My Experience of The “No ‘Poo Method”: What You Need To Know

I haven't washed my hair with shampoo in 4 months. The "No ‘Poo Method" (otherwise known as the "No Shampoo Method") wasn’t a decision I made quickly nor took lightly. I wanted to share my experience (the good and the greasy) with those of you who may be considering it or who are just starting out and want to know what to expect. I’m even including (embarrassing) pictures!

Remember, results may vary. 😉

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No 'Poo Method: My experience 4 months in | No shampoo method | no shampoo hair care | haircare routine | shampoo alternatives | no 'poo update | no 'poo pictures | no 'poo challenge | no shampoo challenge | no shampoo update | no shampoo pictures | before and after photos

Why & when I chose the "No ‘Poo Method"

‘No shampoo’ hair care is something I first stumbled across several years ago and instantly dismissed it as being disgusting. (Maybe you’ve done that too?)

Fast forward to a few months ago and the subject randomly popped up in one of my social media feeds so, curiosity getting the better of me, I did a little digging. In my new minimalist and altogether-more-enlightened phase of life, I decided I’d give it a go. After all, I was on a mission not only to reduce my belongings and shopping sprees, but also to single-handedly save the environment. It fit right in!

I decided to incorporate it as a New Year’s resolution for 2017 and, despite my initial intention to slowly phase it out over a period of months by gradually stretching out the time between washes, I ended up just going cold turkey. (What can I say, I can sometimes be a bit all-or-nothing.)

So, when was the last time I washed my hair with shampoo? January 7th 2017.

I don’t have “before” photos of the top of my head (it never really occurred to me to take any) but here I am about 4 weeks in:

No 'Poo Method: My experience 4 months in | No shampoo method | no shampoo hair care | haircare routine | shampoo alternatives | no 'poo update | no 'poo pictures | no 'poo challenge | no shampoo challenge | no shampoo update | no shampoo pictures | before and after photos

Not bad, but not great. (In case you’re wondering, I took this, and the other pictures in this post, one day after washing my hair. Each time I thought my hair looked amazing. Then I took a picture of the top of my head...)

What I’m doing instead

So if I’m not using shampoo, how am I washing my hair? Well, just with plain ol’ water. I wet my hair, same as before, and then give my scalp a good, vigorous massage (almost as if I were lathering up shampoo), and then I “rinse” by just pulling the water all the way through my hair to try spread any natural oils and wash out any dead skin. I do this approximately every 3-4 days. (And yes, even when I went to the salon I requested water only.)

So let’s look at all the good stuff before we delve into the struggles I’ve faced.

The (many) benefits of the "No ‘Poo Method"

I’ll list these in the general order of importance to me (your priorities may be different). I’ll start with the benefits that factored into my decision to go down the no shampoo route, and then list the benefits I discovered only after having started.

The ‘before’ benefits:

1.  It’s natural

I no longer want harsh chemicals and unwanted toxins in, on, or near by body. And no amount of advertising is going to convince me otherwise. (Sorrynotsorry, marketers.)

2. It’s environmentally friendly

Far fewer plastic bottles ending up in landfills and, because fewer need to be made, it also reduces all the waste and pollution that comes with producing them.

3. It saves time

Admittedly, not as much as I initially expected. Before I started I thought a quick rinse of my hair would do the job just fine but no, I still have to give it a good ol’ scrub and also massage my scalp on a regular basis. But it still takes a little less time than the whole lather-rinse-repeat routine, and it’s also a whole extra aisle of the supermarket I no longer have to walk down, so there’s that.

4. It reduces clutter

Before I started, I’d been on the lookout for a set of similar bottles that I could decant all my lotions and potions into, to give my toiletries a more “uniform” look. Now I don’t have to bother because most of that stuff is gone.

5. It saves money

Bit of a no-brainer. I never spent that much on hair products anyway, nor did I buy anything expensive, so it’s not going to make a me a millionaire or anything, but it’s still a few extra quid back in my pocket.

No 'Poo Method: My experience 4 months in | No shampoo method | no shampoo hair care | haircare routine | shampoo alternatives | no 'poo update | no 'poo pictures | no 'poo challenge | no shampoo challenge | no shampoo update | no shampoo pictures | before and after photos

The ‘after’ benefits

6. It reduces the amount of testing on animals

To be perfectly honest, this never even entered my head before I started the challenge, but would certainly have featured quite high on the list if I had.

7. It reduces frizz

I’ve always suffered with frizzy hair (my mother says I have ‘straw’ hair because it just never sits smooth) so I was very pleasantly surprised when I noticed — almost immediately — that it had stopped sticking up. Even my hair stylist said it was “sitting” a lot better. (Side note: this is most likely down to the lovely layer of natural oils that now coats my hair, which I’ll discuss in the ‘downsides’ below.)

8. No more soap scum

Sick of seeing that reddish-brown greasy goo all over the floor of your shower or bathtub? It’s caused by product build-up, so no products means no scum. And that means less cleaning and scrubbing for you. Huzzah!

Here’s a pic of my at about 2 months in:

No 'Poo Method: My experience 4 months in | No shampoo method | no shampoo hair care | haircare routine | shampoo alternatives | no 'poo update | no 'poo pictures | no 'poo challenge | no shampoo challenge | no shampoo update | no shampoo pictures | before and after photos

As you can see, there’s pretty much no difference between that and the previous one, so now let’s look at the downsides as I’ve experienced them. (Again, these may or not apply to you.)

The downsides of the "No 'Poo Method"​

1. Yes, my hair is greasy

I was very aware before I started that there would be a “transition” period during which my hair would be greasy. Personally, it doesn’t bother me all that much — I’ve never been very ‘high maintenance’ when it comes to my appearance, and I’m certainly not “romantic” about my hair.

I got through the first few weeks by wearing a lot of hats. When the weather got warmer and that wasn’t really an option anymore, I just let it all hang loose, so to speak. I’ll be perfectly honest with you and I say I wasn’t expecting the transition period to last quite so long but, truth be told, I’m still going through it 4 months on and wondering if I’ll ever see the end or if this is just what my hair looks like now and forevermore.

2. Change in texture

My hair now feels very “waxy”, presumably due to hardened grease. It does help my hair stay in place a lot better, but it’s not a particularly pleasant feeling.

3. Dandruff

You’ve probably already noticed the white flecks in the pictures. My hair now has a huge amount of dandruff as my scalp is still adjusting to this new hair care routine. Thankfully, the flakes are pretty teeny tiny but, when I vigorously brush my fingers back and forth through my hair, a visible, albeit light, dusting falls from it. Not ideal.

4. Itchiness

This was a temporary problem I had in the second month. It wasn’t incredibly bad (I had head lice about 10 years ago and it’s nowhere near that level of burning itch) but it was still a step above ‘mild’. Instead, it was uncomfortable and annoying and I was very glad when it finally passed after about 2-3 weeks.

Here’s a look at how I was faring at the 3 month mark:

No 'Poo Method: My experience 4 months in | No shampoo method | no shampoo hair care | haircare routine | shampoo alternatives | no 'poo update | no 'poo pictures | no 'poo challenge | no shampoo challenge | no shampoo update | no shampoo pictures | before and after photos

Still no change. Sigh. Good thing I’m a stubborn so-and-so.

OK, so those are the ups and downs that I’ve experienced so far. But I do want to share some additional thoughts on things that may have slowed down my ‘transition’ time (that may help speed it up for you) and what I’m going to be doing going forward.

Additional notes on the "No 'Poo Method"​

1. Cleaning methods

It’s important to note that there are other options besides only using water (none of which I’ll go into here, but there’s a linked article below where you can find out more information if you’re curious). This was just the option I chose because any others negated a lot of the benefits mentioned above (like saving time, reducing clutter, etc.) and, frankly, I was just plain lazy.

You may also be interested in:   Natural "No 'Poo" Cleansers -- The Hippy Homemaker

Your water hardness will have a huge impact on your results; soft water is best if you’re planning on going the water-only route. The water in my area is medium, so I may have to add in an occasional apple cider vinegar rinse to soften up my hair a little. This is on the back burner, though, until I try the below first.

2. Scritching & preening

Two odd (but, somehow, deeply satisfying) words. Scritching refers to the process whereby you very vigorously massage your entire scalp. From what I can gather, it’s supposed to be done daily, and usually while your hair is dry. It stimulates the scalp, helping to improve the flow of blood to the area, and loosening up dead skin cells and natural oils.

The second step, preening, is where you “pull” the natural oils from your scalp down along your hair. Essentially, you “sandwich” small sections of hair between two fingers, right at the scalp, and then pull your fingers all the way to the ends of your hair to distribute the oils evenly.

I haven’t been doing this nearly as regularly as I should have so I’m going to do it as often as I remember. Hopefully, it will help and I’ll see an improvement in my hair’s condition pretty quickly.

3. Using a boar bristle brush

I’ve heard a lot of talk about how these are great for ‘preening’, helping to re-distribute the natural oils, and also reducing frizz. I don’t have the latter problem right now (though I may if and when my scalp settles down and starts producing a little less oil) but I definitely need help with the former. I was wary of buying extra things in the beginning because I thought they might be a bit of a gimmick, but I finally caved and bought one a few days ago. I haven’t used it long enough to be able to tell if it’s making a difference, but watch this space!

Here’s a photo of where I’m at now that 4 months have passed.

No 'Poo Method: My experience 4 months in | No shampoo method | no shampoo hair care | haircare routine | shampoo alternatives | no 'poo update | no 'poo pictures | no 'poo challenge | no shampoo challenge | no shampoo update | no shampoo pictures | before and after photos

I know it looks a lot better than the others but, truthfully, this just happened to be a particularly good hair day. I would say that most days look like the previous 3 pictures.

And that’s where I’m at. I’ll have another update for you when (if?) my scalp finally settles, which hopefully won’t be too far into the future. (Most estimates I’ve seen say that the transition period can take anywhere between 2 weeks and 6 months.)

Is it worth it?​

By now you probably want to know whether I think it’s worth it. Whether the benefits outweigh the negatives. Whether I’d recommend it.

I guess the answer to each is yes. It obviously requires a bit of grit and determination to stick through it even when your hair isn’t looking its best, but hats, bandanas and head scarves, and even certain hairstyles like high ponytails and braids can all help to hide the situation if you’re feeling slightly self-conscious.

Also, I’m working off the basis that all the downsides are temporary and, once they pass, it’ll be pure benefit from there on out. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t getting increasingly keen for that time to come.

If you’re currently considering it, I’d say go for it (or, if you’re just starting out, stick with it). You’ll be leading a much more natural life, doing your bit for the planet, and helping out some animals along the way too. It’s better for your body AND your bank balance. If you can stick through the greasy times, and be a bit more diligent with the scritching and preening that I was, you should transition your way to beautiful hair in no time.

I’m expecting questions, so please do drop them in the comments below. I’ll happily (and honestly) answer them.

You may also be interested in:

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22 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I had also decided to try this in my quest to “go natural”. I have already given up coloring my hair and am fitting more and more reusables into my life so why not this? Well, it did not go well. I have long, extremely thick and coarse hair. I am also having hormonal challenges thanks to “the change”. Add to that when I get stressed, anxious or have a hot flash my scalp emits a strange unpleasant (to me) scent. No one else but me has ever smelled it, but I’m not taking any chances. So yeah, I need to wash for now. I wash every other day as that is as far as I can take the “no ‘poo” thing. I will check out that link tonight and see if there are alternatives to shampoos that I might try.

    • Hi Donna! If, for you, the positives of using shampoo outweigh the negatives, then go for it. =) Well done for trying, though! That site contains a long list of alternatives so you may find something suitable there to either replace shampoo, or maybe just replace every second wash or so. Good luck!

      • I tried scritching and preening which has helped with my dryness – go figure, who’d a though your own natural oils would help so much, right? I’m also “washing” my hair in the water on my non-shampoo days. Things are a bit better, plus I’ve been on HRT now for a few weeks and things are changing with the hormones as well. I think I will give the HRT a few more weeks and then try to add an extra day in between shampoos. With adding the scritching, preening and “washing”, my hair behaves much better and the greys don’t look like wires sticking out of my head. 🙂 I am encouraged!

  2. I don’t know how I’d deal purely washing my hair with water. At the moment with my hair I only shampoo once a month and co-wash ( condition wash) my hair maybe 3-4 times a week, I also deep condition andf protein wash it weekly.

    Shampoos can be so damaging and harmful to your hair, they strip away natural oils so you’re just better off without them.

    But my hair is also just SO THICK it’d all break off with no conditioning so the no ‘poo method is probably not one I’ll be doing but I really can’t wait to see your hair after the transition period!

    Ama Addo / Albatroz & Co.
    http://www.albatrozandco.com

    • A lot of people use an apple cider vinegar rinse as a natural conditioner. I haven’t tried it myself but I’ve heard it works wonders. Might be something to consider if you’re interested in going a bit more natural. You could substitute it in for one wash a week and see how you get on. =)

  3. I’ve been considering getting my hair cut short again, after being very ill in 2015 my hair still hasn’t recovered.

    This is now an additional option I’ll consider 🙂

    • Definitely worth a shot, Claire. Lots of benefits, not least of which is reducing the amount of bad chemicals and toxins you’re exposing your body to. Hope you’re keeping well. Hi to Lewis. =)

  4. jennifer snyman

    Hi I’ve been thinking about doing this,as I only use natural products every where else. Your hair is looking good and thicker too. My hair is shoulder length now it’s taken months to get it all one length. I was thinking of cutting it short too. But i am going to try no poo and if I can stand it,I won’t cut it. Where did you get a boar brush from? We have lots of wild boar here in South Africa but no brushes hahaha.

    • I bought mine on Amazon. =) I wouldn’t say it’s thicker though, just a lot longer. My hair grows quite quickly. Having it longer may help because you can “pull” the oils all the way down the length of your hair. The oil on my scalp doesn’t really have anywhere to go. Ha ha.

  5. I have been essentially shampoo free for a few years. Occasionally, when I’ve been swimming in particularly powerful waves, I will get so much sand in my scalp that I need something to help wash it away. I have a travel container of lush solid shampoo that a friend gave me and this is what I use.

    My hair stylist still uses shampoo and you’ve inspired me to try going without!!

    I have short hair and have had no issues thankfully. I have a friend with long curly hair who has been 100% shampoo free for years and her hair looks amazing!!! Her husband has very straight, fine hair and his occasionally looks greasy but really they both look great!

    I’ve shared this post as many of my friends have been talking about this lately!

    Way to go. Look forward to your next update!

    Peace
    Sandy

    • Thanks so much for the share, Sandy. And for popping over from YouTube! Yes, my hair always looks a little greasy now and, at this stage, I don’t think that’s likely to change. We’ll be moving in the coming months though so the change in water type may have an effect on it… whether for better or worse! Watch this space!

  6. I wash my hair once a week. I have thick, curly hair and it’s a lot of work, so I gradually lengthened my time between shampoos. I find that starting with an apple cider vinegar rinse (50% ACV, 50% water) is effective for softness, shine and it also seems to control dandruff. It also does an amazing job of cleansing any product out of my hair. No poo? Probably not, but less poo? Yes!

  7. Having had dreads since my late teens up until very recently, I’ve not used shampoo in almost 3 decades.
    Shampoo was invented to get rid of styling products. Conditioner was invented to adjust for the acidic nature of shampoo. Before that women washed their hair once a month or less in just water and brushed it every day to distribute the natural oils and remove dirt.
    Since removing my dreads I’ve not gone back to shampoo. I use a simple heat spray that’s water based, so it washe’s out, and I condition the ends with coconut oil as I always have. My hair doesn’t even get greasy any more.

    • I haven’t used anything at all in mine yet, bar water. Still finding it quite greasy/waxy, but it may be the water in this area. We’ll be moving in the next 2 months so I’ll see what it’s like then. We’re just back from holidays, though, and it was lovely to have one less thing to pack.

      Did you find it was greasy when you took the dreads out?

  8. I am on No Poo Day 4 day and so far so good. My hair just feels like I’ve put too much wax through it. It’s very short (#4 back and sides and a bit longer on top) so I’m hoping the transition stage will be reasonably painless.

    • That’s exactly how my hair feels too. Mine is very short at the sides now (I’ve since had it cut) but still the same feeling. I suspect it’s just the water in our area. I’ve heard that that has a big effect on the results.

  9. I’m curious how things are going with your hair now? I have short, fine hair and considering going shampoo free.

    • It’s actually pretty much the exact same, to be honest. Some dandruff and a slight “waxy” texture. But I don’t think they’re noticeable to others. I’ve seen normal photos, videos, etc. and my hair looks fine. Not glossy and shiny, but fine.

      • I’ve gone “no poo” for about 6 weeks now, I rinse, then apply conditioner, do the rest of my shower then rinse again. I’m “washing” my hair with conditioner, I don’t see the need for poo at all.
        My hair definitely feels better for it, and less greasy which is a bonus as my roots can get quite greasy 3-4 days after washing, but the ends are really dry. My health isn’t great at the moment, and I’m about to have surgery, so won’t be able to shower for a few weeks until the stitches come out. Being no poo means my hair will be in better condition during this period.
        I think my hair will take a while to recover from the impact.

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