Five years later, I still use and love the no-poo method.
(The no-poo method, if you’re new to it, is a method of cleaning your hair without shampoo, a.k.a. “poo.” Instead, you typically clean your hair with a baking soda rinse followed by an apple cider vinegar rinse. I first wrote about it here. I wrote an update a year later, and offered additional tips for people interested in giving it a try.)
I seem to be an anomaly. In the years since I published my first post on going shampoo-free, there have been many posts from other no-poo bloggers who have changed their minds on the method. They have had experiences with their hair being damaged and getting broken. They have written long, detailed explanations as to why the no-poo method is scientifically bad for your hair. Apparently the strong alkalinity of the baking soda can strip your hair of its natural oils, leading to porous, fragile hair. (This article from Empowered Sustenance is one of them. Beth from Red and Honey also had a bad experience.)
So the method certainly doesn’t seem to be for everyone.
But after all this time, it’s still working for me. My hair and scalp are as healthy as they’ve ever been. I haven’t noticed any damage after five solid years of using this method. My hair is shiny and strong, I don’t have the dandruff of my youth, and my hair doesn’t get as oily as it used to. I also don’t battle the static and flyaways that I did for most of my life.
So I thought I’d explore that a little bit, and then talk about why I still love it.
Wait, How Does This Method Work?
My method has slowly evolved over the years. Here’s how I do it now.
Once a week, I make my rinses.
I make my baking soda rinse in a plastic cup. I dump in 1 Tbsp baking soda and then fill it up to the 1-cup mark with hot water (to dissolve it). Then I keep it in the shower. When it’s shower time, I just pour a small amount of it on my head and gently massage it in my scalp then rinse with water.
I keep my ACV rinse in a high-quality spray bottle in the shower. I pour in 4 Tbsp vinegar and then fill up to the 2-cup mark with water. After the baking soda rinse, I very thoroughly spray my whole head with the ACV, then rinse with water.
I can only speak from my own experiences, but I have a few suspicions why the no-poo method works for me and not for others.
I think the primary factor is hair type.
I have straight, slippery hair that leans towards oiliness. It’s also never been dyed or permed. Virgin hair, this. My greatest hair woes have always been lack of volume and a tendency to get greasy. (As a teen, I used to have to wash my hair up to twice a day to battle the greasies.) So “stripping” my hair of its “natural oils” doesn’t seem to be a problem. See ya later, “natural oils,” and good riddance!
You might be a good candidate for the no-poo method if you’re like me — you have naturally smooth hair with an abundance of natural oils.
The folks who seem to fare the worst when it comes to the no-poo method are be women with dry, coarse, frizzy, and/or brittle hair. It also seems to be incompatible with coloured hair. So if you belong to this group, you might think twice before using the no-poo method.
But hey, I’m no expert, so do what you want. And if you belong to the second group and have had great, long-term success with no-poo, let me know!
Why I (Still) Love the No-Poo Method
It is SO CHEAP.
I just emptied out the last of my baking soda box that I bought in January. (I wrote the date on the box when I bought it.) It’s the beginning of August. That’s almost seven months. So I only use about two boxes a year — for me and my husband. That’s about $3 a year in baking soda for the two of us.
I get my apple cider vinegar from my mom, who makes it from discarded apple cores and peels. So it’s free for me. But even if I bought 2-3 jugs a year, that’s only an additional $6-9. Bringing the grand total to about $12 a year for the adults in this house.
There are some natural shampoos that cost that much per bottle. And they’re teeny-tiny.
(Side note: I don’t use baking soda and ACV on the kids. Too messy and complicated. Wanna know what I use? Water. Turns out, kids who haven’t reached puberty don’t really need shampoo. I just rinse their hair with water a couple of times a week for regular maintenance. If there’s food in their hair I use a squirt of this natural shampoo which you can get at Whole Foods. I think I bought our last bottle two years ago.)
If I didn’t have the no-poo method I would probably use some kind of natural, organic, fair-trade shampoo and conditioner like I occasionally use on my kids, and that ish is expensive.
It’s so environmentally friendly.
Like I said above, I use about two boxes of baking soda and two jugs of apple cider vinegar a year. Both of those things come in minimal, recyclable packaging. And the production of these natural food products uses a lot fewer resources than conventional shampoo and conditioner. Ben and I use about 1 Tbsp of baking soda and 4 Tbsp of vinegar a week between the two of us. Plus there are no toxic ingredients that get leached into the environment.
You’re welcome, planet.
It has no smell.
Some people like their body care products artificially perfumed. I’m not one of them.
You can use essential oils, of course, but that gets expensive over time, too.
My favourite scent, then, is no scent.
When we had to suddenly move into the Ronald McDonald House in another city so that our son could receive treatment at the hospital, we had to use the shampoo they provided for a while until we got settled. I couldn’t stand that strong, artificial smell. I tried to buy some unscented shampoo at the nearest drugstore but it was almost impossible to find.
Eventually we were able to get everything arranged so that we could use the no-poo method again, and it was so nice to not have to pour unidentified smelly chemicals onto my head.
There are no toxic ingredients.
I don’t want to belabour this point, but we all know most shampoos contains ingredients that are harmful to our bodies. (Read this article from the David Suzuki Foundation if you want to learn more.) As I’ve mentioned, there are natural shampoo alternatives, but they are tricky (many still contain troubling ingredients, and others don’t work very well) as well as expensive.
So if I can use ingredients from my pantry to clean my hair, I’m going to do it.
I can find the ingredients anywhere.
As I mentioned above, when we unexpectedly found ourselves in the Ronald McDonald House in another city I scoured the drugstore shelves for an acceptable shampoo alternative. I couldn’t find one.
If you use a special natural shampoo, odds are you can’t get it just anywhere. It probably comes from a special store or website.
But baking soda and apple cider can be purchased just about anywhere you can buy food. I’m pretty sure they’re both available all over the world. So if I travel to other countries, I know I’ll be able to pick up my trusty hair-cleaning products at the local grocery store, no problem. That’s a real comfort!
It works for me.
Like I said in my opening, the no-poo method has made me happy. My hair is healthy. I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. Why change it?