If you’ve never heard of the “no poo” method, then you probably just took a serious double take at the title of this post!
What Is No Poo?
It’s short for No Shampoo, and is a collective term for methods of washing hair with, you guessed it, no shampoo! But before you un-subscribe from my blog, or click away because you think I’ve gone completely nuts, allow me to explain…
Deciding to go the no poo route does not mean you don’t wash your hair, it just means you don’t use shampoo! In a nut shell, you use baking soda as your “shampoo”, and apple cider vinegar as your “conditioner”, but we’ll get to that part n a bit. First, let me tell you why I chose to eliminate shampoo and conditioner from my shower routine, and why you may want to do the same- then I promise I’ll explain exactly how it works!
Or, if you prefer not to read the “why” and want to skip directly to the “how”, simply scroll down the page until you see “How To No Poo”.
When I was pregnant with Kyliana, I read a post on my Crunchy Mamas board about the “no poo” method, and was very intrigued. But like you may be feeling right now, I was also perplexed, and had many questions.
I wanted to do more research, but life got in the way, and over a year went by before I revisited the idea of completely eliminating shampoo from my routine. Then, a few weeks ago I came across a blog post from another mama saying how amazingly healthy her hair was after ditching the shampoo. Eager to learn more, I scoured the web for more information and came across a wonderfully informative no poo thread on Live Journal.
After hours of reading everything I could find, and no one complaining about their hair falling out or becoming infested with bugs, I decided to take the plunge! Everything about the no poo concept is perfectly in line with my personal values- it’s totally frugal, natural, toxin-free, and of course, eco-friendly. I had nothing to lose (except for my shampoo), and if I didn’t like it, I knew my bottle of shampoo would be right there in the shower waiting for me!
Now let’s take a moment answer some of your questions, and hopefully you’ll see why I decided to give this crazy thing called “no poo” a try!
Why the heck would anyone not want to use shampoo?
There are many reasons shampoo is best avoided, but first and foremost is your health! Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and what goes on your skin, goes in your skin, and ultimately into your bloodstream. (If in doubt, just think about how the nicotine and birth control patch works.)
Harmful Chemicals Found In Shampoo
Sulfates- In the same way as it dissolves the grease on car engines, sodium lauryl sulfate also dissolves the oils on your skin, which can cause a drying effect. It is also well documented that it denatures skin proteins, which causes not only irritation, but also allows environmental contaminants easier access to the lower, sensitive layers of the skin. Animals exposed to SLS experienced eye damage, depression, labored breathing, diarrhea, severe skin irritation and even death.
Propylene Glycol and Butylene Glycol- As a surfactant or wetting agent or solvent, PG is actually the active component in antifreeze. There is no difference between what’s used in industry and what’s used in personal care products. Because of its ability to quickly penetrate the skin, the EPA requires workers to wear protective gloves, clothing and goggles when working with this toxic substance. PG’s Material Safety Data Sheets warn against skin contact because PG has systemic consequences such as brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities. However, there isn’t even a warning label on most personal care products, including shampoos!
FD&C Color Pigments- According to A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, “Many (pigments) cause skin sensitivity and irritation…and absorption (of certain colors) can cause depletion of oxygen in the body and death.” In Home Safe Home, author Debra Lynn Dadd says that “colors that can be used in foods, drugs, and cosmetics are made from coal tar. There is a great deal of controversy about their use, because animal studies have shown almost all of them to be carcinogenic.”
Mineral Oil- Used in many personal care products, this ingredient actually coats the skin just like a plastic wrap, disrupting the skin’s natural immune barrier and inhibiting its ability to breathe and absorb. As the body’s largest organ of elimination, it is vital that the skin be free to release toxins. But mineral oil impedes this process, allowing toxins to accumulate, which can promote acne and other disorders. It also slows down skin function and normal cell development, resulting in premature aging of the skin.
Alcohol, Isopropyl (SD-40)- Made from the same petroleum derivative used in shellac and antifreeze, alcohol, isopropyl (SD-40) is drying, irritating solvent that strips skin’s moisture and immune barrier, making you vulnerable to viruses. It is also known to promote premature aging and brown spots. A Consumers Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients says it may cause headaches, flushing, dizziness, mental depression, nausea, vomiting, and coma. Fatal ingested dose is one ounce or less.
Shampooing your hair is not only bad for your body, it’s bad for the environment too! A lot of precious resources go in to making a bottle of shampoo, and transporting it to the end consumer (you). Then once you have the shampoo, you have to take a long shower- washing, rinsing, and often conditioning your hair, all while gallons of hot water go right down the drain. Finally, you end up with an empty plastic shampoo bottle that probably goes straight into the garbage.
An Unnecessary Expense
That’s right, using shampoo is not necessary! However, using shampoo creates a vicious cycle that makes you think it’s necessary, and that’s exactly what the big companies want you to think. Because shampoo strips the natural oils from your hair and scalp, your body compensates by producing more oil, which means you need to shampoo again, and the cycle goes on. (I’ll talk more about how this works in a bit.) Then, after you shampoo, you need to use conditioner to replace the natural protective oils stripped away from the shampoo. Now, because your hair is full of unnatural substances, you need even more unnatural substances (detanglers, gels, hair sprays etc.) to keep it manageable.
By eliminating shampoo, you also eliminate the need for conditioner and other artificial hair products which as you might guess- are full of toxic chemicals, and not healthy for you, your hair, or the environment. As an added bonus, you’ll save a nice chunk of change each year by not having to buy any expensive or specialized hair products!
But wont my hair get all greasy?
Using shampoo every day removes sebum, the oil that is produced by the scalp. This causes the sebaceous glands to produce oil at a higher rate in order to compensate for what is lost during shampooing. Most dermatologists agree that a gradual reduction in shampooing the hair will cause the sebaceous glands to produce at a slower rate, resulting in a less oily scalp.
In other words, the natural oils produced by your scalp work on supply and demand. The more we strip away the natural oils, the more demand we are creating, and the more oils our bodies will make. So of course if you stop using the shampoo cold turkey, your body will still be overproducing oil and there will be a lot of oil until your body reaches a balance again. However, if you gradually “wean” your body from the shampoo, your scalp will produce oil at a slower rate and it’s natural balance will be restored!
How To No Poo
Before beginning your no poo routine, it’s highly recommended that you gradually “wean” your body from shampoo so the sebaceous glands start producing oil at a slower rate. I started by spacing out my washes to every other day for a week, and then decreased them to twice a week for two weeks. This seemed to make the transition to no poo pretty easy for me, at least compared to some of the other stories I’ve read. Regardless of how you start, you can expect a transition period that lasts anywhere from two weeks, to two months. My transition period (starting when I completely stopped using shampoo) lasted just under two weeks, and it really wasn’t bad at all.
Like any beauty regimen, there are many different variations to the no poo method, but most contain two key ingredients- Baking Soda (BS) and Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV).
Washing hair with baking soda as the active ingredient in a liquid solution is very effective. It works by opening up the scales of the hair shaft, and combines with our scalp’s natural oils to make a primitive, but effective “soap” that cleanses the hair and removes any chemical buildup. Unlike commercial products, baking soda does not lather, and has more of a slippery feel to it. When used on the hair, it works as a gentle cleanser, clarifying the hair from chemical buildup, and leaving it naturally clean.
The standard amount used in the no poo regimen is one tablespoon of baking soda combined with one cup of water. If you have exceptionally thick or curly hair you may need to add an extra teaspoon or so of baking soda, and if your hair is thin or fine, you may need to add less. It can take some experimenting in the beginning to figure out what works best for you.
Once mixed, pour the solution into an 8 ounce squeeze bottle with a pop-top (like the “peri-bottle” you used after childbirth). Since we have a big family, I have been doubling the recipe and using a 16 oz. pop-top water bottle instead. Rather than mixing the ingredients before adding them to the bottle, you can also use a funnel to pour the baking soda in, then fill the rest up with tap water and shake to combine.
Once I’m in the shower, I run my hair under hot water for about 45 seconds, then squeeze the baking soda mixture on my hair starting at crown, working my way down and massaging as I go. I wash all of my hair with the mixture, making sure to thoroughly massage/scrub my scalp since that is where the sebaceous glands are that produce the oil. After a minute or two I rinse with water, just as I would with shampoo.
The 16 ounce mixture typically lasts myself, my husband and our 2 older children about a week, or perhaps a little less depending on how often the children’s hair needs to be washed.
Alternately, some choose to dissolve about 1 tablespoon of baking soda in just enough water to make a paste. For this method, apply it to your roots only, work it in and let it sit for a minute. I do not recommend this method for daily use as it tends to be too abrasive on the scalp, however, it may be helpful in the beginning to remove excess oil buildup.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is essentially your replacement for conditioner, effectively counteracting the baking soda, detangling the hair folicles, sealing the cuticle and balancing the hair’s pH level.
The standard amount used is also one tablespoon apple cider vinegar combined with one cup of water. You can also use an 8oz. pop top squeeze bottle for this mixture, or anything else that strikes your fancy. I do not double this batch for my family since only a small amount is needed to pour on to the ends of the hair. A little goes a long way, and you don’t want to over do it, or use the mixture near your scalp as it can cause the hair to feel too greasy.
How Often To Wash
There is no exact answer to this question as it greatly depends on your natural amount of oil production, and how long you’ve been no pooing. Typically, you’ll want to do the baking soda (BS) wash with apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinse 1-2 times per week, and do water only (WO) rinses in-between “wash days”. It is recommended that you do not use the baking soda wash more than twice per week as it can strip the hair, causing it to be too dry and brittle. Most people start by washing twice per week, gradually stretching it to every three days, four days, five days and so on until they are able to go a full seven days between washes. There are even some that wash only every two weeks, once a month or eventually transition to water only washes 100% of the time. There are also some people who determine they can never go beyond 3-4 days without washing with BS & ACV.
That’s really all there is to it! Pretty easy, huh?
Additional Tips & Variations
Every Day Rinse: If you wish to rinse with something more than water in-between wash days, try making an infusion of any single or combination of the following: spearmint, peppermint, nettle, and calendula with at least one of these: rose, lavender, and chamomile. Rosemary and sage are wonderful cleansing herbs, but they may darken your hair, so if you don’t want that, avoid them. Chamomile is also said to lighten blonde hair. Pour 1-2 cups of boiling water over your herbs in a heat-safe container, and cover. When the infusion is roughly body temperature, pour half over your head, and rub it into your scalp and down one third the length of your hair with the pads of your fingers. Pour the rest over your head, and rinse out. *You can make a large batch, and freeze the remainder in ice cube trays. This saves gobs of time for minute-pinchers.
Herbs & Essential Oils For Hair: Here is an amazing list of herbs and essential oils for hair that can be added into your ACV rinse to help with everything from a dry scalp to adding shine!
Low Poo: Lo poo can be done in combination with no poo, or as an alternative to it. Like no poo, low poo has many different variations. The most common low poo regimen is a natural/organic shampoo (with or without a conditioner rinse) as often as twice per week, and as seldom as once a month. Some low pooers opt to use conditioner only (CO) to wash their hair. They may use a conditioner as a weekly wash and use low poo monthly. Conditioner has lower amounts of chemicals and actually does a good job of cleaning the scalp. However, if you have product buildup, you will need to do a few no poo washes with BS (baking soda) & ACV (apple cider vinegar) before CO (conditioner only) washing.
Green Tea Cleansing Hair Rinse: http://www.minimalistbeauty.com/diy-green-tea-cleansing-hair-rinse
Dr. Bronners: Some choose to replace the baking soda wash with Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap and/or the ACV rinse with Dr. Bronner’s Organic Shikakai Conditioning Rinse http://www.drbronner.com/DBMS/HAIR.htm
*There are many other variations, check out the no poo thread on Live Journal for a wealth of additional information!
Hard to manage hair: If you find that your hair is hard to manage, tangled etc. try increasing your rinse to half ACV and half water.
Greasy hair or scalp: If you are experiencing greasy hair or scalp, try adding a more baking soda to your wash mixture, or reduce the amount of water added. You can also try using less apple cider vinegar, switching to a lemon juice & water rinse, or using a comb instead of a brush to groom your hair. Also, make sure you’re only applying the apple cider vinegar to the ends of your hair.
Flat/Limp Hair: If your hair looks flat or limp then try decreasing the vinegar or increasing baking soda just a tiny bit.
Dry/frizzy hair: If you are experiencing dryness or frizz, decrease the amount of baking soda in your wash mix, and add a half teaspoon of honey to the mixture. You can also try washing less often and/or combing a small amount of olive oil through your hair, avoiding the scalp or your hair may end up too greasy!
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