Types of No Poo Methods
There are multiple alternatives to using shampoo that are easy to use, natural, and gentle on hair. Some types of No Poo methods are straight forward, such as switching a bottle of shampoo for a gentler bottle of cleanser. Other methods take a unique approach. Below are the types of No Poo methods and a chart comparing each type. (See What is No Poo?)
Sulfate-free shampoos are shampoos that do not contain harsh sulfates that strip natural oils off the hair and scalp. Sulfate-free shampoos are considered Low Poo rather than No Poo, since these shampoos still contain lathering ingredients that wash away many natural oils from the head. Switching to a sulfate-free shampoo is a great first step in eliminating the harsh sulfate cleansers that wreak havoc on the hair and scalp. However, some sulfate-free shampoos contain similar ingredients to sulfates and are still too harsh for many people. (More about sulfates and ingredient names to avoid.)
The Conditioner Only method involves using just conditioner in place of shampoo to wash hair. Conditioner is applied similar to shampoo, by scrubbing it into the scalp, roots, and length of the hair. It gently washes away excess oils and adds hydration. This method is great for curly hair, as curly hair often needs extra hydration to form curls and tame frizz. And this type of method is great for beginners who still produce a lot of oils. When choosing a product, note that some conditioners cleanse better than others. And it is critical to use a conditioner that does not contain silicones to avoid silicone buildup. (More about silicones and ingredient names to avoid.)
For all natural No Poo methods, many people have success using natural ingredients to wash hair. For example, washing hair with raw honey adds hydration, smells amazing, and leaves hair clean and soft. Raw honey contains antioxidants, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. Just dilute two tablespoons of raw honey in one cup of warm water, and scrub it into the scalp and roots. There are multiple other natural recipes, including various types of flour to to absorb and rinse away excess oils.
The original No Poo Method that circulated the internet involved washing hair with baking soda and following up with an apple cider vinegar rinse. I do not recommend using baking soda, as the pH of baking soda is very alkaline compared to the human scalp pH, and many people have reported baking soda can damage hair over time. There are much better No Poo methods than baking soda!
One type of all natural, zero waste, and gentle No Poo method uses just water to wash hair. The Water Only hair washing method (also known as mechanical hair washing) can get hair surprisingly clean using various scrubbing techniques and warm water to wash away excess oils. For best results, follow the techniques in the ultimate water only hair washing guide. The guide explains how to distribute oils away from the roots to hydrate the ends of hair, and how to get super clean water only hair washes.
Comparing Types of No Poo Methods
See the chart below for a comparison of the types of No Poo hair washing methods. The chart indicates which types of No Poo methods lather, their impact on natural hair oils, and how harsh they are on hair.
Choosing a No Poo Method
When choosing from the types of No Poo methods, it’s important to determine your success criteria for what you want to get out of a shampoo-free hair washing method. Some people want a strict zero waste, zero spending method that is as natural as possible. Others just want to switch out their current bottle of shampoo for a gentler bottle of hair cleanser.
Testing, Tweaking, and Troubleshooting No Poo Methods
Everyone’s scalp oil production, local water hardness, and hair care preferences are different. Some people switch to No Poo with ease, while others go through some trial and error to choose a method that works best for them. If you run into challenges with one type of method that just isn’t working (for example, switching cold turkey from shampoo to water-only hair washing), consider revisiting your success criteria. What do you actually want and need out of a hair wash? Maybe switching methods or combining two methods works better for your preferences.
Can No Poo work for Dandruff?
For hair that has dandruff, it’s important to determine what kind, as different types of dandruff are treated differently. Dry flakes caused by dry scalp may do well with a hydrating no-shampoo method like Conditioner Only. Large yellow flakes caused by a fungal infection may need a method that removes oil more aggressively, and may be able to switch from a sulfate shampoo to a Low Poo that removes a lot of oil from the scalp, but triggers less oil production than a sulfate shampoo. Consider consulting with a healthcare professional.