Six Reasons I Still Love the No-Poo Method, Five Years Later

I Still Love the No-Poo Method, 5 years later

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?

no poo method materials(My super-classy tools)

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.

Who Are the Best Candidates for the No-Poo Method?hair after no-poo

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!

And now…

Why I (Still) Love the No-Poo Method

no-poo method, five years later

  • 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.

waterfall

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.

no poo method - result after 5 years

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?

 

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Comments

  1. I made it about a year and a half before my hair started looking really damaged. I was so sad to have to give it up because it was so cheap and easy to use.

  2. I stopped using ‘normal’ shampoo just over 5 years ago and used a shampoo soap bar for about 7 months but that was a disaster (that I shouldn’t have persisted in for so long!) then I started doing backing soda and ACV which I did for a year I think and now since then I’ve just been washing my hair with water and using an ACV rinse once every couple months. I only ‘wash’ it once a week and just don’t get my hair wet when I shower between hair washes. It works great for me! I can go for more than two weeks before my hair actually starts to look dirty and oily, but I wash it weekly cause it starts to feel heavy after a week. My hair is naturally wavy and has become even more so since quitting shampoo. I would say it’s average, not really oily or dry. In college I washed it daily and if I skipped a day you could tell, but it wasn’t crazy oily. Maybe the secret for people with dryer hair to go no-poo is to just use water cause the baking soda is too drying for them?

    • Thanks for sharing, Carolyn! Yes, I should have mentioned that it seems like lots of curly/wavy girls can get away with just using water. I tried the just-water method for a bit but my hair is just TOO OILY for that. So awesome for you!

  3. Alice Connor says:

    I’ve got curly hair and have used no-poo for a couple years. (Just recently have been using shampoo because of some logistical issues in the family and just haven’t made the baking soda/acv.) no-poo works great for me. I tend towards frizziness from the curls and no-poo kept it all smoother. No damage that I can tell.
    Related, a friend who worked for Pantene for years said it was sometime in the 1970s that companies started pushing for the completely smooth look on women’s hair. They put in the gunk that does that for societal reasons (aesthetics change, basically). But before that, perfectly smooth hair with no flyaways was an anomaly. They created a need where there wasn’t one.

    • Interesting to hear that you’ve also had success with bs/acv. And UGH, my blood boils when I hear stories like that about companies creating “needs.” Why do we listen to them??

  4. I remember reading about your no-poo method a couple years ago and really wanting to try it. You and I have similar hair, so I think I could pull it off, and I’m tired of buying expensive “natural” shampoo that still has suspect ingredients.

    Oh, and I stumbled upon your old kombucha post whilst looking for a “sprite-y” kombucha recipe. We just started making booch a couple months ago and love it! Are you still brewing? It’s always fun to meet fellow enthusiasts. I’m addicted to the stuff to the point where drinking water makes me sad, so it might actually be turning into a problem…

    • I’ll be interested to hear how your no-poo experience goes!

      And yes, I still brew! My mom kept my scoby alive during those 8 months we were in the hospital/isolation. Unfortunately I missed the last two “feeds” so now I have a jar of vinegar I have to deal with and replace with store-bought. . . It ferments too darn fast in the summer! I need to feed it too often!

      And I know what you mean . . . kombucha and water kefir have kind of ruined water for me.

  5. Really? It doesn’t smell bad? Then I’m trying it out for my hair.
    Ivan Jordon recently posted..childcentereddivorce.com – How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? A Create a Storybook GuideMy Profile

  6. I can’t believe it’s been 5 years! My hair is so porous I could tell the baking soda was scraping it up, so I stopped when we moved to Maryland. For a while I was only using conditioner as a curly hair method and that worked pretty well, but after a while it builds up. I wonder if the occasional baking soda rinse va 3 times a week would be better for curly hair. At some point I did remember thinking, what is so natural about putting this compound mineral on my hair? It would never be found in nature like this. Hair care is a never ending battle for me it seems! I think changing the idea of what we expect hair to look like naturally is the way to go, like a previous commenter said, but boy does that take a swimming against the cultural tide.

    • Curly hair is something I know nothing about! It’s so foreign to me! But I also wonder if just the occasional baking soda rinse would work. When I started with the no-poo method I alternated it between shampoos, and I liked the results.

  7. The proportion of baking soda and ACV to water you describe is so much more dilute than I have practiced. I wonder if that would work better for me. I used to make a baking soda paste and rub it into my scalp, then put a Tbsp of vinegar in a cup of water and pour it on.

  8. Hmm. I have your exact hair. But last time I tried no ‘poo, I spent almost a year with greasy hair that never seemed clean, even straight out of the shower. As a previous commenter stated, I don’t think I was using as dilute a solution as you, but even so…so you scrub the bs into your scalp? and out to the ends of your hair? then rinse it? then squirt acv all over? do you rub that in? then rinse again?

    I’ve been using shampoo bars and frankly they hit all the points above except being easy-to-find anywhere, but substitute for that being super easy to pack for traveling and frankly they’re about on par. But they are slightly more expensive (I only shower 2-3 times/week, so a bar lasts a long time, but it’s certainly more up front than bs/acv), so I’m tempted to try no ‘poo again, just to see.

    • Hi Katie! I forgot to mention — I think water type is a contributing factor, too. My water is on the harder side. Maybe yours is softer?

      I actually only massage the baking soda rinse on my scalp — I don’t put any of it on the ends of my hair. I don’t want to dry out the ends. I assume some of it trickles down, though. But I do spray the ACV all over, all the way down to the end, since it’s good for smoothing out the hair shaft. I don’t need to rub in the ACV since I spray it on with a spray bottle. I do a really thorough job — Ben has overheard me spraying my hair in the shower and thinks it sounds hilarious because I go at it for such a long time.

      Anyway, your shampoo bar sounds like a terrific alternative, too!

  9. I highlight my hair and despite having an oily (albeit flaky and itchy) scalp, my hair is dry. Ugh. Either way, I hate most shampoo and haven’t been able to settle on anything for very long that I feel I can stick with. I just bought my first shampoo bar actually and am excited to see how that works for me. One thing I have discovered is by using about 6-8 drops of peppermint essential oil on my scalp after shampooing has completely eliminated the flaky itch factor. Yay me!

    Also, you said ish. :-)

  10. In the morning I wash my hair with cold water and strong peppermint tea (the tea is good for dandruff and has a nice scent, I’m not a fan of essential oils because they seem to give me headaches), and then I put aloe vera juice on it before bed which leaves it soft and silky by morning. I also brush my hair very thoroughly both in the morning and at night, I’ve read brushing is actually more effective at cleaning your scalp than shampoos are. And that’s pretty much it, my hair and scalp are always clean and my hair seems a lot softer and healthier these days (I’ve been washing it this way for about a year). I’ve tried the baking soda and avc method before but it left my hair feeling too dry and rough, likely because I started out with very course hair.

  11. I also keep my Natural hair and I don’t believe in artificial things. I first visited your website about 6 months ago and since then, I found out that we share almost the same belief.

    Guess what? I am an African , a Nigerian in particular. I just wanted to tell you that you have a twin over here and it inspires me to know that we think alike.

    Keep it up.

  12. Hello. baking soda is no good option as no-poo for most hairs. There are a lot of better options like egg yolk, chamomile and etc.

    By your type of hair, I think as soon as you try other things, you’ll have more hair on top of your head! No-poo method is fine but Baking soda is a no go and it sucks!

  13. Kathleen and friends,

    I started my journey into non-traditional ‘poo solutions after using Bumble and bumble’s now-defunct “alojoba shampoo” and “alojoba conditioner.” A friend of mine introduced it to me when I decided to grow my hair out and I never turned back to conventional shampoo ever again.

    The alojoba shampoo is a waxy and oily shampoo that does not lather. On the soaponification scale, it is a very lightweight soap. In fact, it is probably mostly the original fat (from which the soap is made). This would not be suitable for engine degreasing, as most shampoos are industrially disposed toward, though seems to address the human scalp need for occasional washing and deoderification. Yes, I made up that word. =)

    Anyway, the conditioner is thick and I typically leave it in after applying it in the shower (no rinse). This results in a wavy natural appearance that is nearly impossible to achieve with product. Occasionally, the hair appears a little waxy. This is easily remedied by playing with my hair with my hands. I think redistributing the oils and paraffins (waxies) seems to be the key here. The body can produce more oils than it needs, but will only adapt to reduce the oil production if it is happy with the scalp and hair environment. Stress and removing too many of the oils (typically through daily excoriating showers, hot water, industrial degreasing shampoos, too much baking soda, you get the idea), can cause the body to up oil production.

    I have heard some complaints from others that these products are too heavy for their hair. YMMV, though I think it can take some time for the body to adapt to the new environment. So, as Kathleen has done, it is important to enjoy the process and temper expectation with enthusiasm to explore new-but-socially-acceptable approaches to hygiene.

    I have a medium to thick hair fiber with ultra-dense follicle density (if I get my hair cut, there is often lots of thinning). It is naturally wavy, though gets frizzy and more poofy with the use of conventional ‘poo products. Ethnically, I attribute this to my 1/4 Italian heritage. =)

    Cheers,
    Joe

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