My Experience of ‘No Poo’

I’ve managed to streamline my skincare down to just water and a cotton flannel followed by some almond oil for moisturiser at night or Day Solution moisturiser by Green People, which is 88% organic for daytime. It’s the simplest and most effective skincare routine I’ve ever had and it’s cheap as chips. My transition to this skincare routine was seamless and stress-free, which is something I can’t say about my hair care.

Since I’ve had children and ceased to have two milliseconds to rub together my lovely locks, which to date had been trouble free and well behaved, started to resemble the back end of neglected ewe more times that not. I despairingly trying everything from expensive hair treatments to a multitude of different hair styles. Nothing worked so I resigned myself to tying my hair up in a pony tail for the rest of my life.

As part of my journey to zero waste I encountered shampoo bars and hoped that they might offer the solution, but alas you can read all about my  dismal experience with shampoo bars here. Then I heard about low-poo and no-poo (I know the terms doesn’t do itself any favours).

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‘No Poo’ refers to washing hair with products other than shampoo like bicarbonate of soda, rye flower, egg whites or yolks or clay. Some even manage to just use water. Some people consider using shampoo bars as ‘no poo’ but I wanted to move away from these completely if I could.

The hoped the chance of leaving behind commercial shampoo was ever nigh, particularly having learned that the chemicals in most shampoos are linked to early-onset puberty in girls. (To learn what you don’t want in your shampoo I recommend you read this article on Dangerous Chemicals in Shampoos and Conditioners by the amazing website Mamavation.)

There’s are quite a few Facebook groups dedicated to the topic of low and no-poo (see list below) and I soon found out why. Finding a ‘no poo’ hair care routine is not easy. The ideal product differs for everyone and you can only find out what works for you through a long lengthy process of trial and error.

Everyone in the ‘no poo’ groups talked about a transition phase of waxy unruly hair for between 6 weeks to 6 months, although a few lucky individuals claimed not to have had to face this at all. Apparently it all depends on how out of whack your hair’s natural oil system is. Commercial shampoo strip dirt and grease from your hair but along with it they take your hairs natural oils, to counteract this shampoo companies started to include silicone in their products to smooth down the hair cuticle. Advocates of low and no-poo methods say that the silicone interferes with the scalp’s ability to balance the production of natural oils but that over time it will start to do so again.

Some people advocate using a clarifying shampoo to strip out all the silicone that might have built up in your hair from conventional shampoos. It’s said to shorten the transition time. I didn’t do this as I had been using a silicone-free shampoo and vinegar rinse for about 6 months before I tried water-only hair washing.

When I started to use water-only to wash my hair it gradually felt waxier and waxier. It wasn’t the oily or greasy texture I’d experienced before when I’d gone too long between shampoo washes it was thicker, denser. I soon found out that this was my hair’s natural oils, called sebum.  After 4 weeks in I could brush the hair close to my crown in any direction and have it stay there, frozen in mid air. Needless to say a lack of body wasn’t an issue.

I tried spreading the ‘sebum’ down the hair shaft using a boar bristle brush, as suggested in the Facebook groups, no joy. I bought a natural wood brush to see if that worked better, no joy. I tried  an egg yolk wash, no joy, then a egg white wash, no joy. Then I tried bicarbonate of soda with a vinegar rinse and low and behold my hair became like that of model on those shampoo ads; smooth, luscious and glossy. I was overjoyed, but it didn’t last. As I’d be warned long-term use of bicarbonate of soda on hair can lead to brittle ends for some, and I was proof of that.

I persisted for a few more weeks using the odd wash of silicone-free shampoo when things got really depressing but as my son’s communion neared I have to face reality, this wasn’t working and wasn’t sustainable long term. So after 12 weeks I resorted to washing my hair with Faith in Nature’s Aloe Vera shampoo, which I can get as refills locally, followed by a vinegar rinse. I felt deflated but not defeated. Despite not being able to move away from shampoo completely my hair has never been better. Not using commercial shampoo for 3 months seems to have given my hair enough of a break to partially re-balance it’s oil production. I have a friend who started ‘no poo’ at the same time as me and she’s been completely successful and only uses water to wash her hair now, and I know of another zero waster who’s only been using water to wash her hair for 10 years now. Maybe I’ll have better luck next time, particularly since I’ve recently come across this 10 DIY recipes for Shampoo

One thing I do know now is that if i want glossy well-behaved hair I just leave a bit longer between hair washes. Washing more than one or twice a week wrecks my hair and I’m trying to keep it to once a week when possible, even though this means having it tied up most of the time.

If you’re interested in giving ‘No Poo’ or ‘Water Only’ a go here are some Facebook Groups to check out.

If you’ve tried ‘no-poo’ or ‘water-only’ and it wasn’t for you here is some more info on how I wash my hair.

  • I use Faith in Nature’s Aloe Vera shampoo , which you can get refills of in a lot of health and zero waste stores around Ireland. Their shampoo is free from cruelty, animal ingredients, GMO ingredients, synthetic colouring, synthetic fragrances, SLES, SLS, parabens, artificial preservatives, BPA plastic, Methylisothiazolinone (MI). The Scottish based company that makes it aims to use Fair Trade or ‘ethically traded’ ingredients wherever possible and it is certified as top grade by SEDEX, an organisation which has an aim to stamp out exploitation.  Some of their products contain organic ingredients which have been certified separately. Some of their products contain ‘sustainable’ palm oil but they’re working to replace this.
  • For me switching from commercial conditioner to a vinegar rinse has been life changing. Just two tablespoons of vinegar (any kind will do, although the stronger the vinegar the less you need) diluted in a pint of water, and tip it over your hair. I then rinse my hair to make sure it doesn’t smell of vinegar.

Here’s wishing you a fabulous hair days for the rest of your groomed life.


PS – In previous articles I’ve spoken about

Published by Elaine Butler

I am a circular design consultant helping manfacturers prepare for the circular economy

6 thoughts on “My Experience of ‘No Poo’

  1. great post – I still wash my hair but always leave it 7 – 10 days (I found washing more than this left my scalp feeling stripped rather than refreshed)- and have yet to take the plunge in washing it less.

    There used be a hairdresser in dublin The Natural Cut I used go to when I lived there. (I think his name is Shane) and I know the hairdresser place is still there but dont know if it still the same . He does dry cuts – just spritzes hair with water. He used cut hair in the way hair wanted to go, and I loved the cuts he did, as I dont use a hair dryer and always preferred a low maintenance cut.


  2. Great post. Thank you. Re hairdressers, the works in Harolds Cross use vegan products. Haven’t looked too deeply into it but one of the co-owners is v keen on having a cruelty free business. Might be worth checking out or next time I’m in I’ll ask for more info on their products. 😊


  3. I found out on the no poo page when you have waxy build up. Apple mask will solve it……amazing. you literally make an applesauce no extra than water and apple. Let soak for while (I did over night) voila amazing. I was no poo for over a year always got compliments about the condition of my hair by hairdressers. I had gone from washing every day with conventional shampoo to no poo using bi carb and white vinegar (I have greasy hair) once a week. Unfortunately we moved house back in dec and with all the hectic I went back to my husband conventional shampoo. Now in the last few months I have been on off no poo. Our water is different here so definitely need to consider my options. I also went back no poo as I noticed my hair was getting greater again and was needing washing more often. But also because I went to hairdressers and they never commented on how healthy my hair was, now back to no poo better all around. What ever works for you is all that matters as I had a friend who just couldn’t make it work for her so stuck to no sls shampoo


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