My Shampoo-Free Experiment

Have you heard about no poo? In spite of the slightly unfortunate-sounding name, it has nothing to do with your bathroom habits. It’s short for ‘no SHAMpoo’, and it’s about ditching traditional hair cleaning products in favour of more natural choices. No poo’s following is growing, and people choose it for a variety of reasons.

Some people don’t like the idea of using chemical-laden personal care products. Modern shampoos typically contain artificial colours and fragrances, and a variety of ingredients that haven’t been specifically tested for long-term toxicity or carcinogenic effects. Shampoo and conditioner usually come in plastic bottles, and there are problems with recycling plastic. And some people find that their hair is healthier and more manageable when they go no poo.

Amber and Jacob smiling pretty
Prior to going shampoo-free

I decided to try going shampoo-free myself. I attempted it once before, but I didn’t really commit and I didn’t really follow the recommended procedure. After a few days I gave up. This time I committed to two weeks of no poo, and I tracked down the suggested apple cider vinegar in a glass bottle. I like the idea of reducing my plastic consumption, as well as my exposure to chemicals. I was also hoping that ditching shampoo would somehow net me miraculous hair results.

Day 2 shampoo free
Day 2 shampoo-free

Day 2 shampoo free
Another shot of day 2 shampoo-free

I am washing my hair using baking soda, and rinsing it in an apple cider vinegar solution. What I do is wet my hair, and then mix 1-2 tsp baking soda with a little water to make a paste. I spread it through my hair, starting at my scalp, and then rinse. I have re-purposed an old 8-ounce shampoo bottle for the apple cider vinegar. I put in about 2-3 tablespoons of the vinegar, filled the rest of the bottle with water, and added a few drops of essential oils to make it smell not so vinegar-y. I squirt a few tablespoons of this solution on my hair and then rinse it out.

Day 4 shampoo free
Day 4 shampoo-free

It’s been two weeks now, what’s the verdict? I would say my feelings are mixed. My hair feels very much like it did when I was a kid – it’s softer than it was, but also very thin and fine. And I have not achieved the results that some people report, where they can go days without washing their hair. I have tried skipping a day, and I end up having to keep my hair in a ponytail when I do that, because it gets greasy. I have oily hair in the first place, and going no poo hasn’t eliminated that.

Day 10 shampoo free
Day 10 shampoo-free

Day 10 shampoo free
Day 10 shampoo-free from the front

Having said that, the results aren’t awful. I asked my husband if my hair looked different and he appeared befuddled and confused. No one else has said anything, either. My feeling is that for the most part, any differences I’m seeing are undetectable to others. I think that I will keep up the shampoo-free experiment for now, and since I am showering every day anyway, if I have to wash my hair it’s not exactly a huge inconvenience.

What about you? Have you tried no poo? Any tips, tricks or disaster stories? Please share!

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  1. I love no-poo. It's great on curly hair, too. I buy the 32 fl oz size bottles.

  2. I found my hair often greasier when using BS and ACV. I can go longer between shampoos when using regular stuff than the natural stuff. BUT I have also heard using ACV near your scalp can make your head more oily. i have tried plain BS more than BS with ACV. I also did BS with conditioner on the ends only. I am not 100% pleased with it and find it… See More works better when my hair is shorter. I am still searching for something more perfect. I do believe for some of us the BS may be robbing too much natural oil from our scalp so it feels the need to pump out more than when we use normal shampoo. I alternate all around 🙂 Some days I use amish made bar soap on my head, but mostly on the ends… mixed with baking soda all over. Other days I just add BS to normal shampoo. And other days I go straight BS or straight shampoo. Other days no BS at all. My son does well with straight BS, BS with amish made bar soap, or just amish bar soap (that's what we use the most of his fine blonde hair and he can go a long time without washing!) I also know it takes time with any method to get your hair use to going without shampooing…. meaning the head is use to it being robbed of its oils and needing to put out a certain amount of oil. And in the winter, when I wear more knitted hats I train my head to go longer without shampoo of any kind by leaving it greasy as long as I possibly can before washing it. I never wash it more than every other day and about 3 days is about as long as I can go most of the time 🙂 its long enough that I sometimes forget when I washed it last, same goes for my son.

  3. you asked a man for opinion on your hair and you hadn’t even had it cut? ha ha ha ha.

    I think this idea sound interesting however its not one i would try. My hair gets so greasy after a day or not washing it and it also really frizzy when dry without products on it.

    a very interesting post though. thank you.
    .-= Heather´s last post ..What’s The Strangest Thing You’ve Seen This Week? =-.

  4. Except for 3 washes throughout the year with an organic shampoo when I was getting my hair cut, I’ve been doing No Poo since last May.

    My biggest obstacle is hard water. The minerals in the water just build up in my hair. Right now it’s manageable, but that’s because I cut it really short- almost pixie cut length.

    I look forward to the day when we have soft water and I can try No Poo under those conditions.
    .-= TopHat´s last post ..16 months later… =-.

  5. Interesting. I’d like to try it, the only problem is the we only get balsamic vinegar or wine vinegar which is, well, very vinegary (smell wise). I’ll see if my husband detects (or smells) something different:)
    .-= Francesca´s last post ..Corner View ~ miniature worlds =-.

  6. Oi! I think I might go nuts if I had to try that. My hair gets so greasy and stringy after even half a day after a wash. I wash in the morning, and by nightfall, I am in a ponytail, or if we are going out, I wash again. I’ve never tried baking soda, but I tried a cider-vinegar lavender rinse once (bought at a Herb fair). It was supposed to be “cleansing” to the hair, and I ended up with an itchy scalp and my boyfriend at the time asked if I’d been making pickles. I also had a strange tint to my hair afterwards. Hmm….
    .-= Caroline´s last post ..Where I’ve Been – Part 7 1/2 =-.

  7. I have been washing my hair for 2 weeks using Dr. Bronner’s and during the first week my hair seemed silky and cleaner and MUCH softer. However, the last week my hair has become very dry and tangled. I’ll admit I was using conditioner by Aveeno but I was still having different results a week later.

    This morning was the first morning I went back to using my old shampoo & conditioner by Herbal Essence and today my hair is feeling hydrated again. I’m not sure what I did wrong over the past week with my natural washing but maybe I need to invest in a natural conditioner.

    PS-your hair does look great! Maybe washing with the apple cider will be a good cleanser a few times a month?
    .-= Sara´s last post ..Out to Lunch—March =-.

  8. Arbonne products are great, clean and healthy (vegan) and although they are packaged in plastic, the company does particiapte in a great recycling program.

  9. TopHat – we have hard water too, and I’m scared of what that means for going no poo. I’ve been thinking about it for awhile, but like you Amber – my hair is oily.
    What EO’s do you add to the vinegar?
    .-= Dionna @ Code Name: Mama´s last post ..Acknowledging Children’s Feelings =-.

  10. I think your hair looks great either way Amber, clean and shiny! And if it’s going to save a little more money and plastic in a land fill – good on ya! I might try this…
    .-= Tanya´s last post ..Expectations of a new mom =-.

  11. I agree that your hair looks really great — shiny and soft. I’ve heard of a few variations on this experiment, but truthfully I’m just not brave enough (or hardcore green enough) at the moment. I have really strange hair, and bad hair days really drag me down. That said, it’s hard to see it getting much worse, so I should try it at some point. I’m very sensitive to smell, though — the vinegar thing scares me. You have gained some serious environmental street cred with this 🙂
    .-= allison´s last post ..*****************Knowing Me Knowing You #1 =-.

  12. I wanted hair like yours so badly when I was a kid, but I had this tumbled down curly mess. I’m not sure about the vinegar approach, but the no poo approach is popular with curly haired folks:
    .-= Tepary´s last post ..Update: Rubbish Diet, Decor and the Insane Reduce Online Time Pledge =-.

  13. Well Amber, you gave me another reason to look up to you. First honey face wash, now cider hair rinse! You are a terrific role model!

    I find teatree oil shampoos are great for really stripping my oily scalp, but my hair is neither thin, nor is it fine and my husband complains that it’s TOO harsh for his thinning hair. So we have his and hers shampoos. And I’m not sure if I would be happy giving up my thick deep conditioner for the tips.

    I should look into finding greener formulations. I seem to remember something good about beer for hair….. hmmmmm….
    .-= *pol´s last post ..My Dad =-.

  14. You'll notice how nice the no-poo is when you run out of it and you have to use regular shampoo again. Then when your package of no-poo shows up in the mail and you use it again you'll be reminded of how nice it felt in your hair when you rinsed.

  15. You have the hair I have always wanted. With or without poo. Grrr…

  16. You are a very brave woman! I’m looking forward to seeing the remainder of your experiment. I live in the GVRD (Burnaby in fact), so it will be interesting to see another local going through this experiment. Love your blog!

  17. I went an entire YEAR without using shampoo! I only used Aveda conditioner. It went well, except I found my scalp was itchy all the time! Then again, I have a “Jew-fro” meaning a Jewish afro. So my hair is pretty untamed generally speaking.

    All in all though, no shampoo is much healthier than using shampoo.

  18. My friend when ‘poo free a while ago and has LOVED the experience. I would be willing to try but I really really really can’t stand the smell of vinegar. I hate when I have to bake with it I hate it so much. The thought of using in the shower makes me want to gag. However the shampoo I’ve been using seems to be causing my scalp to actually hurt so I’m in the market for a new one.
    .-= Kristen´s last post ..Black bottomed cupcakes =-.

  19. I thought I would throw something additional out there. I know that vinegar is an obstacle for some people, and I have heard of using lemon juice as an alternative. It might be more readily available / less smelly, if you can’t locate or strongly dislike vinegar. 🙂

  20. I’ve been thinking about doing no-poo for a long time, but just haven’t gotten it together to stick with it – I did try it for a couple days and it seemed fine. Maybe I’ll get motivated and try it again. 🙂
    .-= mamasapplecores´s last post ..Dolls and Doll Hair =-.

  21. I've tried no-poo twice now. And am currently very very happy with my Earth Safe shampoo. I'm not saying it doesn't work, because it is a miracle for some. It just takes some getting used to, and working with it to get it right I think. I enjoyed trying both times 😀

  22. I've used only conditioner on my hair for many years. It makes the curls less frizzy.

  23. We used to rinse the hair in beer when I was little.

    As for the grease… if you have greasy hair the more you wash the worse it gets. If you break through the cycle then it will get better. I only wash my hair about once every 5-6 days now. It’s no longer greasy as it used to be. I wash my hair with a non-addititive Aloe Vera “shampoo” and all is good.
    .-= Mel´s last post ..I am worthy NOW! =-.

  24. OMG, I am doing the *same thing*! I’m on week two. Definitely mixed results so far, but I’m in love with the idea of no more expensive/chemically shampoo.

    It’s funny, you and I have completely different hair–My hair never gets greasy, my problem is it tends to get too dry and frizzy when I don’t use bucketloads of expensive conditioner. So the switch to vinegar has been okay, but strangely I can’t seem to go as long between “washings” as I used to be able to.

    Hmm. now I want to blog about this too! I thought it was just this weird fringe hippie thing that I decided to do…thanks fr making me feel less strange, tee hee 🙂 Good luck <3
    .-= Eileen´s last post ..Clink =-.

  25. Your hair looks great. I’d be worried about it making my blond hair darker, but yours doesn’t look darker at all. Does it make your scalp itchy? I would think it would, and I hate when my head is itchy.

    It’s not the right time for me to try it, but maybe someday 🙂
    .-= abbie´s last post ..Birthday and Garden Plans =-.

  26. Your hair looks great! Mine was an oily, greasy mess when I tried this last summer. I went nearly three weeks and my hair was so greasy it looked wet all day. Maybe my baking soda mix wasn’t strong enough? I didn’t measure it out so like your first time I probably didn’t follow the proper instructions and it messed it up.
    .-= AmberDusick´s last post ..Making Mistakes…and LOVING it! =-.

  27. I’ve heard putting baby powder on oily roots can help make it longer between washes. My hair and complexion is much like yours, and I am too wimpy to do less than shampoo and condition every other day. I use products with environmentally friendly ingredients, but the plastic still bothers me. You inspired me to give a natural shampoo a try, though — maybe this summer when I don’t have classes! (I’m a grad student)

  28. I do a mix of no- and low-poo. Doing it helped me find out I have waves for the first time in my life. It works great on my son's curly hair, too!

  29. I have not tried no poo but then my hair is super dry and I wonder if vinegar would just dry it out even more. I try to only wash my hair every three days. I do try to use organic shampoo. I haven’t researched to see if that’s actually better for me and the environment though. I assume so.
    .-= Marilyn @ A Lot of Loves´s last post ..Loonies Only: Wednesday of Few Words =-.

  30. My hair is so thin and prone to greasiness that I’m loathe to try this. A “compromise” I’m using is cornstarch. I go a little longer between washings and use cornstarch to soak up the oil in between.

    I really have to work the cornstarch through or my hair looks kinda white. I’m blond, so I probably don’t have to be as careful on this as a brunette, but it’s working pretty well. I also work out a lot, so I just rinse with water in between and on days that my hair looks lank I turn to ye old cornstarch.

    Of course, now someone may educate me on the evils of corn in agribusiness, but oh well.

    I agree on the vinegar thing–ick. I think the smell would drive me nuts and I’d worry about lemon stripping the hair too much. But cool experiment, Amber.

  31. I haven’t given up shampoo but I often go many days without washing it because, well, I can’t seem to fit a shower in. And why yes, I do wear my hair in a ponytail almost everyday.:-) I may try this though, if I can get organized.

  32. What an interesting idea-I’ve never heard of it before! Does the vinegar have a bleaching effect at all? My hair is very dark brown so I would be worried about that. I always wonder what all those chemicals in my shampoo are- I don’t think I’m ready to go ‘poo free, but I do wish there was a shampoo that I could pronounce all the ingredients of…

  33. I’ve toyed with this idea before. Of course, for years I was in the pool 20-30 hours/week teaching and I still do that occasionally, although not as much. I suppose I could try it and use my regular shampoo every so often.

    And the previous poster is right – the more you wash, the greasier it gets. I can go about a day without washing now; any longer and my scalp starts itching like crazy.
    .-= Nicole´s last post ..Hey, Canadians – wanna go to the loonie store? =-.

  34. I have been “poo free” for, gosh, almost two years? Yep–I had to check my blog but it’ll be two years in June ( I have changed my technique a bit since then. I rinse all the baking soda out before putting any vinegar in (which I water way down), and I only put vinegar on the long part of my hair. Getting it on my roots seems to make it oily faster. The biggest problem I’ve had has been a yucky white buildup. It was making my hairbrush dirty and was just BAD. It didn’t matter how often I washed it, it was always there. I tried several different fixes, and the one that finally worked was putting on a pair of scrubby gloves to wash my hair. Now I sometimes go embarrassingly long between washes. If I don’t want to have a mandatory ponytail day, though, three days is my limit. I can probably get away with not washing for longer because my hair is coarse, somewhat textured, and dark. From what I’ve heard, people with full-on curls can go even longer and some of them only use conditioner and water. It makes me jealous.

    Overall, I like not using shampoo anymore. One time after being poo-free for a while I tried shampoo again, and I was really sorry. It felt gummy and gross.
    .-= Jenny´s last post ..When you’re alone, alone in the world =-.

  35. Havarti says:

    I don’t think what most people realize is that there is a short transition period to having great hair for this method. Your hair becomes greasy after a day of not washing because the shampoo strips away all the natural oils in your hair and then your scalp is over compensating by producing more and more oils. There is a way to stop this problem by switching to using baking soda and apple cider vinegar. It works really really well. You need to do both things, well definitely the baking soda to wash your scalp and remove anything that would make it itchy. Here’s a great article detailing a lot that I found very helpful. Just try it out girls and boys!

  36. I’m my 1st day of going poo free! I was inspired by a group on Facebook called granola families. People on there who have been pop free for a long time say there is a distinct “detox” period that some people go through. That is the super greasy hair that shows up a little while after you start. Apparently if you push through, it will get better. Just thought I’d put that out there for those of you who want to try it but are wary of the greasy hair part:)

  37. I tried to go ‘Poo free cold turkey. For 2 weeks, my hair was an oily, frizz ball that no comb or brush could do anthing too. I broke down and washed my hair twice.
    I read to ‘wean’ your hair.
    So, for the past month, I have washed 1x week with Garnier Pro Clean. As needed, I would rinse during the week. Once with lemon and distilled water. Once with ACV\Water.
    After about 3 weeks, I was able to go longer without needing to wash\rinse. I’ve not used the ProClean conditioner in 2-3 weeks.
    Last night (would have been week 4 for ProClean shampoo), I washed with baking soda and lemon water (when I make my lemon rinse, I save the pulp and peels and add distilled water – keep in the fridge for the next rinse – also use this water with my toner – juice of 1 lemon, lemon water and witch hazel).
    It cleaned my hair perfectly and was fizzy. I followed with an ACV rinse.
    I read that the acid in the lemon ‘tells’ your scalp to stop producing the oil.
    My hair is the softest it’s been in a LONG time and I’m loving it. My husband thinks I’m crazy, but it’s working. I have no itch, no frizz, etc. And, he tells me my hair smells good. Even with the ACV – once dry, no smell.
    Hope this helps!

  38. I wash my hair with vinegar only (no baking soda) and it’s been great for me for 9 years! I have thickish, wavy hair, so I’ve wondered what it would be like with finer hair.
    ‘Becca’s last post … Why I Don’t Drop AcidMy Profile

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  1. […] I went shampoo-free, and it was not half as bad as I […]

  2. […] Indulging my vanity: I used to care what I looked like when I left the house; not so much anymore. I’m lucky if my clothes match, and I rarely do anything beyond washing my hair. But once or twice a year I have someone cut my hair. And once in awhile I color my hair from a box (I used to pay someone to do that, but I’ve discovered that’s not necessary at this point in my life). And I insist on my favorite shampoo (one big reason I’ve been hesitant to go no ‘poo). […]

  3. […] You don’t use traditional beauty products. For example, I wash my face with honey. And I wash my hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar (organic, from a glass bottle, of course). Other people make their own deoderant or buy only very […]

  4. […] 18 months ago I decided to try going shampoo-free, or “no poo”. What this means is that I stopped using shampoo and conditioner to wash […]

  5. […] I sometimes refer to myself as a hippie mama. It’s a sort of short-hand way to tell you something about who I am. For example, I breastfed my children for over two-and-a-half years each. I visit my local farmers’ market religiously, and I am never without my re-usable shopping bags. I sweetened my firstborn’s first birthday cake with applesauce and molasses, because I didn’t want her to have sugar. I wash my hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar. […]

  6. […] fine, which gets greasy when they go without shampoo (my friend Amber has a great detailed report here). My hair doesn’t get greasy like that. It’s thick and wavy, and going without shampoo […]

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