Have you heard of ‘no-poo’? This is the latest trend in hair care-washing hair without shampoo. But why would anyone like to avoid shampoo and what to use instead? Baking soda is the most common alternative. Keep reading to learn more about this method. 🙂
What is ‘no-poo’?
‘No poo’ (shorter for no shampoo) is a method of washing hair without shampoo. Users of this method believe that shampoos and other hair products like dye, sprays etc damage hair follicles and hair structure. Therefore, our hair appears dull, dry and damaged. Hair naturally produces oils called sebum that protect hair and scalp. Washing too often strips these oils and destroys the natural balance. With daily washing of hair, sebum is produced in larger quantities and people wash hair even more. This is a neverending cycle of greasy and dry hair (yes, these two are possible at them same time!). This dependency on frequent washing is what bothers most users of no-shampoo washing. Some also choose this style because of the long list of ingredients in shampoos. While some precaution is useful and healthy, avoiding something just because of unknown ingredients can not be a solid reason.
Variations of no-poo method
- water only: users use warm water that removes more buildup than cold water. This method is only useful for normal hair since oily scalp can’t benefit from such mild washing. The transition period between regular washing and using only water is 30 days according to the No poo method website, which basically means your hair will be much greasier than with shampooing for such period. Although many users report that their hair looks and feels healthier than before, there are also people who couldn’t stand such long period with unwashed hair either for aesthetic or hygienic reasons.
- baking soda: this is probably the most popular method of washing. Baking soda is highly alkaline (it’s pH is 9) and although this pH level is similar to homemade soaps (pH 8-10), the difference between these two is enormous. Soaps contain saponified lye and oils/butters that have many nourishing properties, but baking soda on the other hand only rinses oils away. The reason why washing with baking soda (and other highly alkaline products like pure Castille soap) makes hair softer is that alkaline solution weakens hair’s structure and bonds inside. Even if you use apple cider vinegar after washing with baking soda, pH levels are still not appropriate. This process is not skin- or hair-friendly. More about washing with baking soda below. ⬇️
- apple cider vinegar: it can be used as a rinse after washing with baking soda or as a rinse after shampooing with regular shampoo. Its acidity helps prevent and stop the growth of fungi and bacterial infections, but it’s not advisable to use it on damaged skin. Apple cider vinegar is more skin friendly than baking soda since it’s pH level is 4,5-5,5.
what do shampoos contain?
Shampoos are often criticized as full of potentially dangerous ingredients, but let’s look closer at those ‘chemicals‘.
Foaming agents are surfactants that make shampoo lather. Commercials got us consumers used to rich foam which is supposed to be a sign that the shampoo is effective. That’s totally wrong because all those foaming agents do is create foam. The most known foaming agent is SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) that can be irritating to the skin. Patients with ulcers in their mouth (canker sores) may want to stop using toothpaste with SLS since that agent can contribute to reoccurring of ulcers. (read more on this link)
Parabens are preservatives widely used in cosmetic products. They are used for antibacterial and anti-fungicidal properties. Its efficiency and low cost are the reason why we can find them in almost all skincare products and even in food. Parabens disrupt transportations process of microorganisms. All studies researched effects of one paraben in one product, but manufacturers usually use more than just one. Such products with one paraben are safe to use and their effect on the endocrinal system is insignificant. Until now no study proved the connection between parabens and any type of cancer, but in 2004, there was a discussion of estrogenic effects of parabens. This discussion leads consumers to choose paraben-free products, but grape seed oil, that is a natural alternative to parabens, is not enough. Paraben-free products only substitute parabens with other preservatives that are not always better than parabens. Read more here.
Silicones are used in shampoos, hair conditioners, and other hair products because they provide soft hair and less frizz. Some also add shine and slightly change hair color. Products with silicones prevent split ends and fill damaged hair cuticles. A wide variety of products that contain silicones leads to environmental issues since silicones accumulate in aquatic organisms (fish). Although silicones are toxic to fish they are safe for use in cosmetic and skincare products. Silicone D4 was recognized as an endocrine disruptor, but it can be used at normal levels of exposure. Until now there are no natural alternatives that could provide all properties of silicones. Read more here and here. Silicone in hair products eventually build up and then it’s time for clarifying shampoos.
Clarifying shampoos remove oils and build up of hair products. They are stronger than regular shampoos and should therefore not be used daily or weekly. All clarifying shampoos don’t create lather and especially if your hair is full of hair products, you will need to shampoo twice. This will dry your hair, so use hair mask and/or conditioner. Learn more here.
As we can see, none of the most known ingredients has been proved to be dangerous or unhealthy. Still, we shouldn’t forget that we don’t use only shampoos, we also daily use deodorants, body creams, hair conditioners and many other skincare or hair products and all those ingredients can contribute to increased levels of toxins in our body.
Is using baking soda safe?
Baking soda is used for cleaning, in beauty products (f.e. deodorants), and as a drink for lowering pH levels of our body (this is a misconception, but let’s leave this topic for another occasion).
Hair is covered with acidic mantle just like skin. Its pH levels are 4.5-5. This slight acidity prevents infections caused by bacteria and fungi as long as hair cuticles stay closed. Some hair products can disturb this acidic mantle and damage hair cuticles. That’s when hair starts to look brittle and straw-like.
Let’s look at what Sonya Kanelstrand, author of Kanelstrand blog found out when she used the no-poo method. She diluted baking soda according to the instructions found on many blogs. She also compared pH levels of different amounts of water when mixed with soda.
Her founding are surprising even for users of the no-poo method. If you mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda and 1 cup of water (236,5ml), pH level is not nearly appropriate for using on hair. pH level of such mix is 9.5 and natural pH is 4.5-5. This is way too much for safe use. Even diluting with 2 cups of water (473ml) does not lower pH level.
The most important part of this experiment is the fact that diluting 1 teaspoon of the mixture (1 tablespoon + 20 cups of water) with 1 cup of water brings pH level to neutral (7). This means that even if you use apple cider vinegar rinse after baking soda wash, pH level will damage your hair cuticles.
Litmus paper that Kinelstrand used proves that baking soda was the cause of her brittle and dry hair. She compares the use of 1 tablespoon baking soda and 1 cup water to dyeing hair a couple of times a week.Alkaline solutions such as baking soda can cause breaking of protein bonds in hair and this results in soft, but weak hair.
Some also point that rinsing with apple cider vinegar after using such harsh substance can be too stressful for hair. Hair’s pH has to raise from 4.5-5 to 9.5 and then quickly drop back to 4.5-5.
As we can see, baking soda can be used as a wash, but it has to be diluted with lots and lots of water. Also, this water shouldn’t be hard, but soft (f.e. rain). Such ‘shampoo’ is safe from the chemical side of the view, but will it remove oils and dirt? Comment below, if you use baking soda for washing hair, I’d love to read about your experiences. 🙂
How to become ‘no poo’?
At the beginning, most users report that their hair was greasier than before. This is so-called ‘transition period‘. This can last a few days or up to a month (for some it’s even more, but they usually just give up on this method). If you’d like to know more, follow some ‘no-pooers’ as they are called. 🙂
- Living another language-3 months without shampoo
- The crunchy moose-Two years without shampoo
- almost exactly
- Fulfilled homemaking
You can find many other bloggers if you Google it. 🙂
My thoughts on no-poo method
We don’t wash oily hands with baking soda but use soaps/detergents instead. The same can be done with hair, especially considering the fact that there is no known/proved side effects of shampoos. If you don’t like the idea of SLS, parabens, silicones, try more natural alternatives, like shampoos without those ingredients or handmade shampoo bars.
Even though I don’t use ‘no-poo’ method, I’m not going to bash something I haven’t used for an extended period of time. I washed my hair once with baking soda, but my hair looked really dry. This was an obvious sign that this just isn’t for me, especially because I dye my hair. Since baking soda is alkaline, it might rinse some color and red dyes are already very easy to fade over time. The other reason I didn’t choose this method is the fact that you can’t wash your hair more than once or twice a week, but I feel like this isn’t enough if you sweat or just like the feeling of freshly washed hair. *nothing beats this feeling* 😀
Silicones and parabens are often seen as ‘harmful, dangerous’ ingredients, but if you look closely, even natural and handmade/homemade products can be dangerous. Just think about what happens to food if you accidently leave it outside of the fridge. It gets spoiled and the same happens to every product that gets in contact with water. If we want completely natural shampoos, we have to either choose shampoo bars (that are basically soaps) or use small batches of homemade shampoo (honey+water). Preservatives like parabens aren’t that harmful in my opinion because 1. no research proved it’s connection with cancer and other diseases and 2. paraben-free products just use something other instead that can be equally or more dangerous.
So what should we do for healthier hair?
I know I’m going to continue using store bought shampoo at least until my shampoo bars are ready to use (:) ) and until I stop dying my hair. The last is especially important because even if you do choose to stop using shampoo, but continue to dye your hair, you’re not making your hair a big favor. There are some natual hair dyes like kana, but they are a bit less convenient than regular dyes. At least choose quality dyes, I like Keune (professional dye that can be used at home or in salon)-link. Choose mild shampoos, good conditioners, and quality hair masks.
Other solutions for healthy hair
- consider avoiding dying hair
- choose more natural shampoo or even shampoo bar: Ma provence shampoo and conditioner bars are very good, with little packaging and lots of washings per bar
- use good conditioner and/or hair mask: I like Keune and Eveline cosmetics
- use dry shampoo between washes: try this recipe
- try honey shampoo: Honey has cleaning properties when diluted with water. here is a good recipe
- try rye flour: read more here
Do you have any tips for healthier hair? Comment below. 🙂
Sources and interesting links:
- ❗️ How to go no poo: Instructables
- ❗️ No poo method
- ❗️Does the no-poo method damage hair?
- ❗️Baking soda destroyed my hair
- ❗️ Baking soda, pH, and dilution — great resource if you’re interested in the chemical part of baking soda wash
- The ‘No shampoo experiment’, six months later
- What I’ve learned from three years without shampoo
- Homemade shampoo review: Rye flour
- Wikipedia-SLS: link
- Wikipedia-Paraben: link
- Wikipedia-Silicone: link
- The truth about silicones by Best health mag
- Clarifying shampoos
Don’t forget to check more hair tips: