No Poo.

SUPER IMPORTANT: If you’re not familiar with the principles of Paleo/Primal/Real Food Nutrition, you must understand that they are the foundation of any body care routine. My recommendations are meant to build upon the foundations of healthy eating as defined on my “What is Primal/Paleo?” page. No amount of oil cleansing can fix a nutritional deficiency, and nutritional deficiencies set the stage for acne, skin problems, hormonal imbalances, and – yes – stinky pits and bad hair. The quality and sources of our food – the only fuel we have – determines how well every single bodily process works.

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Nope, we’re not talking about digestion. We’re talking about Shampoo. Which, when broken down, turns in to several very unsavory words: Sham and Poo.

After my experiment of the last few weeks, I’m pretty convinced that my shower routine over the first twenty-(blah) years of my life was just that – a sham. And a crappy one at that. (Giggle.) Trust me, my hair hasn’t always looked like this:

It used to be IMPOSSIBLE to get that bone to stay in. Now it's smooth sailing.

When I discovered Wheat Protein (aka, GLUTEN) in my conditioner, I circled the globe (virtually) in an attempt to find a better option for shampoo. I found the Gluten Free Savonnerie – see my post here.

So the drugstore-SHAMpoo jig was up. No more weird & wonky ingredients. I’m an Oil Cleansing Method devotee (see my Cleansing: Redefined post), so simplifying the hair routine was right up my alley. While I LOVE the G-Free Savonnerie, CocoaPink, and a few other crap-free, simplified yet delicious-smelling hair care products, there IS a cheap way to defray the costs of using “gourmet” shampoo.

And it’s NO ‘poo!

I was introduced to this concept by the blog of Crystal Di Domizio – see her write up here.

The intent of this procedure is to STOP letting commercial shampoo confuse your hair by stripping oil, replacing oil, and telling your hair it will call when it won’t. After a rough introductory period, my hair is doing extremely well. For this cheap, super simple routine, Baking Soda clarifies and removes build-up and Apple Cider Vinegar restores your scalp’s natural pH balance.

About 150 million fewer ingredients than standard bottles of shampoo & conditioner.

Combine 1-2 Tablespoons of baking soda (available verified Aluminum-Free from Bob’s Red Mill) with warm water. Gently work mixture through your hair and rinse. Next, add 1-2 Tablespoons of unfiltered, unpasteurized Apple Cider Vinegar to a cup of warm water. Soak your hair, leave in for a few minutes, then rinse.

It will take your hair/scalp a few weeks to adjust to this routine (bobby pins and ponytail holders, folks), and you may have to play with proportions, but once your scalp has regained its ability to regulate its own oil production you’ll have a much happier head. I keep a huge mason jar full of baking soda in the shower and use it to exfoliate, de-stink, and gently wash my hair. I’ve also taken to wearing my Birkenstocks and Phish T-shirt in the shower, but I’ve been told that’s a natural part of the hippie transformation and nothing to worry about.

I worked this into my regimen slowly, alternating every few days with shampoo & conditioner from the Gluten-Free Savonnerie, until my scalp adjusted.

The suck factor? ACV stinks. It will also on its own as your hair dries, but I add a few drops of essential oil (lots of EOs available at Whole Foods) to cover up the acrid smell.

I’ll be posting more on Paleo-style self-care soon for CrossFit Love’s 30-Day Paleo Challenge, so keep an eye out! There’s no reason to keep putting crap on your skin when you’ve eliminated the junk from your diet. Primal-ify inside & out.

What are your crap-free skin secrets?

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53 Responses to “No Poo.”

  1. Great post! Thanks for leading the way! I have a jar of baking soda in the shower, but have yet to use it. I’m waiting to use up the nasty stuff first. I’ll let you know how it goes! Oh, and the OCM is divine. There’s no going back now. Point me to the nearest drum circle 😛

  2. Awesome! Glad you like it! Thanks for linking to my post 🙂

  3. I am in the process of writing a blog post for this same thing. I have been poo free for about two months. I am a guy so this wasn’t as big of a change for me. But I use the same process as you just a little less Baking soda and ACV. It works great, my scalp doesn’t itch, my hair looks thicker and isn’t greasy anymore.

    Also, I put a little tea tree oil in the ACV.

    Love the site.

    • I will keep an eye out for your post! I do like the Tea Tree – my husband used JASON Tea Tree Oil shampoo until we just started using the dang Tea Tree Oil. I’m recommending TTO in a post I just submitted for a Paleo Challenge. Today I forgot to dilute my TTO with water before I applied it to my face, and YOWZA! It was a little tingly!

  4. Hey! Great posts. So, I’ve had psoriasis on my scalp as long as I can remember, and I’ve found two things help: Paleo diet + rinsing with vinegar as the last step before I leave the shower. I’ve gotten used to the vinegar smell by now (have been using white vinegar over 10+ years), and barely notice it unless I’ve just shaved my legs and it washes over them (it stings!)

    I also tried the OCM last night. I have acne (again, it virtually disappears when I am strict with Paleo eating), and also am weaning myself off synthetic products.

    One line of bath products I am pretty faithful to is called Lush. They use a high % of natural ingredients, and they are ever committed to finding more natural & responsible sources for ingredients. They’re not 100% perfect, but I trust them more than other companies.

    • I’m recommending Lush deodorant for a post I’m writing for CrossFit Love’s Paleo Challenge! I need to check out more of their products. I am a Cocoa Pink lover as well. I’m not surprised the vinegar helps with your scalp! From what I understand, it’s a powerful pH balancer. That vinegar smell is gnarly – I’m still getting used to it! Please keep in touch about the OCM!

      • Hey! I’m back. I’ve started using coconut oil at night to moisturize my face, and I apply a *very tiny* amount to my hair after getting out of the shower, while it is still wet. So far, seems to work well! The coconut oil calms some flaky patches on my face that were getting exacerbated from dry winter air.

        Thanks! 🙂 (I might be convinced to try No Poo sometime – I am actually going on vacation in late March-that might be a great time to experiment).

      • Nice! I just remarked to my husband as I dried/styled my hair how irritating it is to think back on all the pricey shampoos and conditioners I bought over the years when baking soda and ACV provide the exact same results! Although it’s probably not easy to get through airport security with a baggie of baking soda 🙂

  5. I am buying all natural shampoo today actually because I can’t stand what my scalp has become. I’m not sure my fine, limp, greasy hair can handle this routine without me looking like a homeless crackhead, and then what if they daycare people call DFS? lol

    When you add the oils, do you add them directly your hair? Do they totaly cover up the smell or do you still smell like vinegar?

    I’m thinking of shaving it all off and starting new. LOL It’s too bad I would look like grimace.

    • I’ve thought the same thing a few times, AA. Just shave it off and start over 😉

      It was a real rough transition from regular ‘Poo to BS/ACV but it’s so cool to see how my hair is naturally balancing itself now. I did make liberal use of the ponytail in the interim, though. I’m doing a post for CrossFit Love’s challenge on Paleo Personal Care in a few days so you may be interested…I’m posting a discount code for one of my favorite natural retailers, Cocoa Pink!

      I was adding a drop of Sweet Orange oil to the ACV (conditioner) mixture, but now I’ve added a few drops to a spray bottle filled with water and have used that on still-wet hair. Honestly, I’m still not happy until I dry my hair and the smell is irradicated. When I don’t feel like drying I’ve been using shampoo/conditioner from the Gluten-Free Savonnerie and I really like it!

  6. I am so glad to see you post about this! I have been hemming and hawing on trying the ‘poo free movement for awhile now, I just may have to take the jump and do it. At least headbands and cute hats are plentiful this winter season, so I can try to keep the nasty stage of it underwraps for the most part. I have been doing the OCM this past week and I can not believe how soft my skin is now!

  7. Here’s a paleoism that may blow your mind: It is not necessary to wash your hair in the wintertime more often than every 1-2 weeks. Try it. Saves time, effort, AND WATER! No way can your hair absorb so much dirt etc. that it needs daily attention.
    GASP! Thinkaboudit. Give your hair time to self-adjust to winter conditions. If you’re streaming sweat from hard work, your smart little scalp-cover knows how to handle it.
    Better the slight, sweet smell of a healthy head of balanced hair than a long future of water-rationing.

  8. Lush has some great smelling bath items, and if you catch them the day after holidays you can get their seasonal products deeply discounted.

  9. I haven’t used sham-POO in years and found my hair is so much happier without it! Not only am I saving money on not buying it but definitely taking time off of my morning routine. I have a head full of curls and not a one misses the poo. Thanks for the post!

    Christina
    http://www.healthyliving918.wordpress.com

  10. I have to quote a bumper sticker I saw once: “Down with the sham. Demand REAL poo!”

    😛

  11. Hi! I love your blog…I have a random question. I really want to try the no-poo, but I get my blonde hair highlighted every 3 months. I know my hairdresser will look at me like I’m on crack if I ask her not to wash the bleach out with regular shampoo, and it would probably burn my scalp off ha…would washing with regular shampoo mess up the oil balance up again? I dont want to have to start all over. Do you color your hair? Just wondering if there were natural hair color options out there. Sorry for all the questions…thank you!

    • Hi Stephanie! I am going to write about this soon…but in short, I do dye my hair. I haven’t found a “natural” dye that does the job of all those horrendous chemicals 😉 so that’s one I just take for the team (as in, the I Hate Grey Hair team). I’m still working on finding a decent dye! I’d say just let the salon do their thing. I mix the No ‘Poo method with a day or two of using crap-free shampoo from Cocoa Pink (cocoapink.net, much like the products from Lush), and that does NOT mess up my hair; but if I use “regular” drug store stuff it does mess with the balance of my scalp and it’s hard to go back to No ‘Poo/Crap Free without yet another “adjustment period.” Hope that helps!

  12. I love your posts, and LOVE, love, love the OCM! It has SAVED me!!! I was wondering what your favorite shampoo and conditioner is from coca pink and what other products you like from there? Thanks

    • Oh gosh, it’s so hard to pick! I love the protein-free conditioner and their citrus scents are suuuuper juicy! I also love any of the body butters. I’m not in love with their OCM products, but everything else is really fab. You really can’t go wrong!

  13. Hi CaveGirl, How often do you wash your hair when you are doing the no poo? I have a lot of hair and hate washing it! I usually wash it every other day and by the end of the second day it starts looking a little greasy. I’m curious if going no-poo would allow me to maybe make it three or four days without washing. Thanks!

    • Probably only 3-4 times per week. I have pretty long hair (way past my shoulders) and dislike the daily was as well. After adjusting to the regimen (a few weeks) I found that I didn’t get that fabulous greasy halo after a day; I can definitely go at least 2 days without washing! Sometimes I’ll even go 3, in which case a ponytail is a good bet.

      I will say, you’ve got to really make sure you get all the soda washed out. As my hair has grown out, I’ve found I’m really grateful for the detachable shower head because it allows me to really get in there and rinse well.

  14. When I switched from washing daily to every other day I used oatmeal in a shower cap to help combat the nasty greasy yuckiness of my hair. Just put it on as you are sitting around in the evening or as you are getting ready in the morning,,, leave on for 20 or 30 minutes and it really helped. Don’t see why it wouldn’t help while transitioning to no ‘poo!

  15. All baking soda is aluminum free, even the dirt cheap stuff. Don’t bother spending the bucks for Bob’s! All baking soda is sodium bicarbonate — NaHCO3. No Al sneaking in there, or it wouldn’t be baking soda!

    • Nice! I figured. I think I was confusing baking soda with baking powder? Or perhaps it’s a cross-contamination thing due to processing or transport? (Kind of like gluten contamination of oats?)

  16. When you first put the baking soda/water on, are you putting it on your dry hair or do you wet your hair first and then do the baking soda?

    • I get in the shower, wet down my hair just as if I were using regular shampoo, mix the BS and H2O, pour over my head, massage in/around, then rinse as if it were normal shampoo! I am pretty religious about rinsing since it’s hard to tell if you’ve gotten it all out in the absence of suds.

  17. Do you add the essential oil to the ACV or put it on your hair after? I’m still in the starting phase with my hair and the smell is kinda gross, and my hair is doing the frizzy thing but I’m trying to stick it out. Also do you ever use a tiny amount of the coconut oil like a anti-frizz serum? My hair is real long and hard to manage. Thanks for all this again its so nice to have someone to ask questions, my best friend and I are doing this at the same time, and so far her hair never went thru the crazy stage (lucky snach). SHe also does’n t dye her hair and I just did, can that affect it?

    • Hi Heather! I had no problems with my dyed (highlighted/colored reddish-brown from mousy brown) hair. I haven’t dyed it in months and don’t plan to use (conventional) dye again. I haven’t been able to figure out whether No ‘Poo is problematic for lightened hair, but I really suspect it’s not! I really like Tara’s advice RE: the boar bristle brush. Genius! Also, I blow-dry my hair usually, which gets rid of the ACV smell quickly…but I have to admit I’ve just gotten used to it and don’t usually worry about the essential oils anymore.

      You can use Coconut oil as a spot-frizz reducer, just be super careful with it! A tiny bit goes a long way!

      If you have prolonged trouble with this method, it could also be that your water isn’t within a “hardness” range that’s optimal. I’ve noticed that this method works differently depending on the part of the country I’m in…but it always works at least “ok!” I apologize that I can’t offer more of an explanation on that angle…I’ll work on that…

      • So my roommate and I have been doing poo-free for almost two weeks now. We’ve had good and bad days, but we’re definitely willing to wait another couple of weeks to evaluate how it is working for us. The problem I’m having is the smell. My roomie loves the smell of ACV, and unfortunately I don’t feel the same way. Because it is winter I am blow-drying my hair, but I only do that during the coldest months, and I can’t bear the thought of walking around with ACV scented hair half the day. I am going to try using essential oils in a spray bottle of water, but I also googled what will neutralize the smell of vinegar and found that lemon juice does. Have you tried or know of other people who tried putting lemon juice in their ACV mix? I guess I’m just nervous it will mess up the way the ACV works…

      • Mari, because my hair is SO long right now and I was using a ridiculous amount of baking soda to clean the length of it, I’ve started adding a shot of liquid castille soap to the mix just to ensure I “get it all.” Not sure if this would be useful to you, but thought I’d offer it up anyway! I understand how you feel about the vinegar, and honestly – I just don’t know! When I do wash my hair (about 3-4x/week) I always have to blow dry so the scent never lasts. I would say go ahead and do everything as normal – using and rinsing out the ACV in the shower. Then perhaps towel dry your hair and spray a bit of lemon essential oil mixed in water across your hair. (I say essential oil because it’s just so easy! Perhaps try actual lemon as well) It can’t hurt, and you’ll know right away whether it works. I’ve used other essential oils in the past to cover the smell, and it worked fairly well! I will try this too and report back. Please let me know how your experiments go!

  18. I have found that if I spray in a leave in conditioner that I don’t have as much of a vinegar smell. I do add essential oil to the ACV but it didn’t get totally rid of the smell as much as the leave in did. I never had the really the frizz problem and I have curly long hair. Before I started this I only washed my hair every other day or so, if you were a daily washer that might affect you more. I also brush my hair with a boar’s hair brush BEFORE washing. This helps distrubute your natural oils to protect the hair as you cleanse it. You might try that and see if it helps.

  19. Well I’ve just started trying the ‘no-poo’ method on my VERY long hair (it nearly touches the top of my pants). I am in day 2 of the ‘adjustment phase’ and it’s not too nice, but I’m planning to stick with it for 30 days to give it a good go.

    The top is fine, but the length feels a bit chalky. I did spend a good 5 minutes rinsing, do you think I haven’t got all the BS out? I’m also finding it VERY difficult to comb and detangle after washing. Any hints for that?

    On a positive note, the last time I tried ‘no-poo’ was with a natural clay wash, which left my hair in a HORRIBLE static mess (I looked like I’d been electrocuted!) and so far not a hint of static. Will keep people posted on the results….

    • As my hair has gotten longer, I’ve found that while the baking soda DOES still work, it’s almost not worth the effort (and water-wasting) of endless rinsing to be sure the baking soda is all out! On top of that, I feel I’m using soooo much baking soda because I have sooo much hair these days. For that reason, I’ve been adding some Dr. Bronner’s castille soap to the mix, (I’ll still use the baking soda, but after I’ve poured on the mixture I’ll add a splash of castille to my palms and run it through the length of my hair) just to be sure I get absolutely everything. At this point, I wash about 2 or 3x per week. Apple Cider Vinegar rinse as usual. I’m working on a post about this 🙂

      • My hair is also very long but thin. I only use the baking soda on my scalp and not very much,,,,, maybe 2 tsps. I also brush my hair with the boars hair brush before washing and I have never had the crunchy hair or problems with the transition. I also use a little detanger or spray on conditioner to help me comb through after cleaning.

      • Thanks for the help. I’ve ordered some Dr. Bronner for future use, but I think I’ve discovered the cause for the dryness.

        I was using the ACV mix to rinse out the BS and THEN rinsing really thoroughly. Today I made sure to wash the BS out thoroughly BEFORE putting the ACV in and only lightly rinsing after the ACV. No problems combing out the tangles this time and no chalky dry feel.

        Good thing I’m pretty adept at French braids to keep the mess hidden until the detox passes!

      • Let me know how everything turns out for you! So glad you were able to tweak and figure things out!

  20. hello cavegirl,
    i’m new to no poo and have washed my hair twice with BS ACV rinse. however, the BS burns my scalp badly and leaves it burnt for days both times i used it. If i don’t use BS, my hair is not cleansed.
    Do you have suggestions to replace the BS?

    thanks a lot.

    • Hi there. I’ve never heard of this happening before, but if something like this happens, STOP! This is a very serious thing.

      Are you doing this:
      Step 1: Mix several Tbs of Baking soda with about 1 cup of water; pour over head; massage gently; rinse clean…
      Step 2: Mix several Tbs of Apple Cider Vinegar with about 1 cup of water; pour over head; rinse clean…

      If so, and it’s the baking soda that’s hurting your scalp, my only suggestion is to try mild castille soap instead of baking soda.

      Hope that helps!

  21. hi cavegirl, l left a reply to your reply. not sure if you’d received it.
    if not ,i’ll have to type it again though i can’t really remembered what i wrote,

  22. hi there,
    i guess my reply never got through. i was saying i used less than 1/2tbsp of BS mixture and yet my scalp hurts. I also used ACV about 2tbs to a cup of water.
    I will try your suggestion of the castille soap, hopefully that’ll help replace the BS.
    Thanks a lot!!

  23. I have a question- I use baking soda to clean my tub and stuff, and it is SO ABRASIVE that it will kill (cause cracking) the space between my nails and fingertips if I don’t wear gloves. Do your fingers get messed up by using this so often on your hair?

    • I haven’t dealt with this at all! Sometimes I wonder if these varied issues and experiences have to do with the water in peoples’ homes…how hard, soft it is, etc…

      • After looking back again, I think it is probably all due to concentration. My mind didn’t register that the solution for the hair was so dilute- what I use on the tub is a paste, with very little liquid involved, and after 15 minutes, my hands were toast. Since then I have used gloves for that. I suppose when it is as dilute as it is for the hair solution, all the baking soda is fully dissolved? and therefore not as abrasive?!? Who knows.

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