It has now been 7 months since I last used a commercial shampoo to wash my hair.
My experimental journey towards “no poo” as they call it, started off fairly easily. I decided to try living without commercial shampoo shortly after I had applied a colour to my hair, which handily means I know that where the colour ends is also pretty much where the shampooed hair ends. I had read a few blogs about it, including washing with baking soda and apple cider vinegar either long term or as a transition to using water only, and washing with honey (at blog High Heels and Training Wheels ), and as the honey method seemed to be popular with curly hair and suitable for use with hard water (ours is really, really hard) I decided to start with this method, with the ultimate aim of getting to water only washing. I also liked the fact that I know exactly what the honey is and where it comes from (within my small town), unlike many of the shampoo ingredients.
It started off really well. I began by spacing out my conventional washes from approx 3 times a week to once a week, washing with just water once or twice in between. I did this for a few weeks until I had used up a bottle of Bodyshop Rainforest shampoo that had been hanging around for a while (this shampoo contains no sulfates, silicones or parabens). Then I switched to a dilute mix of honey and boiled water to wash my hair (approx 1tbsp local honey dissolved in about 3 times the amount of warm water and left to cool) once a week. And it seemed to work pretty well. Initially I continued with a water only wash once in between.
I joined an international Facebook group of people living without shampoo and learnt so much more. They have a whole host of files with more information and shampoo recipes here , where you can find out more about most of the methods I mention. I learnt to expect that my hair might feel waxy to start with as the silicones are gradually removed (although I was using a natural shampoo my curl serum did contain silicones), and that apple sauce could be used as a treatment. I learnt that hard water can be a challenge, and can also cause waxiness. I also learnt that tea or coffee can be used as a rinse between washes so gave both of these a try, along with rosehip tea, and lemon and ginger tea as I had these already.
I began my no poo journey towards the end of October. By Christmas I was still washing with honey and water once a week but was finding the waxiness beginning to build up (which unexpectedly gave my hair loads of volume so didn’t look at all bad but felt pretty yucky). So I tried an apple sauce hair mask. Basically I chopped up a cooking apple and microwaved it until soft enough to mash up really well with a fork (generally advised to use a blender although I didn’t bother) . Once it had cooled enough to not burn me but was still warm I spread it all over my hair and covered with a shower cap. I rinsed it out thoroughly after about half an hour and hey presto, clean hair (if much flatter than with the wax). Around this time (can’t recall if before or after) I also tried an egg wash which was also pretty effective – an egg mixed with an equal amount of cold water (hot water will cook the egg!), and applied to the hair (in the shower or over a sink as it will drip everywhere) then rinsed off after about 10 mins, again with cool water to avoid cooking the egg. Due to the protein content this is generally not recommended more than once a month but it depends on your particular hair needs. After new year I also tried a beer rinse as we had an open can left over – my hair loved this!
After another month I used the apple sauce and egg again. A few months into the new year I was starting to find the honey was not as effective – I think this may be because the new hair growth was not as dry as the coloured hair – and that my hair was becoming much greasier. At this point I tried using a wash of chick pea flour – 1tbsp of chick pea flour dissolved in warm water. I added some lemon juice which my hair seems to like ( in moderation). This was the cleanest my hair had felt yet. Sadly the next week it didn’t work so well – this is because it has similar protein issues to the egg. So I went back to the honey wash, but adding lemon juice, and at one point also tried using the olive oil bar soap I use for washing (not best in hard water and needs to be followed by an acidic rinse such as diluted vinegar) when I didn’t have anything else to hand.
Anyway, 7 months and a fair bit of trial and error later, I have found a different routine which is working really well for me. I am now using a wash of soapnuts with added honey and lemon juice alternating with a wash of tea (currently teapigs liquorice and peppermint bags I rescued from being thrown out at work) with a capful of distilled white vinegar. At the moment I use one of these every 6 days and in between avoid wetting my hair by wearing a shower cap when I shower (to minimise the chance of hard water build up). Towards the end of the 6 days I might wear my hair up, and brush with a bamboo brush or boar bristle brush at bedtime. I mainly use soapnuts I have already used for laundry to make up the soapnut shampoo but find adding a couple of new soapnuts does help to make it lather sufficiently. I make enough around once a month to fill an old small shampoo bottle – then I use half and then pop the bottle in the freezer to keep the rest fresh for the next wash. Since the soapnuts contain saponins which produce a lather and also work well in hard water this method seems to work much more like a regular shampoo than some of the other methods did for me and I am quite happy my hair is getting a good clean. I have been using soapnuts for my laundry since last September and find they clean well so perhaps it should be no surprise that they also work well on my hair. The effectiveness of the liquorice root and peppermint tea and a little vinegar is perhaps more surprising but smells great too (mint sauce!).
I am hoping this method will continue to work for the moment, at least until I finish the large bag of soapnuts I am using for the laundry. At that point I intend to experiment with the more local alternative of soapwort, or ideally attempt to go water only.
Along the way my son also gave up shampoo – at the same time as going from long to short hair – he just uses water and had no transition issues (he’s 9 so was ecstatic at me allowing him to not use shampoo); and I found out that my dad had already switched to water only washing a few years ago. My husband has just decided he’s going to give it a try too so we might well soon be a shampoo free household.
Have you ever tried giving up shampoo? How did you get on and what method did you try?
I have also started putting together a Pinterest Board on Natural Haircare .