Quick Trick To Getting Cleaner Water Only Hair Washes

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Hair Care, No Shampoo, Water Only Hair Washing
Girl running in meadow with natural hair

Today I want to share a very simple but SERIOUSLY effective trick I’ve found for getting cleaner Water Only hair washes. I think this tip can solve issues with oily residue or buildup on hair strands that can be caused by minerals in hard water or just oil buildup over time.

My Dry Shampoo Pre-Wash Trick

I’ve talked about dry shampoo in my previous posts. Dry shampoo is a powder that is applied to dry hair, absorbs oils, and makes hair look clean and fluffy as a refresher between hair washes. I’ve also mentioned that for the purposes of training scalp oil production, I consider applying dry shampoo as a hair “wash.” Since it absorbs oils and can make the scalp dry and produce more oils to compensate (like after a hair wash).

dry shampoo powder for no poo hair care

With this in mind, I discovered this tip by accident and realized it left my hair SUPER clean after a water wash. Basically, I applied dry shampoo about an hour before water washing my hair. It soaked up any excess oil buildup, and then I water washed my hair and it came out super fluffy and clean, and all oil buildup was washed away. The key was applying the dry shampoo just before a water hair wash and then washing it away, so that my scalp’s oil production was not interrupted more than a typical hair wash. In other words, if I applied dry shampoo and then the next day washed it, I would have been washing scalp oils away two days in a row. But applying dry shampoo shortly before water washing my hair (and washing it out) didn’t seem to mess with my regular oil production more than a typical water hair wash. (More about transitioning to No Poo without looking oily.) (More about keeping hair clean between washes.)

I hope this tip works for others, too! I’ve outlined some steps below to get cleaner hair washes from dry shampoo with the least amount of scalp oil production interruption.

Step 1: Pre-wash application

When hair is oily and needs to be water-washed, apply dry shampoo all over the hair. Get it on the roots and even down the first few inches of the length of the hair– basically apply it anywhere the hair looks stringy or has oil build up. Gently massage the dry shampoo into the hair, brush it into the hair– get it all in there. (I use a natural dry shampoo like arrowroot powder or unsweetened cocoa powder that doesn’t seem to dry out hair like the commercial stuff does.) To avoid interrupting the scalp’s oil production, I keep the dry shampoo away from the scalp, and only apply it to the actual hair strands.

Step 2: Wait for it to absorb

For best results, I wait about an hour for it to absorb into my hair. (This is a good time to wash my BBB so it’s clean, oil-free, and ready to be used on freshly washed hair!) It may also have the same effect after just a few minutes. If a lot of dry shampoo is left on hair for too long, I would count it as an extra hair wash since it may get on the scalp and encourage the scalp to produce oils which interrupt the progress for training scalp oil production. An hour seems to be enough time for it to absorb the oils from my hair, and not long enough to interrupt my scalp oil production.

Step 3: Wash as usual!

Water wash hair as usual. For me, the dry shampoo powder absorbed excess hair oils and buildup, and then the warm water from my water-only-hair-wash washed the powder away which took the oils with it. It’s sort of like a dry shampoo… shampoo. Again, I recommend using a natural dry shampoo that won’t dry out hair. I use arrowroot mixed with unsweetened cocoa powder! Dry shampoo is also one of my recommendations for how to make your hair smell good.

***For my dry shampoo recipe & more info about dry shampoo, see Tip #3 here.

***Check out the eBook that includes 20 DIY recipes for no poo hair care.***

I hope this helps some of you! As always, let me know your experience in the comments. Be well, and see you soon.

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  1. Viva

    Thanks so much for this! I’m looking forward to trying it out. So glad you’re posting again, and this post is super super helpful. I think hard water is causing some of the issues I’m facing, so I hope this works as a good solution :)

    1. Jeni

      Hey! I found this awesome post about water washing! I only use organic shampoo and conditioner, washing my hair every 5 days and put a little sunflower oil on the very ends of my blunt bob. I wish I didn’t “have to” shampoo my hair at all. I followed your steps exactly and my hair is drying as I type this. I would love to save time and money and never shampoo/condition my hair again. I really appreciate how detailed you were in the post, because I believe that is key to water washing the right way and not getting frustrated thinking it won’t work. It works for animals! Never has a wild bear, wolf, giraffe, buffalo or lion shampooed their hair and they look fine. I’m so excited about this. Thank you for this useful and very helpful information!

    2. Elise

      Hi, is lush no drought also a good dry shampoo to use for this method? Thanks for your reply! Elise

    3. Jennifer

      A while back, I was inspired by another woman’s ACV-Baking soda method that had became popular, but I found it to be too drying and quickly gave it up. I looked this same woman up recently and found her updated blog showing that she discovered that long term use of the ACV-baking soda method badly damaged her hair and she’d switched to a low-waste, all natural shampoo (which is still a great idea! No judgement here!). Anyway, as the low waste/zero waste movement has picked up steam, I have been trying more natural shampoos and bars and liking them, but the expense is a bit much, and I wonder if they are a bit more drying than is necessary (I still get the dreaded frizz, but less so if I wash less)…so I decided to look back into “no poo” -or water only method-to see if anyone had long term success with it. I came across your blog and found it to be intriguing. I’d like to give it a try for many reasons (the zero-low waste movement, my hair has become dry/coarse as it grays, I love the idea of natural beauty, and I’d like to save some money).

      So, yeah, if you’re still out there and using this method I’d like to know how you’re doing and what your long term results are!

      I hope all is well and thank you for the informative posts!

  2. suzanne

    thanks for your posts! I just started doing the no poo (it’s been a couple weeks) and my hair has really bad split ends so I’m thinking of getting it cut but know that hair dressers typically use shampoo to pre wash the hair…what do you suggest??

    1. You can call ahead and check if the salon will be okay with just a cut and no hair wash. But some stylists want to wash your hair because it puts hair in an easy-to-work with state. If not, ask if they have any sulfate-free shampoo options. They usually do. Also ask if the stylist would be okay with not using any styling products which often contain silicones. If not, one hair wash won’t ruin all your progress. It may take a week to get back to where you are now. Just BBB!

  3. Akash

    Hi, I have a question about boar bristle brush. Being a boy with 5 inches long hair, Do I need to use boar bristle brush? I have started No-poo 2 weeks ago.

    1. If your hair is excessively oily, a BBB can help. Just make sure to clean it between brushing sessions. They are especially good at getting natural hair oils down to the ends of long hair (where the moisture is needed most). Since you have short hair, you don’t really need to worry about it. See how it goes!

  4. Amelia

    Cool tip! I use the same dry shampoo recipe as you do – just curious, can you still go 7-10 days without getting oily when you do this? Just want to make sure it won’t reset my scalp’s oil adjustments.

  5. Michelle

    I’ve just found your blog today after searching for help with this method. I washed my hair last night with watered down shampoo as I had a drip left in the bottom and got to thinking it was a bit pointless, hence I’m thinking of water washing only. I don’t wash my hair more than twice weekly anyway so this should be an easy transition. how long have you been water only washing and is it sustainable long term?