After four months of no-poo (short for “no-shampoo”) I finally returned to shampoo. It wasn’t an easy decision and I was a little bit sad, since I prefer to be as minimalist and independent of products as possible.
As you can read in the post I wrote in August, I started with using only water in the beginning. Especially during the first two weeks my hair was in a quite bad state and didn’t look or smell pretty. After the initial grease my scalp slowly started to be less greasy and by week three my hair looked quite good. Only water didn’t give me the look and smell I wanted though, so I started experimenting a little. And believe me: I tried a lot of different things!
The first thing I changed was my brushing routine. I got a wooden brush and started to brush my hair on a daily basis. The brushing is supposed to distribute the sebum evenly on the scalp and hydrate the hair. It helped for sure and my hair started to get a nice and thick look. Up until now I still brush my hair more frequently, than I did before my no-poo experiment.
Sodium bicarbonate is a raising agent, that makes pancakes fluffy and helps with an upset stomach. It can also be used as an ingredient for homemade toothpaste and homemade deodorant. The substance has a high ph and cleans the scalp in a very efficient way. After washing the hair with sodium bicarbonate it is necessary to rinse the hair with vinegar though. Vinegar has a low ph and makes the hair soft and shiny. Usually apple cider vinegar is recommended. My experience with sodium bicarbonate was good and my hair got really shiny. The downside was, that it gives you crazy dry and crispy hair. Even though I just used it once per week, it seemed to be too aggressive for my scalp.
I tried this one some time in August after my flatmate recommended it. He did the whole experiment with me and suffered from a dry and itchy scalp. The procedure is quite simple: Massage fresh or bottled lemon juice into your scalp and let it sit for ten to twenty minutes. After that rinse your hair and proceed as usual.
I didn’t really feel a difference to using apple cider vinegar. My hair smelled a lot better, but the look of my hair and the feeling of my scalp didn’t really change. No harm done (but I wouldn’t recommend the treatment before a sunbath, since it might make your skin vulnerable to sunlight).
My flatmate wasn’t completely satisfied with the smell of his hair and started to use tea tree oil after washing it. I am not a huge fan of tea tree oil (reminds me of being a teenager with pimples) but the smell was quite alright. If you want to use essential oils for your hair I recommend starting with very small doses. First of all it is not easy to wash the smell out (if you accidentally overdose). Second of all some hair (mine for instance) gets greasy after applying micro doses of oil. Another solution – if you don’t wanna use oils – might be flower water or rose water. It is quite light and even food safe.
I watched some videos on YouTube and learnt that a lot of no-pooers use Aleppo soap. This traditional olive soap originates in Syria and contains up to 50 percent laurel oil. The soap can be used for hair and skin and is up until today handmade and free of perfume or artificial color and micro-plastic. I bought a soap with a very low laurel content and used it the way I saw it in a video. I washed my hair with the soap and gave it a cold apple cider vinegar rinse after. The result was a little bit strange and greasy at first. After two days my hair started to look better though and got a nice texture and shine. The frustrating thing was, that I had to wait two days until my hair finally looked good. That doesn’t really align with washing my hair in order to look and smell clean instantly. The result was, that I kept my hair in braids or in a bun for the first day and let it down after. Side-note: My flatmate is still using aleppo soap. Since he started applying bigger amounts, his hair looks a lot better. But: He is in the ocean at least four times per week. I think that also changes the whole no-poo experience.
My hair looked great without using shampoo. At least after two days I really enjoyed the look, the volume and the feel. I didn’t think about washing my hair until I got a shiatsu full body massage that included a massage of my scalp. When the therapist started to touch my scalp I actually felt a lot of discomfort (since it felt way different than a shampooed scalp). After the treatment I thought about it for a couple of days and made my own conclusions. Since I didn’t feel completely comfortable with my hair and the whole process of avoiding shampoo was actually quite an effort (brushing, Aleppo soap, vinegar, waiting) I decided that a mild shampoo would cause me actually less trouble and even expenses (Aleppo soap is quite pricey) than not using shampoo.
I found a very mild baby shampoo without aggressive detergents and perfume, that I considered a good fit. Washing my hair with an actual product felt very strange at first. The first wash also didn’t clean my scalp completely. In total I had to wash my hair three times, until it felt light and the waxy layer of sebum that covered my scalp was gone. After that I applied conditioner (organic, vegan coconut conditioner) and rinsed it with cold water. The result was really nice and shiny and I got the typical “fresh” smell, that I missed a lot.
A lot of my friends and followers on instagram tried the experiment and were mostly satisfied. Two friends still wash their hair with just water (guys with very short hair) and in one case the use of just water improved my friend’s skin condition a lot. I also think, that in the future I will try to have phases, where I don’t wash my hair at all and let it kind of relax and go back into its natural state. Right now I use shampoo once or twice per week and the production of oil or sebum ist still pretty low. Also during the whole time without shampoo my hair grew quite a bit and I barely lost any hair. That might be due to my nutrition and the warm climate, but I would also speculate that the lack of chemicals improved the health of my hair. In the future I would also like to not use product for a long time again. Either when I move to a region with higher quality standards regarding tab water (the water caused a lot of build-up on my scalp) or once I cut my hair really short.
There is no black or white when it comes to no-poo. There are a lot of advantages doing no-poo (plastic waste, health, animal testing, economic reasons, minimalist ideas) and some disadvantages (complicated, different smell, requires patience). My conclusion if it comes to no-poo is: Use as little product as possible but as much as required. And give your hair and body a break from time to time.
I am very curious about your experience with no-poo! Leave a comment or send me a message and share your thoughts!
I am Julia, vegan by heart, traveler and minimalist based in beautiful Portugal. I love simple but delicious food, ashtanga, skating, surfing and having a nice conversation over snacks and a glass of wine. I am blogging about vegan food, my minimalist journey, life hacks and my experiences as a traveler.