Tuesday, October 4, 2011

No 'Poo

Carissa asked me to contribute a write-up of my recent personal care experiment for her Sociology of the Environment class. It seemed appropriate to pass it along to the internet. There is an almost unending supply of information on the No Shampoo ("No Poo") method all over the web and in print, this is simply my experience with it. It's a little "TL,DR" so I apologize in advance. To skip straight to some reputable sources, head down to the bottom of this post.

My hair and I trying on glasses at the Renegade Craft Fair on Sept 12 (1.5 months without shampoo).

As I get older, my once straight hair gets curlier and curlier. My hair has always been dry and coarse, but with the curls it only continues to become drier. Expensive deep conditioning treatments or homemade oil masks never did any good, nor did altering the quantity or frequency of conditioning. I'd been hearing about a shampooless movement--"No Poo"--for years, and decided that I'd give it a chance as soon as I'd completed my employment at a coffee shop, just in case. No Poo eliminates unnecessary chemicals (sulfates and silicones) that strip your hair of what it needs and causes build-up of what it doesn't. I am prone to "alternative," body- and Earth-friendly methods anyhow; I use a handmade tea tree oil and sage deodorant powder, wash my face with castille and witch hazel, and eat a diet as organic as I can afford.

The compulsion to shampoo frequently to rinse out grease is a cyclical problem. Scalps were designed to regulate certain amounts of oil to keep skin and hair healthy. By stripping these natural oils with sulfates, the scalp begins to overcompensate and hair becomes greasy. The No Poo method stops the cycle and allows oil distribution to normalize, making for a healthier head of hair and less of a dependency on expensive, chemical products. This, from my understanding, is most successful on wavy, curly, and coarse hair. Below, I'll share my process for No Poo, though there are many variations to try.

First, I shampooed a final time with a sulfate product, to strip any build-up that may have been in my hair. Following shampoo, I conditioned with a sulfate and silicone-free conditioner found at my local apothecary (also available at co-ops or health food stores). To avoid frizz and drying out, I dry with a t-shirt rather than a towel, just until my hair stops dripping water. No blow drier for me, I just let the air do its thing. I'm not one to use styling products in my hair either, but there are No Poo friendly gels and mouses for those who are. Now that I've settled into the No Poo lifestyle, I rinse my hair with very hot water only about once a week, being sure to use my fingertips to scrub my scalp and loosen any dirt. Separately, l condition about once a week, rotating every other with diluted apple cider vinegar and my natural conditioner. When I use the creme conditioner, I make sure to apply it at the beginning of my shower, let it rest in my hair until I am almost finished, then rinse it out, massaging as I would with shampoo. I don't leave the apple cider vinegar solution in my hair any longer than 30 seconds, but it works wonders.

Any No Poo resource will make one warning very clear: there is very much an adjustment period. During this period, usually sometime between the second and fifth week, you will no doubt feel grimy and unattractive. Your hair is going through a rough patch during this time, trying to re-regulate its oil while still overcompensating a bit. This rough patch is worth its pain, and can be eased with a little talc or corn starch brushed through the trouble spots. I've also read that brushing each side of your head, from roots to tips,100 times a day--a la Marcia Brady-- can expedite the adjustment process

I've been on the No Poo regimen for over two months now, and expect to maintain indefinitely. Each week that passes, my hair becomes softer with more defined curls. For the first time in my life, my hair shines. My locks are no longer dry, and not the least bit greasy. Since hitting the four week mark, I get compliments from strangers about how nice my curls look. My one, small complaint is that I've lost volume, but that's a result of frizz reduction. In the photo above you can see that my hair is by no means flat, I am just partial to a big, wild head of hair.

The most frequent question is about the actual cleanliness of my hair and scalp. I can assure you there is no grit, grime, or smell other than grapes--the scent of my conditioner. My bank account is slightly happier, my plastic waste reduced, and my body no longer exposed to certain unnecessary chemicals. I'd recommend the No Poo method to anyone who thinks they might be suited for it. 
My hair and I doing awkward poses in the pre-painted craft room (about 2.5 weeks without shampoo).

Just a few resources:
1. A to-date photo, 2.5 months into the process, of my hair here.

2. List of No Poo-friendly conditioners.
I use Desert Essence, though honestly I will probably try a different brand next time, because I feel like it leaves my hair feeling a little peculiar after I use it. It does its job, though, and I love the scent.

3. Write-up by NPR about the shampoo industry,
"The current trend of frequent shampoos may have started on May 10, 1908, when the New York Times published a column advising women that it was OK to wash their hair every two weeks. At that time, once a month was the norm. Decades later, TV marketing campaigns began to convince us that daily washing was the thing to do. A 1970s Faberge ad for Farrah Fawcett shampoo is one example."

4. A good how-to from NaturallyCurly.com.

5. THE book to have if you have no idea what to do with your curls. I've witnessed several heads of curls transform from pretty to stunning with this book's help, Curly Girl by Lorraine Massey.


  1. I am really, really proud of you and this post Brooke.

  2. Wow! I've heard about the apple cider vinegar thing before, but I didn't know you could also use a creme conditioner. Very informative! And as always, you look fantastic!

  3. Thanks again for all the information. I'm excited to use it in my project. :) Your hair looks so happy too.