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Four Years Shampoo Free

Shampoo Free - No Poo

Four Years Shampoo Free – Look, No Maggots!!

I love the look on people’s faces when I tell them I’ve been no-poo for over 4 years now.

Once I get past the ‘ouch’ or ‘you should see a doctor about that’ or ‘add some fiber to your diet!’ comments – then I explain.

I haven’t used shampoo in over four years.

I think the image that conjurs up is unruly matted dreads or maggot ridden smelly tangly manes.  Which is not how my naturally curly red (enhanced) hair looks.  And actually, my hair has never been healthier and more manageable than since I went shampoo-free.

Notice I didn’t say I don’t wash my hair.   Instead, I use a combination of baking soda and diluted apple cider vinegar as the primary cleansing for my hair.

I posted on this topic at my two year mark of being poo-free, and thought this would be a great time to update it.  As not only two years later do I still not own a bottle of shampoo, my partner-in-crime (with his shoulder blade length enviable straight silky hair) has also been poo-free for many years now too.

How it started

It originally started when I came back from my first Burning Man in 2007, and my hair was ultra dry, brittle and frizzy. It was also a few months after first hitting the road full time. And after months of traveling in a 16′ trailer without any plumbing, I wasn’t able to keep up with a regular regiment of shampoo, rinse, repeat.  The combination had done its damage.

Yellowstone National Park – 2007. Just before going poo-free. (Ok, the wind might help make it look worse than it was.)

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My hair had always had ups and downs of being frizzy and unmanageable – but this was a new low.  No amount of conditioner, trimming or treatments was fixing it.  I came to the conclusion that I either needed to cut it off and let it regrow, or try something drastically different to restore it. A friend happened to post that she was trying this thing called ‘nopoo’ to help control her frizzy hair, so I decided I had nothing to lose, gave it a shot and never looked back.

The benefits of going Shampoo Free

I learned that not only do we humans not actually need shampoo, it’s unhealthy for us! Shampoo is a detergent and literally strips our hair of natural oils, then requiring replacement of those oils with conditioners and treatments. It becomes an endless cycle of cleaning, damaging and restoring.  Shampoo also contains lots of chemicals, including mineral oils (that are byproducts of oil distillation) and sodium lauryl sulfate (which is on the material data sheet as a chemical that you should avoid body contact with).

The more I embraced a no-poo lifestyle, I learned that there are many benefits – especially for us full time nomads.

Here’s just some of the benefits I’ve enjoyed for the past 4-years:

  1. Significantly improved the health of my hair – my hair used to be frizzy and I frequently had bad hair days.
  2. Saves me tons of money (I spend only a buck or two a month on hair care).
  3. Saves me tons of time – a quick shower is all I need on most days.
  4. Reduced impact on the environment – so many less chemicals I’m leaching into the water supply, and less plastic use too.
  5. Better for my overall health.
  6. Removed myself one more step from the consumerist economy of health and beauty ‘aids’.
  7. Endless supply of jokes about poo.
  8. Saving water!

And that last one, water conservation, is an important one when living in an RV or any off-grid lifestyle.

In the past, our RVs had small holding tanks (none in the T@b, 38 gallons in the Oliver) – so saving water was essential for our off-grid lifestyles.  In the Oliver, with us both being poo-free – we were able to make that 38 galloons regularly last 2 or more weeks at a time.  Now with the bus, we have 100 gallons of fresh water capacity – it’s like an oasis in here!

Going shampoo free allows us to just rinse or dampen our hair daily to pull a brush through it, and then do our no-poo routine a few times a month.  With no bubbles to rinse out, I use very little water even on my washing days.

Myths about No-Poo

Over the years, I’ve heard lots of excuses as to why people won’t give shampoo-free a try.  Here’s some of them:

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It’s gross and people who don’t shampoo smell

We bath and shower regularly, our clothes are clean and our hair smells, feels and looks clean! Whenever I tell a hair stylist that I’m poo-free, they’re intrigued and tell me that my hair is some of the healthiest & cleanest they’ve seen.  I even had one tell me that if I ever need it – she’d testify that I don’t have maggots living in my tresses.  If I ever see you in person, just ask – I’ll let you touch and smell my no-poo hair. (And no, your hair won’t smell like salad dressing either – the apple cider vinegar rinses out clean smelling.)

It only works for curly hair

While using less shampoo is indeed good for lots of folks with naturally curly hair, no-poo can work for a wide range of hair types.  Chris and I have just about complete opposite hair types (mine naturally curly, his silky straight) – and it works great for both of us.

I can’t style or color my hair if I go no-poo

Totally not true.  Going no-poo only means going shampoo free – it does not mean going style-free.  My hair’s natural color is a boring dark strawberry blonde – but I love to play with colors!  The past several years I’ve been doing vibrants reds.  I’ve used everything from cheap department store kits, henna and professional stuff that I use at home. I follow the directions on the package (realizing that using a hair color is not necessarily healthy or in line with the benefits of a poo-free life) and then rinse thoroughly.

I then avoid using my cleansing regiment for a week or so, to let the color set as much as possible. I condition often to help restore my hair to healthy.   And yes, I do use conditioners in my hair when I feel my hair needs them.

I tried it once… it was awful!

Yup, if you try it once or only for a week or so – it is simply gross and awful.  You see, shampoo strips our hair of our natural oils – and it takes time for our scalps to find its balance when we take away that stripping cycle.   The first 2 or 3 weeks of transition are the worst. Our scalp is still overcompensating on oil production, and our hair is adapting.  It really does take a solid month or more of being poo-free to see the benefits.  During that time, I wore my hair up a lot and just got through it.  I started out using more baking soda & apple cider vinegar than I do now (I used to use it a couple times a week… now perhaps a couple times a month.)

What’s the routine?

My hair care regiment – Baking Soda & Apple Cider Vinegar

For me, I wet my hair and pour about a teaspoon or two of baking soda in my palm. Let a little bit of water turn it into a paste and scrub it all over my hair and scalp. I let it sit for about a minute while I soap up my body, and then rinse.  The baking soda is the cleaning part – it cleans and neutralizes odors.

I follow up (sometime a couple days later, sometimes at the same time – I’ve just learned to read my hair and what it needs when) with about a cup or so of diluted solution of apple cider vinegar and water. Generally I dilute 1 part AVC to 3 parts water – but I don’t measure. The AVC is what gets rid of build up – stuff from your environment or any products you might use.

Sometimes, depending on the climate I’m in I may also use a conditioner to give my hair some extra moisture. I’ve also found that a couple drops of jojoba oil smoothed into my hair does tremendous awesome things in dry climates.

There’s really no right or wrong recipe. I’ve just learned to feel what my hair needs and adjust based on the current climate I’m in or what damage I’ve done to my hair recently (coloring, Burning Man, being in the desert, etc.).

If you have additional questions or want to learn more: This is the original post I learned about poo-free from that gives tons more information and ideas.

Cherie has been been a location independent entrepreneur since 1994, working in full scale software development. When she met Chris in 2006, she was at the exact right time in her life to hit the road and combine wanderlust with career. She strives to live a life of conscious intent while embracing serendipity.

36 COMMENTS

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  1. My husband and I are officially taking the plunge to be poo-free. I”ve been wanting to do it for awhile and I’m excited about the transition. Will let you know how it goes. Thanks for all the info! :)

  2. I just started No Poo 2 days ago! I have color-treated hair (naturally a dishwater blonde that I dye a warm brown). There’s a lot of information about henna-dying, but I’m actually wanting to take my hair a champagne blonde.
    You’re the only person I’ve been able to fid so far that talks about HOW to dye the hair while doing No Poo. I’ve been worried that dying it lighter and using the conditioner they give you in the box will force my hair back to stage 1.
    I’d appriciate it if you have any advice for how your hair handles the process!

  3. Hello! I love the idea of go shampoo free and I have read basically everything on the Internet about this. I am going to try this out today. I understand that my hair is going to have a transition period where it gets oily and such so I was wondering if you have any tips on how to cover it up besides just putting in a ponytail. I am 14 years old so I do go to school and I am hoping that nobody notices. Also, I’ve been washing my hair every other day so will that make the transition period easier for me?

  4. Thanks for this post! I have been looking into making my own shampoo and conditioner after reading that sulfates are particularly bad for curly hair. My hair was very curly when I was young and up through high school, but it has straightened over the years and I wondered if that might be due, in part, to the chemicals in the products I’ve used on my hair for all these years. So far, I have started by simply adding coconut milk to a sulfate free shampoo I found at my local grocery store and I have now tested two versions of a homemade beer-based conditioner – not great results so far. I thought I’d look into the no-poo concept. Here is my concern, I looked up the MSDS on baking soda and its listed as being an irritant to skin – so doesn’t seem like it would be great for the scalp. I’m curious to know if you’ve had any issues with this, specifically? Also, I’m curious to know if anyone knows it the baking soda is harmful to the environment?

    • Hi Chris – I’ve now been using the baking soda/AVC combo for over 5 years, an no issues. Yes, baking soda is a very mild irritant, the kind that your scalp needs to properly keep your oil glands stimulated. I actually now also use baking soda as a mild facial scrub.

      Baking soda is just sodium bicarbonate – and considered safe and natural. It’s certainly safer for the environment than all those chemicals found in commercial shampoos.

  5. I absolutely love this method..I just started today and I feel like is the best decision I ever made. My hair is curly and frizz every where, it’s also dry. I actually need the oils in my hair badly! Thank You so much for helping us through this process.

  6. Thank you for posting this… I started 3 days ago, and I’m in the bad part and I was wondering if I was doing something wrong… now I know just to put my hair up and have patience… thanks!

  7. I am really interested in trying this but my biggest issue is that I have bangs. I notice in the top picture that you also have bangs so I wanted to know how you deal with them. My hair other than bangs can go with an every other day washing with natural shampoo if it needs to but my bangs get greasy EVERY day because of my greasy forehead. Would you suggest I use the baking soda/vinegar on my bangs only?

    Also, I work out pretty much every week day and get very sweaty. My other concern is that my hair is just not going to stay clean and I’m going to end up having to use a baking soda/vinegar rinse every day anyway and at that point I feel like I might as well keep using my natural shampoo.

    Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

  8. Ok, a little slow but, we (both Dennis an I) just started TODAY! My Lush bar finally ran out so it was the prefect opportunity to go poo-free!

    I’ll let you know how my hair feels after a week. My transition should be easy because I don’t wash everyday as is and I’ve used natural products like henna for a while now.

    Finally, have you heard of using coconut oil for leave in conditioner?

    I have long, fine (fly away) hair and due to too much dying (guilty!), it’s also damaged/dry. Thinking of using coconut oil to help out!?!

      • Well, officially I LOVE IT.

        I’m using the baking soda to wash my hair every other day and every few washes I also use the cider vinegar.

        What I’ve noticed:
        I can comb my hair after with no tangles.
        The texture of my hair improved with the first wash.
        My hair is not super greasy on the second day either.
        My grey hair is ‘relaxing’ a bit.

        THANKS! I wish I would have saved on my last Lush purchase and went right to this. :)

        FYI – I have long straight hair. The texture is Fine (fly away) and I’m also heavy in the grey(eek).

  9. Yea, I ran across this regime about a month ago and I’ve been shampoo free for a month. Love it!!!! I’m now using it on my dogs. It’s flee time and I’ve read that flees hate the vinegar. Sure enough, not only do my dogs not dig and scratch due to flees, their hair is nice and soft.

  10. I finally ran out of shampoo a few weeks ago & I am 2-weeks poo-free & love my hair. Kicking myself for not getting on the less expensive hair care method sooner, but better late than never. Thank you for sharing!!

  11. I have been shampoo free for about 2 years but use a commercial product…will have to try your method…I started going the “curly girl” way…also I have been brush and comb free for the same time and I have natually curly hair….I use my fingers and a gel….ther seem to be two cvommercial ways that I know about both on utube…curly girl….and quidad…both cut your hair in a special way two…

    congrats for celebrating 4 years…

  12. Just wanted to thank you for finally giving me the impetus to go poo-free. Decided to start while we were in the desert a few weeks back and so far so good. LOVE the way my hair feels. I had already decreased my shampooing to twice/week a long time before I started so the transition wasn’t as greasy as I thought it would be. So far still going about 2x/week, but will start to lengthen that in coming weeks.

    -> Do you use a natural bristle brush to pull the natural oils thro’ your hair? Trying to decide what brush to use.

    Nina

    • Fantastic, Nina! So glad to hear you’re giving it a try. Great advice on tapering off on shampoo first and trying it while away from social opportunity. Makes the transition period so much easier.

      I honestly haven’t given any thought to hair brushes. Still using the same ole kind I have for years. Do let me know if you decide to give it a try and what your results are.

      • Just wanted to report back on my brush “experiments”. I’ve been trying natural bristle (boar) brushes for a few weeks now and they definitely seem to make a difference in helping to smooth oils through the hair. I’ve got pretty fine hair so 100% boar bristle is working great for me (it’s a softer brush), but for thicker hair you’ll want to try a stiffer boar/nylon mix. Lots of $$ types out there from super-high end boar bristle to cheaper ones. I got one for $18 off Amazon. So far so good! This is a decent link on it all:
        http://www.ehow.com/how_5095214_choose-boar-bristle-hairbrush.html
        Nina

  13. Just started making my own shampoo and conditioner recently. I will NEVER go back to store bought again. I use Dr.Bronners in the shampoo and also brew some herbal tea for both the shampoo and the conditioner. A couple drops of peppermint is nice for the scalp tingle. I love the tip about jojoba oil – gonna try that on the next batch. Thanks!

    • what kind of peppermint oil do you use? this is not the same as the massage oils or the ones used for oil burners, right?
      I’ve gone poo free for just a couple of days and am loving the results..just missing the smell of my old shampoo. :)

  14. When you are first switching over, how frequently do you no poo? I’ve been doing this for 3 straight days and my hair is extremely oily now. I am assuming that this is part of the transition time??

    • Yup.. that’s completely part of the transition. It’ll probably be like that for a 2-3 weeks until it balances out.

      In the beginning, I did the baking soda and/or vinegar 2-3 times a week, I believe. You’ll learn what is right for your hair and current climate. Whenever my hair feels like it has built up, I’ll sometimes try just a vinegar rinse… seems to help.

      • Thanks for responding. I’m in San Diego. My hair hasn’t been this oily since I was a teenager 40 years ago. Yikes.

  15. I went with the “no hair” solution to using shampoo. Having mercifully short/no hair makes it all so simple. There’s just “summer short” or “winter short”.
    A “bad hair day” consists of having maybe a tuft sticking up in the back. Easily fixed with that tried and true cosmetic device. The hat.

  16. I’ve been no poo for over a decade now. Another curly girl here. I use Suave conditioner in the green bottles just like you would shampoo then add some more as leave in conditioner. I find the baking soda to be too harsh. My hair is much healthier and less frizzy than in my poo days and it is cheap. The good Suave conditioners work quite well and are very cheap. A side benefit is my hair stays clean much longer this way like yours. Shampoo has been a sales job on the public to our detriment.

  17. I started going no-poo on July 19th, which makes today my 6 month anniversary of being poo free :)

    Overall I’m liking it too, just the convenience of not having to spend so much time in the shower messing with it is great, once I’m on the road in my Casita it’ll be even more handy.

    I stopped using conditioner at the same time, but I live in a wet humid climate. Now that it’s winter my hair does feel a little drier, so I may use my roomie’s conditioner the next time I shower to see what that does.

  18. It’s funny that you posted this today because JUST this morning while in the shower I thought, “WHY AM I DOING THIS?” I mean, I strip all the good oils off then put fake oils back on….? :/ I think I might finally have to try it!

  19. I have been shampoo free for about 6 months and am loving it.
    I have long straight hair and the only thing I do differently is that I simmer herbs up in water and allow to go cold and then mix that with my cider vinegar. I make up a large bottle and this lasts for a few weeks. I also occasionally rub a little oil in the ends if they seem a little dry.

  20. Although I still poo my very naturally curly hair, I have switched to a shampoo that is SLS and other things free. Plus the conditioner I use doesn’t contain paraben etc. I only poo my hair twice a week, which shocks people too. I have to say may hair has never felt better either and I too color it at home. I may try your truly no poo version too.

    Had to laugh when you said “. . .enviable straight silky hair”!

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