The Hidden Problem with “No Poo” (And What to Do Instead)

The hidden problem with no poo- and what to do instead

As women, we tend to be finicky about our hair: all the curly-haired girls want straight hair and all the straight-haired girls want curls. But we all have one thing in common: the desire to have beautiful, healthy hair, preferably in a natural way.

Lots of naturally-minded folks recommend no poo, but is it really best for your hair?

What Is No Poo?

In case you’ve been living under a rock or you’re new to the crunchy mama crowd, “no poo” refers to your hair, not the other thing it sounds like.

Those who practice “no poo” are simply forgoing shampoo in favor of using baking soda to wash their hair. Typically, proponents of the no poo method suggest using diluted baking soda to give your hair a scrub, followed by a rinse of diluted apple cider vinegar.

It sounds like the perfect solution: natural and cheap. However, if you’ve gone that route, odds are, you’ll come to some bumps in the road sooner or later.

The Problem with No Poo

Baking soda sounds like a perfect choice for keeping your coif clean because it’s such a great cleanser. After all, I use it in my homemade cleaning supplies all the time. Try to use it for long though, and you’ll see why it isn’t right for hair maintenance.

Lots of us start out loving the no poo method: it seems to create manageable, clean, even bouncy, voluminous hair. But before long, many will start to notice something: dry, unmanageable hair. Breakage. Buildup. You might even be tempted to go back to conventional hair care products just to restore our locks to health.

There are a few reasons for things going south:

Baking Soda= Wrong pH for Hair

Because the natural pH of hair and skin is between 4.5-5.5, it is slightly acidic. With a pH of 9, baking soda differs vastly on the pH scale from hair. It is much more alkaline.

When you repeatedly wash your slightly acidic hair with a highly alkalized solution, you force your hair to drastically change its natural makeup. Eventually, your hair will become dry, frizzy, and begin to suffer from breakage.

The purpose for the apple cider vinegar rinse following a baking soda wash is to restore acidity to your hair. However, most people are unable to perfectly dilute and balance each step in order to restore proper pH. Not to mention, it’s difficult to evenly wash every strand of hair with each solution, making sure none are missed.

Baking Soda is Abrasive

Baking soda is one of the best natural solutions for scrubbing everything from tile grout to bathtubs. It is not great, however, for scrubbing hair. It’s simply too abrasive.

Just rub a little bit of the fine, white powder between your fingers and you can see why it does such a great job of getting things clean. The microscopic crystalline structure of baking soda creates jagged edges which scrub away at dirty surfaces.

You can imagine why setting those jagged edges to cleaning delicate hair might cause problems. Baking soda will eventually tear away at delicate tresses and cause damage, resulting in dry, breaking hair and split ends. Some no poo users have even reported losing clumps of hair.

It May Strip Hair of Natural Oils

Because baking soda is abrasive and too alkaline, it will eventually strip away the natural oils coating your scalp and hair.

That natural oil is present to protect your scalp and hair, keeping it healthy and manageable. Because we all have differing body chemistry and use different products, the amount of oil can vary greatly from one person to the next. That’s why some of us can get away with only washing our hair once in a while, and others can’t seem to go longer than a day between washes.

I found that when I switched over to natural hair care, my hair became more balanced: not too oily, not too dry, and I’m able to go longer between washes because my scalp and hair are healthy and happy. It can be normal for your hair to go through a period of detox as it adjusts to natural hair care, as conventional shampoos can also strip away those natural oils.

As your hair adjusts, it may become more oily or drier than usual, but as you settle on a natural hair care routine that’s right for your particular hair, it should even out.

However, don’t mistake your hair rejecting the no poo method for detox.

Your Hair Isn’t “Detoxing”; it’s Being Damaged!

Don’t keep scrubbing away with baking soda, hoping your hair will adjust! In many cases, the baking soda is actually causing damage to the hair. I’m certainly not a fan of most conventional shampoos, but they are designed to be the correct pH for hair.

What to Do Instead of No Poo

If you don’t want to thwart your healthy, natural hair care efforts with no poo, there are still lots of great natural hair care options.

No Poo Alternatives

1. Clay Based Shampoos. Who knew that putting clay in your hair could make it cleaner and healthier? I was a skeptic at first, but now often turn to clay based shampoos for my hair. I make my own detox shampoo but I also use this pre-made all-natural one from Morrocco Method and I really like it . (Use the code wellnessmama15 to get 15% off if you try it!) As a bonus, these products have a lot of added beneficial ingredients that nourish hair.

2. Make a shampoo bar. If you’re feeling adventurous, try your hand at making old-fashioned soap with lye. Find a specially formulated bar soap recipe for hair here.

3. Make a shampoo from soap nuts. Soap nuts aren’t just for laundry! Soap nuts shampoo is incredibly inexpensive to make and completely natural. Find the simple recipe here. (Note that this will not work on all hair types and seems to be the toughest to get right.

4. Make a dry shampoo. No matter the kind of shampoo, the science says fewer washes means healthier hair. Want to freshen your hair between washes while you’re figuring out the perfect no poo alternative for your hair? Try a homemade dry shampoo, with versions for both dark and light hair. Try this recipe.

Find What Works for Your Hair

Whether your hair is curly or straight, thick or thin, oily or dry, most of us will find that the no poo method isn’t ideal. However, we all have different hair care needs based on our own individual chemistry.

Experiment with the suggestions above until you find what works for your hair, then come back and let me know your results!

Have you ever tried “no poo?” Did you have any of the problems described above? Share below!

Find out why the "no poo" way of washing hair isn't best in the long run, and get the scoop on my favorite natural shampoo alternatives.

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Reader Comments

  1. What about those that don’t use anything to wash their hair? Most people who do the “no poo” method just rinse their hair with water.

    • I use a really dilute (3 parts water/1 part Bronner’s Castile Soap) “shampoo” about every two weeks, with a water wash in between if I need it. ALWAYS an ACV rinse – it’s what makes a water wash meaningful, really. Works really well for me.

  2. Actually when I first learned the no poo years ago it had nothing to do with baking soda…this is the first I’ve heard that. I was introduced it by my hair stylist. She showed me the book Curly Girl. She then picked up her book of ingredients and pulled a bottle of conditioner off the shelf and showed me there are cleansers in conditioners. The idea is to use a high quality conditioner. Shampoo adds to many cleansers and roughs up the cuticle on us curlies. My hair is healthy, my scalp less itchy …I’ve been able to grow my hair long due to less haircuts and my curls look great. Everyday I get compliments on my hair.

    • I was thinking the same. Never heard of using baking soda. I just use a homemade bar off etsy, every few days, and I’m good.

    • I’ve also used the “no poo” brand for curly hair as well. There are a lot of extra ingredients in there though that makes me skeptical whether it’s that safe or not. It’s at least better then ones with parabens and sulphites though.

    • I’ve been following the curly girl method for well over 3 years now. No shampoo, sulfates, silicones, drying alcohols, etc., have touched my hair in this time and I love my hair and my curls! I’d never even heard of using baking soda.

    • Same here Holly. I use the curly girl method as well and have never heard of washing hair with baking soda. And even if I did, I am pretty positive I never would give it a try. But, as an fyi…the information presented is good non-the-less. Thank you Wellness Mama.

  3. Katie,
    I would like to Thank you for your Blog. and for all the E-mails I received from you. You’ve been bless to me and my whole family and Friends. I love what you do for us Busy Moms. I love all the Recipes you have. and have been making them for my family. works great than store bought and chemical free. I came from a big family. My Mom always make natural Remedies for us kids when we were young. it reminds me of what you do for your family and you share with Us. I can thank you Enough for what you do. May God Bless you and your Family. Like my Mom Said. All the Good Things we do here on Earth, Blessings will come back to you and your Children.
    Thank you Again!

  4. I started using shampoo bars from Chagrin Valley over a year ago and have found they work pretty well. For those almost year, though, there was a lot of buildup, so I used diluted apple cider vinegar (1 part vinegar, 3 parts water) and a few drops of lavender essential oil to cover the vinegar smell, to reduce the buildup. I still get some buildup but it takes longer. I’m not sure, though, if this is good for my hair or not so I might try the Morocco Method and see if that helps thicken my hair or grow in places it’s traditionally struggled to grow/where I still have wispys, fly-aways or baby hair.

    • do you have hard water? it seems if you have hard water, you need a diluted acv or lemon juice rinse to get rid of hard water buildup. Just be careful, lemon can lighten your hair! I have hard water and I’ve been using Shea moisture brand shampoo followed by a dilute acv final rinse.

  5. Those aren’t alternatives to no poo, they all fall under no poo. No poo is simply not using conventional shampoo. Baking soda is just currently the most well known version, even though it’s, in many people’s opinion, one of the weakest options. 🙂

    Check out the big no poo group on Facebook, it has a pretty comprehensive list of some other options. I personally use shikaki powder and/or sifted rye flour for myself, and aloe vera gel or honey for my toddler. Sometimes a shampoo bar. We generally wash once a week. You just have to experiment to find out what works best for your hair.

    • I agree with the experimenting! Rye flower works for me too! Sometimes I add clay, sometimes I do herbal rince.
      Katie thank you for all the healthy hacks you teach us!

    • Another vote for rye flour! I’ve washed my hair with it once a week for the last six months, and it has never been happier and healthier. I even have some natural curls. Who knew?

  6. I tried the no-poo method and it was an utter disaster.

    After have used a bunch of SLS-free, non-gmo, no-dyes or fragrances, organic – pretty much the purest shampoos one could buy from a store, I was finding that I was getting greasier and greasier in that I was starting to have to wash my hair every other day – which was far from my goal. Ultimately, I wanted to be able to wash my hair every three days.

    Hence, I tried no-poo and found that it stripped hair of color (we are talking even your natural color 🙁 and made my hair super dry and brittle. I stopped no-poo after reading a blog in which the person who had been doing no-poo for years had bleach-blonde hair because of all the damage (they were not naturally that blonde). That to me proves it is not normal/good for hair.

    I tried not to go back to the darkside of using terrible shampoos, so I started with a Davines from Italy – which wasn’t the best, but I’m happy to report that I now bounce back and forth between two really wonderful natural shampoos and can typically make it every three days. I use EO brand shampoo and an organic shampoo from Neal’s Yard Remedies – Wellness Mama you would love NYR!

  7. Yes no poo has NOTHING to do with shampoo, but EVERYTHING to do with conditioner! Like cleansing conditioner! Every conditioner is actually a cleansing conditioner. That’s why I only use conditioner without the bad ingredients for over five years! Plus you don’t actually have to make anything! Funny how when you stop using shampoo you start to notice just how much conditioner actually foams up. I do love your blog, and emails, but shampoo is horrible for your hair,

  8. Once in a while I do a final rinse with a can of beer (that’s too old for drinking). I can’t remember where I heard that a beer rinse is supposed to be good, or why. My hair seems to like it. What is your opinion on a beer rinse?

  9. I use a vinegar solution or just water. The vinegar solution helps with de-tangling.

  10. I put bentonite clay powder in my dry shampoo mixture with cocoa powder and arrowroot and it has been a great success! I’d like to think my hair is receiving the same benefits from the clay in dry shampoo as well. It does a fantastic job of absorbing excess oil and giving my hair some texture. Great post!

  11. I see the downsides to the baking soda on hair, but what about the apple cider vinegar as a “conditioning” rinse? How do you feel about that part?

    • I still do use diluted apple cider vinegar as a rinse and it works well. I also do use shampoo bars once in a while and it really helps to rinse with ACV

  12. My husband and I have been using No Poo for 4 years now. I have thin poker straight hair and I had a terrible time for the 1st 6 months and almost gave up.
    Then I notice there were no split ends and I wasnt losing as much hair as before in the brush so I knew something was happening. I still cannot use vinegar for rinse instead use aloe.
    I add a drop or two of argan to my BS mix along with a drop or two of castile soap, a couple slivers of JR Liggits and some essential oils (tea tree or Lemon , Rosemary or Ylang and my batch last for 3-4 shampoos (shampoo twice a week.
    My husband has very liittle dandruff since he switched ..before it looked like it snowed on his shoulders.
    Thank you for informing us of the clay based shampoo, I will check it out.

  13. i used the no poo method for almost 3 months, my hair went through a nasty heavy greasy stage and then became very dry, felt like straw on the bottoms and I had a ton of breakage. I stopped the no poo and started using a Lush shampoo bar and am very happy with the results

    • The only problem with this is the Lush bars are filled with SLS and artificial fragrance.. I’m not a huge fan of them because they seem to be misleading people as being a ‘safe’ company when they are anything but.

  14. This is an interesting blog post, and not my experience, so I thought I’d chime in. I’ve been no ‘poo for…5 years?…and haven’t noticed the negatives that you mention. I do tend to use a commercial conditioner most of the time, so perhaps that helps balance it out. I’ll also mention that I only wash my hair 1-2 times/week. When I saw someone mention hair color change, I started paying more attention to my hair, but haven’t noticed any significant change.

    Clearly, I may be in the minority, but I really like my whopping ~1 Tb of baking soda dissolved in water ‘poo.

    • Same here. I’ve been doing it for 3 years with great results! I had an initial adjustment period of a few weeks but it’s been great since then. My hair is way less frizzy and I can let it air dry and it looks good.

    • Same here, Colleen and Amanda. I’ve been using diluted baking soda and diluted ACV method for the past 2 years and my hair has never been healthier than it is right now. I often receive comments about how healthy and shiny my hair looks, and people are shocked whenever I tell them that I only wash it once a week with baking soda and ACV. I did discover along the way, however, that leaving the ACV solution in my hair (as opposed to rinsing it out) makes a huge difference and yields much better results than if I rinse it out. Perhaps leaving the ACV in your hair ensures an adequate level of acidity so that the hair stays “happy”. Also, when I wash my hair with the baking soda solution, I don’t actually “scrub” my hair with it — I mostly focus on my scalp by gently massaging it into the scalp, and then I let the solution gently “flow” through the rest of my hair as I’m rinsing it out.

      I sure hope that people don’t give up on the baking soda / ACV protocol. If some individuals are seeing less-than-desirable results, I’m guessing that it’s due to one or all of the following:

      1) washing their hair too frequently
      2) scrubbing their hair shafts too roughly with the baking soda solution.
      3) rinsing out the ACV solution instead of leaving it in

      • I have been using baking soda ( 2 Tbsp in 2 cups water) with and ACV (3 Tbsp in cups water with peppermint and rosemary EOs) for 1 3/4 years and really like it. There was an adjusment period to begin with. Yeah, I leave the ACV in my hair for awhile (as I shave my legs). After I brush my hair out, I put in a small amount of coconut oil (1/8 tsp) to help decrease frizziness and give my waves some bounce.

  15. Actually, no poo is usually using conditioner to cleanse your hair not baking soda. Lots of good information on the no poo facebook group. They say baking soda should be used once and a while only to clarify.

    • That’s what I use. I wash my hair with conditioners that don’t have silicones (Suave Naturals for example). I have to massage my scalp more than I did with shampoo but my hair is so much healthier now. It’s been a few years now and my color actually holds better.

  16. I tried ‘no poo’ for about six or nine months a few years ago. It got SO BAD that I couldn’t even run a comb or brush through my hair. Awful. I’ve found a shampoo and conditioner that’s low in all the bad stuff 🙂 and only wash twice a week or so.

  17. Tried lots of variations of eliminating shampoo with varying results. I have been working to resolve Hashimoto’s, so my hair is on the dry, damaged and sad side. I have ended up with a very happy routine of washing with EO brand conditioner alone a few times per week and just rinsing with water the days in-between. It is not drying and saves me from the unnecessary step of harsh shampoo. (I even found sulfate free ones to cause some damage for my hair.) As far as hair growth, only after years of removing heavy metals and other natural health interventions, was I able to tolerate high doses of Lugol’s iodine and the thickness of my new hair is much better. Hopefully the texture will improve in the near future.

    • I could not help but reply to this comment. Please know you can rub that iodine on your wrist with the other wrist and it will be absorbed with our staining anything. So much better and easier to do than ingesting. I use 2-3 drops daily that way and my thyroid panels are perfect. However, when I’m particularly fatigued I just repeat later in the day. Also if you get white (colorless) iodine, it must be Ammonium free, or it stings, you can apply to your scalp. white iodine promotes hair growth ( I only know of Dr Clarks white iodine in California). You kill two birds with one stone . Also add silica to your vitamin regime, I added it as bamboo. I got new visible hair growth and the hairline and top of scalp after 7-1/2 weeks of taking 600 mgs every morning. I did these protocols; bamboo and iodine separately. I know the bamboo worked!! Two other things to be ACUTELY aware of is to get checked for the MTHFR gene mutation. It’s a simple blood draw or you can get a do it yourself saliva kit for $99.00 at 23andme site if you desire more insight to your genetics. I mention the MTHFR mutation because once I supplemented with methylfolate (that’s the natural form of folic acid which is just vitamin B9) my hair shedding slowed and the inexplicable excess weight started to leave – hooray! Do some research on the MTHFR gene- it’s fascinating reading. (I’m a 57 year old in menopause). I learn so much from reading real people’s comments on articles, I hope this helps someone. Cheers!

  18. I’ve been no-poo for 7 years, using baking soda the whole time. About a year in, instead of ACV I started using Dr. Bonner’s citrus rinse. I only need to wash my hair every two weeks or so. Sorry to hear it’s problematic for others, but I suppose since I do it so infrequently its ok?

  19. I’ve been “no-poo” for nearly 10 years. Early on I found the baking soda wash was damaging my hair, so I adopted a different system:
    1) I rinse my hair in the shower, combing my hair with a wide-tooth comb while my head is under the water.
    2) After wrapping my head, turban style, to soak up the water, I use a clean, dry, terrycloth towel to stroke my hair from scalp to ends for 200 strokes. I flip the towel over at 100 strokes to use the dry side of the towel.
    3) Comb out and set, or finish with a quick blow dry. The towel moves the sebum throughout the hair rather than stripping it. That sebum is valuable stuff; antimicrobial, antiviral, antibacterial; it protects the hair and keeps it from drying out and having split ends.
    On the rare occasion that I get something greasy or gunky in my hair, I’ll give it a mud bath with Red Clay and a splash of raw ACV, rinse then proceed as above. I love the simplicity, safety, and frugality of this method; zero product means zero exposure to toxic chemicals (even “organic” shampoos and conditioners have ’em). By the way, we have hard well water, and I still have success with my Towel Method.

    • Hi Susan,

      that’s great , if i could get to that stage would be fantastic because basically i’m trying to cut back on the consumerism as much as possible, for me is not only about health. I suffer from seborrheic dermatitis on the occasions that i’m more stressed , so maybe i should just stop using stuff on my hair, even natural the scalp doesn’t like most of the things. The clay that you mention will probably be the best when i need something else. I use henna once a year too and after the treatment the hair is a bit saturated on the top , but apart from that it’s ok and the scalp his happy. Maybe i’m taking the natural sebum out and the scalp does not like it. Any thoughts ? Thank you a lot, have a great day.

    • And best of all – no plastic bottles to throw away!

  20. By rotating between shampoos, do you mean switch between shampoos every other day or every other week? Month?

  21. My process was several years long. Baking soda did not work for me. Finally I settled on useing a mix of African black soap and Castile soap (both peppermint). I wash just the hair and not the scalp finishing it off with diluted apple cider vinegar (if I skip this step the results are aweful). This worked well. It really was a process to find out what worked for me but I was determined. The crazy thing was that after my hair detoxed, I found it was actually curly. I’d always had annoying light waves but for the most part my hair was straight. Now it has beautiful curly waves, nothing crazy tight, but it gives my hair body. I love it.

    • Interesting – my hair did the opposite. I had curly, frizzy hair before going chemical-free 3 years ago. Now it is fairly straight with no curl. No frizz either, which is nice. The only time I get curl now is when it is humid.

    • This is great info! I’ve got great hair most of the time , but I’ve been trying different alternatives with no poo, de brooners , coco mil Castile soap etc. But the thing is my scalp after a while hates it ! I have seborrheic dermatitis and my scalp when I go through stress and my period hates it! It’s been a few years now and I’m really really frustrated. So do you think by not washing the scalp it might help?

      Thank you ?

      • I have had this issue too, but only when I’ve tried to cut down from shampooing daily. I finally found the avalon organics for dandruff and it works like a charm. My hair actually makes it 24 hours without itching using this stuff and no gross Greasy clumps of skin on my scalp

  22. Which of the 5 shampoos help with fixing hair loss problem?

  23. This is an email I sent this morning in response to your Morrocco Method article, Since there was no where to post it, I am posting here as I felt it was important to point a few things out, since I got a response basically saying the EM wouldn’t be answered or read.

    Hi there,

    I’m not sure if this EM address will accept a note or not, but I hope so, since there was no where I could post this. I’ve used the Morrocco shampoo and conditioners for about a year and a half now, and I didn’t have much trouble getting used to the no sudsing qualities since I had already NOT been using shampoo for at least 10 years. However, what I was using was drying out my hair (baking soda & then vinegar rinses), and all my homemade oil treatments were really no longer helping keep my hair looking it’s best. My main point is that my hair had already been through the detox period and I have to say that it took me a good 6 weeks before my hair stopped looking like a greasy mess when I first started all those years ago! The Morrocco Method is absolutely terrific BUT you have to be prepared to go through some really bad hair days and they CAN last for weeks and weeks! You were already using your natural products, so your hair had less of an adjustment period, but people who are using the store bought, regular hair products can (and will) have a totally different experience. I had friends that asked what I was *doing* to my hair because they noticed the improvement, so I filled up some of my travel sized bottles and let a couple of them *try* them. They hated them! Their hair came out greasy, they both complained that their head *itched*, and they couldn’t get used to the non-sudsing. Yes, I had explained to them that their hair would detox and they’d have to be patient. They used it for 2 weeks and gave up and went back to their chemical junk.

    When I read your article today, all I could think of was that you might end up with a lot of disappointed readers, especially if they aren’t already using more natural type products on their hair. I love the MM shampoos and conditioners myself and wouldn’t use anything else, but people need to know what they may experience, but that it IS worth the effort. I only have to wash my hair once a week. I could go longer as it stays clean and looks and smells good, but there’s still the *yuck* factor – that I feel I NEED to wash it just to DO it, lol! There are times (like super hot summer days) where I wash it more frequently, but even that is rare. I have also found, that rather than diluting the shampoo, after I get my hair really wet and saturated with water, I put the shampoo at the top of head where it mixes with the water and I am able to get it throughout my hair. (my hair comes down to shoulder blade level) This has been much easier for me rather than diluting it prior to use.

    The Morrocco Method products are simply terrific, and I hope he always keeps them so natural and pure!

    Vee

    • Thanks for posting. I tried the Morocco Method products after I had been using baking soda and vinegar for a couple years and my hair felt really plastic-y. The website said this was a detox from all the chemicals, but I hadn’t used any chemicals for years. I think I tried for a month or two and gave up (though on a side note, after using the MM products that long and then using baking soda to get all the stuff out, my hair felt AMAZING after that).

      Couple questions for you:

      1. When you don’t wash your hair for a week, do you still rinse it, or does it stay dry the whole time? (Even with using BS, my hair can go 4 or 5 days which was definitely not possible with conventional shampoo.)

      2. How much are you using to get through your hair? I also didn’t like trying to dilute it before using it. And I was never sure if I was using enough.

      • Hi Mandie,

        To answer your first question, no I don’t do any rinses between shampoos, as it hasn’t been necessary. My hair stays clean, shiny, and soft. As for how much shampoo I use, I put apx 1 to 1-1/2 tsp in my hand, make sure I get my hair really wet, then quick put the shampoo on the top of the my head and then work it down through my hair, rinse, and repeat. My hair always looks clean and healthy. At first, I worried if I wasn’t using enough, but I think that’s just getting used to it NOT sudsing up. I’ve gotten used to that now though, and don’t worry about it. It’s always enough.

        Vee

  24. The key is finding something that is non-toxic AND effective. Any time I’ve gone “no poo” or even done a vinegar rinse, my hair gets too tangly and dry. Some people do go through a period of detox after using harsh chemicals on their hair and exposure to environmental pollutants as well. I’ve found great success with products from MONAT. I love that they are safe for all hair types, including dyed hair. I also use the Junior kids line for my 3 small children.

  25. thank you for this post! Since we got married 8 years ago, my husband and I have been slowly detoxifying our lifestyle by moving towards more natural/healthier/simpler foods, cleaning products and body products. One of my last goals was to get away from my bad hair products, but really struggled with how to do it! Baking soda/ACV was a DISASTER and a shampoo bar from a local artisan left my hair dull, even drier, and not very clean. I was super frustrated and returned to less natural products. I have found that Dessert Essence works really well for me. Not quite as crunchy as I typically like my body products to be, but I can read the ingredient list and feel much better about it! I also recently out of frustration w my very wavy/almost curly hair tried aloe Vera gel as a post-shower curl-defining solution. Great results!! I highly recommend trying this!!

  26. I found the Curly Girl Book in Barnes and Noble 12 years ago and found my protocol! If you have any curls at all this book is for you!!!!!
    I use a bottle of distilled water and lavender essential oil to spray down my hair for many days between washings…
    I scrunch and clip up my damp hair to form curls while it dries. My hair curls right up again and is totally manageable and beautiful and smells wonderful. I get asked all the time what I use on my hair. You can spray the scalp too and it cleans and deodorizes. Lavender is amazing for this job!
    Then when I really do need a wash I lightly wash with Aubrey Chamomile Luxurious Volumizing Shampoo.
    The conditioner is great too and I usually do not rinse that completely out. Very clean ingredients but not certified organic; every ingredient is organic and non gmo.
    I haven’t found a natural gel yet, so use a Paul Mitchell’s Extra Body sculpting foam on that day. I hope I’m allowed to say that on this blog! Sorry!

  27. Thank you for this post. You have mentioned some great alternatives. But You didn’t mention your coconut milk shampoo in this post.

  28. Hi Katie,

    Thanks for this post. I use rye flour mixed with water as a thick paste, then a VERY diluted ACV rinse afterwards (1 teaspoon to a glass of water). I’ve been doing this for about 6 months now and it works well. I still feel my hair is not as shiny and manageable as it used to be, but I have read that it takes a while to get used to this new regimen. So I’m sticking to it for now. Have you heard about this approach and considered it (or not)? I used bicarb for a while about a year ago and had disastrous results.

  29. I’ll admit I’ve given up on safe shampoo for now. For a while I tried Wen, then just rinsing and toweling, then baking soda and vinegar. Maybe I didn’t stick it out long enough? I lost ambition to try anything new. Maybe I will give this a try!

  30. I’ve been “poo” free for 3 years. I have been using Dr. Bonners Castile soap mixed with even amounts of water. Right now using peppermint. Hubby loves the tea tree. I’ve also used the lavender and my next batch will be almond. I only make 1 cup batches at a atime. Yes it is watery, but it is wonderful. I just shake a few drops around my head and lather away. I also use a coconut shampoo bar from Tropical traditions when traveling. I also from time to time use my soap nuts to make shampoo. Depends on how I feel. I used to use the cleansing conditioners, but after awhile they would make my hair flat from build up. I found you have to sick with it in the beginning, but it is totally with it to find what works for your hair and water supply.

  31. I’ve been no-poo for about 8 years. I started out with the baking soda/vinegar combo, and it worked well. However, I had a short bob, and later a pixie cut, that made it very manageable. About three years in, however, I noticed that baking soda started making my scalp super dry and itchy (perhaps exacerbated by the fact that we’d moved somewhere with really hard water). I did some more poking around at no-poo ideas, and decided to try the water-only method. My hair was still cut as a pixie at this point – I think it would otherwise have been really hard to transition into. Three weeks into water only my hair felt totally waxy. Interesting. However, since it was pixie, the waxiness kind of worked in my favor as far as styling goes. A few weeks after that it regulated and my hair felt normal again. I still do water-only for the most part and my hair is now at the bottom of my shoulder blades. I do seem to get a fair amount of split ends, but my hair and scalp seem to err on the dry side. I will occasionally set my hair with oil and rinse in out, giving my scalp a really good scrub with my nails. I try to brush my hair twice a day. My hair grows faster and a little thicker than it ever has (in part due to hair regimen and also taking Juice Plus). This past summer, however, I tried a new hair product called MotherDirt that I think fits right in with no-poo. I’ve started to buy it every so often to get my hair really clean (like after my oil “wash” – water alone ain’t going to rinse that out). Anyway, I love the MotherDirt shampoo. My hair feels AMAZING with it, and I can still do my normal once every two weeks washing. But it is expensive and is only good for four weeks, so I will only buy it once or twice a year. I would like to find a good way to add Moisture to my scalp/hair though. I was using coconut oil, but I wonder if a different oil would be better?

  32. I am a no poo gal and have been for three years now. I do a 50/50 of acv and water. I massage it into my scalp and then apply more to the hair and brush it through. I let it sit for five to ten minutes and then rinse it out. I am constantly getting compliments on it. It’s long, grows fast, and is healthy. I do not dye my hair and use no products. I straighten or use a curling iron at most once every two to three months. So almost no heat either.

  33. When i started no poo, it meant no washing, use water only. I’ve been doing that about 3 years, at the time i worked at a pool, as the chlorine was awful. I had to cut my hair because there is nothing that counter-effects chlorine (they’re now salt water, much better). But I’ve had to keep my hair short because no-poo is to drying, and I use nothing in it.

  34. I have been using baking soda and ACV for three years and I plan to continue using it. I use 1 tablespoon baking soda to 1 cup of bottled spring water and for the conditioner: 1/3 cup vinegar to 2/3 cup spring water. I only wash my hair every 5 days and it does not get oily like it used to, I am not losing tons of hair everyday in my brush and all around me, I do not have a dry or dandruff scalp, and my hair looks and feels very healthy. I just did a simple, little at-home pH test and the baking soda mix is an 8-9, and the vinegar rinse is a 3. Combining the two on the pH strip brings the pH down to 7 (neutral). I am going to continue using my no-poo.

  35. Water only. I’ve switched from baking soda and vinegar (my hair looked great using these two, just wanted to go as natural as I could) and I’ve never used anything but water on my toddler son and daughter and get compliments on their hair constantly! My husband will use burts baby bee soap every month or so, but me and the kids are water only and it’s amazing. I water wash once a week or as needed. My hair is thicker than it’s ever been. Shinier, and I don’t put anything else in it ever. Free unless to count laying the water bill!

  36. Hi, please don’t put any clay products down your drains! They WILL harden and clog and become like cement. My friend found at the most horrible way!
    I like to use rhassoul clay and rinse it in the backyard – so be creative to find a rinse for your clay or clay products that doesn’t risk your plumbing.

  37. There are some great points in here and in the comments. I first heard of the idea of not washing your hair (AT ALL) from a historical costuming group. Some members were in the SCA or other groups, and took some of the historical reproductions to what some may consider extremes. I remember the lady who said she hadn’t washed her hair with anything but water for a while. She said that there was a transition period where her hair overproduced oil. It was a greasy disgusting mess for about 6 weeks. Then, at one point, people started asking her when she started washing her hair again. It had normalized, finally. She just used water and a good comb.
    Fast forward to a couple years ago and I started looking at alternatives myself because I was dyeing my hair red and looking for options that wouldn’t strip my colour as fast. I found some co-wash product from Herbal Essences and thought, wow! This is great! But I started having a hard time finding it in the stores…and on top of that, I was starting to detox my life and use more natural products. I heard about the “curly girl” method and how silicones were bad for your hair because they coat it and keep the moisture out. They are addictive in a way because they make your hair feel so smooth and slippery, but then you wash them out, strip your hair again of the cones and oils with a detergent, then apply that fake slippery coating again to fool you into thinking your hair was great. But no. It’s just a facade. Underneath, the hair is still dry and damaged.
    I tried baking soda and ACV. The baking soda was great at first, but was too drying. The ACV was nice, but my husband can’t STAND the smell, so I had to stop. I finally found Mop Top products which are curly girl friendly and use a cleansing conditioner with a light conditioner after. I also started using henna to dye my hair red instead of chemicals. I have also started using lotions that are cone free and as free of chemicals as I can find.
    So far, I am very happy with washing my hair only once a week. My curls and waves thank me. My scalp thanks me. My husband thanks me, too. 😉

    -T.

  38. Thank you for your dedication to true health and your willingness to share your discoveries with others! Your tips and information are a blessing to me and my family and I appreciate your efforts to educate the world about safe strategies for health!
    I am interested in learning more about the Morrocco Method products. I looked at their site, but I’m not certain if they are completely organic even though they use wildcrafted ingredients, so I wanted further clarification. I realize not everyone chooses to seek organic status due to the expense, but I’m leery when I can’t easily determine the quality of ingredients. Since I many not understand the full meaning of wildcrafted, I’m asking for more information about their organic or chemical free status.
    Have a sunny day regardless of the the weather!

  39. I have been no poo for a little over 2 years but have never tried baking soda or ACV. I used to wash with just a sulfate/paraben free conditioner but now I use Renpure brand of shampoo and conditioner which is free of all the harmful things and is super affordable since my 3 daughters and I all use it. I buy it from Target or Walmart and we all love it. We all have long hair. Even my husband likes it and said after his runs out he is going to use ours. 🙂
    I am so glad to read the comments as I have never heard of the water alone method.

  40. I have been no poo for over two years. I was using clay after baking soda was destroying my hair. Clay is not the right ph either. Now I use chick pea flour. 1/3 of a cup in a 16 oz bottle of water. It’s the same pH as your hair. I don’t even rinse with acv anymore because it makes my hair over produce oil at any concentration. And guess what!! It makes an amazing dry shampoo too!

  41. I did the baking soda ACV for about 2 years and was happy with it. Then read about water only and have gone that route for the past year. I use a tiny bit of argan oil on my face, then rub my fingers through my hair. It stays soft and shiny. I am 71 and the gray in my hair is now mostly brown!

  42. I’m a no pooer… I add olive/grapeseed/vitE/or other to my batch of no poo. I also add castile soap to the finished recipe, too. I haven’t noticed any hair loss, beyond the norm. My hair color hasn’t changed (except to get more grey). It’s not oily, and can get dry feeling, but I think that is caused from the (sorry to have to confess this) hairspray. Okay, I’m 68, have short hair, and do not color it. I’d love to find a style that nixes the hairspray, but alas, it just doesn’t work for me. So, I’m nearly there, but not (the fully natural cat). I am wondering…can I just use the same recipe for no poo, but instead of the baking soda, swap it out with the clay? I already brush my teeth with Bentonite clay/coconut oil/EOs.

  43. Tried it all, but landed on 3 parts water/1 part Dr Bronner’s Castile Soap. Maybe once every two weeks – hair never “squeaks” because it’s never stripped of all its oil. Rinse with a very dilute ACV. Hair is great, scalp also. If my hair feels like it needs something mid-cycle, I do a water wash and ACV rinse and I’m back! I have coarse, thick and wavy graying-auburn red hair It’s possible that I can’t go too wrong with this hair in the first place. But I don’t miss the expense of or the addiction to perfume-smelling, too-soft shampooed hair.

  44. Question: How can I get my hair to cooperate? I have to wash daily. With short hair, and (ICK) hairspray, it flattens out and sticks out funny in back, with a hole in the hairdo where my head rests on my pillow. It won’t comb out, so I have to wash it. Any solutions?

  45. So would the same go for a shampoo recipe with baking soda in it? I’ve started making one with baking soda, aloe vera and olive oil along with essential oils. Think that’s a bad idea?

  46. I make natural shampoo bars, they are conditioning and will help to nourish the hair and scalp. I stopped using commercial shampoos almost 10 years ago. I used to buy high quality shampoos and conditioners and could never skip the conditioner as I wouldn’t even be able to comb through my hair.. After creating my own shampoo bars, my hair is softer than it has ever been. This might not be the solution for everyone, but it works for me.

  47. The “problem” lies in this phrase: “…give your hair a scrub…” Don’t scrub. Just put a heaping tablespoon of baking soda into a quart of very warm water and pour it through your hair. Let it sit for about 5 minutes and rinse it out thoroughly. Follow up with a couple of ounces of white vinegar (or lemon juice or ACV) in a quart of cool water. This will balance your scalp’s pH and close the cuticle of the hair shaft.

  48. I did baking soda and vinegar for about a year. At first my hair was super oily, I figured it was just adjusting from all the crap I’d done to it over the years, then I started to get buildup, only washing once or twice a week. It seemed like no matter how much I rinsed, I couldn’t get everything out (well water). I wore my hair in a pony tail every day because it was so awful.
    I stopped bs and acv and went to rinsing just water (with a bi-weekly wash of store bought shampoo).
    I now use a homemade Castile shampoo with honey, coconut oil and essential oils. I couldn’t be happier. No chemicals and clean hair!

  49. I ordered a trial set of the Morroco method after getting your email. Thank you for the coupon code! I’m excited to try it. I tried the no poo thing and we have hard water it didn’t work for me at all. I had to wash (not wash?) my hair more often than I did with shampoo. What I’ve been doing since trying that is using a “natural” shampoo and once every few months I would mix a bit of baking soda in it. I won’t be doing that anymore. I had no idea baking soda could hurt my hair.

  50. Over the past 4 years I have tried it all. My hair is baby fine and thin. It breaks quit often and won’t grow past my shoulders.
    I tried the baking soda route with ACV rinse with rosemary in it and it was too harsh for my hair.
    I tried the honey shampoo – bad greasy stage for 2 weeks and then noticed my hair was weighed down to much.
    I tried store bought natural shampoos- not very good results- I still had a ton of breakage.
    Went to the Moroccan Method – hair went thru a detox stage. I bought the 5 different trial bottles and one lotus conditioner. I’ve used them all up now and I noticed a bit better results but hair was so knotty when I went to brush it and noticed breakage in my brush but not as bad. I added ACV rinse and that helped.
    THEN someone told me about Monat and asked me to trial it. OMG people, this line is amazing. I dug into the ingredients and even contacted the company to see what was in their proprietary blend (which is all natural oils). I then tried it and the first wash my hair was incredible. No tangles, no breakage in my comb, just really soft lushes locks. This is a first ever for me. Everyone I seen that day commented on how nice my hair looked. I couldnt stop touching it all day, it was silky soft.
    The transition was a lot like every other no poo solution. Greasy the next day so I used my Diy dry shampoo for another 3 days (I only wash my hair every 3-4 days. Then after 2 weeks what a transformation. My hair is growing and very healthy. Best part it’s all natural ingredients

    • I’ve had awesome Monat results, too. That’s why I became a Market Partner! Keep spreading the word!

  51. Hi Katie,
    I use shampoo and then I put baking soda. Is that also not good?

    Should I skip the baking soda totally?

    It makes my hair feel good, but I don’t want to do what’s not good!

    Thanks,
    Sara

  52. No-poo + soda worked for me, thanks!

  53. I’ve been “no poo” for going on 3 months now, and I only used the baking soda method once. I not only didn’t like it (and the balancing you’re supposed to do with apple cider vinegar), but I read what you posted here: that long-term it can damage your hair.

    So I switched to rye flour.

    Rye flour is supposed to be pH balanced, and full of vitamins that are supposed to do good things for your hair. As no shampoo company would want a study done on using flour in place of their billion dollar industry, I can’t say whether this is scientifically true, BUT I’m finding that it works incredibly well for me. To the point where I’m baffled that baking soda is suggested at all.

    Not only is my hair smoother using rye flour, but I can go for longer periods between washings, which I couldn’t do with my expensive organic shampoo. Doing the “scritch and preen” thing (scratching and massaging your scalp, and then brushing with a boar bristle brush) also helps.

    So yeah, there are other “no poo” methods out there. For anyone thinking of going “no poo”, or if you’re finding the baking soda isn’t working, don’t freak out! There are other options! Baking soda isn’t the be all-end all.

    (Note: when using rye flour, mix it with FILTERED water. I use what’s leftover from boiling my teakettle the night before. There’s something about it that cleans better. Also, you want Light or White rye flour, that’s been finely sifted. Stone Ground, which is the easiest to come by, contains the hull, which is really hard to wash out. If Stone Ground is the only stuff you can find (Light/White is available online), you can sift it using a tea strainer, which tends to be really fine.)

    One other great thing about using rye flour is that you can find it in paper bags. There are brands that use plastic (like Bob’s Redmill), but Dove’s Farm and others come in the traditional paper sack. This reduces your plastic consumption, and thus the plastic that winds up in our landfills.

    That’s a big reason why I looked at “no poo” in the first place: PLASTIC. Personal care products are rife with it; I assume because it’s probably too expensive to use glass. Considering how often we use personal care products, it’s good to look at not only the contents, but its packaging. Do you want to keep tossing out plastic bottles and tubs and jars every few months. Do you want to keep putting your money in to the plastics industry by supporting companies that use it.

    It’s really hard to cut plastic out completely (because it’s so ubiquitous), but looking at not just “no poo”, but “no poo” methods that are plastic-free is a really great start. In my bid to become zero waste, it’s one of the first things I did.

    • I have been using fine ground rye flour for about a year and only need to wash my hair every 5 to 7 days. I used to be every day or two with shampoo. I don’t think you can tell that I don’t use shampoo. I had also read that it is pH balanced and has good nutrients. Not sure if that is true, but I figured it can’t hurt me if I could ingest it. I do occasionally use Katie’s dry shampoo recipe if I need to postpone washing.

  54. I love Neuma brand shampoo. All natural and organic. Sudsy like shampoo. A little goes a long way.

  55. Thank you for pointing out the dangers of No Poo. I just discovered the BORAX no poo (I didn’t see Borax mentioned but maybe I missed it) and one of the Borax recipes had Baking Soda. So I’ve been using 2 T Borax with 2T Baking Soda in 2 cups of water (shaken). At first my hair responded in ways I’d never seen and I still have strength, length and no damage (split ends all gone) and my hair no longer falls out in comb-fulls. I’m going on 65 (hair is still light brown with some white which seems to fall out). I’d tried Ovation (total waste of money and I never got my money back after I returned the unused portions — and I truly gave it a try — at first my hair fell out in handfuls !!!) Then I went to Wen which was excellent but expensive. I will try some of your recommendations as I do need something simple and non-damaging. Could be I’m not having too much trouble because I find I don’t need to wash my hair as much (a week or week in a half or 2 and I’ve NEVER been able to do this ! Needed to wash hair daily or at worst every 2-3 days. I found this blog trying to discover HOW to reply to your Mayonnaise comments and found this Join the Conversation … LOVE your Mayo which is how I found this website. Excellent website.

  56. I’m “no poo” for more than 3 years now. Never used baking soda. There is so much choice and is baking soda just one of so many methods. unfortunately the most of the articels talking only about this one…

  57. Yes — just water! Though I did begin my no poo journey with diluted soda OR a vinegar rinse — depending on what I needed. Soda dries the hair so I used that if it was oily, and vinegar softens so I used that if it’s stiff. I haven’t used soda for well over a year now. The key, I’ve found, is in moving the scalp’s natural oils to the hair shaft. You can do this with a good massage with fingertips, followed by moving the fingers down sections of hair — but that takes about half an hour to do a thorough job (television watching is perfect). The other way is to do what your grandmothers did — get a good boar’s head bristle brush and give your hair 100 strokes each night. Clean out the hair and debris, but don’t wash the oils out of the brush. Then you can brush your freshly rinsed (plain water) and dried hair if it’s too dry, or wait a few days before brushing. I thought it would affect my natural curls badly, but it does not. The natural separation happens anyway. And you can always spritz with plain water to get them back if needed. I only rinse my hair about once each week in winter, more in summer because I’m out in it and sweat a lot.

  58. I found other solution to go no-poo – using Indian herbal powders. There are many to choose from, I usually mix three together – Amla Powder, Shikakai Powder and Brahmi Powder. I just mix them with water until it creates a paste thick enough to put on hair and keep it up to 15 mins, then rinse.
    It leaves my hair clean and quite voluminous.
    I am suprised nobody ever mentions this method while discussing no-poo.
    It works really well for me, I wonder if anybody here ever tried it.

    • Hey Jasimine,
      I was looking into a similar solution, but just haven’t pulled the trigger since it involves buying the products online in bulk. Most of the ayurvedic shampoo recipes I found include reetha / reethi (soap nuts) instead of or in addition to the brahmi. You’ll see that this post does include mention of reetha as soap nuts, so hopefully that gets people looking at the Indian hair cleansers.
      May I ask, though, what is your hair texture like? Most people I see using this have very long and straight hair. My hair is naturally wavy / curly.

      -T.

  59. I do no-poo for more than a year and never used baking soda, only rye flour. I also use dry shampoo between washes

  60. I’ve been wanting to try Morocco method shampoo so thanks for the discount code. I finally placed my first order. I hope I love it.

  61. I got my Morrocco Method about a week ago. I got the starter package that came with the Feng Shea facial scrub and all the conditioners. My hair is still adjusting to the new regimen so it’s a little oily, but oh my gosh! I’ve been using the Earth Shampoo on my skin and it’s wonderful. I have trouble keeping my hands off my face because it’s so soft and it feels clean all the time unless I have makeup on.

    I wash with the Earth Shampoo twice a day and then spray with the Diamond Crystal Mist to tone, Finally, I put a tiny bit of Euro Oil on to moisturize. I use the scrub twice a week and the detox (clay mask) once a week. If it doesn’t work out for my hair I will continue buying the items mentioned above for my skin. I’ve been using the Earth Shampoo as a body wash too and my skin feels fabulous, I will report back after my hair finishes adjusting to say how that works out.

  62. Hi everyone. Just wanted to let everyone know what’s been working for me. I spent about 30 years of my life trying all kinds of products, commercial and natural, trying to get my mixed hair healthy and manageable. I am mixed, half white, half black. So I have always had trouble with frizzy, dry hair that never grew. For years when I was younger I used to chemically relax my hair to make it straight, until I was finally convinced by friends to go au natural. I have very tight curls. I tried the baking soda/ACV, which I ended up not liking. I tried Dr. Bronners and African Black soap for awhile. I still felt like it dried my hair out too much. I also tried all kinds of natural oils and serums to keep it shiny and not frizzy. As I become more and more crunchy I use less and less product. For the past year I have completely eliminated all products on my hair. The only product I use once a week or less is a soap nut conditioner that I buy online from Naturoli. My hair has never been healthier, longer, or shinier. I have always hated my hair but I now finally love my natural hair. Usually every other day I scrub my hair and rinse well with JUST water and comb with a pick every now and then. Sometimes I don’t even comb it, it keeps the curls more intact and bouncy. So just water and a natural soap nut conditioner once a week. So easy and affordable. I encourage everyone to reduce the products they use. I have done the same for my face. Just warm water rinse and a small amount of pure argan oil as a moisturizer once a day. I love that I spend so little time on getting ready. In the past, all the regiments and products would take forever and cost a fortune.
    Love your blog Katie. I learn so much every day.

  63. Actually I’ve practiced the no poo method for about ten months now and have never once used baking soda or even heard of others regularly using baking soda or even using it at all. Maybe a better title for this would be “the problem with using baking soda as shampoo” this really has nothing to do with no poo.

  64. Interesting to have come across this. I was just wondering what was going on with my hormones because one of my symptoms that I have been concerned with is how I have been loosing my hair, as if I just stopped breast feeding (Which was well over a year ago) and why is it so dry and flaking on the roots. I have been using Deva Curl no-poo shampoo and conditioner for a couple of years and just started having these problems in the last two months. I have curly hair and use pantene pro-v mousse to help with my curls. (I have tried every other expensive product out there and this is the only one that keeps my curls from going flat and frizzy). I am wondering if I should switch to a different brand of shampoo and conditioner now that I read this blog post.

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