A Sustainable Hair Care Routine: The No Poo Method

wavy blond long hair

Longing for a sustainable hair care routine, and considering the “No Poo” method? There are plenty of reasons why you might consider giving up shampoo and conditioner. To reduce clutter of unused bottles.  To save money.  Maybe to skirt the disappointment of not getting promised results. Or to avoid the chemicals, toxins, pthalates and untested ingredients that harm your health, and the environment.  To avoid more plastic. Or stop using synthetically produced products that might actually be harming your hair and scalp instead of helping give you luscious locks.

If you’re looking to be more sustainable, you can knock out some environmental issues such as plastic, chemicals, and overconsumption, by trying out the “No ‘Poo” fad.  I’ll share what I have learned so far (I am two months in) so you can decide if it is something you’d be interested in trying.

girl with voluminous hair using the no poo method

my personal “no poo” experience

The no poo concept interested me in a couple of ways.   At this point, I feel like the less synthetic chemicals I have in my life, the better.  Plus, I am tackling personal overconsumption and doing my best to avoid unnecessary purchases.  I do not want to fall victim to the marketing messages that keep us thinking we are not good enough but would be if we just bought this product.  (Complete BS). 

About a year and a half ago I had started committing to sustainable brands over regular brands.  So I was replacing drug store shampoo purchases with ‘better’ products.  I bought some really good shampoo and conditioner that was made from all-natural ingredients and was supposed to get you to use less product over time.  It did- I was only washing my hair maybe every four or five days.  And I still have some of this product after a year and a half!  And my hair was definitely getting thicker and stronger.  I do believe that.  But I still was feeling curious about a further return to ‘nature’, and if we truly needed these lab-produced products to have clean, healthy hair.

So when the pandemic hit, I saw it as an opportunity to take another step on my sustainable journey. I decided I wanted to try the apple cider vinegar rinse with baking soda.  I figured I wasn’t seeing anyone, so it was a great time to try something that could make me more sustainable, but also might result in a visual hair disaster. My reasoning was based on this idea that we can really limit the items we NEED to a few essentials.  And I use baking soda and apple cider vinegar for everything. If they could take care of my hair too, I’d be thrilled!

So, I did that for about 6 weeks. It worked fine!  It definitely made me think of the word ‘clarified’- my hair was clean, squeaky and felt strong.  The smell washes out (you aren’t going to smell like a walking salad). But I felt like my hair was drying out a little.  So I decided to go a step further after 6 weeks and use only water.

Below is my review so far.

shampoo bottles in an aisle

“no poo” benefits

I love that I no longer have to worry about running out of shampoo, storing it, or staring down endless aisles of options and purchasing things I don’t need. I feel a great sense of freedom.

Convenience: I’ve recently had an unexpected trip, and for the first time, I didn’t have to worry about packing shampoo and conditioner. And when I stayed at a friend’s house who didn’t have shampoo and conditioner in her guest bathroom, it wasn’t a problem!

Shorter showers. I’m in and out in under 5 minutes. A nice sustainable benefit!

I need less:  I’ve been working on this. I’m blessed to be able to have most of the things I want, need, or have a passing fancy for. The last several years, I have started to believe that reduced global consumption is the only way our planet recuperates from what we’ve done to it. This is a small step in that direction. I spend less, and there’s less clutter in my bathroom, and even in the shower. There was a period of time I recall having six different open containers of shampoo and conditioner.  In the shower!  It was so cluttered.  And it takes forever to get through a bottle.

And I don’t know if you had the same experience, but my hair would start looking drab after using one type of shampoo after a while. So I would go out and get new stuff, without having finished the bottle.

Pass that aisle:  Sometimes it was just the curiosity of walking down the aisle- “Oooh, volume for fine, limp hair! I should try this!”  And I would come home with more synthetic product that made promises that would be broken, just to use then add another cadaver to my shampoo graveyard. But now I don’t even have to go down that aisle or make a special stop to a Sally’s or Ulta.  No temptation.  No promises on brightly colored bottles, or exotic smells wafting through the air, tempting me to purchase.  Nope.  Just walk on by, sista.

Volume:  I do have fine, limp hair.  Or I used to.  Conditioner weighs my hair down.  So, it never looked good straight out of the shower, unless I went through the whole process of blow-drying and styling.  Let me tell you folks, that is not my style.  I’m a wash and air-dry kinda gal, and it’s lucky if it sees a brush between those steps. I will say that the no poo process has actually given me more volume than any shampoo or conditioner ever has. 

Texture: Honesty, my hair has a texture now that I used to try to get from a bottle.  Isn’t that funny?  More bottles to reverse the damage that a different bottle gave me.  I can now style my hair and it holds pretty well without having to add hair spray, texturizing cremes, gels, mousse, or root lifters. And, it looks pretty good straight out of the shower, without styling, compared to when I was using shampoo.

Less hair loss: I am not pulling loads of strands from my head when I shower any more.  My hair feels and looks thicker.  I seriously think I am losing less hair in the shower.

woman holding hair with dark roots for the no poo method

no poo troubleshooting

Dry Hair: My hair dries out pretty easily, but this is partially from a 6 month old blonde hair dye that is sitting in the ends of my hair. So this means that I did have to find a solution for getting some moisture into my hair. There are a few different ways you can do this. I’ve used egg, but my favorite was a mixture of egg, honey, yogurt, and lemon juice. It lightens my hair, restores moisture, and gives it a little bit of shine and smoothness, even in the summer heat.

Scrub your scalp: Take the time in the shower to scrub your scalp.  It will feel lovely and help get rid of any buildup of your natural oils.

Greasy roots: There is an adjustment period. Anywhere from 2-6 weeks. Mine was short because I wasn’t washing my hair that often to begin with. When you wash your hair frequently, your scalp actually gets greasier because your body is trying to make up for the lost oils. If you do feel like your roots are getting pretty greasy and it’s not going away with a nice massage and water, it could be your water. I would recommend every now and then doing an apple cider vinegar rinse, and possibly adding baking soda to it for that squeaky clean experience. Check out this link for some ideas for no poo hair care.

Brushing Your Hair: I’ve learned that I need to distribute the oils from my scalp into the rest of my hair.  Are you guys rolling your eyes because you knew this?  Well, a part of me did too, but I’m lazy.  I’ve never brushed my hair so much. I brushed it to get rid of tangles, and off I went. But now, I can see the difference when I brush my hair with oil distribution in mind.

My hair can look a little dry at the ends, but the roots can get a little greasy. I think this is typical for a changeover in hair routine. What I realized was that brushing my hair did really disperse the oils down the hair shaft and smooth the hair out. We have to be diligent and do it for a short period of time to spread the oils. But it’s worth it.

Also, there are specific brushes meant for this.  I am not using one of those brushes.  It still works, but I have heard that boar bristle brushes are really effective at distributing oils and adding shine and smoothness to your hair.

woman stand in sunlight with long beautiful hair

no poo drawbacks

Scent: Your hair won’t smell.  This is probably better than it smelling (because the idea of a natural scalp smell does feel a little off-putting).  But you might, like me, miss the scents of shampoos and conditioners.  My solution is to make a small spray bottle of water and essential oil and spritz it into your hair after you towel dry it. Select an oil that is good for your hair, like lavender or rosemary.  Do a little combination for a more complex fragrance.

Adjustment Period: Your hair will take some time to get used to the water rinse. And you probably will experience a greasy scalp at first. But, all the toxins and chemicals and phthalates in conditioner and shampoo actually can destroy your hair. And they’re just not good for you. They’re not natural. So your scalp is trying to breathe again, and push out the buildup caused from shampoos and conditioners.

Having to tell people why your hair looks so good:  “Oh, I don’t wash it.” “no poo, baby!” “chemical free.”

textured hair from no poo

I hope you give the No ‘Poo Fad a try, and let me know what you think.  Brush your hair! Disperse those natural healthy oils. Use a clarifying baking soda and ACV rinse if it gets too greasy.  And enjoy not having to spend loads of money on broken promises in plastic bottles.  You’ll thank yourself for it all later.

And if you don’t love this?  Well, go find an awesome shampoo bar with no packaging or toxins.  Check out Purely Green Cleaning Co. for a sustainable shampoo bar, if you can’t quite get over the idea of not washing your hair.

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