A Complete Guide on How to Go "No Poo"

If you haven’t heard of the “no poo” method, it isn’t exactly what it sounds like (phew!). The no-poo method simply involves cutting out shampoo from your hair care routine to re-strengthen your strands. But getting started may be daunting, as there are a ton of different ways to become a no poo-er, and different methods work better for different people—so how do know which will work for you? We’ve talked to experts and no poo-ers themselves to find out as much as we can about the method.

What are the benefits of the no poo method?

Some of you may be wondering what the benefits of the no poo method are if you’ve been shampooing your whole life. Why change your routine now? What many people don’t know is that shampooing your hair can actually be pretty damaging. One of the main benefits of no poo is that you'll be avoiding the harmful toxins that unnatural shampoo formulas may utilize. These toxins can take a serious toll, making hair too dry (or too greasy), weaker and harder to grow out. Even worse, unhealthy ingredients can be found in unexpected places, like synthetic fragrances, which are one of the main (and most popular) damaging offenders on your shampoo's ingredients list. 

Additionally, while shampoo cleans your hair, it also takes away the natural oils that make your hair healthy and soft. Using conditioner to supplement isn't an ideal solution either, as you’re actually just putting more chemicals in your hair. And if your hair gets greasy easily, it may be because it’s deprived of its natural oils and is therefore, producing more.

So, if you want to reverse the damage done, the no poo method can do just that! Andrea Lavinthal, the Style and Beauty Director at PEOPLE, says, “Fans of the ‘no poo’ method say their hair feels softer, looks shinier and is generally healthier than it was when they were using standard shampoo. Plus, some replacements, like baking soda and apple cider vinegar, are a great option for people who prefer eco-friendly beauty products.” Lavinthal makes an important final point—the chemicals in shampoo get washed down the drain whenever you rinse, so by eliminating shampoo, you’re also potentially limiting the amount of chemicals being released into the world!

What are some common replacements for shampoo?

Luckily, there are a few different replacements for shampoo, so you’ll have plenty of chances to find a suitable alternative.Need help choosing? The porosity of your hair can help you determine which method will work best for you.

Baking soda and apple cider vinegar

“A combo of ‘washing’ with baking soda and ‘conditioning’ with apple cider vinegar is the most popular method,” Lavinthal says. Mix one part baking soda with about three to four parts water; you can apply this formula to wet or dry hair, massaging into the roots before rinsing. Then, combine one part apple cider vinegar with four parts water, and gently pour it evenly through your hair before rinsing it out.

Baking soda and apple cider vinegar are great for oil control. Chelle Ivancic, a sophomore at DePaul University, shares, “I was the one who originally took the nose dive in my family of four curly haired women. They were all worried about putting the vinegar on their hair. The way I see it, if I can put it on my salad then why not my head? After they saw how much my curls improved and the moisture level in my hair went up, they all jumped on board.” Need more proof? Chelle has been donating her hair for 14 years now because it is so healthy and grows so fast!

Cleansing conditioner

“Another option is to use regular conditioner or a cleansing conditioner (this is called ‘co-washing’). Cleansing conditioners are exactly what they sound like: conditioners that contain very mild cleansing agents,” notes Lavinthal. Wen, for example, has a great cleansing conditioner that doesn’t contain damaging ingredients.

Tabia Robinson, a senior at SUNY Albany, shares, “I don't use shampoo anymore because it dries out my hair. I am African American and I have natural hair and I find that shampoo of any kind always dries out my hair so now I just use conditioners to wash my hair and my hair is always bouncy and has sheen when I'm done.” Of course, if you find that just using conditioner makes your hair greasy (which it may), opt for something different.

Egg wash

Egg washes cleanse, condition and strengthen your hair. Even better, the protein in eggs can add volume, so this type of wash is especially good for those with thin hair. The downside? You must avoid warm water or the egg will start to scramble mid-shower! Another thing to keep in mind is that egg washes should only be done a couple times per month to avoid overdoing it on added protein.

Ready to try? Simply beat an egg, apply it to your wet hair, leave it in for 5 to 15 minutes and rinse with cool water.

Rye flour wash

The vitamins, minerals and nutrients in rye flour will make most people’s hair very shiny and smooth, and the more finely ground, the better. You can buy rye flour on Amazon.

To get started, mix about three tablespoons of rye flour with about three tablespoons of water, massage it into wet hair, leave it in for 5 to 15 minutes and fully rinse.

Water only

For the water method, all you have to do is rinse your hair with warm water, scritch and preen it (massage your scalp and use a boar bristle brush to pull the oil down your hair) and let it air dry. This method, however, does not work well with hard (mineral-rich) water.

Should you try the no poo method?

If you have overly dry or greasy hair or are simply looking for a more natural, non-toxic way to care for your hair, give the no-poo method a try. “You can't really know if the no-poo method will be right for you until you try it,” Lavinthal advises.

“One caveat: You have to stick with it for a month or more since there's usually a notoriously icky transition period when your hair looks like a grease ball. But fans of the method swear that shiny, healthy hair will be waiting on the other side,” says Lavinthal. Most reports indicate that the entire transition period is about three months. During the first month, your hair may be very greasy, while during the second month your hair may have a lot of static. Then, during the third month, your hair will start to look better but may be frizzy. After these three months are over, though, your hair will look better than ever!

That being said, not everyone will have a positive experience with the no poo method. Lindy Olive, a senior at Auburn University, says, “I have been doing the baking soda and apple cider vinegar instead of shampoo and conditioner for over two years. It has made my hair thick. However, it dried out my hair and I'm looking for a different method now. I used coconut oil and tea tree oil to replenish some of the oils, but it didn't help much because it got so dry over time.” Unfortunately, since everyone has different proteins in their hair, each person’s hair will react differently to certain methods. “I encourage everyone to try it, but for me, it didn't work out,” says Lindy.

But if dryness from one method is the case for you, don't immediately lose hope! Co-washing and cleansing conditioners may be a better choice. “They're typically best for people with very dry, thick or curly hair,” Lavinthal shares. “Fine, straight hair might look greasy and heavy. The most important thing is to use more product than you normally do and scrub your scalp really well with your fingertips. This helps break down oils and remove residue from styling products." Once your hair has transitioned, you can introduce shampoo into your regimen without undoing all of that work! "If you like the way your hair looks, but your scalp is feeling itchy and gross, it's OK to use a clarifying shampoo every two weeks or so,”  Lavinthal says.

All in all, if you’re sick of your hair routine and are looking for something more healthy and natural, no poo is definitely worth a shot. You’ll have to stick it out for the first few months, but your devotion will be rewarded with longer, stronger and even more beautiful hair! So while it may take some getting used to, many swear that the results are worth it. Good luck, collegiettes!

Rachel graduated from the Honors College at James Madison University in May 2017 and is pursuing a career in the media/PR industry. She majored in Media Arts & Design with a concentration in journalism and minored in Spanish and Creative Writing. She loves spending time with friends and family, traveling, and going to the beach.

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