Seven Weeks of No Poo

>> Thursday, May 27, 2010

Last night as my husband and I were getting into bed, I made him listen to me gripe about no poo for 15 minutes, and when I finished, I said, "That was the post I was going to write tonight but I didn't get around to it. So now you can write it for me!" He refused. :(

So now let's see if I can remember everything I told him...

I'm going on seven weeks of no poo. Here are a few of my Twitter and Facebook updates to give you an idea of how it's been going:

  • Day 5 of no poo - my hair looks good but feels nasty. Even hubby noticed.
  • Day 22 of no poo. I bought a boar bristle brush that has made all the difference. Starting to like my hair again. However, the new brush cost $10 - so far no poo has not saved me money.
  • Colored my hair this morning, and strangely, it has done wonders for my no poo hair. Feels so soft and "normal"!
  • Over a month #nopoo, I can go two days between washes but on third day I seem to have dandruff??!!
It hasn't been all bad. Here's what I LIKE about no poo:
  • Saving money - about $60 if I don't buy shampoo or conditioner for a year.
  • I don't have to pay attention to whether or not I'm about to run out of shampoo and conditioner or make a special trip out to the Lush store at Crabtree Valley Mall.
  • I don't have to squint at the back of shampoo bottles or try to translate scientific jargon.
  • I can pretty successfully skip a day between washing my hair now.
This picture was taken on the day I colored my hair.

This is today. On the days I don't wash my hair, I get rid of bedhead by curling it. The grease holds the curl better than any hairspray. :)

A front shot of today. For some reason when I take pictures of myself I get a weird expression on my face.

Here's what I DISLIKE about no poo:
  • Even after almost two months, my hair still gets nasty greasy if I try to go more than two days between washings.
  • Before the grease phase, my hair has a "thick" feeling to it, as if I put hair styling products in it even though I don't. The boar bristle brush helped a lot with that, but the only time my hair really felt good was the three or four days after I colored it. (I'm guessing the harsh chemicals stripped everything out of my hair. Other people who color their hair might know what I'm talking about when i say that my hair always feels softest right after I've colored it, as oxymoronic as that may sound.)
  • When I brush my hair with the boar bristle brush, it gets coated in a greyish white powder. For the past couple weeks, I've been seeing that in my hair. At first I thought it was dandruff (see Twitter post above), but my husband who actually has dandruff says it's not. So now we're thinking it's baking soda residue???
The white residue is most noticeable on the black bristles.

I feel like I've gone so far now, I might as well keep it up for awhile. But unlike a few others of you that I've already heard back from, I am not having the magical results people often describe after going no poo. Here are a few of the thoughts that have been running through my head:

Has my hair returned to it's "normal" state and I just don't like normal?

Does hair really return to "normal" on no poo, or do people just get used to the change?

If this is really more natural than using shampoo, why is it taking so long for my body to adjust? It seems like if it's natural, my body would catch on pretty fast! It would be like, "Finally you've stopped dousing me in unnecessary chemicals and now I can do my job like I'm meant to."

My husband's about out of shampoo. Since my no poo experience hasn't been completely positive, I'll never convince him to go no poo. Guess I have to make a trip to Crabtree Valley Mall...:(

No poo readers: I need your advice. What am I doing wrong?

Final note: There's no use even bothering to lecture me about how I shouldn't color my hair. I know, I know, I know. It's on my list of eco-changes to make eventually, but like cheap chocolate, it's one that's not going to die easily. I've had red hair so long, some people don't even know I'm not a natural redhead! And yes, I do plan to try henna eventually.


You have hereby been challenged to go green in a year without going broke! Check out the last challenge, or view the whole list of Challengicious Mondays. Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook!


mudnessa May 27, 2010 at 4:20 PM  

I had the residue issue when I went no poo. It got so bad I had what all I can use to describe it is lint in my hair. I think it might be soap scum so not technically bs residue. I had to stop no poo after a year and a half because the soap scum got REALLY bad. Our water is really hard and that made the soap scum and other no poo issues ten times worse. I went to a pretty simple shampoo and my hair is pretty much the same as with no poo. All specifics are on my blog. I only wash my hair two times a week at most and was like that before no poo. It was actually less then because the sls's in shampoo made my hair unmanageable. Hopefully you can find something that works for you. Good luck.

A Green Spell May 27, 2010 at 4:50 PM  

Going natural with the hair is never easy, so don't give up! You'll find something that works. It took me three months to get my hair to rebalance.

I have been using baking soda or my own shampoo recipe for two years now, and I love it. I do have problems from time to time, and if you are judging hair through society's eyes, then yes, it was prettier when I used to use real shampoo, ha ha! But it is HEALTHIER now and I like it more now so that's what counts for me. Even my hairdresser only trims my hair to keep the layered shape - she never cuts the bottom layers because she says my hair is so healthy it doesn't need a trim.

I have had trouble with that "linty" brush thing, too - I still don't know quite what it is, but it has gotten worse since we moved last year to a house with hard water. We use a filter in the shower which helps, though, and I just try to clean my brush often. I'm not too worried about it.

I know what you mean about that feeling in your hair, like you have gel on it or something. I have felt that ever since I stopped using real shampoo, and I hated it at first, but now it doesn't bother me in the least. I have heard that this is simply the way "real" hair feels, which makes sense when you consider how much we strip off our hair when we shampoo (while those conditioners repair the damage by binding chemicals to our hair - ick!). I think you are right about the hair coloring - I'm sure that "good" feeling was from the stripping.

I think we have to learn to redefine what it means to feel clean, and what it means to have clean hair. Many of us have gone decades using traditional shampoos so it's no wonder that we are all finding it difficult to go natural with our hair.

Are you using a vinegar rinse? I have found this invaluable. I went without using it for probably 6 months, and developed flaking skin at the base of my scalp that was super itchy. I think the baking soda was irritating it. I started using a vinegar rinse again, and wow! It helped so much! No more itchy, flaky scalp. (Though I only use this rinse once or twice a week. And BTW, I only wash every other day.)

Check out my blog if you want my recipe for shampoo (you might find alternating between b.s. and homemade shampoo is a lot easier on your hair). Go to the Hair Care category and you'll find all my posts on natural hair there, describing the journey I have gone through.

Like I said, it isn't easy, but you can do it! Hang in there!

Condo Blues May 27, 2010 at 9:03 PM  

You lasted much longer than me. My no poo experiment lasted all of three days. I switched to a handmade shampoo bar. I've been using it for about two weeks and I really like the results. It's the first time in my life that I don't need conditioner!

Jessica Nichols May 28, 2010 at 12:48 AM  

Erin, I think you're a trooper. No lectures from me! Hopefully these wonderful commenters are helping you figure it all out. I'm just here in awe!

Eco Yogini May 28, 2010 at 7:44 AM  

yep i totally think you should be applauded for your tenacity! wow, i last 6 days of "natural" shampoo (tried different bars over a six month period, about 6 days each time). hated every second of it.

What I think is interesting- is what you asked and Yancy seemed to agree- that the thick, weird feeling really is what "natural" hair is supposed to feel like. and people probably just get used to it.

which is fine. :)

I also am not going to judge you should you decide to stop, as I use gross chemical shampoo, cuz i can't even find a natural alternative that i like. (eek!).

good luck!

abbie May 29, 2010 at 8:49 AM  

Wow, I hadn't thought of NO shampoo. I have been doing a more natural hair regimen for my long hair for a few months and it has its ups and downs I feel.
Before I started, I had parched hair. I mean parched, brittle, dull, stiff hair. After not shampooing for a bit, my hair got better, more shiny, less frizzy, (if you can imagine asian hair to get frizzy), softer, and thicker. I was doing a "rinse" with just water every other day, with a scalp massage, and finished with a natural conditioner. I used a diluted natural shampoo recipe about every 7 days. On the day before I shampooed I felt greasy. On the day after I shampooed I felt parched and dry again.
So then I somehow found the time to do a 30 minute natural hot oil treatment which definitely helps. (I shampoo it out, and use my conditioner afterward.)
I haven't found a good balance either, but now the weather is starting to get humid and that is throwing another wrench in the mix. I am just settling on making my own shampoos and conditioners and trying to keep the chemicals away from my head. I adapt recipes from Stephanie Tourles' book Organic Body Care Recipes. She has a section on hair care, and recommends little-to-no-shampooing.
I hope you are able to find a solution! Good luck!

Erin aka Conscious Shopper May 29, 2010 at 1:44 PM  

@mudnessa - Now that you mention it, it does look like soap scum, but if I'm not using soap on my hair, how could I get soap scum?

@A green spell - I wouldn't mind the residue if it were just on my brush, but I can see it in my hair...I love how you say that we need to redefine what it means to be clean. It's given me a lot of thought!

Lauren,  May 29, 2010 at 2:01 PM  

I have been going no poo since February. It was hard, I have always had oily skin and hair so the first few weeks were a total killer! I actually stopped using soap on my body also and it has reduced my break outs and bumps on my legs and arms. It has been great! My hair just now is really starting to become "normal" I suppose. I am getting to where I can get away with going 3 days without washing it. One thing I found that helps during certain times of the month when I get oilier is brushing my hair good then putting some baby powder on the spot that gets the oiliest and rub it in a bit then brush it through. This helps pick up the excess oil and by the morning any powdery residue is gone and it just looks normal! I just bought some dry shampoo a few days ago just to try and see what that would be like, but I think I like the baby powder better. I felt like the dry shampoo left a residue. When first starting this I used a boar bristle brush but eventually I stopped using it as much. I felt like it was distributing the grease too much and therefore making my hair more noticeably greasy and heavy. Now I just use a comb or my round brush with the metal bristles. The heavy feeling comes from the boar bristles distributing the sebum across the hair shaft, which is good, cause that helps make it healthier, but I just felt like my brush was doing it too much. The white flaky waxy fuzzy residue comes from a mixture of sebum, dirt and dead skin cells. I got the white fuzz for awhile and the past few weeks it has finally started to dissipate. One thing I found that helps is when I "wash" is to really work my scalp good to try and remove dead skin etc. I usually try and brush my hair with a comb good before getting in the shower to really loosen stuff up and kind of use the comb to scratch my scalp good. When washing my hair I alternate between cone free (and all that stuff) conditioner and baking soda, then vinegar rinses. I actually was using just baking soda for awhile but it was making my hair too dry and stripping it too much. Now when I use it I try to use the least amount of baking soda I can while still getting the excess grease out. For me that is about 2 teaspoons with 12oz or so of water and I just poor it on my head almost like a rinse and focus on the scalp. I then rub my fingers all over my head good to get the grime out and dead skin etc. I keep this on my head till I am done doing all my other shower stuff then I rinse it. I don't always do a vinegar rinse because honestly I feel like it makes my hair more greasy if I do? Idk maybe it is just me lol. But I do try to do one once a week or so to remove build up etc. Well that is what I do and is what works for me if that helps! My hair is just past my shoulders and thick and straight and was always very greasy (plus with my hair being almost black it always showed the least bit of grease!) and I had to use so much conditioner just so I could get a brush through it! Since going no poo it grows even faster (I have been trying to grow it out so I have long super model hair lol, I used to always keep it short and Lisa Rinna spiky look lol), looks healthier, is getting a bit of a wave, and holds curl awesomely! I never use any other hair products unless I am going somewhere fancy and want to make sure my style for sure stays lol, and it does great! It is tempting to go by to shampoo, cause honestly it is easier, but I am going on 4 months and may hair is just now really starting to get good. So everyone is different so just stick it out it will get better! And as far as the your hair feeling better after being dyed, yes that is cause it stripped everything lol! Well good luck and keep us updated! Sorry the post was so long.

mudnessa May 29, 2010 at 2:18 PM  

RE soap scum.

I think it is more of a "cleaner" scum and we just call it a soap scum. There is some sort of reaction with the hard water and the bs for me that's for sure. When I went on vacation to an area with the soft water I had NO issue at all and everything was actually washed away with my first shower. It was amazing. I came home and first shower my hair got all drab and "linty".

My husband was actually getting the lint/residue in his hair as well and he was using a shampoo that was called natural but really wasn't, still had sls's and all that stuff. His got so bad though he is now using head and shoulders.

Our problems all revolve around our water here. Not much we can do to get around that, a filter on the shower head does help a bit but not enough to be able to use bs/vinegar no poo.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper May 30, 2010 at 8:40 PM  

@Lauren - Thanks for all the info. It's very helpful!

KaKi May 31, 2010 at 8:55 AM  

I am in total awe! I cannot even think about doing this! You are amazing. That is all I have for you, no advice, just affirmation!! :-)

generic viagra March 18, 2011 at 12:18 PM  

A lot of great tips, one of the best ones is from Lauren, you really know what you are talking about.

TruthSeeker March 7, 2012 at 12:55 PM  

My family and I have gone no poo now for 1 month and I can honestly say that it has NOT been that difficult for us.
We started of by cutting back how often we shampooed (we used all natural shampoos and conditioners) until we got down to once per week. This took about 2 months. Then we started the no poo. I boil my tap water for a few minutes, then we measure 1 cup water with 1 Tbsp BS, and 1 cup water with 1 Tbsp ACV for the rinse, we keep both in spray bottles in the shower. My husband and kids are still washing only once per week and I am at once every 4 days!
After the first week I noticed some flakes in my hair and so I started ading 1 drop of Tea Tree essential oil to each sprayer, and that got rid of the flakes first wash.
I comb my hair with a fine tooth comb (you have to "rake" your scalp) for several minutes before my shower, in the shower I use the BS just on my scalp, I spray it all over the scalp and massage really REALLY well, then comb it through with the fine toother comb before rinsing very well. The spray rinse I just put in the ends of my hair, I spray it in and imediately rinse it out.
My hair is wonderful, I love it! It styles very nice, it feels great, and I've have many compliments on it!

LoraTX August 11, 2012 at 3:55 PM  

I have experienced the same white powdery buildup you mentioned. It seems to be the same whether I use baking soda, borax, or truely no-poo (water only). So, I have been wondering the same thing. What causes this and what do I do about it? The grease/oil problem settled down after the first month, but the buildup makes my hair feel and look dirty. I think I'll try some bottled distilled water. Maybe that will keep the buildup down?

Hatmama80 November 27, 2012 at 9:26 AM  

The "residue" feeling is the biggest problem I'm having with going shampoo free. And it's mostly around the crown area. I have been thinking maybe I'm using too much bs, maybe too much ACV, maybe not enough bs, I don't know. I've been at it for 3 weeks now and while parts if my hair feels better I am about to throw in the towel because of the white residue, mostly because I can feel it on my hair and it feels dirty to me. I only wash every 3rd day and I use 1/2 tbsp (or less) of bs to 8 oz of water and maybe 1/4 tbsp of ACV to about 4 iz of water. I try to focus the ACV rinse on the ends and away from the crown in hopes that it will help cut down on the dirty feeling. Some of the comments I've read here have given me food for thought but I still feel like I must be doing something wrong since I'm not getting the amazing results everyone else raves about.

Anonymous,  April 9, 2014 at 8:31 PM  

I'd also like to vouch for the probability of the hard water causing this build up! I have been using borax for over a year with great results. My hair has always been very shiny, but within the past few months, I've noticed that if I use my hands to rake through my hair, it feels gunky and touching a black shirt immediately after lets me know there is something ALWAYS stuck to my locks. I have also been eating very healthily for a long time, but have recently been increasing the amount and severity of exercise per week so it could be caused or made worse by the amount of sweat I'm producing. I do not have a filter in my shower and have noticed the water here being different in feel to the water I had in my previous home. I'm wondering if it's the worst thing. It makes my hair a little more voluminous, even if it is a bit duller. Meh.

Unknown April 21, 2016 at 1:41 PM  

Have had this junk for 8 yrs drs tells me it's in my head....ya think after looking at it through my microscope would love to post a picture can't id, have had pesticide license and colleagues can't id as's moved from my head to my body.....vinger and tea oil isn't working anymore..also comb hair with not comb daily its terrible

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