Washing Hair with Just Water?
I finally got fed up with the damaging effects of shampoos and decided to take my hair to the next level by going shampoo-free. It was the greatest decision I ever made for my hair! I tried various No Poo methods, and later transitioned to the Water-Only hair washing method, where I use only warm water to wash my hair. I’ve loved it so much that I’ve been strictly water-only for over a month now. Update: I’m still going strong with this routine after 13 months! – And my hair has rewarded me with the best quality it’s ever been in. :)
When I first heard about using only water to wash hair, I assumed it’d be a pretty grungy ordeal, but for me, it has been an incredibly effective, simple, and rewarding method – if done right. There are a few essential techniques that I follow that help enormously in managing the oils on my head, getting the most out of my hair washes, and keeping my roots looking oil-free and my ends hydrated. Once I got the techniques down, (and my scalp’s oil production calmed down), this hair care routine became almost effortless for me. If this is something you’re interested in trying, I’ve included some easy and effective techniques below that can help achieve the ultimate water-only hair, including while still going through the initial oily transition phase (like I was in the pictures throughout this tutorial).
What is the water only hair washing method?
The Water-Only (WO) hair washing method simply uses warm water (in place of shampoo) to cleanse dirt and excess oils from our heads, while utilizing the hair’s natural oils (like a conditioner) to protect and nourish the hair, making it soft, silky, and hydrated. My hair can look just as clean as if I used shampoo when I use the following tips and techniques.
The best part about this method compared to other “no poo” or shampoo-free methods is that there are no external chemicals that can damage, dry out hair, or wreak havoc on the natural scalp pH. The only “product” necessary is free of harsh chemicals, completely natural, totally free, and designed by nature specifically to nourish and protect our hair– the hair’s natural oils.
In my opinion, water-only is the final step to take in a shampoo-free journey. It’s self-sustaining, it can help get the scalp’s oil production under control, and it is a viable long-term hair washing method. It is also a zero waste, sustainable, and eco friendly hair washing method!
What is my hair like after one month?
My hair has never been more hydrated, voluminous, soft, silky, bouncy (the elasticity is through the roof!), manageable, fast-drying, or breakage-free as it is now. My hair looks just as clean as if I used shampoo, without any of the negative shampoo side effects, and it smells fresh. I can wash my hair way less often, because it doesn’t start to look oily until day 7. My hair no longer requires a boat load of styling products to look nice, and air-drying is a real life thing for my previously unmanageable hair.
To see the long-term results I got from this method, check out my 3-Month Update! (And after 13 months, I’m still loving this routine! No more oily hair, even after 10 days between water-washes.) I get even cleaner hair washing results now, but I’ve kept the original pictures on this tutorial from when I was still going through the “oily transitional phase” that many of us experience when starting a no shampoo method, just to show how clean my results are from the “before” and “after” pics at the oiliest part of my No Poo transition.
Before starting the Water Only hair washing method
***For quitting shampoo for the first time and switching to a no-shampoo method, I highly recommend checking out my other post how to start a no-shampoo method to avoid silicone buildup. Please also know that if you have previously been over-washing with harsh shampoos, and your scalp produces excess oils, there can be an initial oily phase when starting any no-shampoo method. See this post for how to get through the transition phase and encourage your scalp to slow down natural oil production. You may need to gradually transition to no-shampoo / water only while the natural oil production slows down, explained in this post. These things are crucial to know before starting any no-shampoo method.
The Ultimate Water-Only Hair Washing Routine
Let’s be honest, anyone can stop using hair products, stand under a shower head, and call that “water-only hair.” But let’s be real, we want hair that looks and feels great– not an oily mess sitting on top of the head! This tutorial is a guide for how to distribute & utilize the natural oils on the hair to give the look and feel of clean roots & delightfully hydrated ends.
What is needed to wash hair with just water:
- a boar bristle brush (BBB)
- wide-toothed comb
- very warm water
- cold water
- optional: a couple of drops of nourishing hair oil (e.g. coconut, argan, or olive oil) — helpful for dry ends on long hair
Step 1: Start with dirty hair!
When natural oils exist on the scalp & hair, it results in two awesome things:
- The scalp will take the hint that it’s not being stripped of all of its oils anymore, so it can slow down excess oil production.
- If natural hair oils have been distributed down to the ends of the hair, the nourishing oils are coating the hair shafts keeping them conditioned and hydrated between washes. (Like a free hair mask, woohoo!).
**The key to getting through the beginner’s initial oily transition phase and stop hair from getting excessively oily too quickly, is to try stretching the time between hair washes, so it can get used to not being stripped of oils. This means that a full water only hair wash likely doesn’t need to be performed every single day. (FAQ: “What if I like to wet my hair every day?” or “How do keep my hair clean between washes if I workout every day?” See this post for the solution.) Need more help with oily hair? Read here.
Note, that when I took pictures for this post, I was still going through the initial oily transition phase, and I intentionally waited six days since my last wash, which at the time, was a long time for me. The initial oily phase lasted a couple of weeks for me, and then my hair stopped getting excessively oily between washes. Note that no one has to let their hair get super oily for water-only hair washing. If this method doesn’t get your hair clean or the transition takes longer for you, please try out another no-shampoo or low-poo hair washing method in combination with water only until you get this routine down, so that you are getting your hair clean on a regular basis!
Here’s a link to my excessively oily before pics – for science. I hadn’t even brushed it yet because I want to show how well the brushing in Step 2 works. I think it’s okay though, because now you can compare these super oily transition pictures to the end result to see how well water-only works, even for a beginner who still gets routinely oily. Check out my 3-Month Update post for more info. I just wanted to clear that up so you don’t think anyone ever has to look this oily with the water-only method!
Also in these pics, sometimes my camera brightness is over-compensating because my hair is quite dark, so it’s automatically beefing up the contrast, making my hair look like it shines harder than it really does and making my skin glow like I’m an astral being or something. Thanks, camera. But don’t worry, I took the pictures you see in this post on the same day, in the same lighting, with the same camera, to keep consistency throughout this tutorial (for science).
Step 2: (Pre-Shower) Distribute natural oils!
The following are three very important techniques that should be done right before hair washing. These three techniques will help loosen up the natural oils on the scalp and will distribute them to the rest of the hair. The result will be less oily roots and added hydration for the ends— and they’ll make water washing in the shower a whole lot easier!
On dry, detangled hair, rub fingerpads (not nails) in relatively quick, yet gentle motions all over the scalp. It’s similar to scrubbing the head in the shower, but without water. We’re talking light pressure that shouldn’t hurt the scalp. This creates some friction to warm & loosen up oils and dead skin cells sitting on the scalp. (Added bonuses: Scritching also increases blood flow to the scalp which can promote hair growth, and it feels soo good!) Section or part the hair if necessary to reach all areas of the scalp.
Once the oils have been loosened on the scalp, you might notice that all the oils are sitting at the roots. The next two steps will help distribute the oils down the hair shafts to nourish the rest of the hair.
On dry, detangled hair, take small sections of hair (I like to take wide, yet thin sections), and place two fingers on either side of the section. Starting at the base of the roots, gently pinch fingers together and slide fingers down the section of hair to the ends. This “pulls” the oils from the roots down the section of hair. Be gentle. Preening shouldn’t actually pull at the scalp or be uncomfortable. If hair is longer than 6 inches (mine is more than double that in these pictures), it might be hard to get the oils all the way down to the very ends, so just focus on getting the oils away from the roots and at least 6 inches down the length of the hair.
For long hair, this can be a time-consuming step to water-washing, but it still works well for many people. Pro Tip: I find it’s quicker to preen while brushing in the next step. (One hand to preen, one hand to brush.)
C. Brush – DON’T skip this!
A boar-bristle brush (BBB) is an essential tool for happy hair, and it is absolutely essential for practicing water-only washing. From my experience, a BBB is the BEST at pulling the natural oils down from the roots to the ends of hair, and it’s great to do after scritching and preening to pull the oils from the mid-shaft all the way down to the very ends of the hair.
After scritching and preening, brush a clean BBB through hair to reduce tangles and distribute the oils down to the very ends of hair before showering. Section or part the hair so the boar-bristle brush can reach all areas of the roots and hair. Once done with each section, brush the ends for a while to get all the oils off the BBB and onto the ends. Ends need lovin’, too. :) And make sure the brush is clean before using it, otherwise it isn’t soaking up oils, just moving last week’s oils around on the head with this week’s oils. (How to clean a boar-bristle brush tutorial.)
In addition, these techniques can be used daily between washes! A boar-bristle brush can replace a regular, daily hair brush. Brushing oils through the hair is really the only upkeep needed between water-washes to keep hair looking clean and oil-free. Just a little brushing every day or every other day can really keep the oils from building up into a greasy mess at the roots. After my scalp’s oil production slowed, I noticed I don’t have to brush the oils through my hair as often anymore.
***For wearing hair naturally curly, brushing will un-define curls, so below are some options for managing oils:
- Curly hair has an advantage since curls hide oily roots better than straight hair. So if roots don’t look oily, scritch regularly, but wait to preen and brush the hair until right before washing it. Note that if natural oils aren’t being moved down to the ends of hair regularly, the ends are at risk of getting dry. Follow step 6 (below), which is to add a small amount of a natural oil (like coconut oil or shea butter) to the ends to give them some hydration between washes.
- If roots look oily and skipping daily brushing isn’t an option, try using the BBB daily to distribute natural hair oils throughout the week. Then dampen hair with a spray bottle filled with water to squish, style, and redefine curls.
- Or try a wooden-bristled brush instead, since wooden bristles are typically much further apart, and wood distributes natural oils through hair similar to a BBB.
Just by scritching, preening, and brushing, my hair already is starting to look a bit better compared to the way my hair looked when I started this tutorial. The most important thing is that we distributed our natural oils down to the ends which conditions our hair, and we loosened up oils from our scalp to make washing with only water a lot easier.
Step 3: Time to water-wash hair!
Temperature: Time to shower. The temperature of the water is very important. Too hot can damage hair or be too drying on the scalp, and too cool won’t break up the excess oils on the head. While scrubbing oils off the head, the water should be very warm… a comfortable temperature between hot and lukewarm. The water temperature can be lowered over time as the scalp’s oil production slows down since there will be much less oil to wash away (this happened for me).
Technique: Wet hair, then use fingerpads (not nails) to gently scritch the scalp in relatively quick motions (just like scritching before). Focus the water stream directly on the area being scrubbed so it can wash away dirt and oils while scritching. For long or thick hair, part the hair in sections while washing to easily access all areas of the scalp/roots. While going through the oily transition phase and/or noticing roots are getting clean but the next few inches aren’t, try preening the water through the length of the hair, just like we did earlier in Step 2B. The warm water loosens up hair oils, and preening while the water runs through the hair will help the water break up the hair’s natural oils further down to give an overall cleaner wash.
Be Patient: Make sure to get all areas of the scalp. I honestly had to spend quite a bit of time doing this when I was going through the initial oily phase, but I also only had to do it only about once per week, so it was worth it for me. (It takes me much less time to do it now.) If hair still looks oily after showering, try tweaking the method a bit. For the next wash, try using slightly warmer water, or spend more time gently rubbing fingertips on the scalp, or try preening the water through the hair from root to tip. This routine only gets easier and requires less steps as time passes and the scalp’s oil production normalizes. It took me a few washes to get the hang of it. Feel free to leave a comment with questions below, and I will try my best to help.
Hard Water? I have low to moderate water hardness and find water-only is successful for me. Some people have issues getting their hair to feel clean with very hard water. So hard water is something to check for if hair isn’t get clean. Test water hardness or look it up on the city’s website. There are ways to soften water at home. Many people have much better results after installing a shower head filter (which is also much cheaper than an entire water-softening system). I’ve actually even heard people say that their hair looks too clean and poofy with soft water so they prefer harder water.
Step 4: Rinse hair with cold water
This is my least favorite step, but rinsing with cool water helps the hair cuticles lay flat (after the warm water lifted them up), which helps hair look smoother.
Pro rinsing tip: After flinging the shower temperature handle to cold, take a giant step back out of the water stream. Bend over forward, flipping hair over the head, and stick only the head & hair under the cold water. Try not to think about every tiny molecule of freezing water hitting the shower floor and jumping back up onto legs. In fact, practice mentally checking out for a moment while the shock of 7 seconds of cold water attempts to ruin a perfectly zen shower moment. Just visualize being on an island standing under a beautiful, crisp, cool waterfall, overlooking the greatest scenery ever. …I do.
Okay in all seriousness, don’t slip and get hurt. But that may or may not be what I actually visualize. (It is.)
Step 5: Dry with a T-Shirt and Detangle
After showering, pat the hair dry with an old t-shirt or microfiber towel (instead of a bath towel) to reduce frizz and flyaways. Using a t-shirt or microfiber towel for this step actually does reduce frizz for me (unlike a bath towel), and I wish I knew about this tip forever ago.
Comb through damp hair with a wide-toothed comb, starting at the ends and working up. Be gentle as hair is fragile while wet.
Step 6: Hydrate Ends (Optional)
If hair is long, it may take some time for the natural oils to be distributed down far enough to condition the ends. Until then, I recommend applying coconut oil or any deeply hydrating, natural oil to the ends (and only the ends) of the hair as a substitute for the hair’s natural oils. Especially if ends are damaged or tangly. It will help smooth out the ends so they don’t dry frizzy and so combs/brushes don’t get snagged in them while detangling… plus it gives hair some added hydration. I prefer coconut oil, and unrefined, cold-pressed version of coconut oil makes a world of a difference to me, but any natural oil will worko including jojoba and argan oil. I stopped having to use oils after a few weeks, as they eventually became unnecessary. :)
Caution! Be careful with the amount of oil and where it being applied! Slathering a bunch of oil on the hair or roots will lead to excessively oily hair. I just rub one or two drops of oil between my finger tips and glide it onto the very ends of my hair while damp. My hair seems to look a bit oily if I apply the coconut oil to dry hair, but using it on damp hair seems to fix that for me. Then I thoroughly wash the oil off my hands before touching any other part of my hair so I don’t spread any extra oil to my roots.
Step 7: Air dry hair! or style as usual
My hair actually air dries SO fast now (and many others report the same with water-only). It’s literally ridiculous how fast it dries, but it’s so wonderful. I just gently twist it to the side like this until I’m ready to style it.
Products? I actually stopped needing to use any styling products since switching to water-only. With shampoo, I HAD to use styling creams, waxes, smoothing serums, volumizers, hair spray… Now my hair just does whatever I want it to without any product. Manageability levels are through the roof. Thank you, natural hair oils.
Heat? When I used shampoo, I had to use heat to style my hair every day to get it to look presentable. But now I only use heat on it maybe twice per month and just let it air dry the rest of the time. It’s incredibly low maintenance. any additional styling products for that matter,
If using any products, ensure they are silicone-free products or ones containing water-soluble silicones to avoid silicones building up on hair!! More on the importance of avoiding silicones here.
I didn’t use anything else in my hair for this tutorial. I just let it air dry & then lightly used a flat iron on it And that’s what you see in the pictures below.
***Important note: While myself and many others have followed Water Only and many other “no-shampoo” hair washing methods for years with positive experiences, I cannot encourage that anyone with a pre-existing scalp condition follows this routine. I am not a doctor, and I have only had positive experiences with “no poo” methods, so I can only speak to my own situation. If any undesirable symptoms arise, please take care of yourself and check with a professional. Thanks for listening!
DONE! Water Only Hair Washing Results Below
This is actually about 14 hours after I washed it :) Same lighting & angle as all of the above pics. So much volume! — NO styling products necessary. There is NOTHING in my hair except water, my hair’s natural oils, and a couple of drops of coconut oil on the very tips of my hair.
Thank you very much for this post! your hair looks very good!
This is the best water only tutorial ever!
I am on water oly method for like a month, loving it but still having to “wash” like 3 times a week…
I also noticed that my hair dries very fast with the water only method.
I have ward water and I have no problem at all.
I’m on my 4th month of no ‘poo (use a BBB regularly, and used baking soda and vinegar method 3x the first month, 2x the second month, 0x the 3rd month, 0x the 4th month) Hair stopped being greasy the third month, but my sebum buildup was getting crazy. I washed my hair with 3 raw eggs (my hair almost reaches my butt) 2 weeks ago and it took all but ~5% of the waxy feeling away that day! Yay! 2 weeks later it’s still only at ~10% waxy. Some tips: Use COOL water to rinse the egg. You don’t want scrambled eggs in your hair. And only use egg 1-2x a month as too much protein is bad for your hair :)
Thanks for sharing the egg wash tip! I’m glad water-only is going well for you.
This is so incredibly useful and funny to read, love your extensive tutorial. Thanks so much! I tried to go water-only 2 years ago but without all these useful tips. After about 2 weeks it looked like I had one big dreadlock and that while my hair is normally super smooth. So I switched to baking soda & vinegar, with which I mostly got itchy scalp and dry, brittle, static hair. Then I switched again, this time to castile soap. I’m still using castile soap which I make at home, with great success, I’m actually honestly happy with this solution. Howeverrrrrrr…. my curiosity of trying water only hasn’t waned. And I think I just needed to read your blog tutorial to feel confident enough to give it another go. I’ve already ordered my BBB and am totally going for it as soon as it arrives. Thanks for the inspiration and the laughs – the waterfall cracked me up. Love from Europe!
Do you have to go so long between washes? I started to use a low-poo shampoo and conditioner, at the moment I wash my hair every other day. But I am thinking of going 3 to 4 washes with water only, and than use shampoo and conditioner. Would washing it with water only make it produce more oil?
Washing it with water only will actually make it produce less oil over time. The less often you wash your hair with anything, the less often your scalp will need to produce oils to make up for lost oils. Stripping your hair with shampoo causes your scalp to freak out and produce more oils to get back to normal. The gentler you are with your scalp, the less it has to work. Water only is the gentlest method you can use to wash your hair. It does take a few weeks to normalize your scalp oils though (or months depending on how out of whack your scalp oil production has become from over-washing), but your hair will be amazing and so low maintenance once your scalp has normalized.
I had of the no poo method(s) before but never really thought about it. One time I was too tired after a run to wash my hair so i just washed it with water and put coconut oil in it afterwords and the next morning it felt AWESOME so ive been doing that for about 2 weeks now and decided to do some research. Ill be buying a BBB now :) its amazing how much more manageable my curly hair has been since I stopped using the 6+ products I needed before.
My only question really is that when I get my hair trimmed she always washes my hair. I only get it trimmed every 4-6 months, but will it cause damage for her to wash my hair that once? Shes kind of judgmental and I dont think she would be willing to JUST trim it without using products.
It’s exciting to hear you’ve had such great results with water-only hair washing! It shouldn’t damage your hair if you get it washed once at the salon. Keep in mind if they use a sulfate-shampoo, it will wash away the oils on your hair and might encourage your scalp to produce oils to compensate, so just keep BBBing, scritching, and preening, and your hair should be back to normal after a few days. You can always ask for a sulfate-free shampoo, or ask them to not wash your hair. The advice I usually see about this is that you’re paying, so you get to decide the service they provide.
The one thing I’d be worried about is if they used silicones in the conditioner or in styling products (heat protectants, frizz-serums, etc). Because then you’ll have to wash those out with a sulfate-shampoo or they won’t come off your hair. Might be a good idea to ask for no styling products!
Does this water-only method suit me if i oil my hair once in two days with coconut oil?i use to apply oil only on the body of my hair.i avoid oiling my scalp.can i use this method to wash my hair?
Coconut oil is very hard to get out with just water. I do not recommend using WO to wash out coconut oil, but you can usually wash it out with a silicone-free conditioner. A lot of people find that on Water-Only, the natural oils on your hair hydrate your hair so well that you no longer need to apply coconut oil to your hair.
Hiya, I’m 15 and would love to try this out.. I’m worried that my hair will be really greasy as my hormones are probably still all over the place due to my age, I mean. I still have a bit of acne that needs clearing up; probably due to hormones. So yeah my question is will this work for me, will my hair stop being greasy without the shampoo?
I was going to try this out since.. well.. today. But I have school tomorrow and I’m worried my hair will look awful as today is the day I should wash it. Please reply soon! I’m worried I’ll be put off it if I’m not 90% it will work.
Thank you for reading and thanks in advance :)
Hi Sara, you may want to try this on a weekend to see how it works out. You can also check out this post for tips on how to not look oily while you’re training your scalp’s oil production. Hope it helps!
You are a little angel for posting all of this. I’m a almost three weeks into the ROM and almost quit. Read through all your tips and I’m definitely gonna stick it out!
Thank you! I hope this info helps you!
Hi. Thanks for great post and saving my live. I am with water only method sense a few weeks but I start loosing my hair more than before so I am worried. Could you please tell me why and should I stop using only water method?
Each strand of our hair goes through phases at any given time: growing, resting, and shedding, so it is normal to lose up to 100 hairs per day regardless of which washing technique you use. In my own experience, my hair grew in thicker and denser since going water-only. (This could be caused by other factors like diet, but I didn’t change anything noteworthy in my routine. So I think going no-shampoo contributed to my hair growing in denser which is great!) However, I also noticed hair collecting faster in my brushes on water-only, but I am convinced that this is because the overall texture of my hair is different on water-only, so it’s harder for loose hairs to fall out on their own during the day. So all of the hair that used to fall out on its own without me noticing during shampooing, conditioning, and during the day, all falls away when I scritch and brush on water-only. Basically I’m saying your hair may not necessarily be falling out more, it’s just that you’re noticing each and every hair that does fall out because it doesn’t fall away as easily. I hope that makes sense.
HOWEVER, make sure you are gentle while scritching, that you GENTLY detangle your hair with a wide-toothed comb before brushing/preening, and that you are gently scrubbing your scalp/hair during water washes. Scrubbing your scalp really hard CAN make hair fall out, so be gentle with it. If you notice your hair is getting noticeably thinner, please report back here, because I haven’t heard of any experiences like that either from feedback on this website or any of the various online no-poo communities I am a member of. Good luck and let us know how it goes in the future.
Exactly how clean should your hair be after washing when you’re just starting out? Mine is a lot cleaner than before washing but is still a bit waxy. Is that normal?
Hi Tali, waxiness can be a normal texture especially when you are first starting out and dealing with a lot of oils from the transition phase. If you still experience waxiness after you are out of the transitional phase (when your hair isn’t getting excessively oily anymore), you can rid yourself of the waxiness by doing a one-time cleanse with a co-wash (silicone free conditioner), honey wash, or even a sulfate-free shampoo. Then continue with water only washes and reap the benefits of a scalp that doesn’t get excessively oily anymore and hair that looks and feels clean! I did this. More info in this post: Here. (Reason #2)
Is it possible to do the water-only method if I participate in activities like color runs, mud runs, hot yoga, etc? I know that if I do a mud run, I’d obviously have to wash my hair afterwards. But would it be fine with just water? Or do I need to wash my hair with low-poo to actually get my hair clean? I also think I’d have to skip the scritch, preen, and brush steps if I have dirt or color powder in my hair so I don’t get it all over the place, right? Thanks for your input!
I just wrote a post about how to keep your hair between washes & after workouts. Hopefully it works for you. https://justprimalthings.com/2016/05/05/how-to-keep-your-hair-clean-between-washes/
Did you use clarifying shampoo to start your whole process originally? I have read several posts that say it can jumpstart the process.
I’ve been using this method since Christmas. I have thick curly hair and my ends still seem dry and frizzy. I use coconut oil to keep them hydrated but will this get better?
For dry/frizzy ends, coconut oil can definitely help tame them and give them some moisture. It differs between people because of different hair types, but I personally noticed a permanent change in my hair ends from adding coconut oil to my ends & (more importantly) scritching/preening/brushing my hair’s natural oils down to the ends of my hair. Once my ends were coated in my natural oils, they felt great. However, if your ends are damaged, split, or uneven, coconut oil or natural scalp oils can’t fix that. It can help it from getting worse, but eventually those ends need to grow out and be trimmed off.
Not sure if you’re still checking comments on this post, but I do have a question. I work out a lot and sweat quite a bit during. Should I just distribute the oils in my hair before I workout? I don’t want to distribute the salt from my sweaty head into the rest of my hair.
You can try it and see if it works for you. I also have a post about keeping hair clean between washes / after working out. Hope it helps you: https://justprimalthings.com/2016/05/05/how-to-keep-your-hair-clean-between-washes/
Does water washing make hair less poofy in humidity?
Rachael: It did for me!
Will it help stop dandruff?
I’ve been water-only for a year! Thank you for this amazing guide! It’s a shame so many people are trying to use baking soda on their hair. Way too harsh.
I’ve been following your guide for about 3 weeks now and I’m doing my second wash tomorrow, I’m very happy with the results, thank you so much for posting!
I had been doing no poo for 3 years now
i tried this method 10 years ago and i had the healthiest hair in my whole life. thinking about doing it again. try it you will be amazed.
Hi i have sensory issues. Which means i’m sensitive to certain things. For me it’s basically everything. I recently dyed my hair and shampoo in my hair and conditoner absolutely feels disgusting and honestly has not been cleaning my hair either it makes my hair look incredibly greasy too. I’ve tried different shampoos. So i’ve been looking up these no poo only water things. I have 2 questions about it i tried the boar bristle brush but i have extremely thick hair and it made my hair super staticky for some reason so i’m gonna try the wooden brush but with that do you have one that you recommend?
My second question is how to get the water smell and just to make your hair smell better with just using water.
Thank you so much!
I just beginning water only routine.. And this is the most usefully article u had ever Read about water only wash .. thanks a lot.
My hair is fine and extremely brittle. It seemed the more I tried to baby it, the worse it got. Broken, oily and dried out at the same time. I finally decided I needed to wash it less. Slowly I weened myself off the daily washing (it was an oily mess at first, yuck). Eventually I moved on to conditioner on dry hair for about a half an hour and then shampooing twice, then once a week with a tiny bit of conditioner at the end. Now I’ve moved on to water only a couple times a week and my hair has been transformed. All that work to have horribly damaged hair and now I get people commenting on how healthy and shiny my hair looks. The texture isn’t like shampooed hair, but considering my hair was broken and horrible looking and impossible to do anything with, the texture is a huge improvement. It’s so easy to take care of and looks great.
Thank you so much for this detailed post on water only washing. I’ve tried other “no poo” without luck. And was also very tired of my hair looking horrible an dealing with the vicious cycle of shampoo. That being said, how do you feel about when you get your hair colored and they wash it? Will that hinder all current progress of keeping the scalp naturally balanced? Thanks!
Hi! So I’ve been doing this water only thing for about 2 weeks now. I kinda just stopped washing them. Instead I would thoroughly rinse them with hot water and brush them in the shower on wet hair. I noticed that my hair felt dirty and so I read you article. I was a bit surprised when you said to brush on dry hair cuz I have curly hair and I always though that you should not brush it on dry hair . Although because I wanted to see if it could help clean my hair I tried it. I have been brushing for about half an hour and I am kinda grosted out right now because my hair brush and my hands is covered with grey waxy dirt . Is it normal ? Thanks!!!
Hi Malte, Yes, curly hair definitely follows different rules! For curly hair, you can scritch/preen/BBB brush the night before washing your hair to help pull the oils through your hair strands and away from your scalp. Then you can wet and water-wash your hair to reform your curls. Between washes, you can scritch/preen/brush and then just rinse or wet your hair to help reform your curls. A lot of curlies re-wet their hair between washes to reform their curls anyway. Let me know how this works out for you! Also – check out this BBB post about sebum build up and how to remove it from your brush.
Thank you so much for the tutorial! Im 7 months in and I couldnt be happier!!
That’s great to hear! Thanks for the feedback. I’m happy for you. :)
You literally changed my life with these detailed instructions. I’ve been transitioning very smoothly and never looked back. Nearly two years in and my routine is super-relaxed. I rarely have to do anything other than run hot water down my hair every 10 days or so. This makes so much sense!
Based on this article I converted to the water washing method for a glorious year long period, then I moved to a state with hard water and learned that water washing with hard water is impossible. I’m working through that obstacle.
I just wanted to leave a thank you for introducing me to the best hair care method I’ve ever done. I hope to one day return to the beautiful bouncing curls of water washing.
For what it’s worth I worked around not being able to brush daily because of curls by
finger massaging my scalp daily, and on shower day just spending extra time brushing the sebum through with a boar bristle brush. I also worked with a wooden wide tooth comb that felt amazing rubbing on the scalp. I don’t have the kind of curls you can comb through, but my once a week brushing and shower was more than enough to maintain this method.
Hey just wanted to ask that when I go for trimming,the parlor fellow washes my hair with shampoo and that results in a ton of hair-fall because I normally don’t use shampoo and otherwise my hair-fall is quite less but every 7-8 weeks when I go for trimming they use shampoo and a bunch of hair falls off.Should I do no trimming then??And yes I’ve a lot of times told the man to not shampoo my hair,but that’s not possible ,so what I do??plz answer
And yes sis your hairs look beautiful :)
Thank you! So thorough. Wonderful. I have been water-only washing for one year now, thanks to your post. I got a little lazy lately and have not been feeling great about my hair. To reassume some steps I am sure will be a good idea. Thanks again. Much appreciated.
I came to this after trying every consievable method for decades! I reasoned that native peoples with long hair like Amerindians, Chinese, Polynesians and many others before shampoos and soaps were used, washed their hair with water only sometimes never! Here In Australia during the goldruch era of the 19th centnury Chinese mineres had ankle length braided pig tails which was never washed or combed out! Polynesians swam in the ocean several times a day. So – I brush my hair every night with a 100 strokes using a boars hair brush. When I get out of bed I comb out tangles and loose hair with a wide tooth comb followed with a normil toothed comb brushing from outside and inside my hair. I wash in the shower once a week, sometimes massaging a little almond oil into my scalp the night before. I do a fingertip massage several times a day e.g. when watching TV. I wrap my hair in a large towel after showering and let it dry naturally.My hair is baby fine and I turn 87 on 2 October.
Thank you! I’m very glad you found it helpful. Isn’t it so weird how fast our hair dries? It’s so convenient :) I’m happy to hear you are enjoying water-only! Let me know if you have questions or if there is any way I can help in the future. :)
Thanks for your answer, looks like my hair is a little waterproof lol already came from the shower almost dry.
I think that’s a good sign, meaning your hair’s natural oils are coating all strands. :)
I just started doing this, but not because i read your article. I started doing this because i can’t find a shampoo that won’t make my scalp itchy after every wash and i was really curious if i could prevent that if i would go without shampoo for a while, and it starting to work. It’s been almost two weeks since i haven’t used shampoo (i haven’t used any coconut oil yet, for example) but i feel fine and my hair looks good. I’m kinda happy about this. And after reading this articles (to convince myself that i’m not insane that i took this road) i’m pretty sure i’ll continue to do this for a while.
Thanks a lot!
P.S. I’m a guy :)
Hi circusarchitect, it’s exciting to hear that water-only works for you! Please let us know how it goes for you in the future.
Hi! I am exactly the same. I’m 27 and have always been pretty sensitive to detergents and other products, but over the last 4 months or so, my scalp, back and neck (my hair comes halfway down my back) has been itchy like crazy! I tried so many different shampoos, medicated, sulphate-free, anti-dandruff, etc. and none of them made a difference. I eventually decided to go water only, but I didn’t expect to be able to have clean hair at the same time. I figured I could just invest in some hats and put up with it until the itching calmed down and then slowly introduce products back into my routine so I could figure out which chemical was the problem. I’d never even heard of no-poo until a few days after I started and now I’m determined to stick it out. Fortunately I have quite curly hair, so even in the transition phase (I’ve only been water only for about a week) my hair doesn’t look too bad. Thanks!
Yay! I’m happy you have had success with WO. :)
Hi, question for you. My daughter has very curly hair also. Do you brush your hair dry before getting in the shower? I can’t imagine doing this with my girl. It would take so long. Any tips on your WO routine with curly hair would be appreciated!
How often should i wash my hair with only water? I’m a 20 year old boy and suffering hair loss. It’s been 1.5 months since i went water only.
If you’ve just started the only water method, I think you should wash every day, just to normalize your scalp’s oils.
You can water-wash as often as you feel like! I recommend water-washing with warm water & scrubbing once every 7 days to avoid over-washing your hair & to help your scalp normalize its oil production. However, if you are new to water-only and/or your scalp still gets oily frequently, you can water-wash more frequently as needed until your scalp oil production calms down. Just try to keep stretching the length of time between water-washes to get your hair to get to the ~7 day mark before it starts to look oily. (7 days is just an “end goal” to get to.)
But if you don’t have an issue with overly oily hair and/or if you like to shower daily, you can rinse cool or lukewarm water through your hair daily if it works for you, and then do a warm water & thorough scalp scrub every 7-10 days if you’d like.
Hi ;) i am talian, so first of all sorry if i don’t write prefectly. I really thank you for this tutorial about WO washing. It’s the best tutorial that i aver read about No poo!
I have started 3 days ago.. But if tuo can help me, i really appreciate your point of view!
I attend a swimming pool 2/3 Times (sometimes also 4 Times) a week… I use a silicon cap in the water but when i finish kg hair are completato wet… How can i protect my ha it from the damages of chlorine and at the same time wash with Only water?? I really really really really THANK YOU :)
I was wondering if you could help me. I’ve stopped using shampoo in the beginning of july and have just washed my hair with water. In the beginning it was going great, my transitional period didn’t seem that bad. But then it stopped getting better. I have hard wather, so i started boiling the water for washing my hair, wich made it better. But now the back of my head is still greasy and it doesn’t go away. It doesn’t really feel that greasy, but it sure looks like it. I tried replacing my pillowcover more often, but nothing seems to work. Do you have any advice? Cause I really don’t want to go back to shampoo … :(
Hi Anne-Lore, it sounds like you’re doing everything right!
If you notice greasy buildup on your crown that doesn’t go away with water washing, I highly recommend boar-bristle brushing (100% boar bristles, no nylon) between rinses. It reeeeeally helps distribute oils away from the roots of your head. You should also try scritching and preening (tutorial above) on the day you plan to wash your hair. It makes water-washing more effective since many of the oils have already been distributed away from the scalp.
If that doesn’t fix it, you could also try using a natural, chemical-free cleanser once per month to break up the excess oil. Raw honey makes hair soft and silky, breaks up grease, has anti-bacterial properties, won’t strip the natural oils off your head, and the pH of honey is the same as the human scalp, so you don’t have to worry about messing up the pH of your scalp (like you would if you used baking soda). I recommend using 1 TBSP raw honey (not pasteurized) mixed with 1/2 cup or 1 cup of warm water (depending on how thick your hair is) and massage that mixture into your scalp like shampoo. Then rinse it out really well. There are other natural shampoo alternatives out there, but honey is just my favorite. :)
Also, I’m wondering if your hard tap water caused some mineral buildup on your scalp before you switched to boiled water, and maybe it never got completely washed out? If the honey/natural shampoo alternative doesn’t work, you could try using a sulfate-free shampoo one last time to completely get rid of hard water mineral buildup and then use only boiled water to wash your hair from then on. I know that sounds like all your progress will be reset, but your scalp should be fine after 1 week (and you’ll have a clean slate to start with).
Side note: Not sure if you know this, but just boiling water doesn’t soften it. You have to let the lime particles separate and then skim out the water (info via this link: http://www.wikihow.com/Soften-Hard-Water).
Lastly, I’m not sure how often you rinse out your hair, but I have to recommend trying to go as long as possible between washes so your scalp’s oil production slows down. I’d say 5-7 days between washes is a great goal to reach. I know it sounds gross, but you just have to stretch the time as best as you can, and wear it up in a bun or braid if it’s long enough.
Good luck, and let me know how it goes!!
You should try an Apple Cider Vinegar rinse, it helps to get rid of excess oil :)
How hard do you press on your scalp while scrubbing your scalp? I’ve been water only washing my hair for a few months and can’t seem to figure out how to get the oil production to slow down.
I don’t press too hard… I recommend using gently pressure as to not damage your hair or overly agitate your scalp. The biggest tip I can give to slow oil production down is to wash/rinse less. Let your hair get oily, then wait as many days as possible before water-washing it again. I know you’d think cleaning it more would get the oil to go away, but instead you’re washing away the excess oils from your scalp so your scalp thinks it needs to keep replacing those oils by producing more.
Just a little update on my progress…
I am now washing once a week! yay!
I had to do a little washing with product (not shampoo) to get rid of the sebum build up from the transition period, I used shikakai powder and now my hair is great. Now I am using only water. My hair is not getting oily at all.
Also the preening and brushing is really really important…
WEIRDEST THING… I did the same a couple of months into water-only and got the same results! I had been water-only for 2+ months and noticed my hair kept a small bit of buildup on it no matter how often or how infrequently I water-washed it. (I normally had to water-wash it every 4-6 days.) I have hard water, so I assumed it was just hard water mineral buildup or sebum buildup from the transitional period that was hard to wash away with just water.
Anyway, I washed with a gentle sulfate-free product, and BLAM. I literally didn’t have to rinse it for 10 days. I actually could have gone longer, but kind of missed the therapeutic feeling of water rinsing through my hair. There was no excess oil production. I just boar-bristle brushed a little bit every day in between. Looks and smells clean. Weirdest thing ever, right?!
Same here! I think the key is to let the scalp balance itself, and after just wash the excess of sebum with some gentle shampoo (in my case shikakai worked great).
And now I am going more than 1 week without washing I just wash with water to keep it clean from dust as I work outside (I know just a good brush will clean it but I like the relaxing feeling of water in my head from time to time). It is great! my hair is so shiny and soft!
I totally agree. I have read about so many people who have a sebum buildup after a couple of months that won’t seem to go away, and I wonder if this would help them, too.
Could you please share a link to where I could buy shikakai shampoo?
Hey I have a question. If I get some build up would a natural silicone free conditioner be ok to use rarely? I really love the Shea Moisture Restorative conditioner but am concerned that it may take away my natural oils that I’ve worked so hard to get to move down my hair shaft? Thanks!
A natural silicone free conditioner like Shea Moisture would be great to use for a co-wash. If you want to stay water-only, but you have buildup you want to remove, I think using the co-wash rarely would be fine. From my experience, it does remove some of the natural oils that’s coating the hair shafts, but the conditioner also replenishes your hair with its own oils or moisturizers, so it’s not like your hair would be super dry while it’s missing out on some of its natural oils. Does that make sense? I hope I explained that properly. It will take some time to get your own natural oils back through your hair, just BBB and scritch/preen often to get back to where you were.
Where can I find that shikakai shampoo? Can you post a link?? Please and thanks!
Don’t wash so often, use a headband and a bun. Pretty handbands will do the job. The less you wash, the less your hair makes excessive sebum (oil).
look on amazon, type in shikakai powder, a 3.5 oz box of powder is about $4.50 as an add-on item. i’m not the person who uses it, nor making any claims about it one way or the other, am only answering your question about where to get it.
Hey I’m loving your posts on WO hair washing, probably one of the more informative posts out there :)
Anyway I’ve recently started working out almost everyday and I know that I’m supposed to stretch out the amount of time as much as possible between washes but I was wondering whether it’s okay to rinse quickly after every workout with cool water? It just feels really gross if I don’t. What are your thoughts? Thanks in advance!
Thank you! I feel like rinsing your hair quickly with cool/cold water should be fine. Cold water doesn’t really dissolve oils like hot/warm water does. And I do recommend rinsing sweat off your head after a work out. You’ll smell better and feel cleaner afterwords, so it’s worth losing out on just a little bit of your oils in my opinion!
Hi, you wrote this article quite a while ago so I hope you’re still answering questions haha. I have very frizzy hair and I’ve tried so many shampoos and serums and nothinf really works, so I’m definitely ready to try something completely different. It’s just that I’ve been using conditioner on my hair since forever, and I really can’t imagine my hair not being one big tangle if I wont use conditioner. Can you really completely skip that as well? Or should I apply more oil, and should I do this mainly in the shower or after drying my hair ?
Thanks in advance!
Hi Marjolijn, When you skip the shampoo, your allow your hair’s natural scalp oils to come through. You use a boar-bristle brush to brush your natural oils through the length of your hair which keeps it frizz-free and hydrated. If you need more hydration, you can also use a hydrating oil on your hair, but keep in mind it’s hard to wash out excessive amounts of dense oil (like coconut oil) completely out of your hair. I recommend clarifying your hair one last time with a sulfate shampoo (to wash away all the silicones), then you can try using a silicone-free conditioner to wash your hair. Don’t use any products containing silicones, and see how it goes. Some conditioners are great at cleaning your hair and they smell great! It’s a gentle cleanser that keeps your hair really hydrated. It’s called co washing (conditioner only washing), you can read more about it online.
So before i started doing this i applied coconut oil to my hair. I left this in for about 3 days then decided to do my first water wash! I noticed after my hair smelt unpleasantly from the coconut oil and was very oily. After 4 days i noticed it getting better so i washed again and since my hair i think is overr the transitional period as it is not over-producing oil, but my hair still waxy. What should i do?
Hi Mehrin, Coconut oil is tricky to get out of hair because it’s a thick oil and no-poo cleansers are often not strong enough to get it out the first time. You should be able to get the coconut oil out of your hair with a low-poo (sulfate-free shampoo) cleanser. I go into more detail of using a low-poo cleanser in this post (see “Reason #2”) to get oil buildup or waxiness out of hair. It will also work for coconut oil.
No one could have had a bigger rat’s nest on their head than I did before going water only if I didn’t use conditioner. Sometimes I couldn’t even get a comb into it, little long through it. Read my earlier comment to see my experience. I suspect the worse the problems you had before, the better the result afterwards (at least in comparison). Your natural oils are best. \just be prepared to go through that awful oily, yucky phase. It is so worth it in the long run. Good luck.