How to Begin a “No Shampoo” Hair Washing Method

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Hair Care, No Shampoo, Water Only Hair Washing
Preparing an aesthetic bath to start the "no poo" method

Ready to start the “no poo” hair washing method? I shared that I quit the damaging effects of shampoo and saw the quality of my hair greatly improve. Keep reading for the steps to take when quitting shampoo and beginning a natural hair washing method (a.k.a. the “no shampoo” or “no poo” method).

Before starting a no poo method

Clarify hair with sulfates one last time

Before starting a no poo method, it’s important to ensure silicone buildup is washed out of hair. You can do this by clarifying hair with sulfates one last time. (More about why sulfates and silicones should be avoided in hair products.)

We know that sulfates are the harsh cleaners found in many commercial shampoos that strip the natural oils off the hair and scalp, which makes hair dry, brittle, and susceptible to damage. On the other hand, silicones are commonly found in commercial conditioners and styling products. Silicones are designed to temporarily hide the damaging effects of sulfates by locking onto the hair shaft and creating a waterproof barrier which gives hair the appearance of shiny, frizz-free properties… but hair is still damaged underneath.

If silicones are not properly washed out of hair with a sulfate-shampoo, the silicone water-proof barrier can build up on hair and prevent hydration from ever reaching the hair shaft. This means that hair won’t be able to absorb natural oils. Instead, scalp natural oils may just sit on top of the hair, making the hair look oily, and the hair won’t be able to absorb any of the hydrating benefits of the natural oils. With time, this can lead to oily build up on the head and drier and brittler hair strands. (More on sulfates here.) (More on silicones here.)

Applying soapy sulfate product to hair

So I recommend clarifying hair with a sulfate-shampoo one last time before quitting shampoo all together, to ensure silicones are properly washed off. An inexpensive, “clarifying” shampoo that contains sulfates will work – just ensure the product does contain sulfates, and ensure it does not contain silicones. (How to identify sulfate and silicone ingredient names in products.) Apply the sulfate shampoo all over the scalp and hair, rinse it out, and repeat one more time.

** Especially if switching to the water-only hair washing method, I would skip conditioner so hair isn’t coated with any product, and it can be ready to absorb natural oils.

*** Keep in mind that washing hair with a sulfate shampoo without conditioner will put hair in a vulnerable state. Be very gentle while detangling wet hair: Use a wide toothed comb, start detangling from the bottom and work your way up, go slow, and be very gentle.

Clarify hair tools with sulfates

A pile of hair ties ready for a clarifying sulfate wash

Also before starting a no poo method, wash hair brushes, combs, and hair ties with sulfates. Especially if you think they previously came into contact with silicone products.

See my steps for how to clean a boar bristle hair brush. The same steps in that post can be used to wash any hair brush with natural or synthetic bristles. Just wash everything with a sulfate-shampoo and ensure the shampoo does not contain silicones. It can be the same product that was used above.

Then stop using hair products with sulfates and silicones

Once your hair and hair tools are clarified of any residual silicones… Stop using all products that contain sulfates and silicones. This will ensure you are not over-washing your hair with harsh sulfates. And that you are not letting silicones build up on hair with no way of washing them out during a “no shampoo” method. (How to identify sulfate and silicone ingredient names in products.)

Choose a No Shampoo hair washing method

Choosing various no poo methods before showering

Ready to start the no poo method! Choosing a no shampoo method was a fun and enjoyable step for me! There are a multitude of natural hair washing methods that provide a gentle (and thorough) cleanse, while not stripping all the natural oils off hair. For a detailed list, see the post “Comparing the types of no shampoo methods and how to choose!

A few of my favorite natural hair washing methods and options recommended by others are:

  • Using just conditioner in place of shampoo
  • Using raw honey in place of shampoo
    • Dilute honey in water so it’s easier to apply
    • Follow up with conditioner (optional)
  • Washing hair with just warm water
  • And many more!

Note: I cannot recommend baking soda as a hair washing method. The pH of baking soda is very alkaline compared to the natural pH of the human scalp, and others have reported it can damage hair over time.

Switch to a natural bristle hair brush

When starting the no poo method, switching from a synthetic bristled brush to a natural bristle brush can be a game changer! Natural bristles pick up hydrating hair oils at the roots and distribute oils down the length of hair. As hair absorbs the oil, it gets soft and shiny, tangle-free, and full of volume. The quality of my hair improved immensely just by coating my hair in its natural oils. The elasticity of my hair also greatly improved, and my hair is much less prone to breaking.

I recommend getting both:

  1. a boar-bristle hair brush – for distributing oils
  2. a wooden bristled hair brush – for general use and styling

Natural bristled brushes can be found online or in beauty supply stores for ~$10 – $30. Many boar-bristle brushes contain a blend of natural and synthetic bristles – the more natural bristles on the brush better.

Note that our hair’s natural oil (aka sebum) can build up on hair brushes, so regularly wash brushes to keep them clean. (How to clean a boar-bristle hair brush.)

Testing and tweaking No Shampoo methods

When I started, I thoroughly enjoyed the process testing out a variety of new and gentle hair washing methods, monitoring the effects on my hair, and tweaking methods to find a routine that works for me.

One of the benefits of starting no shampoo is that these gentler methods will no longer strip all of the natural oils off the hair and scalp, so the scalp’s natural oil production slows down, and hair doesn’t need to be washed as often. Note that this takes time, and there may be an initial oily transition phase right after quitting shampoo. If hair seems excessively oily at first, or if you need tips for how to get cleaner hair washes, check out the links below!

Leave a comment with feedback, questions, and share your experience starting a “no shampoo” hair washing method.

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