Sometimes when I hit the “publish” button I’m stricken with a bit of anxiety. I’m publishing this. I’m publishing my writing. And this isn’t even my good writing, but it’s in my name. And it lives on the internet. Forever. Did I even proof read?

That’s why I don’t often write about my grooming habits or feelings very often. Because what if one day I’m interviewing for a job and the HR person has done his or her homework and stalked me on the internet? It’s possible that the person I’m trying to charm into offering me a job will know weird things about me that could possibly put me at a disadvantage.

There are certain things that people will always be judgey about, and the grooming habits of a woman are one of them, as recent studies prove. I don’t think I’m being silly in feeling some reluctance to tell you all the way I clean my head, but I’m feeling just reckless and dangerous enough to do it. Especially because the results have been awesome to veer into potential over-sharing territory.

A Month Without Shampoo

My journey with No Poo started a month ago, when a horribly smoggy day left me inside with the internet as my only entertainment. In the deep underbellies of the natural living blogosphere, I discovered the concept of refusing shampoo.

It seemed radical.

I know that there are lots of hairstyles and hair types that don’t require shampooing, but with my head of fine, limp, white girl hair, to eschew shampoo seemed impossible. Every hairdresser I’ve ever had has told me that I need to follow a variation of the following routine for my hair to be presentable:

Shampoo every other day with a volumizing shampoo and follow it up with a lightweight conditioner that won’t weigh your little bird hair down. Spritz your damp hair with this magical volumizing elixir that costs approximately three million dollars an ounce and blow dry your hair upside down, using a round brush to curl the ends and tame your cowlick. Now, take a bit of this glue-like product that strongly resembles the hair grease you’ve just washed out and define strands in your hair. Even though your hair is straight, you should probably take a flat iron to smooth down your frizzes. Last, use a wide-barreled curling iron to add dimension and waves to your pathetic little tresses. Ah! Now  don’t you feel fabulous, sexy, and confident?

Did you get exhausting reading that? I tried sticking to this routine for a while, and I did like the way my hair looked for the first 45 minutes. Unfortunately the whole styling process would take an hour, and when it comes to my priorities, I’m always going to choose sleep over a playdate with hot hairstyling tools.

When I read about No Poo, I thought I’d give it a try, as really, I’m not trying to impress anyone on Nimmanhaemin Road, and I’m already the outsider weirdo. Over the past month I’ve gotten my routine down pat, and have even traveled to the beach without reaching for shampoos.

My Haircare Routine

Baking Soda and Water Cleanser. I keep a little squirt bottle in the shower that I’ve filled with approximately 2 tablespoons of baking soda and enough water to fill it up.  In the shower I wet my hair and then squirt in the solution on my scalp. Then I give myself a bit of a massage, working the liquid through the oilier parts of my hair and giving special attention to my bangs.  I rinse with water, and sometimes repeat if I’m feeling extra dirty.

White Vinegar Rinse. To “condition” my hair, I use a bottle filled with one part white vinegar, one part water, and a drop of eucalyptus oil to mask the smell. I pour this over the length of my hair and use my fingers to comb it through. I let it sit for a while before rinsing, like I did with conditioner, though I think this is just out of habit.

Additional Products

Rice Flour Dry Shampoo. If after a day or so my hair is looking a little gamey, I use rice flour as a dry shampoo. Most commercial dry shampoos use cornstarch as the main active ingredient, and rice flour has a similar consistency. I shake a little bit into my palms, rub them together, and brush my hands through my “problem” areas. While I initially look like Mrs. Clause, after a good brushing, the powder blends into my hair, adhering to each strand rather evenly. I think it might lighten to a lighter brown, but it looks good. My best hair days ever have been in the past month a day after a dry shampoo.

Rice flour keeps my hair looking fresh and clean, if a little bit lighter for days after a baking soda cleansing session. The powder is the perfect consistency to adhere to the hair shaft and absorb oils. An added benefit is the powder coats each hair, providing great body, volume, and manageability. The commercial products I used from time to time for this purpose would add volume, but restrict manageability; if I touched my hair too often, the products would become gummy and disgusting.

Green Tea Rinse. To rinse the rice flour out, I just use the regular routine. However, if I’ve had green tea recently, I’ll keep the leaves and throw them in a full water bottle to soak. I’ll use the watered down tea as a rinse before the white vinegar solution. It seems to help with removing the rice flour and clarifying .

Styling

After a shower, I immediate run a comb through my hair. It combs easily and doesn’t have tangles, thanks to the vinegar magic. I give myself a part, towel dry, and run a brush through a few more times before letting it air dry. For some reason my hair dries much faster now. I think that the silicone content in commercial conditioners that makes it feel so good and slippery actually prolongs the drying time.

I’ve noticed that I have some waves these days that were someone being masked by my old shampoos. To draw these out, I just divide the length of my hair into four or five strands and twist them around with my fingers while it’s drying.

The one thing that seems to be integral to keeping the No Poo method fresh is LOTS of brushing. I brush my hair every morning and every night, and sometimes during the day.  This helps move the natural oils with their conditioning properties down the shaft of the hair and plays a vital role in keeping my hair vibrant. Because my hair is fine and prone to damage, hair stylists in the past have told me to minimize brushing, but I think with all of the healthy processes happening in my new routine, this is not as much of a problem.

Results

I’m simply not willing to have a high maintenance hair care routine, and quitting commercial shampoo has definitely improved my hair without a lot of time. There’s a lot of crunchy mumbo-jumbo out there on the internet about the poisons in shampoo and the futility of the hair care norm that we’ve been sold, but even if I believe it, I’m not so sure I care.

I like being a “haircare outsider” and, for the time being, it’s just as easy as the store-bought stuff, but a lot cheaper and with better results. Win. Win. Win.

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16 Responses to How to Wash Your Hair Without Shampoo: 1 Month With No Poo

  1. Caity says:

    Wow! A month without shampoo. I don’t know if I could do it but thank you for sharing on how!

  2. Susan says:

    I need to add some pictures. It’s really not as radical in practice as it sounds!

  3. Revolutionary new system! Please post pictures. I like the idea of the dry wash, as my hair isn’t terribly oily and I have never been fond of washing it anyways. I might try it!

  4. Katie says:

    Now, see….I swear if this was just called “All natural and healthy hair care” or “fresh and clean haircare” instead of something with the word “POO” in it I would have been ALL OVER IT. All I heard was “no hair washing and poo.” Someone REALLY needs to come up with a better title.

    You are WASHING your hair. You are just using baking soda and vinegar, which, really, probably does a much better job than shampoo does anyway. I totally get it now after your description. I do seem to wonder why I’m always adding oils and things to my hair that I just washed.

    Interesting article about the makeup. Although, maybe I’m too tired to read it right but I couldn’t exactly find the results. Was it the line where the more the eyes and lips stand out against the skin was judged the most highly? So the more makeup the better across the board. Ick.

    • Susan says:

      It’s basically showing that women who spend time on grooming are considered more competent. Which I hate. All men have to do is be sort of tall, shower, and not have long hair.

  5. GurlNxtDoor says:

    This was an awesome post! I always sort of cringed and wrinkled my nose at the thought of going without shampoo for more than a day or two. After reading this, I’m on board and totally willing to try it myself. Maybe not for a whole month, but for a week. Thanks for the info!

    • Susan says:

      Unfortunately, it takes a while to achieve the results! When you stop shampooing, your scalp still produces oil like it’s getting stripped everyday. It takes a few weeks for your body to adjust to the change, and that’s where the benefits come in. Also, you kind of need the hair oil to go down the full shaft of your hair, which takes a while.

  6. Erica says:

    full disclosure: I got the math answer wrong, but caught my mistake. Am I being a little obsessive about the math problem? Blame the brain fever. (It’s definitely my favorite anti-spam thing, though)

    That sounded awesome and I was all “yeah, I’m going to try it!” until I got to the part where you brush your hair a lot. I don’t know if my asian fro could deal with that… The more I read about going no poo, the more I am tempted to try it. Maybe one more post…

    • Susan says:

      I also have pretty long hair. If I don’t brush it, it gets kind of gross and stringy. Before I would use mousse or something to keep it from stringing up, but without it I have to brush.

      There are websites full of devoted No Pooer (urgh, hate the name) that have all sorts of tips for different hair types. I would find them for you, but my hour of internet surfing is almost up!

    • Susan says:

      So I saw that post and commented on my green tea rinse, and Gawker deleted it!! I don’t know what I did wrong!

  7. Nicole says:

    I have been doing this for almost 2 weeks but I read the info from another website. It’s great and easy and inexpensive and my hair has never feld better! I will NEVER go back to Shampoo…getting the kids and hubby adjusted to the new way of washing our hair as we speak.

    • Susan says:

      It’s so funny you write this now as I totally relapsed to shampoo! Traveling with containers of baking soda always gets me questions from security, and a few weeks ago a container of vinegar spilled all over my luggage and I smelled like a pickle for a few days. I hope to get back to it as soon as I’m a little bit more grounded and less nomadic. It certainly has done wonders for my hair, and I want them back!

  8. Adam Pervez says:

    Thanks for this post. I’m about to take a break and I want to give this a try! I hate using shampoo and have taken breaks from it at times, though never with such long hair.

    • Susan says:

      It’s definitely more maintenance with long hair, but I think it’s good for traveling! You can keep baking soda on an airplane carry on, and white vinegar is available just about everywhere. I do use dry shampoo quite often to keep things looking neat, but that’s becoming more and more mainstream by the minute.

  9. sylvia gottlieb says:

    I have been researching the connection between commercial shampoos and neurological disorders for about 9 years, and have found a very definite connection. I’m in the process of writing a book: The Reign of Brain Terror: the Reign of Toxic Shampoo Substances over the Brain, Late 1930′s to the Present.

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