Dizzy with her hair down looking at camera through her fringe.

366: A Year of No-Poo

…you’ve probably already decided I’m some sort of smelly hippy and don’t have a “normal” life where I have a job/social life…

twirliegirly 24/05/2015

That was me, writing one of my first entries on this re-boot of my blogging life, exactly 366 days ago (gotta love a leap year).  That was me right at the start of my No-Poo journey.  Armed with (what are generally considered to be) the no-poo staples: bicarbonate of soda, apple cider vinegar (ACV) and a bristle brush.  My go-to reference was Happy Hair[A] and, well, it got referred to quite a lot!

So before I tell you about my experiences and conclusions I had better explain a bit about No-Poo.  No-Poo is a shortened version of “No shampoo”; a term I have heard originated in the States somewhere (or at least, not in the UK or anywhere else that uses “poo” as another term for bodily waste, but I digress).  Practitioners eschew commercial shampoo and conditioner (with all their sulfates and foam inducers).

It doesn’t mean we don’t wash our hair.  Instead we clean, condition and even style their hair with things like bicarb, lemon juice, apple sauce, ayuvedic herbs, coconut oil and honey.. and some people even manage to reach the ultimate in no-poo: cleansing the hair with water alone.  One massive misconception is that no-poo is a fad which is just about washing your hair with bicarb and ACV; replacing your normal shampoo and conditioner with the two, retaining the same frequency of washing with that (even if you wash your hair every day). That road, however, is just a brilliant way of wrecking your hair.  The whole point is you are trying to reduce what you are putting on your hair to keep it and your scalp healthy not replace shampoo and conditioner.

What no-poo is, to me anyway, is a way to get rid of a whole bunch of stuff that my body really doesn’t need.I don’t need foam and bubbles or concoctions with aromas which have only a passing acquaintance (if any) with the thing that they are supposed to be. It’s not a fad, it’s a part of my life.

Before I start to sound too evangelical I had better get on with the (hopefully) more useful part of this post: the good, the bad and the ugly truths about no-poo:

The Good (an A,B,C)

A is for Alchemy:

I really enjoyed the feeling of “owning” the cleansing process for my hair, not least because of the calming effect I found I got from preparing whatever it is was going to go on to my hair.  This including cooking (apple sauce), warming (coconut oil, honey), mixing (bicarb & water, oils) and stirring (henna, bentonite) separately or in combination.

I’ve used lots of different combinations but have found that an ayurvedic herb wash (my preference is “Hesh” Shikakai Powder[A] but I have tried other herbs) once a week (with a cool shower or two between times) seems to be the best fit for me.  I also add a drop or two of an essential oil to the mix occasionally, for the aromatherapy benefits.

B is for brave (and brilliantly supportive people):

Dizzy with her hair down looking at camera through her fringe.

Messy but clean curls (with a home cut fringe to boot)

Doing something like this, for me, was actually pretty brave. Whilst I am not too worried about my appearance per se, I’m the one who paranoid that there is something hanging off of my nose or that there is food stuck in my teeth.  It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that doing something which could so obviously have dire results (aka greasy stinky hair) was a little out of character.

I couldn’t have got through the past year without having had such brilliantly supportive people around me, both online and off.  No-one has criticised my choice and friends, family and colleagues have been non-judgemental (and curious!)

C is for Curls, Cleanliness & Chemical free

My hair is quite fine but there is a lot of it.  It tends to just “hang” after it reaches a certain length unless some effort is made with curling devices. Well, it did this time last year.  Now, without commercial shampoo products stripping it of its natural oils my hair feels thicker and stronger.  It has more volume and hangs much better – to the point that my natural curls have finally returned (as you can see from the photo!)  I admit I would still like a little more volume in it and having recently heard about the joys of rye flour from Effi.   My hair is as clean as any shampoo could ever get it and all without some chemicals manufactured in a factory somewhere.

The Bad

Every single head of hair is different.  If you add the effects of hormones, allergies and where you live (pollution levels, water hardness, ambient temperature and humidity) to the equation of “happy hair” you have an infinite combination of variables which could effect a person’s no-poo experience.

Some people rave about certain methods that they use as part of their no-poo routine which others will find either don’t work or make things worse.  This is the second most frustrating thing about no-poo.

I found the following things didn’t do well for me:

  • Lemon juice (my hair was NOT happy with me); bentonite masks (eek, couldn’t wash that out easily); aloe vera juice (expensive, didn’t like the smell and didn’t do anything anyway)

I had limited success with

  • Bicarb/ACV (after the first few weeks anyway, I just couldn’t get the balance right); coconut and essential oils (I’m still getting the hang of the amount I need).

Current winners are:

The latter helps move the natural oils along the shaft of each hair and having a way of doing this is an absolute must for any no-pooer.  This does cause some conflict for those of us with curlier hair – All I can say is find the right method for you, whether it’s a brush or your fingers.

..and The Ugly

During the transition period my hair felt rotten, I didn’t want to touch it at times, never mind let anyone else.  I also found that a stressful event upset my routine enough to cause my hair to have a hissy fit and become a greasy, flakey mess.  If you find yourself in this situation, just have patience with it duckling, your inner swan will shine through.

So there you go. I couldn’t (and still can’t) face the idea of going back to shampoo and conditioner.  I just know that my hair (and skin) will not thank me for it.  Have you tried the no-poo method? What did you find worked for you?




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