Gradually Transition to No Poo (Oil-Free Hair & No Buildup!)

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Hair Care, No Shampoo
How to slowly transition to No Poo, oil free, no buildup

Gradually transition to No Poo

Want to start a No Poo method but dreading the oily transition phase? If you are starting with hair that gets very oily quickly, and you can’t or don’t want to have oily-looking hair during the No Poo transition, then gradually transitioning to No Poo is for you. You can make progress training your scalp to slow down natural oil production, and you don’t have to look excessively oily between washes, or have to deal with oily / waxy buildup.

Many people can easily switch from shampoo to a gentle hair washing method, but if we have been over-washing with harsh shampoo, we can see just how bad shampoo messed up our scalp’s natural oil production. Over time, switching to a gentle No Shampoo hair washing method can allow the natural oil production to slow down. But until that happens, it may be difficult for some people to get clean results with No Shampoo methods. Gentle hair washing methods really do give clean results when washing away a moderate amount of oil, but you may need help cutting through an excess amount of oil during the initial transition. (More about how to transition to No Shampoo here.)

Follow the steps in this post to gradually transition to your desired No Shampoo method (e.g. Conditioner Only, a No Poo recipe, or Water Only) without looking oily.

Note: If you are new to No Shampoo, you may need to clarify hair from silicones before proceeding. Please read “How to begin No Shampoo” first, and then continue reading this post.

Step 1: STOP using sulfate shampoos

Close up of sulfate bubbles from harsh shampoos that contribute to excess oil production

Firstly, and most importantly, STOP using sulfate shampoos. Right now. And switch to using a Low Poo (sulfate-free shampoo) as your harshest, fallback hair cleanser from here on forward. We are going to use the Low Poo as needed to remove excess oils or waxy buildup from the hair during the transition phase. No Poo methods are great at consistently removing a moderate amount of oils from the hair and scalp, but during this excessively oily transition phase, the Low Poo can be used to cut through all of the excess oils, and ensure you regularly get a clean hair wash.

A Low Poo should absolutely get your hair just as clean as sulfate-shampoos, without stripping natural oils from the hair and scalp with too-harsh cleansing ingredients. Though many people (including myself!) find Low Poos are still too drying for hair, so continuing to a No Shampoo method is still the goal for many people.

Step 2: Gradually stretch time between hair washes

Sand timer for waiting time between hair washes to slow scalp oil production

After a hair wash, check in with your hair once or twice per day to notice when it starts to look or feel oily. Then begin gradually stretching the time between hair washes. The goal is to let the natural oils nourish the scalp for as long as possible – or as long as is comfortable to you – between hair washes.

For example, if your hair looks or feels oily at night, see if you can wait until the next morning before washing your hair. For example, if your hair looks oily 24 hours after washing it, see if you can go 36 hours before washing it. Whatever length of time works for you based on your personal preferences and schedule.

I have an entire post about how to not look oily while stretching time between hair washes. I recommend following those tips during this step! Read all the tips here.

Step 3: Use a No Poo method for every other hair wash

Using a gentle no poo hair washing method during the transition phase

Start using a No Shampoo method instead of the Low Poo for every other hair wash. See if you can keep going same number of days between each hair wash (or longer). You can use any gentle No Shampoo method of your choice: Conditioner Only, a No Poo recipe, or Water Only. Your gentle hair washing method should get your hair clean after each wash. If it doesn’t, you may need to tweak the method, or choose a different method during the transition phase. (See: Comparing No Shampoo methods and how to choose.)

For example, if Water Only hair washing isn’t able to cut through excess oils from your transition phase, try Conditioner Only or a No Poo recipe until your oil production calms down. Or try tweaking your method with the techniques in my ultimate water only hair washing routine, which helped me get clean results even during the most oily part of my transition phase.

Step 4: Phase out the Low Poo

Close up of no poo hair washing methods for use during transition phase

By this stage, you will have stopped stripping natural oils, started performing No Shampoo hair washing methods every other hair wash, and stretched the number of days between each wash. This is great. The No Shampoo method is gently washing away excess oils, while letting your scalp be nourished by its natural oils. And the Low Poo regularly washes away any chance of oil buildup.

The next step is to stop regularly using the Low Poo, and continue with using only No Shampoo hair washing methods for every hair wash. By doing this, the scalp will have a chance to find its final happy place, where natural oil production is not excessive, and gentle No Shampoo methods are able to effectively wash away the moderate amount of excess oils being produced by the scalp.

From here on out, only use the Low Poo as needed: if you notice No Shampoo methods are unable to wash away excess oils due to oil buildup. If you need to use a Low Poo once in a while, go right back to a No Shampoo method for your next hair wash.

Considerations for the No Poo Transition Phase

Hopefully the above tips help you transition at a pace that is comfortable to you, by consistently making progress on slowing natural oil production, and without having to look excessively oily.

Note that everyone’s starting point, oil production, and experience with the transition phase is different. How much oil being produced and how long this phase lasts depends on a multitude of factors. Some of it depends on how frequently hair was over-washed, the harshness of the cleanser, and how recently the harsh cleaner was being used. Oil production is also dependent on factors such as age and genetics.

Please be kind to and patient with yourself while your scalp recovers from harsh cleansers!

Troubleshooting the No Poo Transition Phase

Tips and techniques for how to stretch time between washes without looking oily: Check out the dedicated post with tips here.

If you have trouble getting your hair clean without shampoo during the transition phase: Consider choosing a different type of gentle hair washing method during this time that cuts through the excess oil and gives you a cleaner hair wash. For example, use a Conditioner Only to wash hair for a while (while stretching time between washes) before jumping straight into No Poo or Water Only. Check out this post that compares types of No Shampoo methods and how to choose.)

If you think you should be past the transition phase by now: Your scalp may have already slowed down oil production!! But all the excess oils during the transition phase may have left some oily/waxy buildup on your hair. As mentioned above, using a Low Poo as needed should fix this. You can also check out this post for how to quickly and easily solve silicone buildup that may be causing the issue.

You can also check out the No Poo eBook for more tips and troubleshooting.

Thank you for reading!

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