Updated: Jul 2, 2020
There is a scalp-cleansing method called “No Poo”, which basically means, washing your scalp (not your hair, hair doesn’t need a separate kind of ‘wash’) with natural ingredients that do not contain harsh detergents like shampoo does (the “poo” part). Google it, and you will find thousands of websites, facebook pages, information, and stories from others who have been using this method for years… because it WORKS.
There are dozens of No Poo methods, with the most basic being a scalp wash with baking soda, and a rinse with apple cider vinegar to re-balance the pH of the scalp and hair, and to condition the hair strands after using high-pH (acidic) baking soda. This was the method I started with, and probably the most popular. I followed this method for almost 2 years, and then I experimented with other No Poo methods, which included:
Washing your hair with water only (called "WO"). I did not understand this, and although I did try it, I lasted about one week and my scalp just smelled like an old shoe. So I gave it another week, or at least I tried, but it was just awful and I felt embarrassed to go anywhere! My hair was disgusting, my scalp was itchy, and my poor family cringed when they saw me. I believe that water cannot get rid of dirt, so it didn't make sense to me. Next!
Tea method. This was all about using tea as a calming and cleansing method. Boil distilled water, throw in a green or black tea bag, let it steep and cool slightly, wash. It did nothing for me, although my head did smell better than with the WO method, but my hair was dry and lacked luster. Some people also use different herbal teas, such as hibiscus, chamomile, or rosemary tea... And it seems to work well for those with short hair, but not for me... Next!
Egg washes. This entailed using an organic egg yolk, and diluting it with a cup of distilled water. This method worked great for me, but then again, it's only recommended sporadically as the egg is high in protein – which can feed your hair and cleanse it well, but over time can also damage and 'thin out' hair strands. Plus, the scent of egg on my head was something I just could not get used to.
Clay washes. Natural clays work very well in cleansing the scalp and hair, but they can be very drying. There are dozens of different types of clays, such as bentonite clay, french clay, rhassoul clay, kaolin clay, and they basically all have the same effect: Cleansing. For some it works fantastic, but I would not recommend it long-term and on their own, as I mentioned, they can dry out the hair and make it dull and weak. Plus, it was a mess to clean my shower after, what a chore!
Shikakai. This shikakai stuff, also known as 'hair fruit', is pretty amazing stuff! It's an ayurvedic small shrub-like tree that grows in India, and it can be ground up and used as a hair and scalp cleanse and conditioner. Love it (and we continue to include it in our natural hair powder cleanse), however it doesn't work well on its own because it needs a better cleansing ingredient, and the scalp seems to use it more as a conditioner-clay, over time producing more sebum. WARNING: It's quite harsh on the eyes (yes, it happened to me!) and it makes a disaster out of the shower... Use sparingly, if at all on its own...
There are dozens of other methods of No-Poo-ing, but the first is by far my favourite one (baking soda wash/apple cider vinegar rinse), which you may want to start with, although I highly recommend starting out with a form of detox and using our amazing No Poo Hair Cleansing Powder wash instead. It's just the perfect combination of natural, plant-based ingredients for cleansing the scalp and revitalizing hair, the TRUU-ly natural way! It's just awesome, and it was the result of 5 years of experiments with "no-poo-ing".
How to No Poo
Step 1: Detox
First, you will work at detoxifying the scalp itself, and existing hair length. This detox period can last about 4 to 6 weeks. During this time you will follow the simplest recipe, and you'll go through a few challenges – maybe some itchy scalp and flakes as years of chemicals begin to clear off your scalp and uncoat your hair. You may experience greasier hair than usual, as your scalp is allowed to unclog and ”breathe”, and release stored sebum (our natural and healthy oils). But it will all be worthwhile in the end.
In order to detox your scalp, you first need to switch to a more natural way to wash your hair. That means, forget about buying shampoo and conditioner, and cleanse your scalp with a detoxing hair wash, such as our No Poo Hair Powder Cleanse. This detox hair wash has been created with minimal, natural ingredients that do not contain any harsh chemicals – no SLS, no silicones, no sulfates, nothing that will coat the scalp. You'll have to use this for the first 2 to 3 washes – and that means, washing no more than twice per week!
If you don't want to use ours, then find the most natural clarifying shampoo you can possibly find on the market. Buy this at your nearest health food store (not drug store), and give it a couple of weeks. But do not wash your hair more often than every 3 days! Your scalp needs to begin to adjust to a more natural cleansing method. And then the detox period will begin...
Step 2: Scritch and Preen
You'll have to learn to "scritch and preen" your scalp and hair to aid the detoxification process. (Scritching means massaging with the tips of your finger pads, and Preening means drawing the sebum (hair oil) to the lengths of your hair – like they used to do in the Little House of the Prairie… remember? brush brush brush before bedtime! Here's how to Scritch and Preen: WATCH
Scritching and preening need to become your best friends! Do it every single night, as you watch TV or chill before bedtime. It's part of the detox, and you will need to get used to doing it as long as you're detoxing. Actually, do it ALWAYS and forever, it's sooo good for your scalp!
Greasy hair with dry ends?
When you’re between washes, you will most likely find that the hair surrounding your face will be greasy, while the length of your hair will get dry. This is because your scalp always produces sebum (natural oils that protect the scalp and hair) on a daily basis, but when you Scritch and Preen it will produce MORE of it... but especially if you have long hair, the oils may not reach the length of the hair causing it to dry out. Scritching and preening can help fix this issue.
Scritching will encourage the hair follicles to produce more sebum within a five to ten-minute timeframe. This oil is then drawn out of the scalp and redirected to the length of the hair by brushing (or “preening”) using a coarse brush – we recommend a boar brush. As you will see from the video link, some people prefer to pull the oils with their fingers, rather than a brush. I prefered the brush, but it's up to you!
Part the hair in sections and do this method at night, before bedtime, and maybe while you’re watching television or reading a book. In the morning, your hair will feel wonderfully soft and your scalp + hair oil distribution should be much more even.
Step 3: Conditioning those dry ends while detoxing
If you have long hair like I do, it's very easy for the ends to get dry. This happens simply because the natural oils don't get a chance to reach the ends of the hair – and it's even worse for those with wavy, curly, or coily hair. Every day, I'd wake up to a messy mop of dry hair. What did I do?
I became used to dampening my hair with a spray bottle of distilled water, straightening it out slightly by using a big comb (like this one) and then crunching it with a towel. After that, it's good habit to sprinkle it with a diluted water-to-jojoba oil mixture.
You can try making your own by combining diluted distilled water, with about 5 or 6 drops of jojoba oil, and a few drops of lavender or rosemary essential oils for scent... Pour it on a small spray bottle and voila! Lovely!
DO NOT allow your hair to get dry, or it will split at the ends! I suggest giving our natural Hair Leave-In Conditioner a try (it's so amazing, I just love it!!), or making your own with Jojoba (Caution: Anything you make that contains water will form mold over time if it doesn't have a good natural preservative like the ones we use; so keep your DIY mixes in the fridge, or make small amounts that you will go through in just a couple of days).
Step 4: Wait for it... just wait for it... let it detox, you can do it! - You're probably going to start out very excited, and grow more frustrated as your hair detoxes and all that goopy mess clears out of your scalp. DON'T GIVE UP! Remember that the longer you keep on, the better for your scalp (and hair in the long run!) and the easier it will get. By the end of month 1, you will see the difference, and your hair will begin to last longer in between washes. THIS IS WHAT YOU ARE AIMING FOR! Try to go 3 to 4 days without washing at first. Here's typically what your timeline will look like:
Day 1 - This is the day you cleansed your scalp. It's best to allow your hair to air dry rather than blow-dry. If your hair looks dreary and needs to be styled, then try cleansing in late afternoon or evening.
Day 2 - If you have short hair, go ahead and brush it, but avoid a fine brush with many bristles as 'scratching' the scalp too much will over-produce more sebum. Instead, use a brush with few, larger bristles or a large comb. If you have long hair and it is very messy, lightly dampen your brush or comb before use, avoiding to completely wet the hair - otherwise you'll feel the need to use a blow-dryer for styling it. If you totally must use a hair dryer, invest in one that allows for you to control its temperature. Cheaper models are way too hot and can quickly damage and dry out hair. Do nothing else to your scalp or hair on this day.
Day 3 - If your hair looks great but your bangs and sideburns are getting a little greasy, brush them out with a little dry hair refresh (basically, just arrowroot powder and cocoa powder). This will get you through another day (or even two) without having to wash your scalp or hair thoroughly. Make sure to very gently put in the dry refresh, and do not scrub it in, as again, this will produce more oils. Proceed with styling as per day 2 instructions.
Note: At this point if you're going through the detox phase, you want to try and extend the time at which you're washing - this will retrain your scalp to not produce as much sebum as it was when you were washing daily with harsh shampoos and conditioners. Stay with it, don't give up! It will make all the difference in the long run. If at this point you cannot stand it and are getting frustrated, or maybe you have a special event to attend to, then don't stress out and go ahead with washing your scalp... There's no point in getting frustrated!
Day 3 evening: On the evening of day 3, you should focus a bit on your scalp and hair length, and try Scritching and Preening method again, as shown above. This is best done before bedtime. For many people, this method extend the need to wash your hair for yet another day longer, and your hair will look and feel amazing tomorrow!
Day 4 - or day 5, depending upon your particular hair length, style, and needs: You may feel like it's time to wash now. If so, go ahead and wash - very gently. You've come a long way baby! If your hair isn't doing too bad and still looks and feels quite clean, then try a bit more dry shampoo for the oilier areas during the day, and Scritching and Preening at night once again.
In between washes, some people choose to pull their hair back, or wear head-bands. I find that anything you put on your head (like a baseball cap or hat) creates too much heat and squishes the hair together, creating more of a mess, but that's my personal opinion... Scritching and Preening is definitely your best friend here. Do it EVERY NIGHT.
Why am I doing this?
At some point - and usually during the detox phase - you will ask yourself what the point of all of this is. Your hair may look a bit messy, sometimes greasy, and you may feel like it's a lot of work. You may contemplate switching back to shampoo and being done with the natural methods. I've been there, have gone through it, more than once. I can tell you one thing: I feel your temporary pain!
My friend Sarah tried this for a year, and gave up because her hair was unbearable. After a few months, her hair still seemed to be going through the detox phase - it was always greasy, very dull and lifeless. I don't think it was the method itself, as much as the fact that her huge amount of long locks combined with her lack of patience prevented her from washing properly, and she really didn't Scritch and Preen, which is key. She knows this, and I could see it coming. She just could not get right under there to wash her scalp properly, and she tried to rinse too quickly so the solution was just not coming out completely. Instead, she switched to a more natural, chemical-free hair wash (like our Powder Hair Cleanser), and is totally happy. Hey, it works for her, and that's why we have also created these types of natural hair cleansers!
My other friend Lacey also tried this method for a year, and although it worked wonderfully for her hair, she missed the scent. That was it: She missed the scent! She wanted her hair to smell like citrus and fruity things, and using these natural methods did not have that effect. On the other hand, she now misses it, and the rapid speed at which her hair was growing... She may just go back to it one day - when the time is right for her.
Bottom line is, switching to a more natural lifestyle is not for everyone. Just like being Vegan isn't for everyone. IT'S OKAY, and we're all human! The key is to experiment and find your 'thing'... like I found mine, and now I make my own formulations for others to enjoy!