Monday Monthly Mission #7

October 6th, 2009 - filed under: Furthermore » Monday Monthly Mission

On the first Monday of every month, we take on a ‘mission’ – a shift or habit or inspiration – to work on together. There’s strength (and support) in numbers! On the last Thursday of the month, we reconvene to see how far we’ve come.


Alright guys, are you ready to go no-poo?

No, this isn’t some sort of 30-day endurance test in constipation (ha!). It’s all about our most luscious locks, and taking the ‘crap’ out of the shampoo.

The method is simple. Can you take a wild guess as to what we’re using instead? If you know me at all, you probably said ‘baking soda!’ or maybe ‘vinegar!’ And either way – you were right!

Eventually we’d like our hair to be self-regulating with its own natural cleansers and oils (believe it or not, it can self-clean). But we have to get there slowly, starting with a baking soda cleanser and an apple cider vinegar conditioner.

In the shower, mix 1 tbsp baking soda into ~1/2 cup water to form a thin paste. Apply to hair at the roots, massaging thoroughly into the scalp. Remember that this will not foam up (no poo!) but that doesn’t mean it’s not cleaning. Rinse. Follow with 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar diluted in ~1 cup water. Massage into roots and shafts, and then rinse.

The baking soda is a natural cleanser, as we know. The vinegar is a natural softener. People who swear by no-poo claim that their hair becomes healthier, stronger, shinier, and more manageable/styleable. And it’s SO much better for our bodies and our environment. I can’t wait to try it out!

Remember that conventional shampoo is a chemical detergent, filled with nasty and unnecessary ingredients. These harsh additives strip your hair of its crucial oils and train it into dependence. Meanwhile, the hair overcompensates and oil production increases.

So, there may be a transition period while switching to no-poo. You may notice your hair is a little oilier than usual. Don’t worry! This should clear up as your hair and scalp re-acclimates to its natural state. If you currently shampoo your hair every day, begin no-pooing twice per week. If you shampoo your hair less frequently (I wash mine about every 4-5 days), try starting off with just one no-poo per week. Eventually you’ll be able to fuss with it less and less frequently.

So, my silken-tressed eco-mavens, do you choose to accept this mission?


  • Christa

    I’ve really been wanting to try this, and actually have ordered a book called “Curly Girl” as i have curly hair… I forget the author right now, but it’s all about no pooing and she has a lot of different recipes and the like. I’m looking forward to it.

  • Kate

    2 questions…

    1. Do you have a filter on shower head to keep out chlorine & fluoride?

    2. I have heard this works better with long, curly hair. I think your latest photos show you with short straight hair like mine…I’d love an update and if it goes well for you I’d gladly try it out :-)

  • Tenise Rae

    I dunno, I’m a little leery. I have super thick hair. Straight on top and super wavy underneath. I wash and condition every other day; and I have to have some sort of conditioner in order to be able to brush my hair. Seriously, it’s so thick it becomes a complete mess if I don’t brush it for a day or two. Apple cider vinegar might not be enough.

    Why vinegar?

  • cindywho

    Been doing it for a while – works as well as anything else!

  • Courtney

    I’ve been doing no-poo for a few weeks now and chronicling my progress on the blog. I’ve seen girls of all hair types rave about doing no-poo. I’m still figuring it out for myself, but so far, I’m loving the results!! Hopefully by the end of the month I’ll be getting consistent results!!

  • Jenny

    My friend and I took on the no-poo challenge awhile back (say a month or so). So far, I love the results. We both have straight hair – her hair is thick and mine is fine and thin. We’ve found a few “tricks” that have worked for us: we put the baking soda and water solution (thin paste) in an old shampoo bottle and dilute ac vinegar in an old conditioner bottle. Both of us don’t use the ACV on our roots – I think it makes my hair even more oily. I’m so glad that you’re trying this! I’m excited to hear how it works for you!

  • Heather

    I’ve been doing this for a while and can confirm that, yes, there is a transition period. Well worth it though!
    To make the application of the vinegar conditioner a little easier, I put the vinegar/water solution in a spray bottle. :)

  • EroSan

    Huh!? Self clean? like in… you never clean your hair again? uhh >.> I dont know… sounds… nasty… will I look like those guys that never bathe and their hair looks like dreadlocks, only not nice?

    I mean at least it would seem to work in my type of hair, by the comments of @christa, @kate and @tenise, but I’m sure as hell my GF wont let me get away with never washing my hair ever again… and even so, I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with the idea of not washing my hair.

    Interesting mission, tho. How about a little more info, Sayward? (please?)

  • Christa

    To those who would like more answers… if you have a live journal or not you can check out this community that I am a part of.
    They are answering questions all day long about different hair types and have mucho info.

  • Nicky


    I read about the somewhat negative effects of shampoo in May and soon after started experimenting. I haven’t washed my hair with ordinary shampoo since June and only started using a home-made version last week (so several months with just water).

    The first 7-10 days, my hair obviously got extremely ‘greasy’. I became a believer one morning when I woke up, my hair totally dry. It appeared, my sebaceous glands (which produce oil in the hair & skin) where starting to regain control.

    My hair definitely went through phases after that. There were a few weeks where dandruff was a bit of an issue, but that passed on its own for the most part.

    At the moment, my hair looks extremely healthy to me and in general I am just preferring the way it grows (I’m a guy with very thick, medium length hair, btw).

    It *does* have a very, very slight oily feel to it. I imagine this is healthy and maybe even ideal, but I am experimenting with some home-made shampoos to see if I can find a balance.

    For those reading and wondering ‘WHY!?’ here’s what I’ve heard:

    If you look at the first ingredient after water on any shampoo after you will see something like Sodium Laurel Sulfate. This is a common surfactant aka degreaser. It’s used all over the place, including most dish soap. It is 99% of shampoo is. The rest being colors, textures & smells that have nothing to do with cleaning hair.

    Our hair doesn’t get that dirty, it gets oily by nature. It has done this for over a million years, obviously prior to shampoo.

    The powerful Sodium Laurel Sulfate totally dries out our hair, so our sebaceous glands produce a large amount of oil to maintain homeostasis. We then perceive our hair as oily and wash it, so our body in turn produces even more oil and so on.

    It’s up to you to decide if this is good or bad, but when I think about how much evolution has gotten right, I like to at least give it a chance.

    So, as for my shampoo these days, it contains the following:

    A bit of coconut oil based shampoo (this is a surfactant, so I don’t use much)
    Lemon Juice
    Baking Soda

    It makes my hair incredibly soft, which I hear is a result of the borax. Not sure how this will be long-term but it’s been pretty good so far so I will just continue experimenting. :)


  • J

    I only wash my hair every few days anyway… I really want to try this one, but I JUST (as in, yesterday) had my hair colored, and I’m not sure freshly bleached hair can handle it. Hmm.

  • Kathryn

    EroSan – I take offense to your comment on people with dreadlocks. Dreadlocks need to be cleaned and washed regularly just like everyone else’s hair. It’s HAIR. I consider myself a very clean person, and I have dreadlocks. Dreadlocks are the natural form for all hair to take.
    Anyway, on no-poo: I’ve been using no-poo on and off, and many others with dreads really like it.

  • Meghan

    On days where you don’t shampoo your hair, do you still shower? I feel like I’ll accidentally get my hair all wet. :-P

    I’m reluctant to try it, because I already use fairly crap-free solid shampoo from Lush, and what I think is fairly crap-free conditioner from Trader Joes. I have a somewhat persistent problem with dandruff though, I wonder if no-pooin’ might sort that out in time.

    I’ll *probably* accept the challenge. :-)

  • EroSan

    @Kathryn: I’m sorry, but i didn’t meant to imply that guys with dreadlocks dont take baths… I was referring to the guys with hair that “looks like they have dreadlocks” after going without bathing for a long time (looks messy and irregular)… like this:

    not like this (which I like):

    I think you can tell when someone is taking care of his/her hair and who is just plain dirty.

    I’m sorry about the confusion.

  • Amy Kalinchuk

    For those who prefer lather, why not use a natural soap for shampoo? Lush sold shampoo bars use the same detergents that bottled shampoos do, btw.

  • akeeyu

    Hmm. Like many things in life, I kind of half ass the shampoo thing. I’m pretty sure I would miss the lather and the smell of my favorite shampoo, but a while back I did start thinking that it was stupid to wash oil OUT of my hair and then buy products to put oil back INTO my hair, and I started doing this:

    One old shampoo bottle, 1/3 full of water
    Two squirts of shampoo (about a day’s worth)

    Shake until foamy, then use the foam to wash your hair. It still lathers and smells pretty, but doesn’t strip. One day’s worth of shampoo lasts about a week.

    Perfect? No. Pretty good? Yes.

  • Sayward

    Wow! You guys are so amazing, thanks for all the feedback and tips! You’ve given me lots to think about, and I will be writing a follow-up article that goes into more depth regarding the no-poo process and philosophy. Thanks guys, you are so awesome!!!

    To answer a few of the questions:

    @ Kate – Portland is one of the few cities that doesn’t fluoridate their water, thank goodness. But I’m sure there is trace chlorine in there, and I don’t have a shower filter. Our water is excellent though – I drink straight from the tap and it tastes amazing. =)

    I remember reading years ago about a product called Deva-Curl that claimed to be a ‘no-poo’ shampoo system for curly hair. I actually tried it and liked it. But this no-poo is different, as it really is about getting down to nothing (or very little) in the way of ‘cleaning’ hair. And from the many rave reviews I’ve read, it works on all hair types and lengths!

    @ Tenise Rae – You sound like a perfect candidate for no-poo! You only need tons of conditioner because shampoo strips out the natural oils. I bet if you allowed your own oils to do their thing, you hair would be much more manageable! At least that’s what I understand from reading the experiences of others.

    Vinegar is a natural conditioner (that’s why it’s in the laundry soap, and it works great as a fabric softener). Vinegar restores your hair’s acidic balance. It also encourages the cuticle to lay down flat against the shaft. I’ll write more on this in the follow-up article!

    @ EroSan – More info an the way!

    @ Nicky – I’ve never heard of subbing Borax and I also wonder about the long-term usability, but thanks for all the wonderful info! =)

    @ J – I think this would be easier on hair than normal shampoo, but I’ll have to check that out. I’ll get back to you and address it in the follow-up article.

    @ Meghan – I normally wash my hair every 5 days or so, and I still shower and wet my hair daily – even give it a good massage under the water. I will continue to do this with the no-poo method.

    I have short hair that requires re-styling every day. Women with longer hair who can stretch a blow-out or something over a few days, should not wet their hair. But I guess that’s just the same as with normal shampoo. =)

    No-poo is supposed to be great for fixing dandruff! (but it may take a few months of adjustment)

    @ Amy Kalinchuk – That’s another alternative, and if I go off no-poo I’ll probably switch to castile. But soaps are still detergents, and they still strip your hair of it’s natural oils and mess with it’s natural pH. The point of this method is to let your hair clean itself.

    Thanks again guys! I’m excited to see how this works out for the lot of us!

  • Kathryn

    EroSan – No hard feelings. :)
    Sayward – I like no poo, but I switch off and on a lot. I love Lush’s Squeaky Green Solid shampoo bar, but I can’t stand Dr. Bronners Castile Soap on my hair. I love the way it smells, and I love to use it as a body wash, but my hair feels gross after using it.
    And no poo has def. helped lessen my dandruff.

  • Emily

    something to keep in mind if you decide to use plain soap instead of shampoo: not a good idea if you have hard water! your hair will be coated with soap scum because the soap reacts with the minerals in the water. It will be even more difficult to clean. That’s why there’s detergent in shampoo instead of soap.

    I haven’t expierenced this personally, but I thought everyone would like to know!

  • Julie

    i might try this but not sure. over 70% of my hair is “regrowth” (lost it during cancer treatments) and the new hair is totally different in texture, color, curl etc. from the parts that were never lost. this results in the craziest rats nest ever growing from my head. it’s kind of high maintenance.

  • Sayward

    @ Kathryn – Yeah, I’ve heard mixed reviews on Dr. Bronners as shampoo. Did you dilute when you used it?

    @ Emily – Thanks for the tip lady! I don’t have hard water and I always forget how much of an impact it can have!

    @ Julie – No-poo may actually help with management, at least that’s what I’ve heard! And shush you, your hair is lovely. =)

  • Homegrown Texan

    I tried no-poo, but I ended up with a greyish pastiness that never really washed out. I couldn’t really see it in my hair, but I could feel it and I could definitely see it on my brush. I suspect some of it has to do with our ultra-hard water here (I’m surprised it doesn’t come out of the faucet in chunks, hehe).

    I use a shampoo now that doesn’t have SLS. It’s far from perfect, as it has plenty of other ingredients that I can’t pronounce and don’t know what they are. I have a hard time getting it distributed throughout my hair because of the lack of lather. I probably wash my hair every 2-3 days, which is an improvement, as I used to wash it daily.

  • Kate

    @Homegrown Texan – I have a shampoo I like that I think is without SLS, but I’ll have to share other ingredients with you so we can learn what we’re using instead…

  • Kathryn

    Sayward – Yeah, I diluted. A couple drops in a squirt bottle, the rest water. But I still felt icky. :(
    Some people swear by it, so I guess it’s just not for everyone!

  • sarah

    You’ve done it again, read my mind lol. I was just looking at the lowering quantity of shampoo/conditioner in our bathroom and thinking, do I REALLY want to spend $30 for another set of 8 oz bottles (we use John Masters Organics – couple ingredients I still take issue with, but overall good). I’ve been wanting try to make my own shampoo/conditioner, but really this is more logical, and I’ve never tried it long-term… I did this as a detox on my hair this spring before getting off traditional shampoo and conditioner so I’d like to think the transition period won’t be so bad. That and I only need to shampoo like once a week anyway. Supposed to get my color redone soon, like tomorrow soon, so we’ll see, but I’m thinking I’m in on this one.

    FYI Warning to all with bleached/semi-bleached hair – if you choose to do this, your bleached hair will seriously wig out (lol). Because bleaching is essentially killing it, and you’re no longer coating your dead hair with waxy products, it turns into a matted mess. It can be done (I have bleached chunks so it’s a little odd) it’s just a little more work. Oh the things we do for style…

  • sarah

    Kathryn thanks for the note on the castile soap… I had (kind of) been wanting to test it, but hadn’t for that reason. Now I know ;) Emily also had a good point; we have hard water here, so, ehh, think I’ll pass on that one.

    And by the way, dreads are awesome. If I didn’t totally love my hair as is, and if I didn’t have a fear of all things high-maintenance, I would so dread my hair. Maybe someday.

  • Kathryn

    Sarah – No problem! It’s a great body wash, just leaves a lot of residue.
    And about the dreads…do it do it do it! Totally not that high maintenance. :)
    If you have any questions ever, check the memories of
    Okay, I’ll stop writing all over this post now!

  • Lisa M

    I accept this challenge! This week went well. My hair and scalp are not dry anymore.

  • Sayward

    You guys are awesome! Love all the dialogue. =)

  • Karen

    Sayward, I’m lovin’ your site again! This is a great thread!

    There are a lot of raves for a different no-poo method on youtube (similar to the one in the Curly Girl book by Lorraine Massey) which involves using conditioner to cleanse the hair & scalp. I no-poo/conditioner wash my hair a few times a week between my weekly shampoos.

    I have very thick, extremely coily/curly hair and alternate between all-natural products to cleanse my hair & scalp like: diluted castile soap, shampoo bars, African black soap, diluted baking soda, conditioner or ayurvedic powders like amla. Reading labels to avoid SLS, cones, parabens, etc. was the best thing for our hair & skin.

    The key that made a world of difference to my scalp & curls was … applying whatever I’m using directly to my scalp first massaging thoroughly & then & gently working it through my curls (to avoid major tangling). I always follow with natural conditioner like diluted ACV, Aubrey Organics, Yes to Carrots, Yes to Cucumbers, etc. detangling my hair as I apply it. My ends need conditioner/moisturizer because natural oils don’t always make it to the ends of my tiny Slinky-like curls.

    But, I am curious to try your no-poo method; but, am a bit concerned about my ends.

  • Meghan

    Much like I gave in to your deodorant, yesterday I gave in to trying no-poo! (half a month late, but better late than never!) Once again, my reasoning stems from the personal care products that I share with my husband… when I go out of town in a few weeks, once of us would have to be without our Lush shampoo bar or deodorant!

    I also joined the no-poo lj community.

  • Sayward

    @ Karen – Thanks for all the info and tips! It seems like there really are all sorts of approaches to the no-poo method, which I think is great. Variety is the spice of life! ;)

    @ Meghan – I keep meaning to check out that LJ com. I’ve heard great things about it.

  • Laura

    I can’t even tell you how grateful I am for this post. I read it a couple of weeks ago and decided to try it out. I had heard about no-poo before but you somehow convinced me to try it :D
    It has already made my life so much better. I have very try curly hair and there’s really not enough of it. But the worst problem, for as long as I remember, has been dandruff. I have used all sorts of things, wasting huge amounts of money on it. Nothing helped.
    Now, with the no-poo, it is so much better than before. It was worse for the first week because I did not use all the chemicals. I’m so glad I did not give up.
    I don’t have any problems with oily hair or anything, probably because my hair is so dry.
    Oh and also, my curls look so much better, they do not look like a big pile of hay without all the products i am used to use after a shower. So I use these less now too.
    I absolutely hated the smell of vinegar at first but I am getting more used to it as time passes. Peeling an orange in the bathroom before showering helps a little :D

  • Sayward

    @ Laura – Congrats! I’m so glad it’s working for you. I’ve had the exact same experience myself – I’m loving it!!! I hear it’s especially good for curly hair, as you seem to have discovered. =)

    You can also try adding essential oils to your vinegar, and maybe watering it down some more.

  • hazeleyes

    It never occurred to me that one doesn’t have to ‘wash’ ones hair! I’m in, starting this morning.

    Interesting, very interesting.

  • Sayward

    @ hazeleyes – Yay, congrats! And good luck – let me know how it goes!

  • Phelicia

    What about using this on toddlers or small children? Has anyone tested or maybe could offer advice? I’m expecting in September and was curious about raising my child in a chemical free world.

  • Sayward

    @ Phelicia – When my son is old enough I’ll definitely be doing no-poo for him! I’ll start with more mild, watered down solutions, to see how he reacts. But I feel very confident using these mild methods for a child, especially over harsh chemicals!

  • mark e

    By way of introduction, I’m a vegan guy with shoulder-length hair. I did the no-poo method a few years back without the actual measuring and pre-mixing and it was great for a few months. Then, out of nowhere, I got HORRIBLE dandruff and my hair would tangle SO BADLY after washing and rinsing! I dropped the method and went back to regular shampoo and conditioner. But I’m curious to try again and I like this idea of mixing things to a certain ratio and storing the results in bottles.

    So I just bought my ingredients and accessories (spray, squeeze bottles) tonight. But upon mixing the baking soda I’m a little confused. You give the ratio 1 tablespoon baking soda to about 1/2 cup of water to form a thin paste. But there’s no paste about it. It’s 1/2 cup of water that is a tiny bit cloudy. To form a paste you would need something more like 1 tablespoon baking soda to 1 tablespoon water. Is the language (“paste”) incorrect or is the ratio incorrect?


  • Sayward

    @ mark e – Sorry ’bout that, the ratio is correct and the language is off. It definitely is more a cloudy liquid than a paste. My apologies for the confusion! =)

  • mark e

    No worries. Thanks for the response. I gave it a go the night I posted that comment and have rinsed my hair with water once since then. It’s now time for another proper washing. I’m glad to be giving the method another try!

  • Leslie

    Been on the no-poo program for almost 2 weeks now. I have been cutting back on shampoo/conditioner for quite a while now so this has been an easy transition. My hair looks and feels much better now!!!
    I have never been a “hair” person, I shower, wash, comb and go without using any styling products, blow dryers etc. Usually running out the door with damp hair allowing the sun and wind to do my drying and styling. Love it!!!!!

  • Sayward

    @ Leslie – So glad its working for you. And it just gets better!

  • jamie

    i have a question, i hope somebody sees this and can help me out lol…i use organic gel in my hair, it’s hard to wash out doing just a water wash, but i don’t want to use baking soda everyday..what do i do??? help would be much appreciated

  • Sayward

    @ jamie – Do you feel like you need to get it *all* out every day? I ask because I also use products, but since I use them daily I don’t necessarily worry about getting them all out. I do a thorough water wash in the morning and then style as usual. I can use less product this way, as any residual will help my hair do what I want, haha. I definitely find that the longer I go after a bs wash, the easier my hair is to style.

    But if you feel like that’s weird or something (totally valid!) and you’re determined to get all the product out each day, you may have to use bs daily. Not ideal, but it’s definitely better than conventional shampoo!

  • jamie

    You’re right, about it helping the styling just felt in the shower that maybe it wasn’t fully clean, but i may just not be used to the way it feels after using the new cleansing process. is it normal for the hair to feel a little product-y?

  • Sayward

    @ jamie – Yes, totally normal. It’s because you’re not stripping out all your natural oils every day, so they build back up and, well, feel a bit oily! But it’s a good thing. If it looks *greasy* it may be time to wash, but if it just feels a bit . . . like, ‘thick’ in there? . . . that should be fine. Hope that makes sense! =)

  • Johnna

    oh I have a suggestion for anyone who has dry hair from going no-poo. I have recently discovered the many uses of cocnut oil. It is amazing what you can do with this thing. It can be expensive though. You can get some extra virgin cold pressed coconut oil and ruj a little bit through your hair and voile’ instant moisturizer. A little it goes a long way.

  • MookyNymph

    Just another thought- Check out They have these handcrafted all-natural/organic shampoo bars that are absolutely PHENOMENAL. I swear by them-keeps my hair clean and soft and very pretty. I found them when I was in college, and I won’t use anything else. They bring your hair back to it’s natural ph, cuts the number of times you need to wash it in half, and the each bar lasts for a crazy long time.

  • Melissa C.

    2 years late, but I’m doin’ it! Thanks for all your hard work, Sayward! <3