Tuesday, September 11


I'm inspired to write out a detailed description of my no-poo regimen and the information I've picked up about it. Most of my knowledge comes from the MDC Natural Home and Body Care forum, including the sticky. The rest comes from my own tinkering. There's also a good cheat sheet from babyslime on livejournal.

No-poo is the art of not using shampoo. There are variety of alternatives to shampoo. There's water-only, which works for a lucky few. There's conditioner-only, which is ideal for curly hair and perhaps very dry hair. There's shampoo bars. And there's baking soda and vinegar, which is the method I use.

I can't tell you very much about why shampoo is problematic. I have come across explanations which I found interesting, but I don't remember them all that clearly. I simply found no-poo intriguing, tried it, and stuck with it. I know that shampoo is a bit harsh on my hair and makes it more prone to breaking, while with no-poo my hair is softer and healthier. I also enjoy reusing bottles and having creative control over my own hair wash. I never had an adjustment period while my hair got used to the new regimen--only an adjustment period as I tinkered with the ratios and techniques. Once I got it right my hair was just as clean as when I shampooed.

The general principle is simple. Soaps are made by adding an alkaline substance to oils. The alkaline substance saponifies the oil, or turns it into soap. With no-poo, I add diluted baking soda (a gentle alkaline) to my hair, where it saponifies the natural oils in my hair. They then rinse away, taking any dirt with them. Because I control how much baking soda I use, I can choose how strong or mild to make the hair wash, depending on what my hair needs.

After using the alkaline hair wash, the hair and scalp are clean. However they are now at a gently alkaline ph, when their natural ph is gently acidic. Hair that is left at an alkaline ph will be dry and brittle. So after applying the baking soda solution and rinsing it out with water, I apply a diluted acidic solution--usually apple cider vinegar, but other acidic substances can be used too... other vinegars, lemon juice, beer, wine, etc. Then I do not rinse this out with water. Water is slightly alkaline and rinsing with water after the vinegar solution would give my hair an alkaline ph again. I simply let it dry after this. The vinegar evaporates quickly and my hair is left soft and shiny.

A basic principle in tweaking your mixes or your technique is this:

dry hair = too much baking soda and/or too little vinegar
oily hair = too much vinegar and/or little baking soda

Let me be more detailed about the steps involved in making the solutions, and then in washing my hair. One note is that most people seem to make a new solution every time they're going to wash their hair. I make two bottles of solution and only make more when I run out. Other people have a number of different approaches, for instance some apply the vinegar solution with a spray bottle. I'm just going to cover my approach, for alternatives you will find a lot of information in the MDC forum mentioned above. Here are the bottles I use:

Making the solutions

A good dilution rate to start with for both baking soda and vinegar is roughly 1:10. My bottles hold about about a cup of fluid each. There's 16 tablespoons in a cup, which we'll round off to 15. So I might add 1.5 tablespoons to the water. In practice I usually add 1 tablespoon of baking soda, and 2 tablespoons of vinegar, but this varies.

Baking Soda Solution

1. Using a funnel I pour 1 tablespoon of baking soda into the bottle.

2. I squirt a nice glop of honey into the bottle. Honey is added for its moisturizing effect, it is optional.

3. I fill the bottle with water.

4. I add about 3-6 drops of essential oils. It may be worth while to choose these oils said to stimulate hair growth. I'm particularly enthusiastic about rosemary and cedar. I find the smell is washed away but I expect it to have some effect on the scalp because it is really scrubbed in.

5. I mix all this together by shaking it either gently or vigorously or just letting it sit... depending on how soon I need to use it. The baking soda needs a chance to dissolve at least a bit.

Vinegar Solution

1. Using a funnel I pour 1 or 2 tablespoons of vinegar or other mildly acidic fluid such as lemon juice into the bottle.

2. I fill the bottle with water.

3. I add about 3-6 drops of essential oils. These are the essences that will stay in your hair and influence your scent. I use vetiver and rosewood. The vetiver also quiets the vinegar smell, I find.

Washing with the solutions

1. I wet my hair first. I use warm or moderately hot water, which is best for skin and hair.

2. With one hand I squirt the baking soda solution directly to where I am going to scrub, and with the fingertips of my other hand I scrub my scalp and hair roots. (I never pay any attention to the rest of the hair, which gets clean as the baking soda solution rinses through it.)

3. I scrub in the pattern described by Veganmamma in the above-mentioned sticky. I start by scrubbing along the crown of my head--where the rim of a crown would be. Then I scrub the top of my head, filling in the crown. Then I scrub below the crown.

4. I rinse the solution out with water.

5. I squirt the vinegar solution into my hair, concentrating on the length of my hair. I avoid getting too much around my roots, which can make them oily--opinions differ on how big a factor this is, I find that it is not a very big factor.

6. After this I do not rinse with water, I keep my hair out of the water and finish up my shower.


  1. Thanks for the tips, dear... sounds great! Just one question -- Does your hair smell like vinegar if you don't rinse it out?

  2. Nope, the vinegar evaporates and so the smell goes away. Otherwise Gordan would never let me hear the end of it!