Best Way to Go Shampoo Free

Best Way to Go Shampoo Free

Have you ever tried to go shampoo free? I tried once a few years ago and it didn’t go well but this time it went much better! I think I found the best way to go shampoo free!

When I wrote an article recently about the dangers of automatic air fresheners, I found out that just one fragrance can be made up of over one hundred chemicals and that many of them are known to create health risks. Chemicals in personal care products and cleaning products are not regulated in the same way as the ingredients found in food or drugs.

Personal Care Products – Scented and Dangerous

No poo
Photo by Kevin Jarrett on Unsplash

For years, I have struggled with the scents in personal care products and the one that bothers me the most is shampoo. I had found one that worked well in my hair and did not have a troublesome scent and I used it for two years before they stopped making it. Since then, I have tried many brands and cannot find anything suitable.

When I apply shampoo to my hair, I feel “fuzzy” in my chest. That’s the only way I know how to describe it. The sensation happens almost immediately and is accompanied by slightly watery eyes and burning in my nose. This reaction happens even if I only use a pea-sized amount of shampoo.

After the research, I started feeling really uncomfortable knowing that my reaction is not
something that should be taken lightly. Many chemicals are known to trigger asthma attacks, contribute to respiratory illnesses and even cause cancer. I knew firsthand about sinus and respiratory issues which is why I was researching the air fresheners.

What to Avoid

Here is a list of some dangerous chemicals in shampoos. There is an abundance of information about these available online and no point in me repeating it here. If you want more details about the chemicals, look HERE.

1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

2. Parabens

3. Diethanolamine (DEA)

4. Triethanolamine (TEA)

5. Dimethicone

6. Formaldehyde

7. Polyethylene Glycols (PEG)

8. Retinyl Palmitate

9. Synthetic Fragrances

10. Synthetic Colors

11. Triclosan

12. Alcohol

13. Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

14. Sodium Chloride

15. Cocamidopropyl Betaine

Another of My Why’s

Photo by Pablo Merchán Montes on Unsplash

My Discovery: The Best Way to Over the years, I have had three different hairdressers, all personal friends, tell me that I wash my hair too much. As a result, I have on more than one occasion, experimented with washing my hair less often. Sometimes I managed to get to a place where I could skip a day but I hated the way it felt and sometimes ended up washing my hair mid-day because I couldn’t stand it any longer. When I tried to give up washing my hair altogether, it was a disaster! I don’t think I made it through the third day.

Go Shampoo Free

One day, a couple of weeks ago, as I was pondering my dilemma, I remembered that as a child my brother spent some time in the hospital with his broken leg in traction and they used dry shampoo in his hair. My mother said that it worked “surprisingly well”.

Maybe that was the key to getting through the itchy, oily “yuck” of unwashed hair. I didn’t run out and buy any because I assume it also has scented chemicals in it and would probably bother me as much as the baby powder does. Instead, I got the brilliant idea to try baking soda. Not surprising considering I’m a “green” cleaning lady, right? Baking soda absorbs stains and odors, why not try it on oil? Besides, I have an abundance of it.

I decided to quit using shampoo.

Here’s What I Did:

Photo by Michael Amadeus on Unsplash

For the first three days, I shook baking soda into my dry hair and massaged it into my scalp before brushing it out. That seemed to work amazingly well. I didn’t have any itching and my hair didn’t look oily. (It seemed to highlight the gray, but gray hair doesn’t bother me.) Later, in the shower, instead of washing my hair with the shampoo I rinsed it thoroughly with hot water while massaging my scalp with my fingertips and then dried it with a blow dryer.

I suspect that cornstarch would work as well as baking soda but that’s not something I use very often in cooking and didn’t feel like searching through the cabinets to see if I could find any, especially since the baking soda was working so well.

After the first few days with baking soda, I stopped using it and instead just rinse my hair daily in hot water while massaging my scalp with my fingertips. That’s all there is to it!

As of this writing, I have been shampoo-free for two weeks! My hair is healthier than it has ever been and it is much more cooperative. My scalp does not itch and my hair is not greasy. Best of all, my lungs are happy and I am not constantly worried about harming my body or frustrated that I keep purchasing more products that aren’t any better.

The “No Poo” Movement

In preparation for writing this article, I decided to do a little research on the dangers of shampoo and what others are doing to avoid using it. That’s how I found out that there’s a whole world of people living life without shampoo! Some of them have been doing without for several years and they are very pleased with the results.

Within the “No Poo” movement, many people are using baking soda and vinegar in their hair. Everyone seems to have their own method and it makes sense to experiment and find out what works for you. Based on my research, this is what I would suggest:

Baking Soda Wash:

  • Start with a tablespoon of baking soda in a spray or squeeze bottle.
  • Add about a cup of warm/hot water and shake it well.
  • Spray this onto your roots and let it sit for about a minute.
  • Massage scalp thoroughly with your fingertips.
  • Rinse well.

Vinegar Rinse:

  • Start with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a spray or squeeze bottle.
  • Add about a cup of warm/hot water and shake it well.
  • Spray this into your wet hair.
  • Massage and rinse.

Adjust the amounts of baking soda and vinegar until you come up with the formula that works for you. Some people do half baking soda or vinegar to half water.

There’s a good bit of chemistry involved in baking soda and vinegar and I am not a chemist. I also really don’t like the scent of vinegar. What I do know is this: Combining baking soda and vinegar causes a chemical reaction that makes a great, overflowing, fizzy mess. The combined ingredients do not make the ultimate green cleaning solution as you may have read. Separately, they can be effective and many cleaning tasks but together they are about as effective as saltwater.

Also, there’s some science about the PH balance of hair care and the baking soda and vinegar sort of balance each other out. You can Google that if it matters to you. I suspect that some people just feel the need to do something and due to the popularity of baking soda or vinegar as miraculous “solve anything” products, that is what they have chosen to do. My hair is doing just fine without either.

A Note About Hair Brushes

One of my hair-dresser friends recommended that I use a boar bristle hairbrush. Beware: If you go online searching for a boar bristle hairbrush you will come up with dozens of brushes that use the words “boar bristle” just to draw attention to themselves. Although they may be fine brushes in many ways, a genuine boar bristle hairbrush is made with hog hair, not metal pins. A brush with a wooden handle should last a long time.

Here are some benefits of using a boar bristle hairbrush:

  1. The brush distributes the oils in your hair from the roots to the ends which means less frizz, more volume.
  2. It massages your scalp and stimulates blood flow, which feels really good.
  3. It adds a natural shine as it distributes the oils.

Satisfaction 🙂

I’m quite happy with my hair, although it has only been two weeks. I feel like I have made it through the difficult “trial period” and my hair is responding nicely. So far, no one has given me dirty looks or backed away like I’m some sort of freak. Hopefully, I will be able to come back in a few months with an update and pictures.

My next goal is to give up deodorant. Stand back, people! This could be bad!

Some Items That May Help:

4-7-2019 Update:

I am very happy with my hair! It has become very soft and manageable. I am not having any itching or discomfort. When it becomes oily, I use baking soda. I have not tried vinegar and don’t see a need to.

Clean "no poo" hair
Me with “new and improved” hair.

Update 4/29/2019

I am still happy with my hair but I have made the following adjustments:

  • I did not like using a spray bottle for the baking soda because, after the first use, my concoction was cold which made it very unpleasant to use and it clogged the spray nozzle. Instead, I found a small plastic canister with a lid and filled it with dry baking soda. About every other day, I pour some into my hand and add enough water to create a paste which I use like I would any shampoo.
  • I am not a fan of vinegar but because it comes highly recommended, I gave it a fair try. Yuck! I just don’t like vinegar and my hair was limp by midday.
  • I purchased a boar hairbrush. The bristles are very close together, so they do not penetrate my thick hair and massage my scalp at all but it is probably effective as far as distributing the oils.

P.S. I tried several “natural” deodorants without success.

Are you looking for a safer alternative to personal and skincare products? Read this guest post to find out which ingredients are hazardous and where to find safer products.

Update 11/11/2019

I did a bit of traveling over the summer and one place I stayed had a natural shampoo that did not make me sick and I tried it because I had been missing the lathering aspect of washing my hair. It was okay and led me to experiment with other natural products. I found a shampoo bar that I used for a couple of weeks and later purchased another natural shampoo.

My hair started to feel synthetic, like a doll’s hair.

I am back on baking soda with one minor adjustment: I bought a shaker bottle like those used for parmesan cheese or red pepper in pizza shops. Before my shower, I hold my head over the sink, shake baking soda on any oily areas, work it in just a little and let it sit while I am choosing my clothes for the day. I rinse it out in the shower.

My hair is healthy, not too dry or too oily, and feels soft to the touch.

P.S. I found a deodorant! Effie has already shared my story and you can read it here.

20 thoughts on “Best Way to Go Shampoo Free

  1. I am learning so much from you Theresa. You have given me an answer to one of my problems.
    I have had headaches caused by shampooing, and I believe loss of hair as well, which were obviously from the chemicals.
    I am going to follow your suggestions to try the baking soda for a week and see how it goes.
    Your hair does really look much healthier. Just a few questions: has washing your hair this way caused any unwarranted smell? and would it hurt to add some essential oil spray?

    1. Hi! I’m glad you are learning something new here. I hope going shampoo-free is as helpful to you as it is to me. I have not noticed any odor at all in my hair but I have considered using essential oils just to give it that “finished” feel. I sort of miss the lather and scent but I am so much happier with my hair now that I will never go back to shampoo. If the baking soda doesn’t work for you, maybe see what my friend Erin can offer.

  2. oh wow, I think I’m going to have to try this!! Your hair really does look great, Theresa!!

    Now, you be sure to let us know how giving up deodorant goes for you! lol

    1. Thanks, I am happy with my hair. My sinuses are much happier, too, with less “scent” to breathe. I’ll have to come back and update about the deodorant. That experiment didn’t go nearly as well!

  3. Wow, who knew this was even possible without your hair feeling disgustingly oily! I have cut my hair washing down to every other day over recent years and it has gotten used to it. I have never thought of pushing it further than that, but why not? Sounds great, and no more nasty chemicals!!

    Thanks for the enlightening information 🙂

    1. My hair was much worse when I did the every other day routine. By the end of the second day, I always felt gross. There were many mornings when I would wake up thinking that my hair was good and I would leave it alone only to regret that decision later. The first couple of weeks without shampoo were the worst but now that my body has adjusted, all is well. In the article, I mentioned that my next challenge was to give up deodorant. That one didn’t work out nearly as well. 🙁

  4. Wow!! I honestly never thought of going shampoo free, but your are giving me a whole new perspective on how to take care of my hair. I have read of people going shampoo free for months only to return back to the commercial store sold shampoo, and it never dawned on me to give it a try. After reading your write up I am now inclined to try it. I am just curious, has anyone tried honey? I heard it has so much health benefits.

    1. People do use honey in their hair because of its benefits but I have never been inclined to try it. If you do, be sure to come back and let us know how it goes!

  5. It is amazing what household items can do for us, and are almost always healthier than commercial products. I’ve noticed a movement in this as well, and I’m willing to give it a shot. Baking soda plus apple cider vinegar plus hot water is more than simple enough, and I guarantee it’s 100 times healthier. I’ve been looking for ways to go without chemicals and while I’m still young (27), would love to start now. This sounds super easy and I can’t wait to give it a shot.

    1. Good for you! One reader cautioned against hot water which is probably wise because it can strip the hair of too much oil and leave the pores open. My water doesn’t really get hot so I didn’t think about that.

  6. Hi Teresa
    That is a very interesting read on going au natural on your hair. I have heard that washing your hair removes all the natural products, but I am afraid it is not for me as I suffer from seborrheic dermatitis and cannot go without shampooing, unless I really what to suffer. Tried it once the itch was unbearable. Have you any advice for us sufferers?

    1. I’m not familiar with seborrheic dermatitis so I’m sorry I cannot be of any help. The first time I tried to stop using shampoo, the itching was awful! I’m sure the baking soda was helpful but I wonder if aging has also been beneficial in this area. Maybe you will do better to try again in the future. Meanwhile, I strongly recommend looking for a natural shampoo without dangerous chemicals.

  7. Interesting read! And relevant these days. Like what you’ve mentioned, there are increasing number of people who are choosing to be free from using chemicals.

    On the other hand, to some people, like me, living without shampoo is still difficult.
    Although I’m trying to wash my hair alternatively and use dry shampoo in between, it still leaves my hair oily and flat.

    I think, I might give the baking soda wash a try.

    Just a question though, isn’t bad for the hair to wash it with hot water?
    I read that hot water washes away hair’s natural oils. And because it’s hot, it opens the pores and can cause hair loss.

    What is your opinion about that?

    1. Thank you for your comment. The trick to avoiding flat, oily hair is to push through that first week or two. Once you completely stop using shampoo, your body will adjust and stop making as much oil. The baking soda should help or maybe wear a hat for a few days if necessary. I think you are right about hot water. My water doesn’t actually get very hot so that’s probably why it has worked for me. I’m glad you pointed that out!

  8. What caught my attention is one the chemical used in shampoo as you mentioned. Formaldehyde. Isn’t that what mortician used to preserve dead body ? How scary is that.
    I like to try on the baking soda stuff as I don’t like chemicals in or on top of my body . I would normally go for traditional medicines like herbs , leaves, roots etc, instead of modern pills, tablets , they are all full of chemicals. Our body is not designed to take in chemicals.

  9. Wow, this is really great information. I am using shampoo since forever and never thought about trying something different. And i have dandruff issues and itches.
    I will try the baking soda as I do not like the smell of vinegar
    Thanks for sharing, this is great

  10. I can only agree with everything written above. Personally, I only use natural shampoos, I quit commercial hair products years ago, but I have to say that it took my hair about 2-3 month to completely detoxify. It was not easy as my hair was dull, hard and lifeless but eventually, it got better and now I’m very happy, I have much better hair, use only the basic hair care, I don’t need any extra hair products and generally my hair is much healthier and does not give me any troubles (as it used to in the past) . I’m curious about your next post, quitting deodorants, something I’d like to do as well but will wait for your recommendation.

    1. I’m glad to hear that you have had a good experience in avoiding harmful hair-care products. My deodorant journey is not going nearly as well. 🙁 I will find a way!

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