The no poo method, or no shampoo method for anyone new here, is a process of forgoing traditional shampoo and conditioner for more natural ways to wash your hair in order to rid yourself of unnecessary chemicals and also all the plastic packaging that they come in. I’ve tried to go no poo in the past, but ultimately caved due to not being comfortable with how my hair looked during the transition, but this time, I am determined to see out the no poo method until my hair simply does not need traditional shampoo to feel good.
I already have a bit of a leg up on the transition. Normally, the transition stage is meant to get rid of any build up of wax and chemicals on your hair and scalp, but since I have changed to shampoo bars, I believe that there won’t be quite as much buildup for me due to the fact that most shampoo bars use natural ingredients and are free of nasty parabens, sulfates, and other harmful chemicals. I also believe that I can be more successful this time around beings as it is the winter time, so wearing a hat to cover my head when my hair is going through the transition stage and at its greasiest. I also am stuck at home for about two weeks until going back to school, so hopefully I can get through the worst of the no poo method before going back.
Another reason that I feel like I can really get through the no poo method this time, is that I have done a ton more research into the method and have procured the appropriate tools to help me along. I’m going to do my best to document the changes to my hair and how it looks so that you can get a better idea on what the process is like.
If you want to know a little more background on the no poo method, you can check out this article by Ashlee Mayer, the author of The No Poo Method: Your Guide to Natural Hair Care.
The Game Plan
So my plan is pretty simple. In the beginning, I plan to go as long as I can without washing my hair as possible, only doing water rinses. When I do need to “wash” my hair, I will not be using shampoo, but instead using apple cider vinegar and tea rinses instead. The no poo method does have you wash your hair, contrary to popular belief, you just don’t use traditional soaps or shampoos to do it. Some things that I’m implementing this time that I haven’t in the past are a boar bristle brush and a scalp massager.
These two tools are super important because they are suppose to help with the biggest problem that people have transitioning to no poo: greasiness.
The greasiness that people experience when they don’t wash their hair is due to the sebaceous glands of your scalp producing more oil. The more often you wash your hair with shampoo, the more you are stripping your hair and scalp of the natural oils that your sebaceous glands produce, which causes the glands to over produce those oils to make up for the lack of them. The no poo methods main goal is to acclimate your sebaceous glands to produce the right amount of oils again.
The boar bristle brush helps distribute oils from your scalp to the middle and ends of your hair, which can help your hair be silkier and shinier. Most of the articles I read over the no poo method recommend thoroughly brushing your hair with a boar bristle brush twice a day to help with distributing oils and minimize oil buildup on the scalp. The scalp massager is meant to be used in the shower during water rinses in order to help break up a bit of the oil buildup on the scalp and get rid of dandruff. Scalp massages also help with blood circulation, which can lead to stimulated hair growth.
The Routine (In Theory):
I call this routine “in theory” because this is my planned routine that I made before actually trying no poo. I will be putting in the final routine that I figured out at the very end.
Water Only rinses on every second day
Baking soda & ACV rinses every 7-10 days
If baking soda & ACV rinses don’t seem to work, try other kinds of rinses.
Scritch & preen when scalp seems suffocated
Wash brushes when they get really gross, and especially before rinses to make sure I’m not adding extra sebum to my scalp after rinse.
Dec 30th: My last day that I shampooed my hair with my Love, Beauty, and Planet shampoo bar, and no after shower products.
Dec 31st: Bought scalp massager and boar bristle brush from Walmart. Hair felt completely fine.
Jan 1st: Hair was a little greasy and noticed a lot of shedding when brushing. Researched more about ACV and tea rinses. Found out that there are a load of other rinses to try:
aloe vera rinse
epsom salt rinse
jojoba oil rinse
flat beer rinse
After a full day in greasy glory, I decided that I should scritch and preen my hair to try and get all that oil off my scalp.
Scritching is basically taking anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes to use give yourself a very thorough scalp massage, either with your fingers or with a scalp massager. This promotes blood flow to your scalp and also get your scalp to produce more oils. Preening is sectioning your hair into tiny segments and brushing as much of the oils near your scalp down to the rest of your hair. This can also take around 5 to 10 minutes.
Jan 2nd: After waking up, I actually felt as though the scritching and preening worked pretty well. My scalp was still oily and greasy, but it didn’t feel heavy. Instead, my scalp felt light and airy, which was kind of nice. However, I made the mistake of brushing my hair, which effectively undid everything and made my hair heavy and stick to my head.
Jan 2nd: after waking up and brushing my hair
Through my research, I found that around this time of the transition that people do their first water only rinse. The key here is to use cold or lukewarm water to lather up your head as you would with shampoo to rinse your hair. Using anything warmer than lukewarm can cause the oils on your head to dissolve instead of the rinse allowing you to distribute the oils more through your hair.
Jan 2nd: Hair after water rinse. Still wet but showing a wavy texture.
Since I had just rinsed my hair, I also decided this was a good time to clean out my brushes. I have only been using the boar bristle brush for a few days, but I could already see a buildup of dead skin and sebum in the bristles. My mom actually had me wash her brushes as well since I was doing it for mine.
To wash the brushes, I first made sure to remove as much hair from the brushes as possible. I filled my sink with warm soapy water and put in the brushes face down. I let them soak for 15 minutes, then I rinsed them and let them air dry.
Jan 2nd: Washing brushes
I let my hair air dry as well, which took around 3 hours. My hair is pretty low porosity, but it still loves to take its sweet time drying. So much so that using a blow dryer really doesn’t speed things up at all. In the summers, I usually go outside on the deck to dry my hair out in the wind and sun, which seems to be the only way my hair will dry any faster. Sadly, it is January in Iowa, so sitting out on my deck with a mop of wet hair would only lead to my hair freezing.
As my hair was drying, I could tell that my hair wasn’t going to feel very clean after my rinse. I also knew this from the past three times I had tried no poo. But I was determined to make it at least seven days before I “washed” my hair with the baking soda and apple cider vinegar. The strands were wet, but they felt as though water wasn’t the only thing making them damp.
Jan 2nd: Hair dried after water only rinse.
To be completely honest, my hair felt way better than it looked. It looked almost as greasy as before I even did the rinse, but it really wasn’t when I went to check my scalp. I was honestly pretty shocked because it basically made my hair feel like it normally does when I’ve gone 1 day without washing my hair instead of 3.
Jan 3rd: This day was a day of just helping my mom spring clean around the house, so I wore my hair up for most of the day. When I woke up, my hair basically just felt as it did the night before.
Jan 4th: Woke up to my hair more greasy than the day before. So I scrtiched and preened to try and distribute the oils in my hair. I found myself just brushing my hair and giving myself scalp massages cause I enjoyed it a ton. I did another water rinse, but this time at the end of the day. I was planning on doing the rinse around 5:00pm so that it would be able to dry before I went to bed, but I got caught up in a sewing project and didn’t actually shower until 10:30pm. So I went to bed with my hair wet.
Jan 4th: Hair before rinse
Jan 5th: Waking up on the 5th, my hair was still a little damp from rinsing it the night before.
Jan 5th: Hair after waking up.
Part of my was a little self-conscious about my hair situation as it stood for two reasons. First, I was going to the dentist today, but I knew that I could just put up my hair or wear a hat for that in order to make sure that my dentist and his assistant wouldn’t be terribly aware of the fact that I hadn’t washed my hair for almost a week. Second, my boyfriend would be visiting tomorrow and be with me for about four days. The fact that my first wash with the ACV and baking soda was the next day helped a bit, so the plan was to just do it before he got to my house.
Smell-wise, my hair wasn’t terrible smelling after the water rinse, which was an improvement from the day before. Another thing that I noticed was despite trying to get oil down the length of my hair, I still had really dry ends.
I wanted to try and get rid of as much of the oil look as possible though, so I tried using corn starch as dry shampoo. It was relatively easy to do, I just put cornstarch on my fingertips and rubbed my fingers into my scalp. I went all over my scalp with this and there was a bit of a white cast, but brushing my hair once through was enough to get rid of it. It actually took away a lot of the greasy felling that I was having and the greasy look. However, I couldn’t get the crown of my head to cooperate with this method. The crown of my head always seems to be the greasiest part of my scalp, and I knew from experience that I was definitely going to want to target it very well the next day with my rinse.
Jan 5th: After corn starch dry shampoo. Crown of head still greasy.
I thoroughly brushed my hair to try and distribute oils again before bed.
Jan 6th: Today was the day that I went ahead and did my first baking soda & apple cider vinegar rinse. I got my measurements for the rinses from a Youtuber that goes by Maryellen Creative.
1 tsp of baking soda to 500 mL of water (in a spray bottle)
2 tbsp of ACV to 500 mL of water (in a jar)
I mixed up the baking soda and water mixture in a separate bottle first so that I could shake up the mixture to make sure that the baking soda was dissolved in the water better. The spray bottle I had on had was just barely big enough to fit 500 mL of water, so there wasn’t much room for proper agitation. I also made sure to use cold water for the baking soda rinse, this way I could feel the cold water on my scalp in the shower and know where I got all of the rinse and where I missed. This would also make it easier to rinse out as well.
The apple cider vinegar rinse I mixed up in a mason jar that actually had a measurement for 500 mL, which made the whole process much easier. The jar also had plenty of room so that I would be able to put the length of my hair into the jar for the actual rinsing (more on that to come).
So to wash my hair with the baking soda rinse, I basically just parted my hair every which way I could and sprayed it onto my scalp. When I was fully done doing that and making sure that I got it everywhere, I had probably used about 80-90% of the rinse that was in the spray bottle. I made sure to massage my scalp to be able to make sure that the baking soda really got everywhere, then I rinsed it out to the best of my ability. Since the water from the shower head was warm, I could feel the colder water of the baking soda rinse sort of leave my scalp.
Next, I grabbed my jar of the apple cider vinegar rinse and poured a small amount onto the top of my head near the hairline and around the crown of my head. I then put the length of my hair into the jar and made a seal by pressing the jar up against the back of my head. I shook the jar against my head to release some of the rinse onto my scalp and then I took the jar off of my head and rung my hair out into the jar to reuse the rinse on the other side of my head. To finish, I just poured the rest of the rinse over my head and rinsed it out with water.
After my shower, it took my hair a good 3-4 hours to dry, and while it felt less greasy, it wasn’t really all that clean feeling.
Jan 6th: Hair after first baking soda and apple cider vinegar rinse. Still a bit greasy, but cleaner.
Jan 7th: One day after my first rinse and my hair did not really feel clean. So to say that I broke a bit isn’t really an exaggeration. I wanted to just have clean feeling hair again, so I used a shampoo bar. Technically, using shampoo bars is still a way to go no poo, so I could say that I have actually been no poo for over a year now. I think that what I found was that the baking soda was not a great way to cleanse my scalp. I’ve used apple cider vinegar in the past to treat my scalp and dandruff, so I know that it actually works well for my hair. My game plan after this is to try again to go seven to ten days with only water washes, and then try a tea or coffee rinse.
Jan 8th: So I was a little busy the 7th and 8th, so I really didn’t get any pictures. What was really interesting to me was the fact that my hair really didn’t feel oily after a full day of not washing, which was making me think that I might have already been able to train my hair to go a few extra days without washing. Usually I can get away with washing my hair and then washing agin two days later, since the second day is when it gets to be really gross.
Jan 9th: So this was the day when my hair started to feel just a bit more greasy than it had been, but honestly not to the extent that it usually would be in at this point. I was going to do a water rinse in the morning, but I decided that since my hair wasn’t terrible that I would postpone it until later in the evening. I ended up running some errands in the city and I wore my hair down for the whole thing.
One thing I realized at this point was that I hadn’t really brushed or combed out my hair since I washed it, which gave me a little bit of my natural wave texture. I decided that I would comb it out before my water rinse that night so when I finally took an update picture that my hair didn’t have any rat’s nest in it. After my water rinse, I added some almond oil to the ends of my hair again to try and substitute a leave-in conditioner.
Jan 9th: Hair after combing and before water rinse.
Jan 10th: Waking up after my water rinse, my scalp felt kind of gross, but I really just equated that to sleeping on wet hair. Once again, my hair was still damp when I woke up, so it really wasn’t completely dry until about 11:00 am. The almond oil really helped with my ends not feeling super dry or hay-like, which was something that I noticed before my first rinse. I brushed my hair a ton this day to try and help out with my greasy scalp and trying to distribute the oils.
You might notice that my shirt is the same in the picture below as in the one above. I was in the process of moving back to school so I was trying to stretch out my wardrobe so I wouldn’t have a ton of dirty laundry to move.
Jan 10th: Greasy hair and some flakes on top.
Jan 11th: I went to a doctor's appointment so I had my hair up. My hair was getting to the point that I really wanted to wash it because I would be moving back into my apartment to start school the next day. I decided to just leave my hair up and scritch and preen later in the evening. Instead of doing a water rinse, I ended up just rinsing my hair with apple cider vinegar and then following up with a very light lather of my shampoo bar, so that I was using as little product as possible. I just wanted to be able to have a good clean scalp for moving in and have one less thing to worry about.
This was the day that I found out that there was a second way to go no poo gradually and not have to deal with all of the grease, called overnighting. Basically, you try over the course of months to go just one more day without washing your hair. So if you wash your hair every other day, then you try and train your hair to go every two days without washing. Then try to go three days once your scalp acclimates, then four days, then five days, and so on. It is supposed to be a gradual and less dramatic way to lessen the amount of product that you use, which is what I basically stumbled into doing to mitigate the amount of grease that I was dealing with.
Jan 12th: So this was the day that I moved back into my apartment after winter break, so I did a ton of running around and didn’t have any time to snap a picture. I did end up doing a water rinse at night so that I could try a new method of water rinsing that I found online.
I basically broke up my hair into three sections, top, middle, and bottom, and then proceeded to go in on those sections with a vigorous scalp massage with my fingers. The idea of using your fingers is that oil helps break down oil, so the oil from your fingers help break down the oil from your scalp and rinse it down the rest of your hair.
Jan 13th: I worked out in the morning so my scalp got pretty sweaty.
Jan 13th: Hair after workout.
I wore my hair up for the whole day, and I only took out my hair so that I could brush it out really well before bed and distribute those oils better.
Jan 14th: I worked out again in the morning, and instead of wearing my hair up all day again because of the greasiness, I went in with some cornstarch dry shampoo to try and help out my hair so that I could wear it down.
One thing I was beginning to notice on this day was that the mids and ends of my hair were definitely starting to feel just as oily as my scalp. So I decided to do a lot more brushing before my water rinse that night so that I could maybe try and get my hair to feel a little less gross.
In the middle of my shower, I remembered that another form of going no poo is to co-wash your hair instead. Co-washing is basically washing your hair with conditioner instead of shampoo in order to “clean” your hair, since conditioner more or less a way to add moisture and other nutrients to your hair instead of stripping your hair of its natural sebum. I thought that I would give it a try and see if I liked the results of that any better than my water only rinses.
I definitely want the no poo method to work because I feel as though it could be very beneficial for me in the long run. I’ve already noticed a bit of my natural texture coming back and my hair, although greasy, feels healthier.
I realize that in these two weeks already that I have tried a variety of different methods, which probably is hindering me more than helping me. In a lot of the articles I’ve read about no poo, one method doesn’t fit all and it is so important to test out what works for your hair and your own personal lifestyle.
I’m still doing a ton of research, looking into DIY shampoo alternatives and looking at the advice and experience of people who have gotten the no poo method to work. As my first real project of 2021, I will be updating my journey as I go through it, and trying my best to crack the code for my hair to be no poo.