I’ve been meaning to post about my No Poo experiment for a LONG TIME now, but honestly the road to shampoo-less hair has been a bumpy one, and there were a variety of issues to troubleshoot and overcome, the most daunting of which was the hard water in my apartment.
I’ll assume most of you are familiar with the term “No Poo”, which is a method of washing your hair using baking soda and vinegar instead of shampoo or conditioner. And let me tell you, it IS pretty awesome, now that I’ve gotten the hang of it. Of course, getting the hang of it took me about 2 months of trial and error and frustration, but since I’ve already gone through all that, I’m happy to give you the cliff notes.
When you use shampoo, the soap strips your hair and scalp of the natural oils your body produces. Regular use of shampoo (especially DAILY use, which I was guilty of before I switched to No Poo) can cause the oil glands in your scalp to over-produce oil because those oils are being constantly stripped away. Thus, when you stop using shampoo, you have allow time for your scalp to readjust and return to normal oil production. This transition can take a few weeks to several months.
For me, the No Poo transition took about a month. During that month, my hair felt greasy and flat at the roots, but it didn’t really look dirty or even that greasy. Here are a few photos of my hair during the transition.
On my greasiest looking days, I wore my hair up in a bun, a ponytail, or a clip and no one was the wiser, but I had good enough days to wear my hair down also.
For the first 3 weeks I was going strong, but around week 4 or 5, I started to hit road blocks.
Frustration and Realization
Around week 4 or 5, my baking soda hair washing method stopped working as well as it had been, and I wasn’t sure why. The hair on my scalp felt thick, heavy, and oddly…malleable. I was NOT happy. I fell off the wagon a bit, and in a fit of desperation, I used dime-sized amounts of shampoo in my hair instead of the baking soda solution I’d been using. I scoured the interwebz for a way to fix my hair issues.
Eventually, I read enough reviews and comments to realize that hard water has a significant effect on the traditional No Poo recipe that I was using (1 cup water, 1 tablespoon baking soda).
No Poo Recipe for Hard Water
- 2 tablespoons baking soda
- 1.5 cups BOILED water
Bring your 1.5 cups water to a rolling boil and then turn off the heat. While the water is still hot, add your 2 tablespoons baking soda. The soda will fizz and bubble when it hits the water–this is good since the baking soda is dissolving into the water. Take a spoon and stir in any leftover baking soda that stays solid on the bottom of your pot. Let the water cool, and then transfer it into whatever container you keep your solution in.
I keep my baking soda solution in a yellow squeezy bottle I bought from Walmart that was meant for mustard.
I also boil the water for the vinegar solution I use as conditioner.
- 1 cup BOILED water
- 2.5 tablespoons white* vinegar
You can use either Apple Cider vinegar or white vinegar to condition your hair. I started with ACV and then switched to white later, since I felt that the ACV made the ends of my hair look a bit greasy.
I keep my vinegar solution in a spray bottle, and I only spray the hair from my earlobes down to the ends. I also try to rinse this out with cold water before I step out of the shower, but that usually depends on how cold my bathroom is! :)
That “Slippery” Feeling
I started my No Poo experiment around my birthday in February, and this is the post on Pinterest that spurred me to try No Poo again. (I tried once before several years ago, but was trying to “co-wash” with conditioner instead of shampoo….NOT a good look for me!)
It’s a really great post for No Poo beginners, and if you’re just starting to figure out your No Poo routine, I recommend reading it. HOWEVER, one of the things that is under explained is a phenomenon that post’s author calls “that Slippery feeling.”
When you’re using your No Poo baking soda solution on your hair, if the baking soda to water ratio is correct, the solution should feel VERY DIFFERENT from just putting plain old water on your hair. The baking soda-laced water will feel, as the other post’s author described, “slippery.”
Unfortunately for me, when I first started No Poo, I would pour the solution on my head and think, “Water is wet and slippery, and this solution feels like water. Success!”
NO NO NO NO NO! I was totally wrong. The No Poo solution feels VERY DIFFERENT from regular water. I wouldn’t call it slippery so much as slimey, but not in a gross way. The slippery, slimey feeling of the solution is actually something I look forward to feeling when I wash my hair (in the same way I looked forward to the lathery feeling of bubbles when I used shampoo). The sensation makes me feel like my hair is really getting clean.
The importance of the slippery, slimey feeling is KEY because it lets you know that you’ve reached the right ratio of water to baking soda in your solution. When I used the original No Poo recipe (1 Tablespoon baking soda to 1 cup water), I never achieved the slippery feeling because the minerals in hard water affect the way the baking soda solution combines.
Boiling your hard water can get rid of some of the minerals, and I also believe that putting your baking soda in hot water helps it dissolve more quickly and efficiently, which helps you achieve that slimey, slippery effect.
My Hair, Final Thoughts, and Tips
This is a picture of my hair taken recently.
In my opinion, my hair has a lot more natural curl than it did before I started No Poo (especially considering the length of my hair–I don’t have layers right now). It’s also great to not have to wash my hair EVERY SINGLE DAY. I usually wait 3 or 4 days in between washes, although by the fourth day my hair starts to look a little iffy.
A few tips:
- I put the baking soda solution on my hair BEFORE I get it wet in the shower. This helps me discern which areas of my scalp I haven’t touched with the solution yet
- RINSE A LOT! The baking soda solution can make your scalp look a bit funky if you don’t rinse it out enough
- I put a drop of lavender essential oil in my vinegar solution to cut the vinegar smell down
- I alternate between using the vinegar solution and L’Oreal sulfate-free conditioner to condition my hair
That’s everything I can think of for the moment. I would love to hear other people’s stories, strategies, and techniques concerning No Poo.
If you’re considering switching from shampoo and conditioner to No Poo, my number 1 piece of advice for you is to BE PATIENT. The transition phase is frustrating and makes you feel kind of gross and ugly, but it will pass. Keep experimenting with your No Poo reciple and don’t give up!