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