So, I FINALLY wrote this post! I had so many people asking me what I use to wash my hair, what I recommend, etc. and I kept promising a post on this but procrastinated long enough. The truth is, I was busy trying different things since I kept running into different issues. The first issue I had was obviously the transition phase, where my hair was terrible no matter what I tried, then when that eased down I realized the issues I was still having were due to my hard water. So I started using distilled water, which may have been TOO soft for my hair type I later found out. It was still better than using my hard water, but using distilled water still made my hair feel a little weird which I’ll explain below. Finally, after being 7 months no-poo I found my wash! The one perfect thing that I had been searching for that would make my hair feel perfectly clean and shiny and soft, and the best part? I can use it with my hard water! Now that I feel like I’ve got a bit of a handle on this whole “no-poo” thing, I feel confident to tell you about some of the wash methods. These are arguably the most popular options that people use, although there are others. I’ll explain how to use each method, and my personal thoughts on it.
Please keep in mind that what works for me may not work for you. We all have different hair types, hair needs and different water that will all play a part in finding your favorite wash method! If it helps, I have long, thick, hair that tends to be dry/damaged on the bottom half (likely from a lifetime of using terrible hair products and heat styling) and smoother and more moisturized on the top half (that has grown out since stopping shampoo) that starts to get oily about 5-7 days after a wash. I wash my hair once a week and I have hard water.
Disclosure, this post contains affiliate links that may earn me a small commission if you purchase through them. They don’t cost you any extra, and I always only share items I use and love myself.
Alkaline Washes That Require an Acid Rinse:
The most common (and controversial) method for no-poo-ers is diluted baking soda. Its controversial because many people say that it is far too damaging and causes breakage if used long term. Other people will tell you that its perfectly safe for certain hair types and that if you use it properly diluted with an acid rinse that its fine. I’ve read blogs of women who have used this for years and swore by it only to end up with their hair breaking off years later. Yikes! So I’ve personally decided its not worth the risk for me. My Experience: I tried this once or twice when I first started no poo and it didn’t really do anything for me. I was in transition though, so my experience with it isn’t really valid at all! Hair Types: It is recommended only for those with very oily hair, and not suitable for those with dry or damaged hair. How To: If you have the appropriate hair type and want to give it a try, dilute a tablespoon or less of baking soda into a cup of water, and wash your hair with it. Follow with any acid rinse (see below) to restore the pH of your scalp.
Clay is one method I used for a long time and liked for awhile. I’ve used bentonite clay as well as rhassoul clay, and sometimes I mixed the two. I used this post from Mommypotomus to learn how to wash my hair with clay and I encourage you to read it before washing with clay. Its really helpful and has lots of pictures. 🙂 Hair Types: You can use clay with any hair type, but keep in mind that it can be drying, so if you have dry hair, try to just use the clay on your roots where the oil is. How To: Dilute it with water, (I just poured the clay into a water bottle and shook it up really good to get rid of any clumps) and wash your hair with it, followed by an acid rinse. My Experience: I generally had a good experience with clay and used it for awhile, but it was a little difficult with my water issues. Here’s the story: With hard water, my hair would be really waxy afterward, but otherwise it was clean and didn’t feel oily. With distilled water, it looked clean and did not leave any wax at all on my hair, but my hair would get really stringy. Its hard to explain, but it was just a little odd. My hair would look gorgeous after brushing it, but within minutes it would look stringy again. Really weird! I think this was due to the water I was using being a bit TOO soft and over-moisturizing. I definitely had annoying water struggles!! But I don’t attribute any of my issues to using the clay.
I love castile soap! I use Dr. Bronner’s lavender. It has so many uses around the house, and can even be used as shampoo. Keep in mind that using castile soap as shampoo is not recommended with hard water, but could be a good option if you have regular or soft water. Hair Types: As with the other alkaline washes, its best suited for hair that isn’t too dry or damaged, but anyone could potentially use it. I try to just wash my roots/top portion of hair anyway, so it would be fine for that. How To: Take a tablespoon, or just guesstimate, squirt it into a water bottle with at least a cup of water in it, put the cap on and shake it up. (Do NOT use it undiluted!) and wash hair and follow with an acid rinse.
My Experience: It definitely works! I used it with distilled water and I had the weird stringy hair issue as I did with the clay, in which I blame the softness of the water. (My hair is really picky with water apparently!) *Note: Some people might actually consider this option “low poo” because it is soap and it lathers, but since it is not marketed as shampoo, a lot of people just consider it a natural way to wash your hair. It doesn’t matter what you call it, but its a much healthier option for shampoo however you look at it. 🙂
PH Balanced Washes:
My wash! Soapnuts were my lifesaver. They are a natural water softener and cleanser. I ordered these which I started using to wash laundry too! The other day I was telling a friend about soapnuts and she gave me the funniest look when I told her that’s how I wash my hair. Haha! Sometimes I feel like a total weirdo. Yes, it is an actual nut. They grow on trees in India. The shells surrounding the actual nut contain saponins which is like a natural soap. It actually lathers and looks soapy! (See the cover photo to this post- that’s a photo of my soapnut liquid.) Hair Types: All Hair Types! Especially good for those with hard water. How To: I take 5 nuts and boil them in 3 cups of water until the water is brown. Sometimes it helps to kind of mash the nuts as much as you can with a spoon to release the saponins from the shells. It usually takes me 15-20 minutes, so I do it when I’m bored, or the day before wash day so its ready to go. You can also make ahead and store in the refrigerator for up to a week. When the liquid is brown, strain the shells out of the liquid and pour it into a squeeze bottle. (Tip: Keep your eyes closed. I’ve heard horror stories of how bad this stuff hurts to get in your eyes. I haven’t experienced it luckily!) Wash and rinse as usual. An acid rinse isn’t needed for pH balancing, but my hair feels tangly after washing so I use an acid rinse on the length of my hair to detangle. *Note: You can re-use the shells more than once. Just dry the shells on a paper towel and boil them again to get all the soapy goodness out of them! My Experience: After so many issues with water and waxiness or stringy-ness, I was expecting to deal with the same thing. Amazingly I didn’t have either. My hair also looked so much shiner than normal. You can’t really tell in these photos at all, but when I look in a mirror I see my hair catching the light and looking shiny and I get really excited. 🙂 My hair has always been more matte and so un-shiny so I love love love the soapnut wash. This photo is after my first soapnut wash. I was so excited about my hair that I made Ryan take a photo.
^This is another photo of my hair after a wash day. It was SO SOFT! I know it looks totally frizzy in this photo from the light shining behind us, but it really wasn’t that frizzy! ..I think I just needed to brush it or something.
Okay, I know this is probably the weirdest sounding wash method yet. I know it sounds gross but it actually works and is great at clarifying and fighting grease. It also works as a protein treatment if your hair needs protein. Hair Types: Any! How to: Mix an equal part of egg and water and wash your hair with it in cold water. Hot water will make the egg cook on your hair (Hahaha! That would be such a mess..) so you don’t want that!! My Experience: This is a great method for maybe once a month to get some protein in your hair. Hair needs to have a balance of protein and moisture to be strong and healthy, and this does the trick. Washing with cold water sucks, but its the only negative I have from this method. Some people say their hair smells weird after washing with egg, but I haven’t noticed this personally. I also usually use an acid rinse with some lavender essential oils, so my hair smells like lavender which is lovely.
Believe it or not, there are a lot of people who use absolutely nothing on their hair but water. Every time I see a post from one of these people in the “No-Poo” group I’m in, they’re the ones with the most gorgeous model worthy hair ever. I don’t know how they do it!! If I didn’t have so many water issues, I would definitely make this my ultimate goal. Since its just water it works with any hair type. How To: Check out this article to learn how to “scritch” and “preen” your hair/scalp. This step is necessary to remove any dead skin cell build up or dirt and sebum (oil) so your pores won’t get clogged. Then you brush your hair with a natural bristled brush to move oils away from your scalp. It also helps clean out your hair because the dead skin cells and any extra oil end up on the brush, so keeping your brush cleaned is really important. Other than these few things, all that “water only” people do with their hair is occasionally wash/rinse it with water after doing the above two steps! This method makes it so that your scalp just produces the amount of sebum necessary to keep your hair conditioned properly, so their hair doesn’t usually get overly oily anyway. People that use the water only method have usually been doing no-poo for years and years so they just don’t find that they need a regular “wash” anymore- just enough to keep their scalp clean. I can’t even imagine how nice this would be! I don’t have experience with it because its just not possible for me at this time. Maybe one day- way down the road I’ll be able to try it. 🙂
“Holy Grail” Wash (Recipe here)
This wash seems to be really popular! It contains clay, apple cider vinegar, water, and honey. So It really is basically a clay wash with some honey thrown in for moisturizing, as clay alone can be really drying on some hair types. Hair Types: Better for dry hair, but would probably be fine for any hair. How To: Mix up the recipe, wash your hair and leave on for 5 minutes. Rinse and you’re done! Most people don’t need an acid rinse after this one, but you always can. My Experience: I liked this recipe okay. It wasn’t a holy grail for me unfortunately because of the water issues. I would probably rather just wash with clay than this though because measuring and mixing this recipe takes a bit longer than just mixing some clay with some water. It worked about the same for me personally.
This is similar to the water only method, but you do occasional rinses with an acid to freshen your hair up. For some people it actually counts as a “wash” because it removes some excess sebum (oil), but for others its just more of a conditioner. Hair Types: This would definitely be better for dry hair types since it doesn’t remove much sebum. If you have dry hair it would be a good option to try for awhile. How To: Pick your favorite acid (see list below), dilute if you need to, and rinse your hair with it, followed by water. My Experience: Because I have/had such dry damaged hair, I did try this for awhile. Maybe a month or so. It didn’t really work for me. Although my hair is really dry on the bottom, the roots would still get too greasy for this to work for my hair. Plus, my obvious water issues. (My water really ruined most of these washes for me as you can see…Haha, thank the Lord for soapnuts!) When I tried Acid Only, I ended up using dry shampoo to get through the days wayyy too often, so I discovered that I needed to be using a wash that was more cleansing.
Aloe Vera + Honey Wash (Recipe here)
This is another wash that is very moisturizing and conditioning. Its popular among those with very dry or straw-like hair. It can also be used like a moisture treatment rather than a shampoo. Hair Types: Dry, course, or straw-like hair, or those with itchy scalps. How To: Follow the recipe I linked to..Or just use equal parts honey and aloe vera gel (natural actual real aloe vera though, not the fake green goo you might use for sunburn!) and wash your hair with it. My Experience: I just tried this once. It did make my hair really soft, but didn’t remove any grease, so I can’t really count it as a wash for me, but I would definitely do it again if my hair was feeling extra dry for some reason.
“Low Poo” Shampoos
“Low Poo” is actually not a real term…It was created by a No-Poo group I’m in on Facebook to basically mean, any shampoo that is commercially made but is healthier and more natural. For something to count as “low poo” it must not contain any sulfates, silicones, or parabens, and must have all or mostly all natural ingredients. If a product is commercially made and lathers, it is still technically shampoo, but it will be a much better option than most popular shampoo brands you get at the supermarket. A few popular brands of “low poo” are Moracco Method, Nature’s Gate, Shea Moisture, The Honest Company, Burt’s Bees, and 100% Pure. —>These are NOT affiliate links since I haven’t used these brands myself and can’t personally endorse them…They’re just there for your convenience if you want to check them out! I know a few people that use a few of these brands that love them. Also, I can’t promise that all the products from these companies would be considered “low poo.” A few of them may contain questionable ingredients. If you want to be sure, you’ll need to check the ingredient list and look up any ingredient that seems unfamiliar.
If you want to live a healthier lifestyle but going no-poo intimidates you, switching to a healthier brand of shampoo is a great alternative! It can also be a great place to start if you’d like to slowly transition your hair away from chemicals and silicones in preparation for going “no-poo” in the future!
Acid rinses are usually used as the “conditioner” after a wash, or in some cases, (Acid Only Method) can be used as a wash on their own. For the alkaline washes they are absolutely mandatory to restore pH balance to your scalp. If you use a pH balanced wash they aren’t necessary but can still be used for extra conditioning, or to de-tangle your hair. They work SO well for detangling wet hair!
The most common acid rinses are: Apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar (Note: these need to be diluted 1 tbs to 1 cup of water!), coffee, tea, aloe vera juice, and even beer. I’ve used both types of vinegar, and coffee. The vinegar works great but does have a gross smell so I usually add some lavender essential oils to it! I smell the vinegar while my hair is wet, but once it dries, the scent of vinegar is gone, but the essential oil scent remains for a day or two. Coffee is probably my favorite acid rinse so far though! It seemed to make my hair super shiny! Plus, I love the smell of coffee. I only use coffee if we have leftover coffee sitting in the pot. I don’t like to brew coffee just for a hair rinse- Seems like a waste to me, so if we don’t have leftover coffee I’ll use diluted vinegar. I haven’t tried any of the others rinses to give my opinion on them!
Whew, that was a lot of information! I hope this is helpful for all those who have been asking!!
Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to answer them or find an answer for you! Its my goal to help anyone who wants to live more naturally and healthy lives find alternative options that work for your lifestyle. 🙂
Fellow No-Poo-People! Let me know if I left out a wash that you would like to recommend! I know there are TONS of other ones, but I tried to list the most common ones.