Why go shampoo free?

There are many reasons to echew chemical hair cleansers and conditioners. Those who go shampoo free often are trying to wean themselves off of chemical products because of the harsh chemicals, damanged hair, environmental concerns, desire to go more natural, allergies, or because they heard about it, decided to try it, and were pleasantly surprised. Many people are concerned with the large amount of toxic products in their homes especially if they have allergies of any sort. Some people discovered accidentally that less fussing produced healthier hair. Other people got their hands on the curly girl book (which advocates 'poo free) and were set free.


What's wrong with shampoo?

Household chemicals are notorious for causing eczema, various types of contact dermatits, and other allergy symptoms such as itchy, watery eyes, coughing, and sneezing. Shampoo is nothing more than a glorified detergent in a pretty package and pretty perfumes. Shampoos remove dirt as well as strip the hair of its natural oils. Shampoo is so harsh that it has to be sold along with an artificial oil replacer we know as conditioner! And what's worse, some conditionerss have substances in them that can only be removed by shampoo. Can you see the viscious cycle? Because the hair we see on our hair is dead, if it is mistreated and stripped it can not repair itself once it has been damaged until it grows out. Take a look at all of the products on the market created to fix a hair problem and you will begin to get the scope of the endless cycle of chemical dependence.


Doesn't unshampooed hair smell bad?

No. Unshampooed hair smells like...hair. Hair doesn't smell like lily of the valley, fake roses, lilacs, or freesia, but this doesn't mean it smells bad. It will smell like it is supposed to smell. If one really likes the smell of pretty things, then one can always put a few drops of essential oils in their hair care regimine. But honestly, you don't really need to smell like honeysuckle for an hour to feel satisfied after a hair washing session. If you want to discuss bad smells, have a sniff of smoker's hair!


Isn't unwashed hair gross?

First, shampoo-free people do wash their hair...they don't have "unwashed" hair. They can go a rather long time between washings and find that a water rinse between a thorough cleaning session is more than adequate. People are brainwashed into thinking that if it doesn't lather and you don't lather every day you are dirty. Unless you've been mud wrestling there is no reason why you need to wash your hair every day. In fact, overwashing your hair (especially if you have dry or curly hair) just makes the problem worse. Curly girls especially wash too much and this changes those lovely curls into a frizzy wreck! Why? Every time your poor scalp tries to do its job and secrete oils to coat and protect the hair on your head, you go and apply a chemical to neutralize it...then you apply another chemical to coat the hair in the same type of oil you put in your car (that's not olive oil that they put in those bottles!). Hair that is not washed constantly is not gross. However, it is well known among all shampoo-free individuals that there is a transition phase of several weeks where the scalp over produces oil creating an unpleasant grease-ball. Be assured--it is temporary. Think of it as a healing period and invest in a ponytail elastic and a baseball cap in the meantime. Did you know that squeaky-clean stripped hair is very hard to style, but hair that hasn't been washed in 48 hours behaves nicely?


If you don't use shampoo then what do you use?

Plain water between sessions. And for a hair washing session baking soda and apple cider vinegar. From time to time (not all the time) Some people will mix some hair-nourishing ingredients together for a pampering session or some extra care for damaged hair. There are various sorts of recipes but the ingredients are generally cheap and accessible. Avocado, real mayonnaise, olive oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, etc can be used to condition. There are also egg washes, herb and tea rinses for various sorts of scents or cures. The idea is always that less is more.


Baking soda and vinegar? Is that it?

Yes, that's it. You don't need a lot. A weak base (soda) to wash and a weak acid (vinegar) to rinse and balance pH. One of the biggest mistakes new poo-freers make is using too much! This is your hair, it is not a dirty soiled pair of garden overalls! Depending on how much hair you have you use more or less. Brush or comb your hair always before you wash (this loosens dirt, product, stimulates the scalp and removes loose hair). A general rule of thumb is to use no more than 1 tablespoon per cup of water. A person with short hair would use less than half a tablespoon, a person with medium hair would probably stick to half a tablespoon, and a person with long hair would go for the full tablespoon. Hair type and health varies from person to person! For example, I have medium-length fine wavy hair. I find that what works for me is half a tablespoon in my palm made into a paste -- applied to my scalp and then allow the water to rinse it down to my ends. For the vinegar rinse, don't use no more than a tablespoon per cup of water for normal application. Use less if the vinegar smell is strong, use more if you can't smell it at all. I personally make mine so dilute that the smell is barely noticiable. My fine hair doesn't need a high concentration. Baking soda is also known as bicarbonate of soda.


Isn't that a lot of trouble?

No.  It's funny...people spend hours curling, styling, crimping, straightening, perming, coloring, spraying, pinning, geling and moussing but find it too much trouble to change a shampoo routine!     Its no harder than opening a bottle of shampoo and squeezing (its also much cheaper). If you prefer to make a palm paste keep a pretty container of baking soda in the shower with a little scoop or small measuring spoon in it. Scoop into your palm and go. If you like liquid, keep a squeeze bottle in the shower. Add the baking soda, fill the bottle and go. For the vinegar rinse, you can keep another squeeze bottle and pre-mix it. The added bonus is that both baking soda and vinegar can be used for cooking as well as cleaning the rest of your home. Alton Brown would definitly approve of these two multi-taskers.


Won't baking soda strip color from your hair?

If you color your hair (especially with a temporary color) yes. However, there is dispute as to whether it will strip all color-treated hair. As a general concensus, if untreated hair feels dry or loses its color the user is definitely washing far too often and using way too much. If you have color-treated hair it is up to you if you want to try it.   If you do I would suggest upping the concentration of the vinegar rinse (vinegar is a color fixitive -- that's why you use it to dye Easter eggs). Wash hair with plain water and/or just rinse with vinegar.  If you wanted to try the baking soda, you could try using very, very little baking soda no more than once a week (no more than 1/4 a tablespoon) as a paste and concentrate it on the scalp (the color is growing out there anyway), and don't leave it sitting in your hair more than a minute and follow with the higher concentration vinegar rinse.

How often should hair be washed?

That depends on hair type, your activity, and your styling product use.

A. If you use hair spray or gel or other products -- brush your hair every night and wash it with plain water to rinse away the product. Strive for a good wash with baking soda ACV once a week, but no more than twice.

B. If you use no hair styling products do not wash your hair more than once a week and you can often go as long as two or three weeks between a baking soda wash and instead do a nice clean water rinse in between for a freshen up.

C. You will wash your hair more in the warmer weather than in the colder weather. Adust your hair care routine to suit. If you wash once a week in the winter you can go twice in the summer. If you do a water rinse less in the winter, keep in mind you will do it more in the summer.

D. If you hair feels dry, use less baking soda and up the vinegar concentration of your rinse.

E. If your hair feels oily (and you have passed the de-tox phase) stimulate your scalp and distribute the oils evenly through your hair with a boar bristle brush, a comb, or your fingers (for the curly girls--never brush!). Check your vinegar rinse and reduce the concentration. If you are using oils to condition your hair don't put it near the scalp, ends only, and use less!

F. If your hair changes you must change your routine! Age, puberty, pregnancy status, menopause, hormone shifts, illness and even medication will change hair health and texture. Despite the fact that the hair you see is dead, your scalp and hair follicles are very much alive and they will change just like the rest of you.


Anything else I should know?

Eat Well: Start taking care of your hair before it grows!

Curlys and Wavies: Stop shampooing, stop using the dryer, and throw out your brushes!  Stop hair-torture.   Use your fingers or wide toothed comb to detangle and adjust curls while your hair is still wet. And then don't mess with your curls until your next wash. Focus your hair routine on conditioning if your hair is dry (avoid commercial hair conditioners that have -cones like the plague). You can use your fingers to twirl those curls. When you sleep you should tie your hair back in a clip, bun, or if it is long a loose braid to reduce tangles. I'm not crazy. Ever seen that irritaingly sexy woman on the beach who has been swimming and sweating all day and then her hair is a mass of gorgeous curls? Yes, her hair was untouched and not squeaky clean and the hair loved it. I had very curly hair as a teenager and my hair was a frizzy mess and when I got lazy and stopped messing with it, it turned into a beautiful head of curls. My hair is now wavy and those lessons still apply.

Wash your brushes and combs every week: Nothing worse than having fresh clean hair and then combing or brushing it with dirty, dusty, items. Fill the sink with very hot water, add some soap, and some tea-tree oil if you wish. Let them sit for 20 minutes and then swish them and scrub them with another brush or with a nail brush.

Use a natural boar bristle brush and or a wide/toothed comb: This will help distribute oils through out your hair and won't damage it. Do not use anything that is metal or stiff. It is too harsh on your scalp and will break your hair. Also be sure to brush, comb, detangle hair before you wash it.If you have hard water use distilled or boiled water: It may seem to be a trouble but it will be worth it.

Put down the dryer and step away: You are better off letting your hair air dry. Save the dryer for special occasions and if you must blow dry your hair then you should protect your hair (aloe or a light coating of olive oil should do nicely) and resist the urge to put your dryer on the melt-the-polar-icecaps setting.

Dry your hair nicely: When you dry your hair don't rub it. Instead blot it with an absorbant towel. Detangle while it is wet gently from the ends up.  If you have curly hair, after it is blotted and detangled with a comb--scrunch, scrunch, scrunch (if you want ringlet curls...twirl 'em).  If you combed or brushed your hair prior to washing it and didn't rub your hair all over the place, but instead massaged from the head down it won't be too tangled.   Again, if you must use a dryer, protect the hair and use a lower setting.

Avoid products as much as possible: You will find that you won't need hairspray and gels and mousesses and creams if you change the way you treat your hair. Save the fancy products for the fancy occasions.  If you do use them be sure that you wash them out every night and give your hair periodic rests from their use.

Get a good haircut: There is nothing you can do about split ends except remove them via a good cut. Have your hair styled in a way that suits your hair type as well as your face. If you have naturally curly or wavy hair, embrace it. Don't try to go for a cut that is suited for pin-straight hair. This will require chemical alteration and that is not good for your hair. Fried and dried doesn't look good on anyone. Likewise, if you have straight hair stop trying to curl it every day. It's fine to go for that special look once in a while for something different, but keep in mind that if you make it a daily habit to attack your hair and make it conform it will become damaged.

It took many years to damage your hair, it won't cure overnight:    Be patient.   Your hair and scalp need time to recover from years of abuse.   You won't see shocking results over night--though you should notice some small improvements.  It will take several weeks to really see results.  The wait is worth it.


Are there any special recipes?

Dandruff: 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1/2 cup water. Apply twice weekly.

Dandruff: 2 egg yolks beaten, 1/2 cup water. Massage onto hair. Leave in 5 minutes. Rinse with water then follow with an apple cider vinegar rinse. Rinse once more.

Dandruff: 4 tbsp dried thyme, 2 cups water. Boil 10 minutes, strain, let cool. Massage into damp hair. Leave in 1 hour. Rinse.

Dry Hair: 3 tbsps honey + 1 tsp olive oil. Mix thoroughly. Warm in microwave or stove. Apply to damp hair and massage through from scalp to ends. Wrap head in plastic wrap and use dryer on medim-low setting or wrap head in hot towel. Let set 20 minutes. Wash hair thoroughly.

Dry Hair: 1-3 tsp of honey + 4 cups water.  Stir honey into warm water (more honey for more hair, less honey for less hair).  Blondes can add  some lemon juice.  After a wash.  Massage mixture through hair.  Do not rinse out.  (honey is a humectant -- it attracts moisture).

Deep Condition (Avocado): 1/2 cup real mayonnaise, 1/2 avocado mashed. Massage into hair and wrap with plastic wrap or plastic wrap wound around your head (for a warm set, use a blow dryer on a low-medium setting or wrap head with a hot towel) Let set 20-30 minutes. Wash hair thoroughly. Other options include: 1/2 avocado + 1/8 cup coconut oil

Deep Condition (Oil): 2 tsp jojoba oil + 1 tsp soybean oil or 1/2 cup soybean oil + 1/2 cup dried rosemary or 1 tsp jojoba oil + 1 warm beer. Heat until warm (strain herbs if using). Masage into scalp and hair and let sit 20 minutes. Wash hair thoroughly.

Frizz Tamer: minute amount of coconut oil, or jojoba, or olive, rub into palms, smooth over hair (avoid scalp, back and ends only)

Frizz Tamer: Aloe vera juice or aloe vera gel. Work into hair in a spritz bottle (juice) or rub in palms (gel) and work through hair from scalp to ends.

Oily Hair: Dust hair with cornstarch (use a powder puff or makeup brush). Let sit five minutes then brush out.

Oily Hair: 1/2 cup dried rosemary, 2 cups water. Simmer for 10 minutes. Strain. Let cool and use as a rinse for hair.

Color Enhancements:

  • Blondes -- Straight lemon juice rinse. For a stronger infusion zest lemon, squeeze juice, add 1/4 cup of water and warm on stove 5 minutes. Strain zest and store in a squeeze bottle. Use more water to dilute to desired concentration and use as a rinse.
  • Lights -- Infusions of chamomile or lemon juice
  • Reds -- Cranberry juice
  • Darks -- Infusions of rosemary or coffee or black tea


  • Sage -- weak or brittle hair
  • Chamomile -- moisturizing and soothing
  • Lavender -- antibactieral and soothing
  • Rosemary -- enhancing and stimulating
  • Lemon Juice -- enhances and shines

Experiment and make your own formulations.   Your hair is unique so you should find a unique combination for your particular needs.   Try not to mix more than two ingredients together at any one time (water excluded).      Keep in mind that there are some items that aren't the best for certain hair colors.   Lemon juice, for example, will lighten dark hair.   Black tea may darken blonde hair.   Cranberry juice might add some nice highlights to brown hair, but will not do good things for blonde!

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Jun. 1, 2008 at 11:55 AM Ohhhh. Sorry i have to have clean hair. If my hair is oily for one day or smells oily it drives me bananas! LOL!

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Jun. 1, 2008 at 1:34 PM I have to say, I might try this out! I'm actually excited about it! I've never done anything like it, but I think it's a start, not only to helping my hair, but more importantly, to helping the environment. Right now, I wash my hair every other day and rarely use product. It's the healthiest it's ever been because of my pre-natal vitamins, but it gets oily easy. My hair is like yours; medium length and fine. I'm always looking for ways to reduce my spending habbits and I think this one is totally legit. Thanks for going so into detail with this. It's not like in the magazines where they just say "Don't wash your hair every day. It styles better when it's dirty." I like how you've gone into detail and actually said what I can do instead and how to help it when it gets oily or frizzy! You should write for a magazine! haha However, I do have one question. I don't color my hair anymore and it's all grown out since the last time I did. So at the end, when you're talking about things to enhance color, do they apply to color treated hair, to untreated hair, both, or one exclusively? Again thanks for posting this. I think more women should read this and check into it!

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Jun. 17, 2008 at 2:31 PM I use about a 1/3 cup baking soda into a paste (I get really oily from ears to neck) and 1/2 cup vinegar (white) and add essential oil (two drops) to each for smell.  I wash about 1-2 times a week now that it's summer, no water in between (makes my hair clump together).  I do love the reference to Alton Brown, though--LMAO!

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