No ‘poo’ – alternatives to shampoo and conditioner!

I recently gave up using shampoo and conditioner and haven’t used either for nearly 6 weeks now.  The picture on the left shows my hair at around 4 weeks of no ‘poo’.  My two boys (both under 5) have also been joining me in this experiment.  My hope is that our scalps will appropriately regulate the amount of natural oils they produce and that we will never need to use shampoo or conditioner again!
So what am I doing instead?
Experimenting with bicarbonate of soda and vinegar:

Bicarbonate of soda is a great deodoriser and cleaning agent in almost any situation.  Vinegar acts as a conditioner and softens your hair.
A couple of times near the beginning of this experiment I sprinkled a little bicarbonate of soda into my hand to rub into my wet hair – I used an old spice jar for this.
I diluted the vinegar in a little water and put into a small spray bottle and then sprayed it onto my hair.
  • For greasy hair use mainly bicarbonate of soda and very little diluted vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar – you can use white, but I didn’t have any to hand).
  • For dry hair use less bicarbonate of soda and more vinegar.
Water only washing:
I decided to stick with water only hair washing (i.e. no products and no substitutes) for my boys who both have lovely full heads of darkish brown hair.  One has curly hair and one has straight hair.  Their hair has put up absolutely no objections to this treatment and they both have lovely clean, shiny, grease free and soft hair.

Sustainable gift wrap course

After a couple of go’s with bicarbonate of soda and vinegar, I decided to just use water on my hair.  Although bicarbonate of soda and vinegar may be more eco friendly than traditional shampoo and conditioner, they still have to be manufactured, packaged, transported etc and the more eco friendly and frugal option is to use no products at all.

Using a boar bristle hair brush and then a normal brush:

Boar bristle brushes are meant to be helpful in distributing the natural oils down the hair shaft or in simple terms spreading out the greasiness!  I rushed out and bought one when I first started as I was suffering from that, however it soon got clogged up with greasiness and I haven’t found an effective method of cleaning it just yet.  If anyone has any ideas I would love to hear them!  I have in the meantime reverted back to using my normal brush which is far easier to clean.
Boar bristle brushes come in two varieties – just boar bristles or a mix of boar bristles and the usual plastic pronged brushes.  I bought a mixed one as it was the only one available in the shop at the time.  If you already have a normal brush though, you don’t need to get a mixed one, as you can just alternate with your old brush.  
If you are going to use a normal brush, don’t use the ones with bobbles on the ends of the bristles as they are more likely to damage your hair.
Washing at the appropriate temperature for my hair:
I have been washing my hair in cool water as I have greasy hair and various sites suggest cool water is better.  It also saves on heating up water!  If anyone has any advice to the contrary though I would love to hear it.
Frequency of hair washing:

I always used to wash my hair around once a week, however at the beginning of this project I washed it more frequently to try and combat the greasiness.  That was probably not a good idea as I have a suspicion that the more you wash it the more it produces the natural oils, so since then I have gone back to once a week (or as long as I can bear).

My conclusions so far:
My hair is still greasy and I still have dandruff.  I am not ready to give up yet though.  Most of the time it looks fine and although it feels a little waxy at the top the ends are always fine.  I do find one side more ‘waxy’ or greasy than the other and I think that is because I generally sleep on one side.
I am not ready to give up yet, as I am taking inspiration from breastfeeding.  I breastfed both my children each for 11 months.  The first time round it took me 3 months to get the hang of it, but after that it was just great and I managed to get straight into the swing of it with my second child.  Although it is a ‘natural’ process it definitely didn’t come naturally to me to start off with, but there is so much help and support out there, that I stuck with and was glad I did.  There is very little help and support out there for giving up shampoo, however if I can survive 3 months of very little sleep while I figured out how to breastfeed I am sure I can survive living with greasy hair a bit longer easily!

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  1. I have been contemplating this, but I have really frizzy hair and am not sure I can give up on the products. I am thinking or doing it over winter when I can just wear a hat!

  2. Zoe

    Give it a go! I haven't been hiding my hair away and although it doesn't look great, I am too busy running around with my kids most of the time to care what my hair looks like!

  3. I have not washed my hair regularly for over 10 years now. I am mixed race and my hair is very curly, dry and frizzy. All through my childhood my hair was washed every week and looked like a birds nest.
    I started to wash it less and less and eventually stopped altogether. I wash it very occasionally now (ie less than once every few years) when it has gotten really dirty (ie a particularly memorable camping trip!). But I do use products. I use argan oil as a deep conditioner, maybe once or twice a month. I have been known to just use olive oil. I put conditioner into my hair almost as a hair gel when I want to slick it back into a tight ponytail.
    I think you need to leave it with nothing in at all, just rinse your hair in the shower. Then once it has "settled" experiment a bit. My hair is probably quite different from yours tho, so, mostly I'd say good luck. I like to think of all the money I've saved over the years, hence the rather expensive use of argan oil!

  4. I have tried to go no 'poo but I have dark blondeish hair which goes mousey in Winter or when greasy. It is also dead straight and quite fine and it doesn't respond well. I have taken to using cheap eco friendly shampoo once or twice a week and topping up with "dry shampoo" or washing my fringe only and tying the rest back. It's a balance as I have waist length hair!Your hair looks much better for the experiment than mine!

  5. Zoe

    Thanks for your comment Mrs Fox, that is really interesting.

  6. Zoe

    Sorry to hear it didn't work for you Thrifty Mama. I'm not there yet, but I'm sticking with it for the time being…

  7. My 6 month old daughter was battling cradle cap really bad for her first 4 months. I decided to try washing her hair just once or twice a week with only Baking Soda. It took a few weeks but it has finally cleared up. That is what I am still using on her hair now. Baking Soda definitely works. 🙂

    By the way, I love your blog and I recommended you for the Leibster Award:

  8. Zoe

    Hi Blond Duck – love the name! My hair wasn't oily before I started and then it became oily / greasy when I did. It may work in reverse for you though, you never know!

    I have found though that oily hair and dandruff seem to go together, so if you do get dandruff you need to get on top of that problem to reduce the oiliness.

  9. Zoe

    Thanks for your comment Foy Update. When my kids had cradle cap I just gently scratched it off a bit at a time with my fingernails and made sure I brushed their hair firmly every so often – it seemed to work. I haven't tried bicarbonate of soda on my kids, but I haven't had any problems with it myself.

  10. I went to the shampoo bar earlier this year and it turned my hair into a grease machine (literally felt like i'd put a bottle of olive oil in my hair, ugh), but I did transition away from conditioner to using an ACV rinse (1:4 ratio of vinegar to water) which I love because I use ACV at home anyhow and my natural grocery store sells it in bulk, so no worries about packaging 🙂

  11. Anonymous

    I have been trying to go shampoo free for a couple of weeks now, and so far it doesn't seem to be going very well, but I'm hanging in there! About your question about the boar bristle brush. I got one too as soon as I started this endeavor, and I had the same problem. However I remembered that when you read on a lot of blogs and websites about going poo free, they stress that shampoo is a detergent that is meant to strip the oil from your hair. Well, the gunk building up in your brush is likely a mixture of baking soda and sebum from your hair, so if you just soak your brush in a hot water-shampoo mixture, it should come out easily. I did this with my brush and it worked brilliantly. So, if you have left over shampoo from when you stopped shampooing, you can use it for that! Hope that helps 🙂

  12. Zoe

    I will try washing the brush in shampoo for now, but I don't really want to buy / use shampoo in the long run, so will keep looking for alternatives… Thanks for the tip though!

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