3 Month Update: The Ultimate Water Only Hair Washing Routine – [No Shampoo!] – RESULTS

I can’t believe it’s already been 4 months since I started “no poo,” and 3.5 months since I went water-only! I am definitely out of the oily transitional phase and still going strong on water-only, so figured it was time to post an update to my Ultimate Water-Only Hair Washing Routine.

These pictures were all taken in the same lighting, room, and with the same camera as they were in the Ultimate Water-Only Hair Washing Routine post for a more accurate assessment of progress.


How often do I wash my hair now? Once every 7-10 days with just water.

How long can I go between water-only hair washes before my hair looks oily now? My hair actually doesn’t get oily anymore, not even after 10 days of not washing it! :D

How long did the oily transitional phase last? / How did I get out of it? It took me approximately 2 weeks to stop looking excessively oily and about 2 months to get completely out of the initial oily phase to the point where my hair just doesn’t get oily anymore. I followed these tips from my other post to get through the oily transition as quickly as possible.

What does it feel like? My hair feels different…  definitely healthier, soft and hydrated, slightly heavier, and it’s a little harder to run my fingers through my roots than if I used shampoo. But I really don’t mind the new texture! It gives my hair more body, thickness, and volume at the roots!

Do I still get split ends? I got my hair trimmed right before going no poo (~ 4 months before these pictures). With shampoo, my ends would definitely be split, dry, brittle, rough, scraggly, and in need of another trim at this point, but with water-only, they are just as healthy as the rest of my hair. They are soft, shiny (I’ve never had shiny ends), and I have very few split ends. (Pictured Below)

Growth? It has definitely grown ~2 inches over the past 4 months. This is a good rate of growth, but I also eat a lot of fruits/veggies/nuts and a multi-vitamin so this much growth is normal for me. :) The difference here is that my ends are healthy so I can keep growing it without having to trim off the new progress.

Does it smell? Okay so I’ve been doing routine smell checks since I started no poo (for science), :) because I’m paranoid about smelling bad. So for the first 5-7 days after a water-wash without any fragrances added, my hair doesn’t smell like anything. That’s a decently long time! After that, I’ll sometimes notice my scalp (not my hair) smells like… well hair. It’s not like I can smell it wafting off of me or anything, but I can smell it if I rub my fingers on my scalp and sniff (oh god this is TMI). It doesn’t really smell bad, but it doesn’t smell like flowers and dandelions or what I’m used to. So if it doesn’t smell that nice, then I’ll add the tiniest drop of a blend of really fragrant shea butter/coconut butter (that smells like french vanilla mixed with chocolate… mmm) to my scalp and hair and it completely refreshes the scent. No more scalp smell. Dry shampoo also deodorizes it very well, and this DIY recipe makes my scalp & hair smell like chocolate. Boar-bristle brushing also helps keep any scalp smells from building up at the roots. There are actually loads of ways to make your hair smell like flowers and dandelions or whatever you want while on No Poo / water-only, so I’ll have to make a separate post for that soon.

How is my scalp acting? Great! No issues here.

Do I still have to boar-bristle brush it in sections every day? Nope! Spending time each day to section my hair and brush the natural oils through it was the one time-consuming, downside to water-only, but I really don’t have to do it anymore! Right before I wash my hair, I’ll still scritch & brush it to make washing easier, and I’ll probably scritch/brush once more during the 7-10 days between washes. But I don’t have to do it daily anymore since my hair no longer gets oily. I do brush my hair every day for a minute just to soften the look and style it for the day. Most importantly, I keep my brush really clean between uses as to not add last week’s oils back onto this week’s hair.

How has my hair dye lasted? I got my hair dyed a semi-permanent dark color the day I switched to no-poo (4 months ago). With shampoo, the color would typically last me ~6 weeks and then start to fade. However, this time the color was strong for ~3 months, and only during this past month has it faded a bit. Pictured above on the left is what my hair color looks like when my camera isn’t beefing up the contrast to solar flare status. You can see my blondeish-brownish roots coming in. Pretty good for 4 months after a semi-permanent dye! Pictured right is a contrast-y shot so you can see if my hair looks oily. Spoiler: it doesn’t. :)

Manageability? Styling? My hair is very manageable now. My natural hair oils act like a styling product. I can make my hair super voluminous with the flick of my hand fluffing it up, or flat to my head if I wanted. It’s like there’s a natural hairspray in it. I really don’t need to do anything to my hair anymore. It’s weird standing in front of the mirror expecting to have to do something to my hair, but there’s just nothing to do. Hallelujah.

Do I use any styling products? Nope. The only things I put on my hair now are shea butter (for added hydration on the ends of my hair or for heat protection) and the rare usage of homemade dry shampoo (like once per month maybe) just to make my style fluffier.

Do I use heat to style my hair? I don’t have to! And that’s certainly an improvement since going no poo. With shampoo, I had to use heat to tame my dry/damaged hair every time I styled it, but now I can let my hair air dry which used to be out of the question before. Now around 1-2 times per month I’ll use a flat iron, and I use shea butter as a natural heat protectant during those times. I’ll write more on natural heat protects another day. :)

Do I still use coconut oil to hydrate the ends of my hair? I actually switched from straight coconut oil to using this shea butter/cocoa butter blend that has some coconut oil in it. I prefer using the shea butter blend as it dries less greasy and works excellently to hydrate the ends of my hair in winter. I literally just slathered the shea butter all over the bottom 2/3 of my hair right before taking the Day 4 pictures so I could flat iron it a little bit to assess the length. It definitely dries much less greasy than straight coconut oil, and completely absorbs into my “low porosity” hair within a few hours.

Will I continue to use only water to wash my hair? YES. I am very happy with my hair!

Would I recommend others try water-only? YES.

How is water-only going for you? Post your update in the comments!

Comments

  1. Leave a Reply

    hairtrip
    March 17, 2015

    Could you please do a post on how to keep the hair from not smelling bad? I’m just short of completing a month and while my hair is definitely doing great and I don’t see myself turning away from the water only method, I do have an odd odor in my scalp when I run my fingers through it and that’s the only thing that worries me. I don’t want to undo the good that’s come out of no-poo only water just because of this. Would really appreciate your advice.

  2. Leave a Reply

    Alex
    March 20, 2015

    WO is seriously the bomb. After just a month, my lifeless, mousy, greasy dark hair has an insane amount of body and is super soft. I have one issue, though.

    I have dandruff.

    Like, really horrible, looks-like-someone-threw-Ritz-crumbs-all-over-my-scalp hair.

    It looks a lot better after washing (WO) obviously but it gets bad fast.

    My gut tells me to just wash it (WO) slightly more frequently, like a couple times a week, and my body won’t have an issue with overproducing oils anymore because it seems I’m out of transition.

    I could be totally wrong though.

    Wat do?

    • Leave a Reply

      Liz
      April 15, 2015

      Hmm, I’ve never had an issue with dandruff or flakes, but I’ve heard that using a really stiff boar bristle brush has helped some people clean off their flakes. I have issues with boar bristles, but another option might be to use horn combs to clean the flakes out. A lice/mustache comb is the finest kind of comb available and will probably clean stuff out the most, but make sure to detangle first! Some people start combing with a wide-tooth horn comb, then work their way using finer and finer combs until they get to that one. I have a wide tooth horn comb myself, but just ordered a coarse/fine combo comb too, and will most likely order a lice/mustache one as well later down the line. =)

    • Leave a Reply

      billyboo
      May 6, 2015

      alma powder or teatree oil fix dandruff

    • Leave a Reply

      Just Primal Things
      May 24, 2015

      I am going to start off by saying I am not a dandruff expert. However, I have read a bit about it, so here’s some information that might be helpful to you.

      Are you sure it’s dandruff and not dry scalp? The symptoms of each are very similar so people often misdiagnose themselves, but it’s important to know which you have because dandruff and dry scalp are treated in completely opposite ways. So first things first, check THIS link and THIS link to identify if it is dandruff or dry scalp.

      Dry scalp should be treated by moisturizing the scalp with natural oils (like jojoba oil, almond oil, coconut oil, Shea butter, etc) and/or (if you’re on water-only) washing your hair less often to allow your body’s natural oils to nourish your scalp between washes. Some people experience these kinds of flakes for the first time on no-poo after their scalp’s oil production slows down (which is ideal), but then they do something new that is too harsh for their scalp, like washing away too many excess oils off their head or using a product that contains irritating chemicals that they haven’t been exposed to in a while (like going back to shampoo, even a sulfate-free one, using too much of an unnatural dry shampoo that is too drying, etc). Since the scalp now takes longer to replenish oils (because it has normalized), if you strip all the oils off of it or irritate it, it may feel dry and flake until it is nourished again. If this happens to you, you need to tweak your routine so it stops happening.

      Which no poo method is best for dry scalp? Baking soda is pretty harsh on hair and can be too drying for some people over time. Washing with a teaspoon of raw honey is a good alternative. Water-only is a great no-poo method that will allow your body’s natural oils to nourish your scalp… If you are water-only and have a dry scalp, don’t water-wash every day and use cooler water to wash your hair. Note that hotter water dissolves your hair’s oils better than cooler water, which is why hot water is not recommended if you have a dry scalp. If you use water-only and are adding an oil to your scalp, be careful with how much coconut/almond/etc oil you add to your scalp since it’s hard to wash out globs of oil with just warm water (or any other gentle no-poo methods). Use a TINY bit of those oils on your scalp after you water-wash your hair (on dry or damp hair) to make sure you don’t look greasy. Once you moisturize your scalp or wash less often/change to a gentler cleansing method (water-only is the most gentle), the problem should go away very soon. Hopefully this is all it is! The links above will help you determine if your flakes are just dry scalp.

      Contrarily, dandruff is caused by yeast that feeds off excess sebum (aka your scalp’s natural oils), so you want to treat dandruff completely opposite to how you would treat dry scalp. As I said, I am not an expert in dandruff, so I recommend you speak to a dermatologist or other health professional (and maybe even try a holistic health professional!) for the best way to cure it. But from what I understand, you need to remove the yeast’s “food” (oils). The commercial way to treat dandruff is by washing daily with a medicinal anti-dandruff shampoo… which isn’t no-poo. You may be throwing up your arms right now thinking that water-only isn’t an option for you if you have dandruff, since the natural oil on your head is what the dandruff thrives on. However, keep in mind that many people who use dandruff shampoos have to use them every single day or else their dandruff comes back. Their hair also gets very oily after 24 hours, which is what causes the dandruff in the first place, so the shampoo is just putting a temporary bandage on the issue instead of curing it.

      You may want to research ways other people have cured their dandruff with no-poo or water-only methods. I have read about people who have fixed their dandruff completely after going no-poo because their scalp oil production normalized/slowed down, so their scalp wasn’t producing a ton of oils every day for the dandruff to feed off of. The initial oily transition might be rough to get through though… Some methods that I have read that worked for others are 1) using sea salt on your scalp which can you help dry out your scalp, and 2) adding DILUTED tea tree oil (please dilute it) to the scalp which is anti-fungal and can fight the yeast. You can also try searching online for other natural remedies that worked well for others. I also recommend looking into how diet affects dandruff. Just make sure that what you have is dandruff for sure!

      Hope this helped you in some way. If anyone else has suggestions, or would like to correct me on something, please feel free to reply!

  3. Leave a Reply

    Mary
    April 8, 2015

    Hi! I have been WO for about two months now, did wash my roots once with sulfate free shampoo as the build-up was getting too much (i have pretty oily skin as well). But when I ttried your method, and really scrubbed my scalp under the shower, my hair is more oily afterwards! What Could i try differently?

  4. Leave a Reply

    Lafarrah
    April 8, 2015

    I’ve been loving this blog. I’d be interested to know if you (Ms. Blogger) are still using the water-wash method.

    I’m almost three weeks into the water-washing and am happy to find the overwhelming grease factor settling down. But a new (and maybe worse!) development: my scalp has been flaking pretty badly (I’ve been picking out pieces. EUGH), and my hair looks legitimately “dirty” at this point. (I water wash every 4-5 days and have only used a tad bit of arrowroot powder/baby powder once or twice.) Any tips? Will this get better?

    The texture is also bothering me…it just feels “off.” And my hair looks soft and together right after I brush it, but it gets kind of lank and stringy only a few minutes after. Any suggestions from anyone?

    Finally, does anyone have any thoughts about how hair masks (with bananas, avocados, etc.) work with this? Is water alone strong enough to rinse the food out of your hair? :)

    Many thanks to whomever can address these things!

    • Leave a Reply

      Liz
      April 15, 2015

      For me, my hair’s texture always felt way off after I brushed it with boar bristles. Even my mixed brush with wooden/boar bristles needs to be used sparingly, since the deep conditioning effects are so great Using it as a makeshift dry body brush now. =P I switched to just using the scritch/massage/preen finger techniques, and I now use horn combs as well. They come in a variety of sizes; I’ve been using a wide-tooth one, ordered a combo coarse/fine tooth comb, and will most likely get a lice/mustache comb as well since this is the finest kind of comb available. Horn tooth combs seem to work better for my hair than boar bristles brushes do, although I do still use my wooden bristle brush for styling. =)

      Also, I’m pretty sure that water alone wouldn’t be enough to rinse food out of your hair, especially if it’s oily food like avocado. A diluted low-shampoo option would probably be a better fit for that, so if you’re OK with that it might be alright every now and again. =)

    • Leave a Reply

      Just Primal Things
      May 24, 2015

      Hi Lafarrah! I definitely am still using the water-only hair washing method! At the time of this comment, it has been just over 8 months now, and I’ll never go back!!

      I left a really long comment response on this page to “Alex” about the flaking / dandruff, hopefully that information helps you. I don’t know how to directly link you to the comment, but you can Ctrl+F and search for “dandruff” to find it on this page!

      For the stringyness after brushing… You might want to try boar-bristle brushing it at nighttime, before bed. The BBB moves all the oils around through your hair, which can make it look temporarily oily. But I have noticed that if I sleep on it / wait 8-12 hours, the oils absorb into my hair and it doesn’t look greasy afterwards! You may also want to clean your BBB regularly using this tutorial because you may be adding last week’s oils back onto this week’s hair with your BBB unless you clean the oils off of it. You can also try a wooden-bristled brush if the BBB isn’t working for you.

      I don’t think water alone is enough to wash out hair masks made out of food ingredients. You may way to use a silicone-free conditioner to CO-Wash it out of your hair, or a tbsp of raw honey diluted in water might be strong enough to cleanse it out of your hair.

  5. Leave a Reply

    ashley
    April 14, 2015

    I am considering this method, well actually I just started it on day 4 of water only. I tried baking soda and it killed my hair (and a couple brushes and combs too).. Does anyone here work out a lot? I usually hit the gym 4-5 days a week and my head sweats A LOT. Should I rinse with water every day when I go to the gym?

    • Leave a Reply

      Liz
      April 15, 2015

      I’m not doing water-only anymore; have moved on to something called “sebum-only”, where I just “dry clean” my hair by scritching, massaging, and preening. But I wanted to say that I noticed sweat actually cleans my hair pretty well; it’s basically just like a salt-water mist. No smells or anything like that on my end (sweat actually doesn’t have a smell from my understanding, there will only be a smell if there’s an overgrowth of bacteria), but if you have issues then maybe a couple drops of essential oils in your water wash should do the trick? I also use horn combs now which is said to have deodorizing properties, so that might help some if you have issues with that as well. =D

    • Leave a Reply

      Just Primal Things
      May 24, 2015

      I should make a post about this because this is a frequent question…. How does your hair feel after you work out and the sweat dries? Does it smell? You can try just brushing through your hair with a BBB or wooden-bristled brush to see if it looks okay. If it does, leave it! You can also try the dry shampoo recipe I discussed in this post which will make your hair look non-greasy and can get rid of any odors. Or you can rinse your hair with cool water & not much scrubbing after a workout, which will wash away any dirt/sweat, but it won’t wash away all of the oils on your head (which need warm water to dissolve).

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