The No ‘Poo Method

If you’ve read my blog before, you know I’m always up for an experiment (read my post on milk or project 333)! My most recent test was on myself, I trialed the no ‘poo method. I’m not talking about anything toilet related. ‘poo as in shampoo.

What does the no ‘poo or shampoo method entail?

Put simply, the no ‘poo (yep – I’m sticking with that name) method is just omitting commercial shampoo and conditioner from your self care routine. There are a few ways in which to do this:

  1. Going cold turkey, rinsing with just water – the results of this method vary considerably depending on what type of water you have coming from your tap (hard, soft, chlorinated, spring etc.).
  2. Slowly weaning yourself off by stretching out your wash days. This might look like going from washing every second day to washing every third day, then a few weeks later every fourth day etc. until you’ve completely weaned yourself off, but still rinsing with water.
  3. Substituting shampoo and conditioner with a simple and natural alternative such as bicarbonate soda or soap berries for shampoo and apple cider vinegar or coconut oil for conditioner (this is the method I chose). The idea here is, even though you are still washing your hair (to me it felt more like rinsing), you’re using natural, simple products that are kinder to your hair, skin and the planet.

There are a few tips and tricks that go with the no ‘poo method:

  1. Up to 12 hours before you’re going to rinse/wash, massage you scalp and preen your hair – this feels a lot like channeling our primate ancestors. This step moves the oils from the top of your scalp down to the ends of your hair, which are usually the driest and most damaged.
  2. Just before you wash, brush your hair with a boar bristle brush (It’s possible other natural brushes may do the same job – I used both my boar bristle and bamboo brush).
  3. If your ends are dry, massage some coconut oil into them and leave in your hair for an hour or so before you wash.
  4. If using bicarb soda, dilute it in warm or hot water – 1 to 2 tablespoons to 1 cup of water. If your hair is dry use less bicarb. When I had tried bicarb before I put it straight onto my hair. This left me looking more like a scarecrow than Farrah Fawcett or Jennifer Aniston).
  5. Dilute the apple cider vinegar (avc) in cool water. I usually did 1 – 2 tablespoons in 1 cup. Experiment until you get the right mix for your own hair type.
  6. Wash your hair with warm (not hot) water. Having the water too hot damages your skin and your hair.
  7. Rinse with cool water – as cool as you can bear. I did this experiment in summer so was able to rinse out the acv with reasonably cool water, craning my neck backwards and using the handheld shower head so as not to let too much run down my back.
  8. Dry your hair with an old t-shirt instead of a towel- this reduces frizz and fly-aways.
  9. Avoid using a hair dryer and let your hair dry naturally.

Going no ‘poo

After deliberating for years on if this very hippie hair routine was for me, I finally decided to go a whole two months without washing my hair with commercial shampoo. “But why?” I hear you ask?!

Day one after my last wash with commercial shampoo

Well, after doing my research and reading a few blogs and articles on others who had taken the plunge and had glorious results, I was filled with visions of myself with lustrous, silky hair. More importantly, their hair care routine seemed ridiculously low maintenance!

I started mentally noting all the reasons why I should go ahead with my adventurous no ‘poo experiment:

  • Cutting out shampoo reduces the amount of products I purchase and use – saving money and resources
  • It minimises chemicals being washed into the waterways
  • It minimises chemicals I use on my body of which, long term effects maybe harmful to health
  • Less plastic
  • Less consumerism
  • Less stuff

My regular routine consisted of washing my hair twice a week. Usually on a Tuesday or Wednesday and usually on a Saturday or Sunday – depending on what I was up to that week. First brush my hair (the only time in a week I’d do it), I’d then lather up with store bought eco shampoo, rinse and repeat. Then, I’d massage the ends with what was usually the matching conditioner and leave for a couple of minutes. I’d pat dry with towel and let the air dry the rest. Only on a rare occasion would I use a styling appliance.

My new routine looked quite similar, except I would brush most evenings before bed and again before washing my hair. When I had time or I remembered I would preen and massage just before the wash. I used 1 tablespoon of bicarb in a cup of hot water, which I would pour directly onto my hair in the shower and massage in. Just before I was ready to get out I’d add cool water to a good splash of acv in a cup and throw over my hair. Next I’d turn the hot water off and rinse my hair in cool water for a couple of seconds. Lastly, once out of the shower I’d wrap it up in an old t-shirt, soaking up most of the water and then let it air dry.

Week 2 prewash
Week 3 prewash
Week 4 prewash – woah, greaseball!
Week 5 prewash – starting to calibrate a small bit!

Here’s the good stuff that happened:

  • My hair became less frizzy
  • My tolerance for greasy hair hit an all time high
  • I saved money and water
  • I saved resources
  • I cared a little less about what people thought of my appearance

And… here’s the bad:

  • My hair became thick. Not in the good way like a Pantene commercial. It became so thick with build up I couldn’t run my fingers through my hair.
  • I went from brushing my hair once or twice a week to daily. I had concerns this would cause breakages and split ends and in the long run more frizz.
  • The build up that was in my hair was transferring to my brush, leaving white gunk through the bristles. Annoying because I would then need to wash it regularly.
  • My hair went dark – not that this is so bad but it did make the greys stand out more. I ran into a friend after washing my hair again who commented that I’d dyed it a lighter colour – nope!
  • My hair was GREASY. I had thought after the six week mark this would start to balance out. That I would reach some miracle hair nirvana where the natural oils started to work in my favour, washing and nourishing my hair, rather than just looking greasy. This was not the case.
  • It took my hair ages to dry. I’m talking hours – in summer!
  • This new routine was anything but low maintenance compared to my regular routine. With all the brushing and preening and massaging and extra cleaning and prepping the ingredients in the kitchen, it was anything but. The only area where I saved time was the rinse in the shower.

Hair audit conclusion

What did I learn?

Although this method of hair care works for some, it wasn’t right for me. The negatives far outweighed the positives. Perhaps I have the wrong hair type for the no ‘poo method – lots and lots of fine hair. Perhaps someone with think stranded hair would suit this routine better? Maybe I should have stuck it out to three months? Maybe that’s where the tipping point sits of hair nirvana?

Of all the products I have given up over the years, shampoo is one I’m willing to hold on to. There are ways I can do it more environmentally friendly:

  • Refill my bottles at the bulk store to save on plastic
  • Use shampoo and conditioners that don’t contain SLS, SLES or parabens (the really bad toxins for us and the environment)
  • Purchase ethical brands that hold sustainability principles high in their ethos
  • Purchase brands that come in recycled plastic bottles (I’ve tried many shampoo bars with little to no success)

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