Radical Life Experiments

How I wash my hair; the No-Poo Experiment


I know I know. ‘No-Poo’ sounds like you don’t poop for a month. Truly an unhealthy practice and thoroughly non-recommended. This has nothing to do with actual poo, I promise. This is about hair, and its usual companion shampoo.


The day I first truly discovered my shampoo bottle:

As far back as I can remember, I’ve had a fascination for all things centuries past. The romance and magic painted in my head by so many different books, granted, may not have been all that accurate, yet my interest remained.

Fast-forward to me in the shower one fine day, lathering my curly head with a palmful of tropical smelling chemicals from a pretty orange bottle labeled ‘Shampoo’, a matching ‘Conditioner’ patiently awaiting its turn beside it. Whistling along (yes I whistle in the shower sometimes. It echoes quite pleasingly), I began to wonder what they did in the good ol’ days to clean their heads. They couldn’t possibly have hopped on a horse and gone to Walmart. What would they have done- parked Daisy and gone in to request a bottle of the shop’s finest mystery hair goop? No no no, that couldn’t be right.

I could remember hearing someone’s Grandma saying “50 years ago shampoo didn’t even exist! People used baking soda. They used baking soda for everything! For washing the floor and their teeth and their toilets and their hair!” Spittle might have been flying between her rattling dentures as she said it, her cane waving around knocking things over. My memory’s a bit fuzzy on that part.

As you know though, Grandmas are prone to say a lot of things. Often very wise tidbits, but I had discarded this bit as a ‘back in my day Sonny’ thing that maybe was true and maybe wasn’t. Yet it came back to me now as I washed the bubbles from my tangled mane, and I wondered: what in fact did the folks use to wash their locks before shampoo hit the market? Did they make their own soaps? How? Could I make my own too? Did I need a river and ingredients I’d have to forage on the wayside? I could imagine whatever it was as being far more natural and simple than whatever the heck it said on the backs of those bottles in my bathroom.

What in fact did it say on those bottles? I frantically read through the ingredients. All I could make out was ‘aqua’ and ‘alcohol’. Water and alcohol and a cocktail of poison. I could think of better things to pour on my head every day. Like maybe chocolate pudding. That sounded delicious and far better than the suddenly repulsive goop in my hand.


Something needed to change…

Thoroughly disgusted at my daily pore-clogging ritual, I began researching cleaner options.

  • At first I found some recipes to make homemade ‘poo and ‘ditioner, which I won’t
    Homemade Shampoo
    My beautiful failed homemade wonders

    bother repeating here. It looked very pretty in my new glass bottles, and I’m sure there are great recipes out there that I didn’t get to and that work wonders, but for me it wasn’t something I want to repeat or share. It gave me quite an unpleasantly waxy new mop.

  • I chose to skip out on the health food store all-natural options, which perhaps you’ll want to try before going completely poo-free. At the time for me it just wouldn’t do. They were cleaner for sure, but still had ingredients I couldn’t pronounce. I wanted simple and pure and as natural as possible.
  • (For all the crunchy Mamas out there, it’s worth noting that I also tried using Bronner’s as a replacement. Although I loved using it on my body, as shampoo it was a definite no go for me. It left an interesting waxy stiff texture to my hairs that I was not at all fond of.)


Hence followed; my baking soda and apple cider vinegar experimentations…


The No-Poo Experiment:


What I’ve learned: 

  • There’s a layer of chemical residue from the products we use sitting on our skulls and clogging our pores. This is why ‘clarifying shampoos’ exist; a counter-chemical to break down your usual ones. Any typical consumer can scrape a fingernail along the skull beneath their hair and find this layer under their nail when removed.
  • Our pores being clogged causes stress #1 to our scalps, in addition to blocking natural oils from doing their thing.
  • Shampoos are made to mess with our delicate PH balance. It dries out the scalp slightly too much, causing stress and an overproduction of oil. This is why at the end of the day the hair is already oily and once again needs to be washed. This causes stress #2. Not only that, but because the hair is now too dry, conditioner becomes a necessity. Need I spell it out? This is consumerism at its best.


The Experiment Itself:

Length: 100 days  Start Date: November 4, 2014


2 cups, 1 teaspoon, baking soda, apple cider vinegar, any essential oils you’d like to add.


What to do:


  • 1-2 Tbsp. baking soda in one cup
  • Prepare an equal amount of ACV in your other cup.
  • Feel free to add any amazing smelling and/or healing essential oils to your vinegar, such as basil, cedarwood, lavender, peppermint, rosemary, thyme, or ylang ylang. (This article explains the benefits of these particular oils for hair.) Using a few drops of essentials oils will help mask the salad dressing smell and can add beneficial properties to your rinse. 

Once in the shower…

  • Fill baking soda cup- 3 parts water to 1 part baking soda. Stir until dissolved. Use as shampoo, scrubbing along your roots. Rinse well. This is so there’s no fizzy reaction against the soda when that ACV hits your head.
  • Then fill your ACV cup. Again, 3 parts water to 1 part ACV. Use as conditioner, focusing this time on the ends of your hair rather than the roots. Rinse.

Ta-da! Squeaky clean, well-balanced, and very healthy happy hair!


Baking SodaNote: 

My friends have questioned me repeatedly about the vinegar smell. I tested it- many times over- asking roommates and family members to sniff my head after showering. According to results, no trace can be detected. The ACV smell disappears pretty much instantly. If you’re worried, add a few drops of those wonderful essential oils to your mix and voila! You’ll smell like a peach. Or a rose or somethin.


What to expect: 

Expect around a two week adjustment period. You’re weaning your hairs off something they’ve been addicted to since birth. Your pores are used to over-producing oil- it will take a couple of days to finally de-stress and get the message that they can cut back on oil production. Have patience. They WILL get the message.


What I recommend:

  • Instead of cutting shampoo out cold turkey and without the baking soda and ACV rinse, I would recommend doing the rinse first thing. I didn’t. It wasn’t pretty and it added days of nasty hair full of waxy chemical business without allowing it to breathe and begin balancing. Doing the rinse first will help clean your scalp of chemical buildup from commercial products so it can be free and open to begin helping itself out.
  • I dealt with my adjustment period by taking severe advantage of every hat I owned. Utilizing hats, scarves, and ponytails are very helpful for sticking it through.


My Results:

My hair today

I’d read about my natural oils beginning a self-cleaning system through this process. I was skeptical. After going through the process and seeing my own incredible results, I very quickly began to consider myself a convert. As of today, it’s been nearly 4 years and I’m still poo-free. I don’t believe I’ll ever go back to conventional methods. My natural curls and color became more luscious, my frizz went down, and I’ve been able to wear it air-dried. It holds its bounce and volume and no longer falls flat the way it used to. The best part is that I don’t have to worry about my hair getting oily all the time. I wash my hair once a week or once every other week, in the interim use water only, and my hair stays soft and clean throughout.



It’s such a simple routine and takes out so much of the time and effort I used to spend on my hair. It’s a blessing to have discovered. The best part? I didn’t turn into a dirty hippie! Just a very very happy one!


Some Helpful Resources:

  • nopoomethod.com
  • thecrunchymoose– (she has a great photo gallery of her process to look through as well as lots of great links to continue exploring the no-poo method)



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