Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Going No Poo - Week 1

 Hi, and welcome to my first ever blog post! Today I'm going to dive right into the whole reason I started this blog: "no poo." I know what you're thinking, because every person I mentioned it to thought the same thing - "Does it mean you're constipated?" Nope, but I see where the confusion comes from! "No poo" is actually an abbreviation for "no shampoo," which basically means ditching commercial shampoos that contain damaging sulfates, parabens, or silicones. Using a shampoo that is free of these chemicals is considered "low poo," while opting for an alternative washing method is considered "no poo." There are several different no poo methods (baking soda and apple cider vinegar, water only, acid only, sebum only), but first I will explain some of my reasons for ditching the 'poo.

Please keep in mind that I am by no means an expert. I'm only sharing my personal experience with no poo, and it's all still a learning experience for me. You should also keep in mind that each individual's scalp and hair is unique and responds to no poo methods differently. Many factors such as age, region, climate, and even hormones can affect your hair.

Reason #1: Scalp Irritation

Over the past five years, I developed a terrible case of scalp irritation! It took me that long to even realize that it was a combination of my shampoo and hard water. This is hands-down the biggest reason for my switch. I had little red pimples in my scalp that were incredibly painful. I tried parting my hair different ways to avoid the pimples, pulling my hair back, leaving it down, olive oil masks, switching up how often I shampooed, cutting my hair so it'd be lighter... no matter what I tried, my head and scalp hurt. It seemed like even my hair hurt sometimes, and I was ready to chop it all off - which I ended up doing. It took me a long time to realize the cause, because my head was fine until we moved into our current apartment which has hard water (water that has high mineral content, such as limestone, chalk and dolomite). In fact, I just recently (like in the last 2 days) found out that minerals in hard water actually interfere with the "soap" (saponification, if you wanna get technical) in your shampoo (as well as certain no poo methods that involve saponification; baking soda, Castile soap, and shampoo bars, for example), leaving the soap, dirt, and minerals all in your hair and scalp. I'm now happy to say that eight days into my no poo journey, my irritation is completely gone!

Reason #2: More Money and Time

 Since my scalp irritation became unbearable, I'd been searching for ways to fix it, and most of them cost money. At times I thought my hair was too heavy, so I tried haircuts. I also tried buying new shampoos that claimed to be safe. It felt as if I were throwing my money away though! I was also washing my hair at least every other day, using more water than I needed to. Once I quit using commercial shampoos that strip my hair of it's natural oils (leading my scalp to go into overdrive and produce more oil, leading to another wash, leading to more oil...see a pattern?), my hair and scalp adjusted to it's normal oil (or sebum) production and I was able to wash less frequently. Less washing = less water and shampoo used (or whatever your alternative is), which means less money spent and more free time!

Reason #3: Healthier, Luxurious Hair

I know this sounds a little crazy, right? Healthier hair with no shampoo? It's definitely true, and I have first-hand experience! Most people go through an awkward "transitional period" when their hair is adjusting to no poo (although I didn't!), but after it's back to normal you should have gorgeous locks! I'm currently on day 8 without commercial shampoo, and my hair is amazing right now!

No Poo: Before and After
Before: 4 days before my last commercial shampoo
After: 8 days after my last commercial shampoo
I know it doesn't look like there's much difference in these two photos (please forgive my poor photography skills), but consider that the second photo is 7 days since washing my hair! Now take a closer look. Can you see the difference in oiliness and volume? That first picture is a freshly washed head of hair, yet it looks limp and weighted with oil compared to the second photo. My hair has actually regained some curl as well! My hair went completely lifeless after I got pregnant with my son 6 years ago, and hadn't held a curl since (no matter how much hairspray I used!)

Reason #4: Less Chemicals

This is another important reason to me (and the main reason I consider myself a modern day hippy)! I'm trying to cut all of the toxic chemicals out of my life, making little changes for the better when I can.
Commercial shampoos (as well as toothpastes, deodorants, moisturizers, and more) are linked to all kinds of nasty things; here are a few articles:
I quit dying my hair, and started embracing my grays, partially for this reason. (I was also tired of feeling like a slave to dye. "Oh no, look at my roots! I better dye before work/school/my date/being seen in public..." Sound familiar? That's a post for a whole other day though.)

Do you have any scalp problems, or do you feel that you're spending to much time and money on your hair? Want to simplify your routine or cut out toxins? What are your reasons for considering no poo, if at all?

No Poo Methods:

Thanks to the awesome No Poo (No Shampoo) & Low Poo group on Facebook that I'm part of, I've learned about several different methods, but I will only describe some of the most popular and my own method for now.

  • Baking Soda and Apple Cider Vinegar

There are many different no poo methods, but the most popular one is baking soda (to wash) and apple cider vinegar (to condition). After a lot of research and reading other people's experiences, I decided not to try this method. Not that it's a bad method, I just wanted to try something gentler because of my scalp problems. I'm unsure of the exact amounts, but it usually consists of mixing baking soda with water for your "shampoo" and diluting apple cider vinegar with water as your "conditioner." (Side note: I actually used an ACV rinse instead of conditioner while I was still using commercial shampoos. It works wonderfully as a conditioner as long as it's diluted enough.) Do not use this method more than once every 4 days though!

  • Egg Wash

Another popular no poo method is egg: either the white, the yolk, or the whole egg
The yolk and white are both okay to use once a week (although that can be too much protein for your hair; too much protein leads to stiff hair and breakage), while the whole egg is not recommended more than once a month. Be sure to rinse with cold to luke-warm water or you'll wind up with scrambled eggs in your hair though!

  • Water Only, Acid Only, and Sebum Only

The names of these methods are a bit telling. Water only means only using water to wash your hair. Acid only consists of washing your hair with a diluted acidic rinses such as white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, or any other acidic rinse (although these are technically considered "conditioners," they are used to help distribute the sebum down the length of the hair). Sebum only is probably the most hardcore of the no poo methods! It means no water or washing of any kind (referred to the "caveman" method in my no poo group on Facebook), and simply using a special brush or your fingers to distribute the sebum to the rest of your hair.

  • Honey/Aloe

As far as I can tell from the experiences of others, honey and aloe work in very much the same way on the hair (however, I've only ever tried honey). Although technically considered a "conditioner," honey or aloe may be used to "wash" the hair. More to the point, they are particularly useful against a dry, itchy, or irritated scalp. They can be used to wash more often than harsher methods, such as baking soda, since they don't strip very much sebum, and they leave your scalp and hair feeling amazing!

  • Dry Shampoo

Although dry shampoo can be store bought, there are usually a multitude of ingredients; and it's often hard to tell which are safe. If the reason you're starting no poo is for less toxins (or to save money!), you may want to consider making your own dry shampoo. It's so easy you won't even need to write it down! Ready? Grab some cornstarch. sprinkle some in your hands and apply it to your hair, near the roots (where the excess oil is). Shake off the excess powder, and voilà - all done! If you have darker hair like me you can add some cocoa powder for color, although I've done it with plain cornstarch before, and it's not very noticeable as long as your shake off the loose powder.

For more info about different no poo methods, check out this link (or do some of your own research):
Top 5 “No Poo” Shampoo Alternatives 

My Experience/Method:

As I mentioned already, every scalp and head of hair is different. Factors that can affect your scalp are: age, region, climate, and even hormones. Before I describe the method I found to be most effective, I'll tell you a bit about myself. I'm 25 years old, and a Florida-native. I became pregnant with my first and only child at the age of 19, six years ago, and gave birth to him in 2009. I have short, average (not thin, but not too thick) hair that tended toward oily while I was using commercial shampoo.

My whole no poo journey started with researching a home remedy for the scalp irritation I felt, and I came across honey! More specifically, honey masks/washes. I already hadn't washed my hair in two days, but this wasn't planned. If someone told me I wasn't going to shampoo my hair for a week the day before I tried honey, I probably would've laughed at them and imagined a rat's nest. I read to leave it on for about 30 minutes, but I'm scatterbrained so I ended up leaving it on for closer to an hour. The good news is that it doesn't matter! In fact, the longer you leave it on the more it helps your scalp! I took some honey and rubbed it onto my hair, massaging it into my scalp. (Tip: Wet your hair first! I learned the hard way that sticky honey + dry hair = painful pulling! Also a shower cap would come in handy to avoid messiness.) Some people dilute the honey, but I found that wet hair and hands makes it easy to spread and rub in. I actually threw in a dollop of Greek yogurt for protein and a splash of lemon juice.

After waiting about an hour to rinse the honey (I got caught up cleaning and cooking, so I lost track of time), and using an apple cider vinegar rinse, my hair felt AMAZING! It was soft, shiny, and clean! My scalp irritation was almost completely gone after the first use as well!

Sorry about the closet selfie!

Just look at how clean and shiny it looks after my first honey wash! If only you could run your fingers through and feel how soft it is! After that I decided I was never going back to commercial shampoo!

Allow me to give you a breakdown of my first week no poo:

  • Day 1 (Monday) - Last commercial shampoo EVER!
  • Day 2 (Tuesday) - Scalp irritation is driving me crazy!
  • Day 3 (Wednesday) - Honey mask/wash with Greek yogurt and lemon juice. Scalp feels pretty much all better, and my hair feels soft and silky!
  • Day 4 (Thursday) - Dry shampoo (cornstarch and cocoa powder) to absorb excess oil. (Although in hindsight, the dry shampoo was unnecessary.)
  • Day 5 (Friday) - Scalp is getting a bit itchy, but hair looks great!
  • Day 6 (Saturday) - Second honey treatment for itchiness. Irritation is completely gone! Laying off the dry shampoo for a while, unless I absolutely need it.
  • Day 7 (Sunday) - Hair still looks great!
  • Day 8 (Monday, again) -
    Before Water Only shower: My hair still looks good enough to go in public, but there is a little oil on my roots.
    After Water Only shower: All it took was "scrubbing" my scalp and hair to break up the oils and distribute them a bit, along with a boar bristle brush after it dried.

Day 5
Day 7

 These pictures are from Day 8 before my water only wash. A bit oily at the top, but still looking great!

This picture is from Day 8 after my water only wash, and a thorough brushing with my new boar bristle brush! These natural brushes are great for distributing sebum, so that all of the oil isn't sitting at your roots.

So basically, I "wash" my hair every few days with RAW honey (the raw part is really important guys! A lot of commercially produced honey is processed with corn syrup. No good, y'all...), rinse it thoroughly with warm water, and then do an apple cider vinegar rinse. For the rinse, I simply use about 1 part apple cider vinegar to 3 parts water. I mix it ahead of time, add it to a dollar store spray bottle, and keep it in the shower to use as needed. When using this rinse, I spray it into my scalp and massage it in, working it (and the sebum) through the length of my hair - which isn't much right now. Most ratio mixes I read were 1 part vinegar to 1 part water, but after trying it I felt this was too strong for me. If you're just trying this, start with a 1:4 ratio to be safe. Experiment to find the right ratio for your hair. Too much vinegar can dry out your hair. Also don't worry about the smell; you won't smell like pickles, I promise! Rinsing well will help, but the smell goes away as it dries. Occasionally, if I get sweaty I'll notice a faint vinegar smell, but it's not unpleasant. No complaints from anybody so far!
On days that I don't "wash" my hair with honey, I go the water only route. On days that I shower, that is. No, I don't shower everyday. (I'm a hippy, remember?) I promise I still smell good, and my boyfriend can attest to that! Besides, I don't wanna ruin all this hard work (or lack thereof?) by getting rid of too much sebum and drying my hair out. Then the oiliness cycle would start all over again! If you're the kind of person who absolutely must take a shower everyday, then I suppose a shower cap would suffice. When I wash with water only I scrub my scalp, just like when I used commercial shampoo, under the running water, making sure to work the sebum through the lengths of my hair. If your hair is too thick or course to run you fingers through, you could always use a bit of the vinegar rinse to "condition" it.
I just let my hair dry naturally now, and brush it when it's dry with my boar bristle brush. I'm actually trying to space out my honey washes gradually, since the honey does removes a bit of sebum, and the whole point of the no poo thing is to wash your hair less often. I will keep you guys updated as time goes on!

Unexpected Benefits of No Poo:

While I entered this journey hoping to get rid of my scalp irritation (Success!) and use less toxins, there were a few happy surprises along the way!
  • I've had painful cysts behind my ears since I was a young adult. I'm happy to say that they've completely disappeared in a week!
  • I've also regained some texture and life to my hair! Before I got pregnant with my son six years ago, I could scrunch my hair easily. However after his birth, my hair wouldn't hold a curl or scrunch no matter how much or little product I used.
  • My acne has cleared up! Albeit I still have a pimple here or there, but I haven't had a bad breakout in a while! My idea of a bad breakout is a large cluster of pimples that are close together. This could also be attributed to the occasional Greek yogurt/honey face mask that I make though. One more reason to LOVE honey!


So 8 days with no shampoo, and I don't look like a grease ball at all! Not everybody has an easy transition like I have so far though. I've heard a lot of stories about transition lasting anywhere from a week or two, up to a few months and beyond. What is "transition," you ask? It's the period when your hair is adjusting to it's own sebum production. Why does this happen? If you've ever breastfed, then this analogy will be helpful: The more your baby nurses, the more milk you produce. Same with your scalp and shampoo; the more you strip your hair of sebum with harsh shampoos, the more your scalp will produce. And what happens when baby is weaned from breastfeeding? You get engorged at first with all of the milk your baby isn't drinking, but your body produces less with time. When you quit shampooing, your scalp is still producing the same amount of oil but your shampoo isn't stripping it anymore - and this can leave you with very oily hair. During transition, your scalp will gradually produce less sebum, resulting in beautiful, natural hair!

Tips/Theories on my easy Transition:

  • For starters, I'd been using a vinegar rinse on my hair after commercial shampoo for a few months before I went no poo. This helped me to stretch my washes out, by a day or two at most, before my hair got too greasy to go into public. Perhaps the fact that I was sort of stretching out my washes already made it easier to transition.
    For more info on apple cider vinegar rinses, check out this link: Make Your Own Natural Vinegar Hair Rinse
  • I have very short hair (which I love), as you can see from the pictures above. I feel that having short hair allowed me to distribute the sebum easier than somebody who has medium to longer hair - it has less of a trip to make from root to tip!
  • The boar bristle brush I bought (you can find them I most stores fairly inexpensive) a few days ago, made a lot of difference regarding the oil sitting at my roots. Plastic bristle and combs just weren't helping move the oil through my hair. Some prefer to preen (using your fingers or palms to slide the oil along the hair), but I just don't have time for that. I learned from my Facebook group to only brush with a boar bristle brush when the hair is dry or it could cause tearing and damage if done while wet. I'm also trying to just brush with the boar bristle brush at night and "finger comb" or use a wide-tooth comb the rest of the time.
Please keep in mind that all of these theories are based on my experience and my unique hair. Just because it works for me does not mean it'll work for you. A lot of no poo is trial and error until you find the right routine for you - there is no one size fits all.

Does this sound like something you'd be willing to try, or have tried? If so, please share your questions, comments, and experiences with me! Good luck guys!

Read about the rest of my journey here: Going No Poo

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