, use white rice powder to absorb it during the day!

xo, Juliette Laura

9 years ago

i love the idea of going ‘no poo”….and actually did this for a little while. i switched back to “healthy” products simply for the convenience factor and go back and forth.
my reason for switching was to cut down on my plastic use…..after seeing beth terry (author of PLASTIC FREE), at a presentation at UNCW, i realized i needed to make some changes in my plastic footprint.
there are other recipes for shampoo that you can make yourself and also shampoo bars….i would look into all the options before settling on baking soda and vinegar, although those two did work for me. your hair does NOT smell like vinegar, i promise :)
good luck~

9 years ago

I have been no ‘poo for 7 months now, and I love it. I’ve saved money and helped my hair become naturally healthy- and thicker! My adjustment period wasn’t too long, but I had trained it for a while to only need washing 2-3x a week. Looking up dry shampoo recipes and adding essential oils on off days help add texture and smell- also, not your mamas dry shampoo is my favorite for a quick fix!

9 years ago

I tried to go no poo and could not make it through the adjustment period! My hair became so greasy it looked like it was wet.. all the time. I only used baking soda and ACV. I couldn’t take it after about two weeks. I would try it again if I had a better method!

9 years ago

I did the no poo thing for about 9 months, and it wasn’t the best experience. I washed with baking soda, and rinsed with apple cider vinegar. It completely dried out my hair and especially dried my scalp. Plus, I smelled like vinegar after each time using it. It was also a big hassel for me to mix the ingredients every time I wanted to wash my hair. Some people have good experiences with it, but mine, not so much. I love the idea of using safe ingredients in body care products, but I now I use “Kiss My Face” shampoo and conditioner. Much better.

9 years ago

I tried no-poo for a while using only baking soda and apple cider vinegar, then i switched to something called co-washing. It is only washing your hair with conditioner, and I’ve been doing it for about 2 years now. It is especially popular for people with curly or thick hair like myself. Depending on what conditioner you use, it can cost you sinificantly less money as well. The conditioner I use (V05 Tea Therapy in Vanilla Mint) I buy for about 69 cents in a local store. The problem with co-washing is that you have to find a conditioner with no silicones (usually they are the ingredients ending in -ane and -one). Usually the cheapest conditioners have the least silicones, which is good news for anybody wanting to try co-washing, but there are also brands that market “cleansing conditioners” that can be pretty expensive. At any rate, I recommend always checking the ingredients. Silicones weigh down your hair and cause this gross white buildup, which I actually had problems with until I realized that silicones were the problem and I started trying out new conditioners until I found my favorite. Anyway, the co-washing ‘method’ is insanely simple, you just skip the shampoo and only use conditioner, most people recommend that you massage your scalp as if your applying a lathering shampoo. If your hair gets really oily during the transition period, you should massage your scalp with only water and apply conditioner to only the tips of your hair. Co-washing has worked better for me personally. I noticed almost all the same benefits as the no-poo method but I still get to use my great-smelling hair products. If you are still thinking about going full no-poo (i think it actually might be easier to transition to no poo by starting out with co-washing), I still recommend checking other hair products you use for harmful ingredients and silicones, because they could sabotage your whole hair routine, and make the transition period more difficult.

9 years ago

Yay for no chemicals! I’ve worked at Aveda for 6 years. Not only do we organically source from soil to bottle but the surfactants, alcohols and all ingredients are plant derived. Usually coconut or almond. Our aromas are pure flower essence. Each community around the world we partner with has been made sustainable! Give it a try! Pick up a free sample at a local store or salon. :)

9 years ago

I spend too much time at the ballet studio, so no poo did not work for me. At. All. I couldn’t do the transition, so now I use the Say Yes To brands and have gotten down to only washing 2-3/week.

9 years ago

About two months ago I decided to go no poo with my hair because I am trying to grow out a pixie cut and read that not using products with any sulfates or lots of chemicals in them could make your hair grow faster. I use to wash my hair every day with normal chemical shampoo, and now I wash it every two or three days. The only thing I use in it is diluted baking soda to substitute the shampoo. My hair never gets greasy or oily, it just gets slightly grimy sometimes. I’ve also noticed that it curls better with less frizz. Also, when I was using chemical shampoo, in the winter my scalp and hair would get dry and itchy and I would have to use conditioner every day, but now it never gets dry. This is just what works for me, but I think you should definitely try going no poo.

9 years ago

I use baking soda mixed with liquid Dr Bronners soap (tea tree in the winter, rose or lavender in the summer). I love it and it doesn’t dry out my scalp. Plus you just have to us a few drops of the soap so it’s still super cheap.

9 years ago

I have been no poo since March 2013, and it was the best decision I could have made… I have long, blonde wavy hair. I have experienced so many advantages, with only a couple disadvantages. My hair grows extremely fast now, I can go 5 days without washing it, and the longer I go without washing my hair the better it looks. The only major disadvantage I have noticed is that my hair gets tangled very fast…. this could also be happening because my hair is now down to my butt though. My hair is much healthier now, I have no damage at all. As for the adjustment period, this was what I was scared of before starting no poo but I never had any problems. Even if you do not want to go no poo for life, its a good cleanse for your hair once in a while. Another thing I definitely have noticed is that it is a lot easier to be no poo in the warm summer months…. Which I assumed would have been the opposite. My hair gets dirtier quicker in the winter… In the summer I was able to go over a week at times, now its between 4-5 days. This is just an observation though, and nothing major.

9 years ago

I have been no poo for 3 years.
Another reason it is important to me, for environmental reasons, is all the plastic bottles that I’m not using then throwing out.
My adjustment period lasted 2 weeks. I decided to start when my university teachers were on strike and I wasn’t leaving the house much.
I do notice the tips of my hair get dry at times, especially in the winter but I just do natural hair masks or use oils on the tips. Then it’s healthy again!

9 years ago

I have been “no poo” for about a year now, and I love it! I have fine, very curly hair that dries out easily. However, I have very oily skin. The hair at my scalp gets oily fast, but the rest of my hair dries out. Yet, I did not have an adjustment period, oddly enough. I use baking soda to wash, apple cider vinegar to condition, and my hair seems to love it. I have struggled with hair products for curly hair for a long time, because they are mostly made for coarse hair. With “no poo”, my hair has never looked better, or been healthier! I would definitely recommend giving it a try.

9 years ago

I went “no poo” for about two years. You really need to play around with the baking soda and ACV amounts to suit your unique hair type. If you find it’s too dry after use, use less baking soda next wash, if you find it’s too oily, then use more. However, I wouldn’t recommend it for long term hair health.

Apparently, using this method changes your hairs natural ph balance by using a base (baking soda) followed by an acid (ACV). What this means is that in the long run you are damaging your hair and actually inhibiting all of those beloved benefits you experience at first. I could get into the science of it all but a quick google search will offer you plenty of feedback and support.

My solution? For the past few months I’ve been using a honey shampoo… 1tbsp of honey mixed with half a mason jar of warm water. I found this method on pinterest, but I’m lazy to find the pin so I’ll post it later. I guess honey has a ph close to the hairs normal ph. I have a lot of wavy curly hair, and it makes it so much more shiny and lush compared to the no poo method. It smells way better too and it tastes yummy when you get it I’m your mouth lol! ! I use a wide tooth comb to brush my hair while the shampoo is in to work it through really well before rinsing. My boyfriend is using it too now and he also loves it :) but make sure you rinse well or it can become itchy and sticky when you get out… Also all shampoo routines benefit from doing a quick rinse with cool water at the end of your shower to lock up those cuticles and give it a wonderful boost of shine! No conditioner needed.

9 years ago

I have average thickness, poker straight hair about bust length, i used to wash every day to every other day until i decided this was not the way to get my hair growing healthy and producing less oil, also the use of expensive shampoo, chemical laden products and time consumed made me want to try no-poo. I started playing with different no-poo methods early last year, firstly the BS & ACV method, for about two weeks my hair was so weighed down at the roots and thick with oil i was driven back to normal shampoo, but more aware of chemicals i diluted the shampoo, about a dime sized amount, the rest filled with water in a shampoo bottle. Wanting to give it another go about 2 weeks later i started again. Before trying this you must clarify the hair with either a thick BS paste (BS + water) or a really cheap shampoo free from sulphates. After this determine your hair type and decide how strong your solution will need to be. For dryer hair less BS in mix & oilier hair more. Regardless of type you must deep condition regularly. Also water types change things a lot, this is where i decided to pick my journey back up after realizing i had ‘hard’ water, not helping my transition. For a while i boiled my water & put it into a separate bottle to rinse with, about two weeks and my hair felt amazing, one day the ‘switch’ had happened and i continued using this method for weeks. Until it become too time consuming before every time washing my hair (about once a week, but inconvenient for morning routines) boil water for BS mix + ACV mix, plus extra rinsing water. Not enjoying this routine i stopped, now using a baby shampoo, heavily diluted = less chemicals & cheaper. If you have patience and time to experiment definitely try this. This made me think completely differently about my hair. The oil has regulated regardless of not sticking with it, therefore only washing once\twice a week. Being only 17 im not too fussed for the time being, happy with ‘low-poo’, but will try it again in the future. :-)

9 years ago

I tried no poo for about 3 months. My hair is medium thickness, past my shoulder in length. For me my hair never seemed to adjust to the new cycle and was constantly oily. It got dried out, thinned, and brittle. I switched back to regular shampoos and conditioners because of this and my hair hasn’t been the same since. I use a brand called desert essence for my products. I had a very hard time with no poo and am still recovering from damage done, but I do love the idea of it still. I’ve read recently that honey could be a safer replacement for shampoo than honey would be. I may try this! Good luck if you do try.

9 years ago

I went no-conditioner for a few days with ACV. I was still using commercial shampoo. I found that when dry, my hair was way silkier with the ACV replacement. However, it SMELLS horrible while wet, stings if it gets in my eyes, and it is hard to tell what amount is best for conditioning since it is so liquid that it disperses easily from my hair. It did NOT feel like it was conditioning my hair while in the shower. my hair felt limp and stripped while treated with ACV in the shower.

In all, I did like the results, but the process was not worth it. I do it maybe once a week for super silky dry hair.

9 years ago

I’ve heard so much about the no-shampoo method but I too am scared! I’ve switched to organic shampoo and that seems to work and it has as little chemicals as possible, I believe. I recommend Original Sprout and Avalon Organics if anyone would like to check it out. :)

x Renee

9 years ago

i think it can depend heavily on your life style. I have naturally curly/wavy hair, and spend too much time being active (running, hot yoga, living in warm climate) and hence i sweat a great deal on my scalp – too much to try to manage with baking soda. in addition, as the temperature drop quite a bit, the oil production of your scalp may change. you can try going low-poo (or going with a light baby shampoo) or co-wash as a start or a step in the right direction, which is what i am doing currently. If that goes well, make the leap to no ‘poo.

9 years ago

Like you and a lot of the readers, I’ve not gone completely commercial free, but I have cut back. Maybe this will be one of my resolutions for 2014!

9 years ago

I have found a wonderful middle ground that has worked for my hair for 1.5 years now. I buy all natural bar shampoo from Etsy shops. I’m sure you can also do it yourself if you are savvy with soap making. I wash my hair with this every day just as you would with commercial shampoo, you can rub it directly into your hair for a nice lather. I need no conditioner because the natural ingredients in the shampoo bar don’t strip the hair of it’s natural oils. My hair is so much healthier after switching to this method. Before it was damaged from years of styling and coloring and now it is super soft and shiny with no changes in my styling/coloring routine. You can also find bars suited to your hair color. Chamomile and citrus are generally suited to blonde hair and lavender is suited to dark hair. There is an adjustment period but it usually only lasts a week or two and it wasn’t very bad. The bars tend to last me longer than a bottle of shampoo if you buy a bigger sized bar and they are generally about $5-$8. I would highly recommend this method for a natural way to care for your hair. I hope this helps someone out there.

9 years ago

I’ve only been washing my hair once a week with baking soda and apple cider vinegar since August 2013 and it’s been going great so far. I have mid-back length thick, wavy hair and it’s never been so manageable in my life. It has an unwashed, piece-y (but not dirty or greasy) texture all the time now, which I love – I never liked the feeling or look of my hair being clean. The adjustment period went for maybe a month and while the smell and look of my hair wasn’t pleasant, just knowing that I was doing something good for hair and and body made it totally bearable. I’ve been agonizingly slowly growing my hair out for years now and it’s been growing so fast ever since I started no-pooing (and taking a biotin supplement after reading about that on the Free People blog, so thank you!) I’m also getting a lot less split ends although that may be partially because I rarely use a hair dryer or curling iron anymore.

It’s not perfect though – my hair gets tangled much more easily, it seems less wavy, and never smells good anymore. The ACV smell goes away after about half a day for me, but my hair starts smelling dirty around day 5 or 6 of the washing cycle, especially after a week filled with running, hot yoga and lots of winter hat-wearing.

I may try the honey shampoo that other commenters have mentioned though. Especially in the winter, I feel like my hair is getting a little dried out now, and I am worried about causing potential damage that others here have talked about. I also do a raw, organic coconut oil mask every 6 or so weeks (I have to use some sulfate/detergent-free shampoo in order to get that out of my hair though). I would love for you guys to do a post on natural masks like that for hair!

To sum up, I would DEFINITELY recommend baking soda and ACV, but I’m curious about trying other natural methods like honey to mix things up.