No Poo, Please

I’ve been poo-free for over a year now, and I love it. I also love the reactions I get to saying “poo-free”.

I stopped using shampoo and conditioner for two primary reasons. First, I’m allergic to the vast majority of hair cleaners on the market. Two, I’m poor, and the stuff I’m not allergic to is really expensive. As I started to research viable alternatives, I found lots more reasons to toss the ‘poo.

One reason is that most shampoos don’t wash out oil and dirt; they strip it out. Your hair needs to have oil on it. Your scalp makes oil for that reason. Shampoos leave your scalp very dry, which leads to oil overproduction in compensation. No wonder my hair was always so greasy! Conditioners tend to coat your hair with goop that makes styling harder. Shampoos can damage your hair like an acid, and conditioners follow up with heavy junk to hide the damage. Not ok.

The method I use is baking soda and vinegar, and it works very well for me. My hair is softer, more manageable, heals itself from damage, shinier, and just plain awesome. And no, it doesn’t stink from the vinegar. If I use a lot of styling product that won’t come out with just soda, I’ll use liquid Castile soap, which doesn’t strip my hair.

There are a few tricks to be aware of, all of which I learned through experience. None of the articles or blogs I read included any mention of these, so I’m going to hopefully spare you some of the anguish I went through.

This is as much art as science. I know that we tend to want everything easy-peasey, and that’s what’s gotten us into the trouble we’re in. Once you get the hang of washing your hair this way, however, it really isn’t as hectic as it seems. Because my hair is oily, I do spend more time washing it. However, I can go several days between washings, so it evens out.


Before You Start:

Know Your Hair Type. Human hair is either dry or oily; we all place somewhere on this spectrum. Some are fortunate to be in the middle, so yay for you. My hair is super-oily and can look greasy an hour after washing it. My dad used to say that Chevron called, wanting the rights to my head. Gee, thanks. Anyhow, the drier your hair normally is, the less soda and vinegar you use. The oilier, the more you use. What type of vinegar you use will also depend on this.

Know Your Water Type. How’s the water in your shower? If you have hard water, you’re going to need more s/v, and vice versa for softer water. When you travel, the water hardness at your destination may affect the amounts you use. Just pay attention, and you’ll figure it out. If you’re having problems with the process, it may be the water.

Know What’s In Your Hair. If you’ve been using a lot of product, have very damaged hair, and/or have tried everything under the sun on your follicles, you’re going to have a longer de-gunk time. If you’re really worried about having bad hair days, mix a teaspoon of baking soda into your regular shampoo every time you wash for about two weeks before ditching the ‘poo. This will cut down on the work to do later.

Know That This Will Take Time. The worse off your hair is, the longer it will take to adjust. Because of a LOT of things I worked out in retrospect, my adjustment time was almost two months. I wanted to shave my head after a week, my hair looked so bad. Follow these tips, and it should only be a few weeks for you. Go into this knowing that there will be some “scary” hair days ahead. Know also that once your hair adjusts, it is SO worth it.


The Process

The materials you’ll need will depend on your answers to the above factors. If you have super dry hair, then two old squeeze bottles will be fine. If you have super oily hair, then grab a small margarine tub and a quart-sized bottle. I also use a scalp-scrubber thing from Sally’s.

I’ll give you the extremes and let you work your way to wherever you stand on the spectrum; as I said, it’s not as hard as it sounds.

Dry hair: add about ½ teaspoon of baking soda to a small bottle and mix with 1 cup tap water. Shake to dissolve. Apply to roots and gently massage. Rinse. Dilute Apple Cider Vinegar to 1:5 and apply 1 cup total to hair. Rinse. Dry and style as usual.

Oily hair: dump about a cup’s worth of baking soda into a container and add enough water to make a thick paste. Massage into scalp (I use a scrubber to save my finger tips). Rinse. Dilute White Vinegar to 1:2 and pour about 1 cup over hair; massage in. Rinse. Dry and style.


Final Notes

Be patient with yourself. This is a wonder process, but it’s not instant.

This should be obvious, but I’ll say it anyhow: don’t get this stuff in your eyes.

If you need to use a lot of soda, you’ll need to spend an extra minute washing out your ears because the soda will lodge in the crevices and folds. It’s not dangerous, just a little annoying.

The vinegar smell will go away once your hair dries. If you sweat a lot or get your hair wet again, you may smell it. Feel free to add essential oils or infuse the vinegar to make the smell more agreeable.

I keep more than one shower’s worth of supplies on hand, using the larger bottles and containers so I don’t have to refill before every wash. Cover the soda to prevent drying out. Don’t worry if it gets hard or crystallizes; just mix it back up and use as normal.

This works great for all hair types: thick, thin, fine, coarse, straight, wavy, and curly. I promise.

My ends sometimes get a little dry, so I take a tiny amount of coconut oil and works it through the ends. I barely coat my fingertips before applying, and that’s more than enough.


I hope this works out for you. Please feel free to leave comments, ask more questions, and share your experiences.


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