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No Poo in My Hair… (Shampoo, that is)

Finally got my hair cut today!  Not as much for the little one to grab!  Also got my new Didymos baby wrap... cute, huh?

Finally got my hair cut today! Not as much for the little one to grab! Also got my new Didymos baby wrap… cute, huh?

You use WHAT to wash your hair!?’ my hair dresser barked at me today.  ‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘I use baking soda as shampoo and apple cider vinegar as conditioner‘.  She had already finished my hair.  She even commented that my hair was looking pretty good and healthy, despite the fact that it’s been falling out in clumps.  (For your information, your hair falls out in clumps after you have a baby).  I mean, I sort of coaxed it out of her, like, ‘So, how’s my hair looking, haha, I don’t have any time to take care of it these days‘.  Now, I know the last thing a hair dresser wants to know is that you can use something in your kitchen cupboard to wash your hair.  They would much prefer you to buy the products that they use and sell…. but… I’m a DIY kind of gal and I like to live by the motto: ‘IF YOU CAN’T EAT IT, DON’T WEAR IT’!

It all started because I ran out of shampoo a couple months ago.  I’ve already been using apple cider vinegar on my hair as conditioner for months: view post here.  I mentioned it to my hair dresser the last time I got my hair cut (ahem… 8 months ago). My hairdresser, with huge hoop earrings and wearing ubiquitous black, only sort of raised an eyebrow.  ‘To each their own!’, she said.  But, today, when I said sodium bi-carb (baking soda), I could see that she nearly lost it, had to take a deep breath, bite her tongue and compose herself before she told me it’s not something I should do long term because I can really damage my hair.  ‘You see,’ she said, ‘we use sodium bi-carb to strip colour out of people’s hair!  It will destroy your hair!‘.

A Bit O Chemistry

Ah, now here’s where a little chemistry can go a long way.  We’re talking acids and bases.  The pH of water is 7, considered neutral.  Anything with a pH higher than 7, is considered a base.  Sodium bi-carb, or baking soda, has a pH of 8.4 and is alkaline (or basic).  When wet, it will feel a bit slippery, as all alkalines do, and it’s good at cleaning things (like hair…).

Apple cider vinegar has a pH of 4.5 to 5 and is considered an acid.  If you can go way waaaay back to your high school chemistry days, you will remember that if you mix a weak acid (apple cider vinegar) with a weak base (sodium bi-carb) you will get a result in something that is close to neutral.  That is why it is said that the ‘no poo’ and apple cider vinegar hair washing regime is said to restore the natural pH of your hair’s scalp.

It is almost always recommended to dilute your baking soda and apple cider vinegar with water.  Diluting will also change the pH, making the acid or base weaker.  (Remember this stuff from high school?).  The ‘No Poo’ regime has been said to clear up dandruff, dry hair, itchy scalp and a variety of other hair ailments.  I even use it on my kids.  The baby especially, had some pretty bad cradle cap and using baking soda after soaking with coconut oil seemed to do the trick.

Regime Recommendations

Luckily, we’re talking high school chemistry and not rocket science.  There is really no real way to mess up your ‘no poo’ or apple cider vinegar regime, but there are a few recommendations and considerations to making it work.

Give your hair an adjustment period.  Your hair has been working overtime for years to produce the oil that is stripped from it by using conventional shampoos.  It can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks for your hair to stop producing excess oil.  Mine took about 3 weeks.  Combined with the post partum hair loss, I felt a bit unsightly for  a while to touch.  But, my husband said my hair looked fine.

Use approximately 1 tablespoon sodium bi-carb to 1 cup water.  This is the recommendation, although I tend to make more of a paste using way less water than recommended.  I especially did this when my hair was producing excess grease in the beginning.  Play with the ratio until you find what works for you.

Use approximately 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar to 1 cup water.  Same ratio as before.  I like to keep this in a squirt bottle.  But, I find that if I leave it in there for too long, out of the fridge for a few weeks in hot weather, it gets a bit slimy and hard to squirt… but I just unscrew the cap and rinse the slime and then spray away.

Wash your hair every 3 or 4 days.  I know… sounds gross, but once your hair adjusts, it’s really all you need.

-Expect your hair to feel different.  When your hair is wet and you have just washed it with your ‘no poo’ regime, it won’t feel as slippery or sleek as when you wash it with regular shampoo and conditioner.  That’s because there’s tons of weird chemicals in the shampoo to make it feel that way.  Rest assure.  Once you hair has dried, and you’re out of the adjustment phase, your hair will feel completely normal (actually, should feel great).

-Spruce it up a bit.  If you want your hair to have a nice scent afterwards, just add a drop or two of your favorite essential oils, like lavender, etc. You can also give yourself an oil head massage before washing your hair and that is so nice to relieve stress and will make your hair and scalp extra soft and yummy… even nice to let it sit over night and then wash in the morning.  Hmmm. I think I’ll do that after writing this post.

Scrubbing technique.  Use the baking soda on your scalp, just like you would shampoo.  Scrub in forward and backward motions, not circular.  Put the apple cider vinegar on the ends your hair, just like you would with conditioner.  Rinse well, and I promise, you won’t go smelling like a pickle for the rest of the day.  Acids and bases wash away very easily in water.

Check out another great blog post on the topic that I love: here.  Up until today, my hair has been long (and is still reasonably thick), the lady who has this blog has hair that is very curly and thick.

Economic Benefits

Not only is the ‘No Poo’ regime cheap as chips (to use a little Aussie lingo), but it’s great on the environment.  We’re talking less plastic bottles, less chemicals going down the drain, and less waste that unavoidably occurs along the manufacturing production line (transport, harvesting, etc.).

I think that covers it all.  Give it a go and see how it feels!

12 Responses »

  1. I am so going to try this! I love having clean hair but yes it totally strips all the natural oils out when using even ‘green’ products too often. I used to experiment with home made oil treatments but never managed anything that didn’t go too far and took ages to get out! Do you find all that sea water has an effect on your hair too? x

    • I’ve spent over ten years in the sun, wind and sea… I think the sun is the worst though because it really bleaches your hair. I’m not in the sun as much these days because of babies. I also used to try all the fancy ‘natural’ products and they were so expensive and not really totally natural… Let me know how you go 🙂

    • Totally have a go! I’ve found that after 10 months my definition of “clean hair” has changed. The shampoo version of clean hair is when everything is stripped out and artificial moisturisers are added to compensate. Now my definition of clean hair is a healthy scalp producing a balanced amount of natural oil, and hair that is both clean and super-low maintenance. The vinegar can be overdone, so experiment, as I only use it about every four washes (your hair will let you know when it needs some extra softness.) 😀

      • Oh, I meant that I also use the acv too! Yes, I know what you mean, my definition of ‘clean’ hair does not ‘feel’ the same as it used to. I use the baking soda on my girls as well! I really need to get some new apple cider vinegar… by accident, I left the cap off and some fruit flies drowned in there! Poor things! They’re still floating around at the bottom…

  2. Pingback: No Poo in My Hair… (Shampoo, that is) | Parenting Central Australia

  3. Nice. I’ve been using baking soda and apple cider vinegar exclusively for 10 months now, plus a light coating of coconut oil about every 20 days because the shampoo had dried my hair and scalp so badly. I will never go back to industrial-strength hair care products!. My very long hair and recovered scalp (that suffered from dandruff/dry flakes for eight years!) is as healthy as a young child’s. The monetary cost is negligible, I mix the baking soda up fresh every shower (also about every four days), and mix the vinegar fresh about every four washes. My scalp’s adjustment period was about two months. I wish I’d done this all my life.

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  5. jenny good davis

    Hey Kate, I’ve been reading all over that you should be brushing your hair with one of the natural bristle brushes to distribute the natural oils better. Do you do that? ( No idea why but one of my memories of you in college was explaining how you never brushed your hair. Weird things we remember!)
    Also, any suggestions when baking soda/acv dries your hair out a little too much and you become static head? Been doing this for a few months now, but it might just not work for me.

    • Haha, it’s true, I don’t brush my hair too often! There’s no other reason than I just forget to sometimes. I haven’t heard about the natural bristle thing, but it makes sense! And, about the static… I haven’t heard of that one either! But, isn’t it winter there? And New Mexico is dry, so maybe that’s it? I would think if you did ‘no poo’ then you be less static… has it been a few months? You can also do ‘low poo’ regimes and get some sort of apple cider vinegar shampoo from the health food shops?

      • I think it’s my hair. I’ve always had that static problem, even in super humid Maryland. I started using leave in conditioner years ago and that calmed it. I’ve tried different homemade leavein stuff with ACV and some oils and stuff, but it still doesn’t stop me from looking like I stuck my hands on some of those electric balls at the science center. Oh well. I’ll figure it out one day! 🙂

    • HeyYa Jenny, I am 2+years poo-free now, and when my hair gets dry or with static I use coconut oil with excellent results. It’s easy to use too much at first, so I suggest a little rubbed into the scalp and a touch on the hair framing your face and the tips. Rub in well and be prepared to change your pillowcase after sleeping with freshly oiled hair. Oil lasts for a couple of weeks, so have fun with it and let us know how you go 😀


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