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Could you give up your shampoo and conditioner?

Updated on August 10, 2015
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An environmental enthusiast and activist her entire adult life, Kathryn shares her secrets to reducing waste and living greener.

I know it's wild and messy and totally not stylish, but this is my favorite all-time hair cut
I know it's wild and messy and totally not stylish, but this is my favorite all-time hair cut | Source

How the no-poo hair care method turned out to be best for my hair

When I first heard of the no shampoo, or no poo hair care method, I was certain I would not like it. Baking soda and vinegar on my hair? No way! Turns out, it is the best treatment I've found for my thick, wavy hair.

There is no way I would have considered giving up my sweet-smelling, lusciously lathering shampoo and taming conditioner if I hadn't been so committed to reducing one-use plastic bottles in my household.

Do you have a product graveyard?

Back then, I brought a new bottle of shampoo into my bathroom at least once a month, conditioner almost as often. Most of them made my hair gloppy. They ended up on shelves in my bathroom cupboard. I called it the Product Graveyard. Do you have one too?

But when we decided to reduce our plastic consumption, I had to find another way. I researched the no-poo method off and on for more than six months before I finally decided to give it a try. Another blogger convinced me. Babyslime (yes that's her blogger name) had done a lot of research and answered just about every question I could think to ask.

My first day replacing shampoo with baking soda and apple cider vinegar solutions

In the photograph above, my hair in November 2009, on the first day I used the no-poo method. I'm a wash-and-go woman. I don't spend a lot of time on my hair. It has to look good drying naturally, with a finger-comb and no blow dryer. I loved this cut and the somewhat wild, soft look of my hair then.

On this page, I show you exactly how to do the no-poo method, and more photographs of my hair over time and with different cuts.

Some of these photos also appear on my blog

All photographs on this page, with the exception of those generated by HubPages and its advertisers, are my own unless otherwise noted. Several of the photographs of my hair also appear on my long-ago blog Building Ordinary, where for a time, I chronicled the transition.

Day 15 of my no-poo odyssey - And after several days with the flu

Day 15 - No poo
Day 15 - No poo | Source

This was taken on a Monday. I hadn't washed my hair since the previous Wednesday or Thursday and had been sick with the flu. Still, my hair was shiny and clean enough to go to the store for provisions.

My hair would have looked nothing like this using my old shampoo and conditioner. In fact, I couldn't go out the door then without washing my hair every single morning.

Day 28 of the baking soda/vinegar method
Day 28 of the baking soda/vinegar method | Source

Saving money, saving time and saving the environment

Three inexpensive ingredients are all you need to have beautiful hair with the no-poo method.

Not only will you help the environment, if you are like me, you will save hundreds of dollars a year in hair care products.

People often exclaim at the rich texture and beauty of my hair. They're surprised to discover I use nothing but baking soda, vinegar and, once a month or so, a little coconut oil to keep it lovely.

Here you see my hair in 2009, four weeks into the baking soda/vinegar experiment. I loved it!

What is more important to you in your daily hygiene routine?

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Just take a look at the three big ways I'm saving

It's difficult to decide which of these should be on top and which last. For me, they are equally important.

  • I save money. Who doesn't need more coin in her--or his--pocket?
  • By replacing one-use plastic bottles and frothy, heavy oils and unpronounceable chemicals with clean baking soda and vinegar, I help preserve and maintain healthy eco-systems for the fishes, birds and other wildlife who make their living in our waterways and oceans, as well as humankind.
  • Equally important to both of the above, I save valuable time. At my age, time matters more than anyone under sixty might imagine.

Interested? Here are the easy steps.

Benefits of apple cider vinegar to health and skin

Apple cider vinegar's (ACV) acidic properties are good for our hair and skin.

For shiny, tamed hair, Kirsten Hudson, in her Huffington Post article, How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar for Beautiful Hair and Skin, recommends an even stronger ratio of ACV to water, so don't be timid about experimenting to find the right solution for your hair.

Materials and tools you will need


  • Baking soda
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Cold-pressed, unfiltered, unprocessed coconut oil (optional)


  • A wide-mouthed container to hold the baking soda
  • A bottle to hold the vinegar
  • A small jar to hold the coconut oil (optional)
  • A 1-tablespoon measuring spoon
  • Two squeeze bottles for mixing and using the solution

The "raw" ingredients--Plain old baking soda and apple cider vinegar
The "raw" ingredients--Plain old baking soda and apple cider vinegar | Source

Six easy steps


1. For ease of use, fill a jar with baking soda and a small bottle with apple cider vinegar, both of which you can keep handy in the bathroom.

One level tablespoon of baking soda dissolved in one cup warm water is all it takes to clean my thick, long hair
One level tablespoon of baking soda dissolved in one cup warm water is all it takes to clean my thick, long hair | Source

2. On hair-washing day, using a dry funnel, measure one tablespoon baking soda into a dry squeeze bottle and add one cup warm water. Cap and shake to dissolve.

Crunched for time in the morning? If you might not have two minutes on hair washing day, mix it up ahead and let the filled bottles stand under the hot shower while you scrub down, so the solution warms a bit before you apply it, unless of course, you like the shock of cold liquid on your scalp in the morning!

A funnel makes measuring and pouring the vinegar quick and totally mess free
A funnel makes measuring and pouring the vinegar quick and totally mess free | Source

3. Add one cup warm water to the second squeeze bottle, then add one to two tablespoons apple cider vinegar. Cap and shake to mix.

Start with one tablespoon vinegar and see how your hair behaves for a few weeks. It may take several weeks for your hair follicles to even out their oil production.

Everyone's hair follicles react differently to the sudden cessation of numerous chemicals on their scalp. Some get dry, crunchy hair. Others find their oil glands go into overdrive.

Once your oil production evens out, if your hair is on the crispy side, try adding a second tablespoon of vinegar but do not increase the water quantity.

My thick, wavy hair works best with two tablespoons. Many others report using only one with good results.

Dilute baking soda solution on the left, vinegar solution on the right
Dilute baking soda solution on the left, vinegar solution on the right | Source

4. Take the solutions into the shower and wash your hair as you would with commercial shampoo and conditioner.

Wet your hair thoroughly. Squeeze the baking soda solution onto your scalp, covering all of your scalp. Focus on the scalp, not on your hair.

Massage your scalp normally, as you do with shampoo. In place of the rich lather you are used to, immerse yourself in the refreshing tingle as you cleanse your scalp of all those artificial oils and chemicals.

Rinse as you would shampoo, then squeeze the vinegar solution, focusing this time on the length and ends of your hair. The vinegar helps the tooth of your hair shaft to lie down and makes your hair feel wonderfully silky.

Don't worry about the smell. It dissipates quickly. Even my highly sensitive, vinegar-despising daughter has never caught a whiff of the stuff.

For my squeeze bottles, I re-purposed two plastic containers from a product I no longer use.

To keep the baking soda and vinegar straight, I removed the label from one of the bottles and left it on the other. Not very pretty, but serviceable in the shower, where I cannot wear my reading glasses.

It takes less than a quarter teaspoon coconut oil for my thick, long hair. Someone with less hair might need no more than a drop.
It takes less than a quarter teaspoon coconut oil for my thick, long hair. Someone with less hair might need no more than a drop. | Source

5. Optional, depending on your hair's needs: Once or twice a month, about thirty minutes before your shower, warm a very small amount of unfiltered, cold-pressed coconut oil and massage into your scalp and hair.

For my mane, a quarter teaspoon is more than enough. If you have shorter or finer hair, you may need even less. Clean hair as above.

This treatment leaves my hair silky and rich feeling, and I love the faint scent of coconut.

6. Use a shower cap or water-only rinse on days between baking soda/vinegar wash.

On the first and second day after a no-poo wash, I usually keep my hair dry with a shower cap. On the third day, I like to get it wet and give my scalp a nice massage under the shower.

Sometimes rinsing with water and massaging is all I need for another day or two.

I usually do the baking soda/vinegar wash on the fourth or fifth day, depending on how my hair is looking, especially near the roots.

Reuse, re-purpose or treat yourself to an eco-friendly recycled glass jar

For a long time, I re-purposed a yogurt tub to hold my baking soda and a travel squeeze bottle for my vinegar, but I saved so much money on hair care in the last several years that it was easy to justify treating myself to some beautiful recycled glass containers.

It tickles me to have something so functional but also so good looking. What about you? Do you like using pretty things in the bath?

Italian Swing Top Glass Bottle Flask Approx 7 Oz Capacity
Italian Swing Top Glass Bottle Flask Approx 7 Oz Capacity
The stopper and wire bail make this recycled glass bottle spill proof, and the company sells replacement rubber seals should yours, after a few years, begin to wear. Sadly these bottles are not made in the U.S., but in Italy. Thankfully, the Italians are known for producing good glass, and these heat-tempered bottles are no exception.

Recycled glass shines again in this spice jar

Originally intended as salt or spice jars, these old-fashioned, containers suit my vintage apartment well. I imagine early twentieth century families using such containers in this very building, perhaps these very rooms.

8oz Glass Jar with Spoon (Cork Lid)
8oz Glass Jar with Spoon (Cork Lid)
Like the vinegar bottle above, this jar is made of eco-friendly recycled glass. I replaced the wooden spoon that comes with it with a measuring spoon so I can mix exactly one tablespoon.

Day 56 and a new, short cut

Day 56 of no shampoo
Day 56 of no shampoo | Source

By Day 56 of the no-poo method, I felt positively liberated. At that time, I washed my hair every third day and rinsed it with warm water every day I didn't wash it.

I no longer need to wash that frequently, and I finally found a large enough shower cap to hold my hair, so I don't get it wet every day either.

Long again, April 2014 - Recovering from a bad cut

My hair just a few weeks ago
My hair just a few weeks ago | Source

This is a few inches longer than I usually like, especially at my age, but I had a very bad cut a while back and since I prefer it long, my new hairdresser suggested we wait until more of the weirdness has grown out before taking too much off.

I'm happy to see a few gray streaks here and there. Can't wait for it to turn white! But I'm still loving how it feels. I don't expect ever to return to the iffy world of one-use plastic bottles, frothy goop going down the drain and the costly, repetitive search for the right products for my hair. No more product graveyard lurking in my bathroom cupboard!

Btw, the no-poo hair care method is so popular that it made national news in 2014. Take a look at this article about a segment on the Today Show: Woman goes 5 years without shampoo.

Hair fade?

Some people report that the no-poo method bleaches their hair a little. I've not noticed it. (Puh-lease! Whiten my hair!) People who perm, straighten or color their hair may want to go to Babyslime's site, linked at the top of the page, for specific questions about their hair types.

Would you? Could you? - Share your opinion of this hair care method

Have you or would you consider the no-poo hair care method?

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Finding the right mix for you

As the no-poo method gains momentum, more and more media outlets feature stories about women (haven't seen one about a man using it yet, although men do) who love how their hair looks, and who enjoy the freedom, time and money savings.

If you are considering switching, one thing that's important to understand is that everyone's hair and scalp have different issues. It may take some time to find the right combination for your hair. Be patient, and please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you might have.

While I can share only my personal experience, I may be able to point you to other resources that can help.

© 2014 Kathryn Grace


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