Monthly Archives: February 2013

“No-Poo” deconstructed: the journey from toxic suds to happy hippie hair


I’ve been shampoo-less for over almost 2 years and only now have I finally got the hang of it. Sorry to disappoint you unwashed-hippie-wannabe’s but the journey from SDS laden shampoo to natural yet beautiful hair is not straightforward. Hopefully you’ll be able to learn from my experiments, my mistakes and YOUR journey will be shorter and far less icky.

The point of going no-poo is to allow our hair to revert back to a natural state. Honestly, our grandmothers washed their hair once a week…maybe, and they certainly didn’t use a $40 mango-honey-agave-rainforest-water salon quality shampoo to do it. And from the pictures I’ve seen their hair looked great – thick, full, naturally wavy. I’ve never understood why we pay money for products that strip out all our natural oils and they pay more money for synthetic oils to be put back in, i.e. shampoo and conditioner, face wash and moisturizer, body wash and lotion (and believe me I’ll address all of these in future posts.) The other reason, besides getting back to healthier natural state, is that shampoo’s are chocked full of chemicals that are toxic for us and for the environment. I won’t go on about them here but you’re Google savvy people, take a look online for what you’ve been bathing your scalp with.

Part of the problem out in the interwebs is that there are a lot of no-poo “methods” but not a lot of description about individual hair types, styling methods used, nor a lot of pictures to gauge the effectiveness. The goal of this post is to go through the methods I’ve tried, tell you what I’m doing now and how it’s working for me and … gasp … post a picture of my dirty unwashed hippie hair!

LET’S DO IT!

Firstly, my hair – thin, baby fine, bleached ends and dyed with a high lift colour at the roots. So in a nutshell I have 1. Damaged ends that need moisture and 2. Roots that get oily  and 3. Baby Fine hair that weighs down easily. My goal when I started no-poo was to eventually be able to wash my hair once a week or less and not look greasy or smell – as my Pinterest Category says, I like to be an “Undercover Hippie”.

Methods I’ve tried:

1. Baking Soda and Apple Cider Vinegar or Lemon Juice (BSV) – the nitty gritty of this is that the baking soda is the shampoo, applied as a diluted liquid to wet hair, or mixed with water and applied as a paste to wet hair, or brushed into dry hair and rinsed out. The vinegar or lemon juice is diluted with water and hair is rinsed with it, sometimes left in the hair and sometimes followed by a water rinse.

Results – call me the Scare Crow, Dorothy, cause that’s what I looked like. Straw-hair. Seriously, don’t get a match too close to my head. So yes, this strips out EVERYTHING.

Verdict – if you use WO (see below) and find that a few times a year you get a build up that just can’t be washed out with water, use a very very small amount of baking soda water, followed by the vinegar rinse to remove build up. But as a weekly or even monthly cleansing option, I think it’s far too harsh and defeats the purpose of leaving the healthy oils where they should be.

2. Conditioner Only (CO)- deal is you find a conditioner with no silicones (good luck) and use more than the usual amount to wash your hair.

Results – oily mess. Once I found a silicone free conditioner, not easy, I found it left my hair too greasy. Also, we are still using a lot of chemicals in this method.

Verdict – people with long, thick and curly hair seem to love CO, but for me, I may as well douse my head in baby oil and masquerade as a seal. No thank you.

3. Water Only (WO) – now don’t think you can just stand under the shower nozzle like a zombie than go about your day my friend, no no. You need to work it! Scrub that scalp with your finger tips, massage every last bit of your head firmly then do it again, and again. Don’t even think of doing this in the bath, you need the constant stream of water flowing through your hair. Scrub, scrub, scrub, then scrub some more. Some people change the water temp from warm to cool during this process – I didn’t find it made a difference, but who knows?

Results – pretty good. Hair still had natural oils in it, but not excessive. Holds a style like there is product in it. Note that blowdrying my hair after a WO wash is a bit of a crap shoot as it may still have too much oil in it. Best to let it dry naturally or use a cool setting on the hair dryer.

Verdict – good for maintenance between more aggressive cleansing methods at the very least. I did this for months at a time doing WO about 2 times a week and it worked quite well, but I still had more than a few “hat days”. I did need to do a BSV wash about twice a year to remove build up, but it worked well enough.

4. Egg Yolk and Coconut Cream – I found this little gem in one of the paleo forums I visit.  Mix the two together in a blender or by hand. I make a large batch, freeze it into ice cubes then store in baggies and use as needed. I also use conventional eggs on my hair, and not the grass fed organic ones I eat (that’s right, paleo elitist right over here). Oh and lukewarm water is mandatory, not hot, or you’ll have egg on your face! Actually scrambled egg on your hair, but you know what I mean.

Results – This by far gave me the best result and the closest feeling to freshly shampooed hair. My hair was feather light and fluffy, smooth and conditioned, not weighed down by excess oils. It also blow dried and styled like a dream. Key is to experiment until you find the right ratio of yolk to coconut cream (not coconut milk, but coconut cream, look in the asian section of your supermarket.) You may find that the coconut cream is too heavy and you just want to use the yolk by itself which is perfectly fine.

Verdict- booyah!!! We have a winner!!!

Changes I noticed while going no-poo:

Without shampoo I no longer need styling products as my hair will hold it’s style without. It also feels thicker and healthier, and my colour lasts longer. It’s quicker to dry and I don’t notice a smell –  I’ve asked a few good friends to sniff my head after 5 days without any water touching it and they confirm that there is nothing stinky going on up there. My shower is much less cluttered: I have one bottle of soap (for guests only because since I’ve gone paleo I actually don’t stink anymore), one razor (I’m not the bushy kind of a hippie) and one bottle of conditioner that is slowly being used  and will never be replaced. All in all it’s a clutter and chemical free zone now.

The proof - I may have roots but at least they're not greasy! Taken 3 days after the egg yolk wash

The proof – I may have roots but at least they’re not greasy! Taken 3 days after the egg yolk wash

My Routine WO, Egg, Coconut, Lemon Juice COMBO!

Once a week or once every two weeks I will full on “wash” my hair. I start with an egg yolk plus 1 tsp coconut cream massaged into my roots and scalp very well, then distributed down the length of my hair. I will then use either some left over conditioner or teaspoon or two of coconut cream on the dry ends of my hair.  I’ll wait a minute then rinse with lukewarm water, then do second rinse with the juice of half a lemon mixed with a few cups of water. Immediately after the lemon juice I’ll do a final quick rinse with water. Blow dry, style, and if needed I’ll rub a couple of drops of jojoba oil in my hands and apply to any really damaged ends.

In between my egg washes I will WO wash once a week or as needed.

Every night I brush my hair with a boar bristle brush which helps to distribute the oils from the scalp down the shaft of the hair.

Occasionally I rub a drop of lavender essential oil in my palms and brush them through my hair. Warning – you may get a lot of male attention if you do this – the boys love lavender 🙂

My Suggestions for a Transition Plan

1.Invest in a boar bristle brush and use every night. Clean with mild soap every week.

2. Stretch out your regular shampooing days to at least 3 days in between washes. If you need to, sprinkle a little cornstarch or arrowroot powder on your hairline and part to disguise any oiliness going on there. Wear your hair up and/or wear hats if you have to.

3. Once you’ve successfully transitioned to step 2, on your wash days try any of the methods above until you find the one you like, with the exception of WO.

4. Once you’ve got step 3 under your belt, start replacing the odd wash day with a WO wash.

And there you are, my suggestions for going NO-POO without going crazy or possibly alienating your co-workers or significant others. This is the first blog post for the Undercover Hippie, huzzah!

Addendum March 14, 2013: I have found that using egg yolk only on the roots, and coconut cream only on the ends lets me extend my time between washing to about 2 weeks with 1 or 2 WO washes in between.

Also, for the thick dark haired individuals Shabbytat has some great advice on Henna masks, and also goes into more detail on boar bristle brushes. Take a look! http://shabbytat.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/so-you-want-to-quit-shampoo-eh/