Why I Stopped Washing My Hair and How the "No 'Poo" Method Works For Me
Surprise! Ditching the suds = shiny tresses and a healthier scalp.
Before you’re totally grossed out, let’s get things straight. When I say that I stopped washing my hair, I don’t mean that my hair never comes in contact with water. What I mean is that I’m no longer using shampoo and conditioner like you buy at the store or salon - and my hair has never been shinier and healthier. What prompted this obviously insane change? I’m not a scientist, a stylist, or a healthcare practitioner of any kind, but I can tell you all about my personal hair journey and what worked (and still works!) for me.
For a few years now, I’d been using some nice salon shampoo and conditioner since my hairdresser sister-in-law told me about the evils of Pantene. I’d gotten the good stuff on sale at Marshall’s and I was pretty pleased with myself. Mostly, my hair was fine - not great, kind of dry, but ok. I should probably disclose that I have pretty easy hair, as hair goes. It’s natural (I dyed it purple a couple times in high school but those crazy days are over), it’s long (most of the way down my back), it’s straight (with just a tiny bit of natural curl) and it’s of medium thickness. If you sacrifice a baby goat to the Hair Gods, you too can be similarly blessed. I’M JUST KIDDING. You actually have to sacrifice your firstborn male child. It’s not like the Hair Gods give that stuff away for free.
Anyway, all was well until I moved to California, and suddenly my entire scalp was falling off in little pieces. For the first time in my life, dandruff (probably the grossest word ever) plagued my days and I was desperate. I asked my dry-scalped husband for advice, and that’s when he revealed that for months, he had been washing his hair with nothing but water - and his scalp had never been happier.
I was desperate and ready to try anything. A little internet research revealed that many others had jumped on the “no ‘poo” train and were practicing their new alternative lifestyle in a variety of ways. Some, like my husband, eschewed hair products of any kind. Others suggested using a little baking soda for cleaning and a little apple cider vinegar for moisturizing. Some even added a little argan oil or jojoba oil after their wash for extra conditioning. I decided maximum moisture would probably work best and gave it a shot.
First, I washed my hair one last time with some cheap clarifying shampoo. My research suggested that this would strip off the last of the product gunk and shampoo/conditioner build-up from my scalp. I waited a couple days until my hair clearly needed washing.
Second, I bought a plastic one-cup measuring cup with a handle and a small bottle of argan oil and grabbed the baking soda and apple cider vinegar I already had on hand.
Third, I put about a tablespoon of baking soda in the cup and added water to the top. I stirred with a finger and dumped it on my head, focusing on scrubbing just my scalp instead of my hair. After a minute my fingers felt a bit slimy (for lack of a better word - it isn’t actually a nasty feeling) and my hair was literally squeaking with cleanliness.
Fourth, I put a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in the same now-empty cup and added water to the top again, then poured that over my hair and rinsed it out. For a moment everything will smell you’re eating a vinaigrette-drizzled salad in the shower; then the odor will dissipate.
Fifth, I gently towel dried my hair. And this was the moment of an incredible revelation: my hair was already just damp, not wet. In the past, I had needed to wait HOURS for my hair to dry naturally; now, 45 minutes got me pretty much all the way there. Awesome!
Sixth, I poured a few drops of argan oil into my palm, rubbed my hands together, and then ran them through the bottom three-quarters of my hair. Argan oil absorbs into your hair extremely well, so you won’t get the greasiness that you would from a similar amount of coconut oil. Some people prefer jojoba oil, and that works too - it’s up to you. And that was it - I let my hair dry naturally and waited for the results.
What I expected: shiny hair and a healthier scalp.
What I got: BOTH of the above, plus some totally surprising bonuses. Not only did my scalp heal, but I noticed that I no longer needed to wash my hair every other day for it to look decent. I’d previously relied on dry shampoo to transform myself into Rapunzel when I didn’t have time to shower. Now, I could go four or even five days and with a quick brush to redistribute the natural oils from my scalp, my hair looked awesome. For someone who likes camping as much as I do, this is a real benefit.
If you’re totally convinced that the “no ‘poo” method is your deus ex machina away from bad hair days forever, here are some things to consider. If you have very dry hair that’s colored or damaged in other ways, you’ll want to go light on the baking soda. You’ll also need to experiment, depending on the thickness or fineness of your hair, with how much extra moisture works for you. For someone with very thin or fine hair, just a drop or two of argan oil or jojoba oil will be more than enough. For someone with thicker, curlier hair, even a little coconut oil might not weigh you down and will add tons of shine. Sometimes I need to add a drop or two of argan oil to the extra-dry ends of my hair a couple days after I wash it. Remembering to brush it every day also helps a lot with moving the natural oils your scalp produces from the crown of your head down to the very ends.
My shampoo and conditioner have been sitting under my sink for a few months now gathering dust. I’ve kind of hung on to them thinking that maybe this magic formula is going to stop working - after all, it seems almost too good to be true. But sometimes simplest is best - and I think that’s truest when it comes to our bodies. You don’t need a bottle of something formulated in a laboratory to have healthy hair - just a couple of ingredients and the courage to try something new.