Washing Hair Without Commercial Shampoo. What's 'No Poo' Method All About?

Washing Hair Without Commercial Shampoo. What's 'No Poo' Method All About?

Fresh-looking hair without a shampoo. Is it even possible? It appears that resigning from a commercial shampoo is easy since there are numerous alternative hair washing methods available. Learn the benefits of cleansing hair due to No Poo method.

Before it happens again that you reach for a hair shampoo unthinkingly or before you start panicking when you notice that you've just run of it, read this article.

Does Shampoo Damage Hair?

More and more often people discuss and question the subject of shampoo use and its harmfulness. After all, in in most cases this hair care product contains aggressively cleansing agents such as SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) and SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate), which are cheap synthetic detergents. They are the substances responsible for effective cleansing. Also, they make a commercial shampoo lather in a pleasant way.

Sadly, this is where the advantages end and where the disadvantages begin because the anionic detergents that synthetic shampoos contain:

- strip scalp from hydro-lipid barrier and dehydrate it
- cause irritations, redness and itchiness
- disturb sebaceous and oily glands
- might disturb acid-base balance of scalp
- lead to development of various skin ailments e.g. dandruff
- can indirectly lead to hair thinning and weakening

No Shampoo, Which Is 'No Poo' Method

Not all hair shampoos are that bad because, after all, you can come across hair cleansing products with good composition featuring gentle washing agents. Still, you can never be too careful, hence No Poo movement. What is it about?

No Poo, which is a catch-phrase deriving from no-shampoo is, as the name speaks for itself, washing hair without using a synthetic shampoo. The main purpose of this method is to limit or considerably reduce the number of harmful detergents in daily hair care. Surprisingly, it isn't that simple - the tricky part about this method is to find reasonable alternatives owing to which no shampoo hair washing will be possible and effective.

Many people believe that there is nothing that might replace a regular shampoo. Still, washing hair by adopting No Poo method is gaining in popularity as the number of people following it is growing. What do they use instead of a shampoo?


Shampoo Alternatives. What to Wash Hair With?

Do you know what you can use instead of a commercial shampoo to make your hair clean? This only seemingly limited No Poo method opens many ways of hair care since there are numerous alternatives to regular hair washing. Here are the most popular ones.


Everyone who is acquainted with various methods of hair washing knows that hair can be washed with a conditioner only. This method (also called co-wash) is recommended to those whose hair is dehydrated, damaged or curly - a conditioner contains only gentle detergents which main aim it to leave strands conditioned. At the same time, this product cleans hair without leaving it dry or tangled. Nevertheless, this way of no shampoo hair washing might intensify the problem of greasy scalp. Also, it shouldn't be carried out more often than 2-4 times a week.


Quite an intriguing method is washing hair with oils, which in fact isn't that widespread. Still, it's worth giving this method a go because fatty oils are incredibly good at collecting other fatty impurities and - thanks to this property - cleansing scalp and hair. There is a question rising though, namely, how to remove oil from head? Theoretically, if we use a small amount of a well-absorbing oil (e.g. jojoba, inca inchi or almond), then we don't have to rinse it out since it doesn't leave hair overburdened. However, sometimes you might need to emulsify it with a conditioner.


The most eyebrow-raising No Poo method is using nothing more but just water (a method called 'water only'). Is hair washing without using any cosmetics or natural substances effective? Indeed, back then people used to wash hair in river water and nobody complained about having dandruff, greasy hair or noticing the first signs of baldness. However, today's water is harder and chlorinated, and hair is coated with other types of impurities - toxins, exhaust fumes and excess of seborrhea are hard to remove using only water. Still, you can't be blamed for trying. Surely, washing hair by using only water won't do you any harm, and may enable you to freshen it up, for example, between proper hair washing.


While discussing the subject of No Poo hair washing, we can't forget to mention soap. After all, natural bar soaps might be used not only to clean body but also hair. Which types of bar soaps should a supporter of No Poo method reach for?

  • Potassium hydroxide bar soap - this is a combination of potassium salts, glycerin, citric acid and other, yet it's deprived of synthetic colorants, fragrances and preservatives. It's antiseptic, accelerates regeneration and is easily soluble in water. Of course, is really good at cleansing hair.
  • Oil-based bar soap - this is soap based on olive oil (such as Castile soap or Marseille soap) or a blend of oils (such as black African soap made from coconut and palm oil combined with shea butter and cocoa tree seeds). It displays antibacterial and lubricating properties therefore oil-based bar soap is recommended to wash dandruff-prone hair.
  • Herbal soap - this is vegetable soap made from selected herbs such as calamus, horsetail, burdock, chamomile, nettle or witch water. This type of soap serves well as a cleansing agent for oily hair and irritated scalp.
  • Sulfur soap - it’s enriched with 3-5% sulfur owning to which it displays strong antibacterial and anti-seborrhea properties. It can be used to wash oily hair. Also, it’s recognized as a natural and healthier alternative to a dandruff shampoo.


A quite controversial method of no shampoo hair washing is cleansing the strands with baking soda. Naturally, this method has as many supporters as opponents. However, it's worth realizing that this homemade shampoo isn't hard to prepare - all you need to do is combine baking soda with water. Now, you can apply the mixture to hair and keep massaging it into scalp for 2-3 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water. Baking soda is perfect for cleansing, disinfecting and refreshing. Also, it's antibacterial.


Baking soda's pH is base, which might not appear to be beneficial for naturally acidic scalp - hair's pH will be disturbed. For that reason, each hair washing with baking soda should be followed by acidic hair rinse.


While discussing the subject of natural hair washing, there must be a special place provided for various types of brews that might be effectively used as synthetic shampoo alternatives. The thing though is to find plants containing saponins, which is a natural washing compound being released under the influence of warmth. Among others they are wormwood, nettle, calendula, aloe, licorice, fenugreek, comfrey, ivy, St. John's wort, yerba mate (holly genus), ginseng, flax, black cumin and many others.

Of course, you can experiment a little bit or give a try to one of two most popular ideas of washing hair with eco-friendly brews.

  • Soapnut (soapberries) - preparing a soapnut brew is easy and doesn't take much time. Put 7-8 nuts into 0,5 liter water and keep boiling for 5 minutes. Once cooled down, pour the brew into a bottle and shake it to generate lather. Now you can proceed with washing your hair and scalp with the soapnut brew. It's worth realizing that this soapnut brew should sit on hair for at least a few minutes.
  • Soapweed brew - similar properties are shared by the root of soapweed. To prepare it you need 2 spoons of soapweed that has to be covered with 2 glasses of water. Keep boiling for 5 minutes and let it cool down. This type of brew can be used as a regular shampoo to wash hair and scalp with.


Despite the most popular No Poo methods, there are a few dozens of ideas on how to replace a synthetic shampoo. Below you can find the list of the methods that appear the most often on internet forums and in hair care guides.

  • Washing hair with flour - regular flour is a source of saponins, which are gentle washing agents deriving straight from nature. The flour can be used to create a homemade dry shampoo, and when combined with water (3-4 spoons of flour for 125 ml of warm water) you obtain a washing hair paste. What flour is the best to wash hair with? Generally, it's worth reaching for rye flour, gram flour, corn flour, buckwheat flour and oat flour.
  • Washing hair with clay - clays are natural substances known for their cleansing properties. Not only can you use them to prepare a face mask but also hair cleansing mask that will effortlessly absorb impurities from the strands. You can use all types of clays that have to be combined with water and kept being massaged into scalp for several minutes. Hair will be clean after rinsing the clay out.
  • Washing hair with egg yolk - although an egg shampoo is found popular, only few people know that such product can be prepared at home. Only one egg, half lemon juice and a few spoons of your favorite oil/conditioner is everything what's needed. The homemade egg shampoo is ready after combining all the ingredients. Washing hair with egg yolk is not only effective but also it additionally share mutual properties with regenerating mask. However, overusing this method might produce unwanted effects because egg yolk is rich in proteins that might turn out harmful to hair if used in excess.
  • Washing hair with lye - as a shampoo alternative you can also turn to a mixture of ashes and water, which is lye, that is recognized as an eco-friendly cleansing agent. Indeed, washing hair with ashes might sound like a bizarre idea but it's really effective. How to prepare lye? The quick version requires mixing wood ash with water to obtain a cream-like consistency; when massaged into scalp, it works like a shampoo. If you have more time, you can fill 2/3 of a container with ash, add water, combine and put aside. After 3 days you will notice a soapy liquid gathered on the top, which is the regular lay you wanted to obtain.
  • Washing hair with Shikakai - Shikakai is a hair washing powder obtained from Hindu nuts (Acacia concinna) that is, of course, rich in saponins. You can buy it online, yet it's worth paying attention to the product's quality and origins. Washing hair with Shikakai requires mixing the powder with either water or aloe gel. Once the consistency is right, you can apply the mixture to head, massage it and rinse. This kind of shampoo doesn't only cleanse but also deals with dandruff as well as leaves hair soft and bouncy.
  • Washing hair with feminine wash - a regular feminine wash is scalp-friendly and gentle because it doesn't contain detergents. It can be used as an alternative to commercial shampoos, especially because it lathers really well.


No Shampoo Hair Washing - Problems

Converting to natural methods of hair washing is challenging. Although it's not easy to resign from this pleasantly smelling shampoo that gives you the impression of hypercleansiness, it's definitely worth trying to do it. What problems might occur when you decide to wash your hair with No Poo method?

  1. The impression of having dirty hair - detergents that a synthetic shampoo features work like an abrasive sheet that removes everything from hair: the residues of cosmetics, dirt, toxins and even the natural lipid layer. None of the ecological hair washing methods produce so drastic outcomes, therefore after choosing an alternative way of hair washing we might have the impression that our hair isn't clean and even heavier than normally.
  2. Less manageable and not-so-good-looking hair - the majority of commercial shampoos features additional conditioning substances gifting hair with softness (e.g. silicones). Obviously, natural alternatives lack such substances, therefore the moment you resign from using a regular shampoo, your hair might become rough, matte, hard to detangle and unruly. Still, this is only a transition phase that ends once hydro-lipid balance is normalized.
  3. Irritations and dandruff - after replacing a synthetic shampoo with something more ecological, skin might become irritated and affected by dandruff. This is the consequence of scalp's tendency to produce huge quantities of sebum that was normally removed by a shampoo, and now it remains on head. This is also a transitional phase: dandruff, irritations and greasy hair will come into oblivion shortly after sebaceous glands retrieve their balance and hydro-lipid barrier rebuilds itself.
  4. More demanding way of hair washing - washing hair with a regular shampoo takes just a few moments because it lathers well, it's easy to distribute over hair and is fast to remove. Sadly, this doesn't apply to natural No Poo methods because the process takes longer. For example, you must prepare a homemade shampoo (e.g. baking powder mixture or soapweed brew) which doesn't lather well and is more difficult to distribute evenly on hair. With the view of this, No Poo hair washing might take more time than normally.

Good advice!

Don't get discouraged! Indeed, the period between resigning from using a synthetic shampoo and restoring the balance to scalp happens to be discouraging but it's definitely worth going through. Washing hair without the use of shampoo is cheaper, more natural and delivers long-term benefits to hair. Give it a go!

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