Can I Really Go Poo-less? My Experience with the No Poo Method
Updated: Nov 27, 2023
Did you know that using shampoo regularly is rather modern? Up until around the year 1800 it was considered normal to wash your hair once a month. It was only in 1927 that the liquid shampoo that we know nowadays was invented (by Hans Schwarzkopf in Berlin if you are curious). This upped the shampooing frequency to about twice a week around the 1970s. The shampoos nowadays are less aggressive than the previous ones but, even though they are gentler for your hair and scalp, they still remove all-natural oils from your hair and scalp. This triggers increased oil production which again leads to more frequent hair washing for some people. To break this cycle, some people opt for an alternative like the ‘no poo method’.
What does a liquid shampoo do?
Let's first start with what a liquid shampoo does. Shampoo does not only provide cleaning of the scalp skin and hair as its basic function, but it also serves to condition and beautify hair. Not only that, but the use of shampoo can also help in the management of various scalp issues. They do this by using ingredients in a shampoo that is suitable for people having different hair types and hair needs. Some of the ingredients that are present in shampoo are detergents, conditioners, thickeners, sequestering agents, pH adjusters, preservatives, and specialty additives.
What is the no-poo method?
Our skin produces natural oils to keep itself conditioned and healthy. Also the skin on our scalp. By using shampoo, these natural oils are stripped from our skin.
The idea behind the ‘no poo method is washing your hair with a less aggressive alternative to shampoo, like baking soda and apple cider vinegar or even just water. This will not only clean your hair without stripping it of its natural oils, but it will also make your scalp less dependent on frequent shampooing. A lot of dermatologists and hairstylists are encouraging less frequent shampooing and are enthusiastic about this no-poo development.
The no-poo method should help you break the cycle of daily shampooing by helping your scalp find a new oil-producing balance. Most of us who are used to shampooing very frequently have oil glands on our scalp that are over actively producing oils. This makes us shampoo often to remove these oils.
Advantages of the no-poo method
The main reason why I choose to give the no-poo method a try is that fewer chemicals are used on my body. I have extremely dry and sensitive skin and the fewer ingredients I use on my body, the less likely a reaction will form by using a certain product.
An otter benefit of the no-poo method is that you no longer have to purchase shampoo bottles. I used to use about a bottle each month setting me back about 8 euro which over a lifetime, is a considerable amount of money spent on just washing your hair.
By using the no-poo method, you not only save lots of money you also help the environment as you reduce your plastic consumption considerably. By switching to the no-poo method, you avoid purchasing shampoo bottles each month that are all made from plastic which will end up in landfills after use.
The no-poo method uses apple cider vinegar as a rinse. This is known to be anti-fungal which could help fight dandruff. However, there is no scientific research found that can confirm that apple cider vinegar can fight the fungus directly responsible for the development of dandruff.
Disadvantages of the no-poo method
Baking soda has a ph of almost 9 making it rather alkaline. Research has shown that alkaline hair treatments may cause damage to the hair fibers, which could lead to hair breakage and frizziness. Another study has shown that alkaline skin treatments may throw off the hydration of your skin, causing it to become dry and flaky. This would undo all the cleansing the baking soda did in the first place.
Not for everyone
However, different people respond differently to different hair and skin treatment so if you want to give the no-poo method a try anyway please use baking soda sparingly but please be aware it might not work for you.
It not only depends on how your body responds, it also depends on the water that runs from your tap. If you have rather hard water (high mineral content) you might have difficulty properly rinsing both the baking soda and vinegar from your hair which could affect your scalp.
How to do the no-poo method
Baking soda is used in the no-poo method to wash your hair. It should effectively wash away oil buildup on your scalp and hair. It is recommended to not use more than 1 tablespoon full of baking soda for 1 wash. You should rub it into your hands and apply it similarly to your scalp as you would use with shampoo. Keep in mind that it is not soap-based so no lather will form in your hair. Rinse your hair thoroughly when you have massaged your entire scalp with baking soda.
Apple cider vinegar
For most of us, the use of only baking soda will leave our hair feeling very dry. To condition our scalp, we use an apple cider vinegar rinse. Apply this to your hair after washing and rinse afterward.
Usually, when you switch to something new, your body needs some time to adjust to this new routine. This is usually about 6 weeks. Although this may differ for different people as we all have different hair and it could take longer or shorter for your hair's oil production to adjust.
How I did it
When I gave the no-poo method a try, I purchased a good brand of baking soda and organic apple cider vinegar to start my no-poo journey.
The first time applying the baking soda was awkward. I had difficulty applying it to my scalp as my hair was rather long. Most of it ended up halfway through my long hair without ever reaching my scalp. After ‘washing’, I felt like I couldn’t rinse it properly out of my hair. I felt particles of baking soda still present in my hair.
Also, the apple cider vinegar rinse didn’t work well but I solved this by using a different bottle with a very small opening so I could pour it onto my scalp directly.
I expected that there would be a transition period in which your hair needs to adjust to the new shampooing treatment. The first few times after washing, my hair got greasier and it felt not clean at all. This was normal as I was still in the middle of that transition period. However, the transition period seems to be going on forever. For me, it took much more than the expected 6-8 weeks. After a few months of using the no-poo method, my hair was still not adjusted to the new treatment.
By now my hair felt disgusting. I became greasier and greasier and because I have eczema-prone skin and scalp (which can look like dandruff), you could see all these skin cells in my hair. In short, it did not only feel disgusting, it looked disgusting. By now I switched back to regular shampoo and even then I needed to wash my hair a few times before it was clean again.
Why it did not work for me
I live in an area with relatively hard water. Meaning the tap water here has a high mineral concentration. Rinsing my hair after washing with baking soda with apple cider vinegar should have solved this problem but unfortunately for me, this wasn’t enough. For me, this method did not feel good anymore so I decided it wasn’t for me.
Another reason for it not working for me is due to my very dry and sensitive scalp. When using the no-poo method with baking soda, you first increase the ph of your skin to over 8. This is followed by a rinse with apple cider vinegar to balance this high ph (apple cider vinegar has a ph of 2-3). Our skin has a ph of about 5.5 meaning that during a no-poo shampoo cycle my skin suffers a lot due to fluctuations in ph. I think this causes extra flakiness (dandruff) of my scalp resulting in an itchy scalp with eczema. This was for me enough to switch to another alternative to the no-poo method.
Alternatives to the no-poo method
If the no-poo method is not for you (just like me), there are lots of alternatives that are also gentle for your hair while also being eco-friendly.
Choose a herbal shampoo instead of the regular liquid shampoo that you are used to. Choose one that is free from sulfates (these clean hair aggressively), paraben (a known allergen), and silicon (this create a synthetic layer over your hair) to wash your hair as ‘green’ as possible
A shampoo bar is also a great option if the no-poo method was not for you. A shampoo bar uses more gentle ingredients for washing your hair while it also lasts much longer (saving you money in the long run) and comes without plastic.
If you are into DIY you could make your own completely natural shampoo with soapnuts. These are not only great to do laundry with but you can turn them into a shampoo and body wash so you can wash without harmful ingredients. Take a look at this video of how I did it.