I’ll Never Shampoo My Hair Again, EVER. (Seriously!)

(It had been 6 weeks since I shampooed my hair when I took this picture!)
(**EDITED 8/12/14) This past year I have been in the process of weeding out the chemicals in my life. The kind of unnecessary chemicals that are in cleaning products, skincare, hair care, makeup, non-organic produce, and so forth. I’ve chosen to do this partially to lessen my carbon footprint, and mostly for my personal health and well-being. Not to mention it’s cheaper!
Along the way I stopped using shampoo and conditioner. This may sound weird for some, or even “gross”, but I swear to you that it isn’t. I’m excited enough about it that I want to write a post to explain why you might want to give it a try too!
I came across this concept, that has been known as the “No Poo” movement, while reading online. I don’t personally like to call it that- I can’t get past the fact that poo is usually a nickname for poop, and I’m totally not into that when we’re talking about my hair. In any case, those who go “No Poo” do actually still wash their hair. We actually still condition it too. And the way we do it is actually way, way better for your hair.
So why not shampoo?
First of all, shampoo is a detergent, meaning it strips your hair completely of its natural oils. While none of us want yucky, greasy hair, stripping the oils away completely is actually counter-productive. Your scalp recognizes that all the oils are gone, and starts to pump out extra. This is why those of you who shower and wash your hair every day actually NEED to wash your hair every day: because your hair legitimately gets greasy faster than the hair of those who don’t wash their hair every day! You’ve taught it to do this. (You skin actually does this too, while we’re on the topic. This is why moisturizing after washing your face is a good idea- your skin will want to pump out extra oil if you leave it with that tight, dry feeling. And we know that’s definitely no good for acne!)
Shampoo also contains many hazardous chemicals, including fragrances, which are usually carcinogenic (aka cancer-causing) and not so friendly to your lungs when you take a whiff, DMDM hydantoin (allergy aggravator), and 1,4-dioxane (which The Environmental Protection Agency has labeled as a human carcinogen as well). Not to mention what they add in each different variety.
Also, it’s expensive! Depending on what brand you buy, what type of hair you have, and what scent you like, you might end up paying anywhere from $8-$20 every month or two. That may seem like a normal expense, but what if it’s not necessary? You could save a lot!
How do I get my hair clean, then?
That’s the best part. Baking soda! Stick with me here- it works, you guys. I had a few concerns when I wanted to try washing my hair with baking soda, too. The first is that I thought I was going to need A LOT of baking soda to wash my hair as well as shampoo. The second was whether or not it was even going to work as well as shampoo anyway. I had tried putting things like cornstarch and dry shampoo in my hair on off-days when it started getting greasy, and while it worked, it never cleaned my hair from that greasy feeling like shampoo did.
To my happy surprise, I didn’t need that much baking soda to do the trick, and yes, it cleaned my hair just as well as shampoo did. It didn’t have the nice scent like shampoo or lather into bubbles, but I’d gladly sacrifice that for the health and cost benefits.
Baking soda also doesn’t strip the oils completely from your hair, even though It totally feels like it does. No oily-ness in sight. That might sound like a half-ass job at washing your hair, but the best part is, it’s actually better. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but when you stop stripping your hair’s natural oils away completely, you won’t get greasy as often!  Your hair learns to stop pumping out extra oil all the time, and your hair gets LESS greasy the MORE you substitute baking soda for shampoo.
What about conditioner?
This is the other half of the equation, and equally exciting! I don’t use conditioner either- and let me tell you what, my hair is actually stronger, shinier, and less dry & brittle thanks to apple cider vinegar and raw (unrefined) coconut oil. A couple tablespoons of ACV in a big glass of water is all you need to condition your hair. People like to use it as a “rinse”, but I like to make sure that my dry ends get thoroughly moisturized before anything else, so I dip them in the cup and let them soak for a minute before dumping all over the rest of my hair. Then I let it sit for a few minutes while I do something else, like wash my face, and rinse it off. It does smell vinegar-y, but that smell goes away mostly after rinsing and ultimately, completely after drying.
So why ACV? Most importantly, it has a natural pH of 4.25-5.0 when undiluted. Your hair’s natural, healthy pH likes to be somewhere similar (see the table below), or just slightly more alkaline than that. Water’s pH is a neutral 7.0, and a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar is all it takes for that water to become the perfect pH for your hair.
The amazing part about this is that when your hair is at a healthy pH level, it can function correctly. The cuticle is naturally smooth and seals itself against further chemical and heat damage. You don’t need to coat your hair shaft with chemicals to protect it from these things- with apple cider vinegar, your hair can do that by itself! It also helps the pH of your scalp (see “skin” in the graph above)- eliminating dandruff, along with clearing away product buildup from mousses, gels, and hairspray, AND rinses off whatever leftover dirt and oil is still there.
Normal conditioners that you buy at the store don’t account for your hair’s pH at all. Instead, they use oils and silicone to make it feel smooth and temporarily help make the cuticle less rough. These are not necessarily good for your hair, despite how they make it feel, and regardless of what the packaging says, they cannot actually penetrate the shaft and nourish your hair on the inside. In fact, it was just a couple decades ago that hair conditioner’s main ingredient was sheep sebum. Sebum- you know, like the stuff your shampoo just scrubbed away?
Coconut oil, however, DOES penetrate your skin and hair, nourishing them both from the inside. This is due to two different components of unrefined coconut oil, which “has a ‘medium chain’ of 12 carbon atoms but the size of the molecule is only part of the puzzle. The shape of the molecule is also important. Coconut oil is highly saturated which means the carbon atoms are “filled up” with hydrogen atoms. In addition, the molecule is a straight chain with no branching.  Most oil is unsaturated (not all the carbons are ‘filled up’ and the molecule is branched.) This difference in configuration allows the coconut oil molecules to slip in between the inter-cellular spaces in the hair’s cuticle layer so it can penetrate into the cortex. …Most other oils do not have this ability. None of the other oils penetrate like coconut oil, but all of them can help lubricate hair. However, since they do not penetrate, they need to be used in a leave on product like a hairdressing. When delivered from a conditioner or other rinse off product, they will simply go down the drain.” *Please note that unrefined, or raw, coconut oil is the only kind of coconut oil with these special medium-chain fatty acids. Refined has been altered to withstand higher heats, and therefore is just pure saturated fat- which cannot penetrate into your hair or skin.
*Edit: many people have commented and asked how I use the coconut oil. Since the coconut oil makes my hair so greasy, I use it as a deep conditioning mask overnight, and wash it out in the morning.
Research shows that hair can absorb around 15% of its weight in coconut oil in an hour. An overnight soaking oil (six hours) increases absorption to around 20% or 25%!
I only have two qualms with this new type of conditioning:
1) Apple cider vinegar doesn’t leave your hair silky-smooth when you get out of the shower. It will be when it dries (much smoother than normal, in fact), but the lack of that yucky, plastic-y silicone in your hair means that you have no extra coat of silky gunk on top of your hair. This is a good thing, but it does make for some rougher-feeling wet hair. A key tip here is to make sure your hair is brushed, combed, and totally de-tangled (this is especially important for long hair like mine!) BEFORE showering, so you don’t tangle it up while it’s wet. I can get past that knowing that what I’m doing is actually better for it, though!
2) With coconut oil it is impossible to get out of your hair with just the baking soda. You must use soap of some kind to effectively wash it all… but I think that once a week or a few times a month, I’m okay with that for the deep-conditioning I get from the coconut oil. I just try to use products that contain natural ingredients (like Dr. Bonner’s)!
Measurements and tips: You can use regular white distilled vinegar, especially if you’re blonde, but it’s significantly more acidic, so the standard is 1 teaspoon per cup (8 oz) of water. Apple cider vinegar takes 1-2 tablespoons per cup (8 oz) of water. ACV rinses are safe for color treated hair- mine is part colored, part natural (I’m growing the color out) and it’s worked beautifully on both. I use anywhere from 1/3-1/2 cup of baking soda for a wash, and all you need to do is rub it right into your hair and scalp! Concentrate on the scalp area more than anything, as it’s the main area that needs clarifying. You can make a paste ahead of time, but it’s really unnecessary because when you put dry baking soda on wet hair, it has the same effect anyway.
A lot of people have written in about how terrible this can be for your hair, about why you shouldn’t use it, etc. This is because the baking soda is very alkaline (aka the opposite pH that you want for your hair). People often mistakenly use baking soda instead of shampoo and skip the apple cider vinegar step. DO NOT DO THIS! The ACV is the step that makes your hair healthier- the baking soda is simply used as a way to get rid of the oils for people who are used to shampooing. In order to re-balance your hair’s pH after the baking soda, you MUST RINSE WITH VINEGAR AND WATER! !
My hair after 8 weeks with this treatment! (It’s messy because I just took it down from a top-knot, but it’s strong, shiny, healthy, and grease-free!) 
-Quantitative measurement of the penetration of coconut oil into human hair using radio-labeled coconut oil. JSCC, 2012, Vol 63.

425 thoughts on “I’ll Never Shampoo My Hair Again, EVER. (Seriously!)

      1. justsarahg Post author

        I don’t believe I stated that baking soda is organic. Though you may be replying to a comment I am not seeing. Thanks for the informative comment!

  1. Paige

    I’m going to give this a try, thanks for all the info 🙂
    I have fine hair and it gets oily less than 24 hours after washing it 😦 and very staticky from washing it so often.
    I really hope this works for me as well as it has for you.
    Your hair looks great! 🙂

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  3. redheadtexas

    ACV is also wonderful for your scalp because it kills Candida, which is a yeast that likes our scalp. It is a huge contributer to dandruff, oily gummy scalp residue, hair loss and oily hair. Drinking ACV each day also helps candida growth in your body.

  4. Viki

    Don’t use baking soda in your hair, the pH is too high for your hair. At first it may seem to make your hair feel better, but in reality it’s creating damage and after a few months to a year it will turn your hair into a dry and brittle disaster. Vinegar is too acidic unless it is watered down, and it does not help your hair if you are damaging your hair with baking soda. I had to stop using baking soda and searched long and far for a new natural shampoo alternative. Turns out, I didn’t have to look so far since I was producing this miracle shampoo myself. It’s called urine. Yes, you can use your urine to wash your hair. Urine is usually 98% water and the other 2% is chemical compounds that were not needed in the bloodstream at the time. There is no waste and urine is sterile, making it a good hair wash because it is at the correct pH. I disinfect my urethra and take my first morning urine into a sterile jar, then scrub it into my hair and skin and leave in for 15-60 minutes. Then rinse with water, no soap. For oilier hair, aged urine works better but I would not age it for over 48 hours to keep the pH at a safe level and if you do, age it store in a cool, dark, dry room with a breathable cap container. It is amazing.

    1. John Wilkinson

      Baking soda (9 pH) is just one point above eggs (8pH) and one point below milk of magnesia (10pH). On top of that it is extremely diluted when showering. You could dump it straight on your head or try to work it in with water. Too make my point VERY clear, alkaline based shampoos have a higher ph (9-11pH) than baking soda. Some even as high as ammonia (11pH).

      ACV is the same way but on the acid side and counters the baking soda. While the acidity of some shampoos (6pH) mildly approach that of urine or milk (6pH) ACV can be a strong as lemon juice (2pH) or as mild as pure water (7).

      Urine (6pH). I don’t know if you are trying to be funny, getting people to dump stored urine on their heads, but you have to remember why you are shampooing your hair in the first place. It is to get the dirt and grease off on your hair and scalp.

      Baking soda, lye and fats were once the primary methods of creating soap. More fat and you have a conditioner. More lye and you get shampoo. Soap has the ability to grap a fat/grease molecule and combine it with a water molecule so it can be rinsed off without acetone (which would be REALLY bad for your hair).

      If you overuse baking soda/acv you still come away smelling clean.

      If you overuse urine you come away smelling like a urinal.

    2. MI

      I agree with Viki, urine is a good hair wash and fermented urine is a good hair straightening, native americans such as mayan used it, mongols, inuits, chinese people used it, long time ago. But be careful, the ammonia which is contained in fermented urine can lighten your hair, that’s why people from France called as Gaulois used it to get blonde hair, they fermented a big jar of urine and let it ferment for 2 months and then used it to bleach hair. I will not talk about the smell because it does smell a lot when your hair is wet

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  6. JACluvsya

    Your post inspired me to try baking soda and ACV vs. shampoo and conditioner. I started March 2014 and have had great benefits! My hair doesn’t get greasy anymore and its originally shine and luster is back. I also read another site that recommended adding essential oils to the ACV to 1) help with the smell and 2) to benefit hair/scalp. My question is: how often do you do the washing? I still have to about every other day otherwise my scalp gets itchy/smelly, similar to when my hair was dirty before this method except sans the grease. Do you have any tips on how to keep my scalp smelling fresh? Otherwise I could probably go longer without ‘washing’ my hair.

      1. JACluvsya

        Do you know anything about the itchy/smell scalp and how to prevent it? My scalp is always fresh and clean the day of washing but the 2nd day after, it starts. My hair itself is still clean but I have to do the wash again every other day to keep the itching/smell at bay. Am I the only one that has this issue?

  7. jonnie

    I’ve read that baking soda and ACV will lighten your hair. Do you know if this is true? My natural hair color is medium brown and I really don’t want it lighter.

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  9. Nash

    Shikakai, Reetha, Amla are better than baking soda. I use ACV after as well. You should look into them on your coconut oil days. I also love using egg, both yolk and white. White makes a fabulous conditioner.

    1. Mira

      I used shikakai shampoo once and was very glad with the results. It helped prevent my dandruff for a while. But I have to be more persistent on using shikakai. It’s really wonderful!

  10. Nayeli

    ACV actually has a pH of around 3-4. Baking soda is 11. I ironically started No-poo’ng around the same time you did and while I understand Bs reacts differently to different hair types .. It’s high alkalinity DOeS remove oils from your natural hair. After 3 tries (3 weeks) with BS (once a week) I had to stop. I changed my routine to use BS.. After, Soak a shampoo bar in hot water for one minute (this distributes the oil through the water making it easier to distribute through the hair and follow up with ACV… I now have quit using BS because the bars clean my hair/ scalp just fine and now I don’t have to deal with static electric hair because of the BS and I feel better knowing I’m not putting something with such high alkalinity on my hair (opening up the cuticles & stripping it too much) and shocking it with an acid rinse. I bought pH test strips and the way I get through my week is to boil half a cup of water with 1/4 cup of Epsom salt (throw your fav tea in it, I used blueberry Acai which smells great) and put this in a spray bottle with 1/8 a cup of vinegar).. The scalp needs to maintain a pH of 5 to fight bacteria and fungus. This solution not only will do that but works as an awesome dry shampoo that never leaves your hair tangly or over dry looking!!! I have less hair fall now that I’ve quit using Bs…

  11. Mira

    Hi, I definitely would try baking soda! But have you ever heard of Ringana products? They are 100% natural herbal ingredients and have a certificate even for eating goods. I.e. all Ringana products can be eaten!

  12. lrmoore805

    I tried this a while back and loved it, however when I went to get my hair cut, the hairdresser used product on my hair that made it feel like I was back at square 1. I told her that I stopped washing my hair with shampoo and conditioner, but she just went on her merry way and washed my hair like normal. How do you deal with hairdressers?

    1. britanykae

      Well that’s just it…you don’t “deal” with hair professionals. They’re the ones helping you, so if that’s not what they’re doing, either speak up again, bring your own products in and ask them to use them on you, or find a hair professional that will actually listen to you and your desires/needs. Sometimes if you call ahead of your appointment and talk to someone in charge or higher up, more natural products may be ordered for when you come in. Or just ask if it’s okay to bring your own stuff to have them use on you.

  13. Natalie

    I’ve been doing no-poo similar to what you have written about here for a year and a half and I am seeing great results. The first couple months were rough, and I get the occasional gritty or greasy day if I messed up the ratios that time, but for the most part it’s great. Way better than my old shampoo. I used 1 tbsp. baking soda in 1 cup of boiled and cooled water, and then 1 tsp of white vinegar in 1/2 cup boiled and cooled water. Worked great! As of now I do the super no poo in which I just rinse my hair with water and comb and brush it to move oils down my hair length. I’m in the transition phase now, so I smell like a greasy deep fryer and look like one too, but only a couple more weeks until my scalp should normalize. Hoping for the best! Good luck and take care 🙂

  14. Janna

    Hey there! I found your post months ago and decided to go shampoo-free. Now, several months later, my skin keeps breaking out on my face, neck and back. I hate to think that the baking soda and ACV are the cause of it, but I’m starting to think it’s messing up my ph levels. I hate to give it up because my hair has had so much volume and strength, but I’m tired of pubescent skin. Any tips for me?

    1. kimberly

      Are you taking any drugs? Such as acne related antibiotics? Or menopausal hormone creams? Or antibiotics in general, like Leviquin? Both can cause break outs. Acne, truly is hormonal. Make sure you are re-moisturizing your skin. After showering.

      1. Z

        Use Un sulphured blackstrap molasses as a scrub and follow with 5% diluted ACV. Then use coconut oil to finish. The best acne treatment/ beauty treatment ever:) Good Luck

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  17. JJ

    Hi I am going to start doing this and thank you so much for the guidelines and everything but I have one question; when you (shampoo) with the vinegar do you only wash your scalp and roots or can you wash it through the length of your hair? I am curious because an article said not to do so..THANK YOU :))))

  18. pranita thakuri

    does this mean I can’t even just simply water my hair during this 6 weeks or can I cause my hair is starting to get greasy

  19. Karen Tucker

    This works great at home, but what would you recommend for travel? Our family will be going to Europe this summer & I think it would be too difficult to haul all the supplies for this. Would love to hear some suggestions.

  20. di

    I have very greasy hair and I have tried this several times and each time my hair absolutely stunk I could not go out lost all my self confidence. My hair which is very fine looked so straggly and also looked a completely different shade of blonde – goes a horrible yellow colour. I don’t think its a good idea for everyone,

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  22. iAN

    so i had pretty dry scalp before trying this.. did it one time and now the flakes are literally no where to be found. THANK YOU SO MUCH! still a bit confused on what to use inbetween baking soda washes. dry shampoo my best/ most natural option?

  23. AROL (@aliciaarol)

    It is ultra CONFUSING for me to go online & read so many conflicting opinions when it comes to washing your hair with baking soda & water (something I’ve never tried*, but that many people seem to believe will permanently damage your hair).

    *I did start periodically rinsing my hair with 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar, 1 tbsp of lemon juice, & 1 cup of water, but I used this homemade hair rinse only after I had shampooed & conditioned my hair “as usual” with organic shampoo & conditioner=I didn’t know that I was supposed to use my apple cider vinegar/lemon juice rinse on my hair in lieu of using conditioner.

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  26. Lola

    I hated baking soda and acv!! Too harsh and a rough adjustment period I use rye flour and rice water rinse. Beautiful from day one no transition period. It’s perfectly pH balanced at 5 and rice water is natural pro V reduces frizz more elasticity shinier hair. It’s perfect

  27. chloe allen

    Thank you for such a wonderful article dear and from my side I want to say that i am using wash & go shampoo for my hair Because this antioxident rich shampoo helps to perfect and renew vibrancy to dull, lackluster hair. When used in our 10-IN-1 RENEWAL SYSTEM it provides Sulfate-free cleansing, anti-aging benefits, color protection, hydration, nourishment, rejuvenation, anti-stress, manageability and softness without build up.

  28. Ian

    Back again, probably been like almost 2 years now.

    I don’t wash my hair with anything except water now.

    I wash my BBB and my comb instead 🙂

    Hair feels clean as far as I can tell. Sometimes a bit greasy from not enough scritching/preening but I think it looks good and feels healthy. STOP WASHING YOUR HAIR! ALL YOU NEED IS THAT SWEET SWEET H20

  29. Tiffy

    My hair is dyed a blue ombre and I would like to keep it, but start washing my hair with the method you’ve provided. Will it run the dye in my hair? I hear that’s something coconut oil does.

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  31. hamid

    exceiient anddecent post i pound thismuch informative i m impressed by tha detaiis that you have onthes website thenk you for this post

  32. Nina

    I read your post 4 years ago and since then I haven’t used any shampoo or conditioner. I got my natural curl back and absolutely love it. Thanks.


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