A year without shampoo – FAQ’s answered honestly!

*UPDATE* Since writing this post I have written a book that covers everything you might possibly want to know EVER about giving up shampoo. And it costs less than a bottle of the good stuff!*

My last shampoo wash was exactly one year ago. I massaged the bubbles into my scalp and murmured “Fare thee well, small vial of hygienic, slightly toxic, luxurious liquid that maketh me skint, I know not when I will see you again.” And thus began my journey into No Poo.

I was on an every other day habit- sometimes stretching to 3 days but not without liberal use of God’s gift to humankind, dry shampoo. I was beginning to question the number of unknown substances coming into contact with my skin each day and I was continuing on my mission to pinch any unnecessary pennies.

I had heard of this “self cleansing” hair shenanigans several times over the last few years, and I guess I believed it, but not nearly enough to entrust my own locks into it. Does hair actually wash itself? It seemed like no one would be able to answer the question except myself, actually TRYING it.

And then, this curious part of my personality kicked in. My Ferris Beuller cells; the joy-riding, authority-defying streak that (fortunately) only rears its maverick head when someone tells me I can’t do something! The queerer and more implausible something sounds, the more I want to give it a go.

Giving up shampoo was suitably extreme, and only a dash anti-social!

And now it has been a whole year. A year of having great looking hair- with the odd mix of some greaseball days with chocolate running into my eyebrows at funerals thrown in.

I have given my suggestions for alternatives and have spoken about the highs and lows and getting started.  My one year “no poo” anniversary seems like a good chance to answer some of the questions I am often asked…

Does No Poo hair smell? No. I even asked my sister who has an altogether more glamorous, less unkempt vibe than me and she said it most certainly doesn’t. However, if you were to really press your nostrils into my scalp you would smell HUMAN. We are a bit scared of that human smell I think.

What do you do instead of using shampoo? Once a week I give my head a good soaking in water, really rubbing my scalp, massaging my natural oils throughout my hair.  Once a fortnight I use a natural wash either from an egg or bicarbonate of soda or soapnuts.  (Follow this link for how to use them.) I use a tiny bit of coconut oil as a detangler (and for everything else on my body too, from moisturiser to deoderant!) And once every six weeks I do my whole head in organic Henna, to both dye my original mousey blonde and as a kind of deep cleanse.  So at least once a week it gets something, be it water, a hippy like natural wash or some Henna.

How long does No Poo hair take to get greasy now? It takes one week to get to the stage it used to get to after 2 days. However, this is still, after one year, increasing. I suspect when I am 50 my tresses will never know grease again.

Do you use conditioner? No. Every 2 weeks I rub a teaspoon of coconut oil (er, yeah, I buy it in bulk!) through the ends, this keeps it nourished. When it is knotty I use a small amount of Apple Cider Vinegar, watered down 1/5, and brush it through in the shower. But some people, particularly those with curly hair use ONLY conditioner, which is interesting…

Does No Poo get knotty? Yes. Honestly, it does. If you were diligent and brushed it every day it would be FINE. But I am lazy and the hood of my duffle coat is causing HAVOC, and I have a constant winter wrestle with an unwelcome dreadlock at the back of my head. I MUST brush more. I could up my Apple Cider Vinegar rinse, but I am content just rubbing a little coconut oil on the ends ever so often to detangle.

How long did it take to get used to No Poo? It took 6 weeks to get to 3 days without grease, 12 weeks to break 4 days no grease. However, I went cold-turkey for the first 2 weeks, and then used alternatives sparingly so I think this was quite a fast process. If you wean your hair gently onto more natural options it will take longer to get used to its natural oils and balance out its production of them.

Does No Poo make your hair grow faster? Actually yes. Genuinely. I think massaging the scalp, which is imperative for getting the oils to do their thing, really helps with growth.

What about styling products? I find my hair is a lot more pliable now, so I don’t use any. Except for when I am rocking a gigantic beehive- but the natural alternatives I use tackle hairspray perfectly well too. I am sure you could find natural styling products that could work with this way of life.

Can you use hair dye when you give up shampoo? I guess using toxic filled hair dye kind of defeats the object! But once a month I use an organic copper henna. I use it as a deep cleanse actually, as well as to get my hair this colour. I love it.

Has your hair changed doing No Poo? Yes, it is MUCH thicker. It used to be limp and thin and flat and now it has much more volume and is buoyant and even sometimes has a wave. *Waves hair around gleefully* “It’s the hair I’ve always wanted!” 

Will you do No Poo forever? Yes! I think so. I don’t see why not. I just see shampoo and conditioner as utterly superfluous now.

Is giving up shampoo cheaper? If you wean from shampoo on to some of the natural alternatives out there such as eggs and soapnuts, and continue to use them daily, or every other day, or even every three days, it is probably NOT cheaper at all! However, I use these sparingly, with water being my main Go To, so for me it is cheap as chips and as thrifty as you can get!

Is No Poo hard work? At the start, as you are finding the routine that works for you, it feels like too much bother. I almost gave up as I was thinking about my hair WAY more than I wanted to. But once you discover what works for you it becomes easy, and gives you a freedom from the tyranny of shampooing! Also, you have to massage your scalp, which can weary your fingers.

Did you have to look smart though, while you weaned off it? I actually began one week before I started my new job! What a nutter! At the beginning I wore lovely vintage scarves to disguise my damp-looking head and upped the smartness of my clothing as a distraction. But now you would honestly not think me a raving non hair-washing hippy in the boardroom.

Can anyone with any kind of hair do No Poo? Sure can.  I think it is easier for some folk.  People with thick curly hair will find this a BREEZE, I suspect. However, my lank, limp, thin hair has also been teachable. Sadly, there is no magic alternative that works for all hair. Every individual will have find the routine and the alternative that makes their happy, which is a pain, eh.

Do you know anyone else who does No Poo? At the start, no. However, over the last few months a few friends have begun and are reporting the same miracles! (After obligatory 1 month of panicked texts to me about hair that WILL NOT LEARN!)

Does No Poo make your skin break out? There is potential, if you have a fringe and you go cold turkey, so have a few weeks of grease, that it could impact your skin in a spotty kind of a way. I DEFINITELY suggest pinning your hair back off your face while you are working it out.

What other toxins have you given up? I try really hard to use vinegar and bicarb around the home, although we have a sneaky Mr Muscle for attacking stubborn stuff when we are in a hurry and someone has done a whopper in the shopper. (Lulastic: creating euphemisms since 2010)  I am still using soap as a body wash as I am working my way through a GIANT bucket I bought wholesale from the organics shop.  However, I am slowly but surely DETOXING my home. Goodbyyyyye, evil chemicals. I really buy into that phrase “If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t rub it into your skin, or sniff it, or fling it around your house.” (You know, that really catchy phrase.)

What does your mother think? For a while, when I was in my late teens, I used to have thick black dreadlocks, made up of my own hair and also a bit of a wig I had found and my mum always used to say “You’ll never get married if you don’t wash your hair, Lu.” Fortunately, she was only ever joking and despite being a beauty herself has always impressed on us the importance of our inners rather than outers. What a legend.  However, I think she sometimes does wonder about me….

I still have one question left – you can take it if you want – have a question? Go on, ask anything…

PS I’d hate for you to miss a post… do pop over and like Lulastic on Facebook.
And did I mention the book? The Ultimate No Poo book?



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73 Responses to A year without shampoo – FAQ’s answered honestly!

  1. Megan Jenner says:

    Lovely post! i’ve been trying to become les ful of chemicals for a while but never really taken the plunge and actually done it. where do you get your henna hair dye from, it looks beautiful!

  2. jenny f says:

    Thanks Lucy, was in serious need of some more encouragement. You converted me months ago, but I still need some cheerleading to keep going. I have a perverse stubborn streak that means I am sticking to it all, but after 3 months I still get greasy after 2-3 days and bicarb is the only thing that helps. So I guess I feel wedded to the theory and optimistic about the future…but I am still waiting for a great hair day. Maybe I’m just rubbish at that ‘massaging the oils through your hair’ bit?

  3. Gina Caro says:

    I really really want to try this but I’m scared. Don’t know if i could stick it out. Where do you buy your henna hair dye? I’d like to try some x
    Gina Caro recently posted…Aims for 2013My Profile

  4. lally young says:

    I am glad you have done it. I will have to admit sad as it is, I love washing and conditioning my hair. I just buy mainly cheapo brands or if they are in the sale even better!
    You mentioned the human smell, thats what I love about my husband, the way he smells after work, strange I know and I wont make any appologies. The smell of male hormones and well work smells. It makes me well warm inside. I love to sniff his work shirt when he is not at home, as I miss him tons!
    I did try the lush soap bars, but I couldnt get away with them. So its good old boots at the moment [it was in the sale!]. I do like to try different brands and certain brands I wont touch! My hair is done at the hairdressers as it is one of those bright vibrant colors.
    Come to think of it, Dh doesnt wash his hair! So hats off you young lady!!!

  5. MsXpat says:

    Looks lovely and healthy and clean, lol. Seriously thought, in the natural afro hair community some of us no longer use shampoo but instead use the products you had listed. Some like myself up to cowash which is using conditioner to wash the hair instead to keep hair moist and soft. These days I cowash if I have limited time as I’ll admit I still love a good shampoo.

    I really enjoyed this post :0)

  6. Anna.hewitt@yahoo.co.uk says:

    Great post! Just curious – what do you use on your face: cleansing / moisturising / make-up wise?

    • Lucy says:

      On my face, I use a bicarb scrub (just bicarb on wet face) every 3 days or so, and in between just water or nothing (Gosh my family are going to disown me!) I honestly think we wash too much!
      After a scrub I put dab of oil on, either rosehip oil or olive oil. That is all.
      When going out I have a mineral face powder, and blush.
      I was looking at someone’s flawless skin today though thinking I should probably wear more make up hehehe!
      What about you? x
      Lucy recently posted…A year without shampoo – FAQ’s answered honestly!My Profile

      • Anna.hewitt@yahoo.co.uk says:

        Ahh that’s inspiring – I want to use less on my skin, I use day + night cream etc etc it costs a fortune and its all chemicals. I’d really like to explore some alternatives x

      • Megan says:

        I’ve actually just begun (past 2 weeks or so) washing my face with just warm water and a clean wash cloth and my skin hasn’t looked this good since I was 12! I’ve also been no-poo for the last month. I can make it about 3 days before it starts to look greasy but I’m stretching as long as I can, sometimes 4-5 days between washes when I don’t need to give a crap what I look like :p Your posts are super inspiring and are really helping to keep my going!

  7. Ruth says:

    My question is this, oh great Lulastic one. Now that you’ve weaned yourself off shampoo & conditioner, what next?! What do you have to give up now to keep that inner Ferris Bueller happy and content? Xx
    Ruth recently posted…Things We LoveMy Profile

  8. I’ve read so many accounts of no-poo experiences but I have to say that yours has been the best and has answered so many questions. Thank you! I haven’t tried it yet but … your post has given me a lot of encouragement in that direction.
    Small Footprints recently posted…Change The World Wednesday (#CTWW)My Profile

  9. Teri says:

    Hi thanks for your post! I suffer with ME and showers and baths can be physically exhausting. Despite that 3/4 days ago I cut my hair to just shoulder length so I can’t really tie it back to make me wash it more…. And then I find your post! Maybe now is still a good time to try while my hair isn’t too heavy to massage!

    My question is have you noticed a change in your health since cutting so many chemicals. ftom your life

    • Lucy says:

      You know, I think the shorter the hair, the easier it is to manage. People I know with crops wean off shampoo with barely any bother!

      Great question. I certainly feel my skin and hair are reaping the benefits, really, they have never been so good. However, I am rubbish with eating at the moment, my pregnancy is stirring in me some serious sugar craving so think that is probably disguising any general sense of well being!!

      Lucy recently posted…A year without shampoo – FAQ’s answered honestly!My Profile

  10. Karla Archer says:

    Excellent post! I found it via Twitter because I also posted a shampoo free FAQ today (http://www.livingthelifefantastic.com/2013/01/shampoo-free-faq/) and did a search on the #nopoo hasthag (I think it was that one :)

    Your experience sounds so similar to mine. Lots of tinkering and frustration (and scarves!)

    Looking forward to reading more.

  11. kelly says:

    I used to wash my hair everyday. It was crap.I have curly thick hair.Then one day a friend suggested I go get my hair cut by a Jamaican woman she knew. Well if anyone knows curls.I wash my hair once a month now with Sunlight dish liquid.I have to condition , the dish detergent super cleans and it hard to comb.But my hair has changed forever for the better.

    • Lucy says:

      WOW, that is incredible! Did it take any time to relearn or wean or anything? Lots of curly haired people say this would never work for them, but I have heard so many positive stories from people who have given shampoo up and uncovered perfect curls rather than the unruly mass they had before. xx

  12. HannahB says:

    Hi! I am SO tempted by this! I use organic eco shampoo which I buy in bulk but the thing thats tempting me is that your hair has improved so much. I also have fine limp greasy hair, and would love to not have to wash it as often. I’m also having some dodgy hair regrowth after a bit of post partum hair loss, que lots of short bits of har sticking up all over my head! So I’m wearing a head band every day anyway, so I might as well give it a go?!

    • Lucy says:

      Yep, it is worth a crack! I am beyond happy with it :) I do wonder if we all have different hair, naturally, and that we make it do certain things with the products we use… hmmm. Who knows. I know mine has changed. Let me know how you get on! xx

  13. Cc says:

    I had never heard of such a thing before. When I read your article it couldn’t of come at a better time. I was fed up with the hair products that once worked so well were making my hair greasier the day after I washed my hair causing me to wash everyday. So two days ago I decided to do this. If there is something my scalp can produce is oil and I want to stop throwing away money on products. My questions is, does your hair feel soft? OR straw like? I can pull through weeks of greasy hair until my hair get used to it but not if the results aren’t soft.

    • Lucy says:

      Hello, thanks for your comment. Yes, soft! Just using Bicarb will leave it really dry, but I use coconut oil which really helps. Doing the odd deep conditioner, leaving oil/ egg yolk on for a while also really helps. Good luck! Pop back with any questions!

  14. Mary says:

    So I gave up shampoo a few weeks ago, inspired by your adventures (always up for cutting down on washing in general…) but still ended up in Boots today in the shampoo aisle. And I couldn’t BELIEVE how tempting all those brightly coloured, promising shampoo bottles were! What struck me was how not only can you be swayed from your original choice of brand by the marketing and placement, but that you can go out actively intending NOT to buy something and STILL nearly buy it!

    Just thought that was an interesting side-issue which any giving up of commercial products would bring up.

    • Lucy says:

      YES, you are beyond right! Those lovely shiney colours and promises!
      My own tactic is to STAY AWAY! For real, I literally avoid shops at all costs. And magazines. And tv advertising. Hoodwinky tactic, bah!

  15. Jennifer says:

    I am fascinated by this no shampoo concept, but I am concerned about sweating. I live in the hot-humid (highs between 95-105F) Southeastern US and work outside a lot. I get really sweaty and wondered how you deal with excessive sweating or if you know of someone who has tried this that lives in a similar climate and has had success without shampoo. I also have a very flaky scalp when I stretch out my shampoos (mainly on day 3, my wash day), how do you combat this or do you know of someone that has dealt with this issue.


    • Lucy says:

      My sister in law (mentioned in above comment!) lives in Oz, so super hot. I guess the premise is that it works with whatever the conditions your body is in.
      I feel fairly confident that this MAY fix your scalp though. It sounds like your natural oils are repressed! Not really doing what they are meant to do.

  16. Yish says:

    My only question would be about working out. I do several different types of exercise such as some Yoga, lifting, cardio, CrossFit and I love outdoor activities. Obviously this means that I sweat a LOT. In your experience, does this make it more necessary to use a more regular wash? Curious as to how I would approach this as I have been wanting to try it myself for several months now.

    • Lucy says:

      Well, er, I am, um, not really an excercisey kind of person, so perhaps not BEST placed. However, I did use to commute- until last week- 5 miles a day on my bike pretty fast with a helmet on. And my hair justr adapted.
      My sister in law does this, and she is a fitness guru, and she has found the same thing.
      I guess it regulates whatever you naturally produce through level of excercise? Maybe just give it a try :)

  17. Roberta says:

    Hi Lucy
    Came across your 20 questions, due to chasing around the web for hair thickening recipes. Sounds like you have stumbled, or tried something that may just help me. I think it’s worth trying for myself. Let you know if it makes for thickening hair for me, or not.
    Thanks for sharing..


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  19. Ashley says:

    I’m started the no poo :)

  20. Antonia says:

    Hi Lucy,
    I started the no poo, 6 weeks ago and tried the baking soda and vinegar way and it was a mess. I have wavy hair and i lost lot’s of hairs by breaking. it dried them out massively and my waves got like straw. i did some research and found out that baking soda is way to alkalide for hairs. it’s used to clean the tub and toilets, and to whiten your teeth.
    now i am going to try a only water and coconut milk and aloe recipe. hope that works better. if anyone has experience with this cocomilk / aloe recipe as a shampoo i would be happy to hear about.

  21. Katja says:

    Hi, Lucy! Last month I tried to go “water-only” and putting cornstarch in my hair in between washes. But, this only lasted 8 days!! On day 8 I went back to bicarb of soda as I have done for the last 3 years. Lucy, I went blind for 4 years from the toxins in commercial shampoo (2006–2010). It was HORRIBLE!! I really really want to go ALL natural. Maybe as I read more of your site and try new things that work for me, I will be one happy, free woman! I gave up on water only. But, maybe my approach was wrong. I did water-only in cold turkey fashion and had flat, straight, European hair that did nothing. I looked ragged and tired with that kind of no-style hair! I need to start fresh and start over! I will post an update on what helped me. Oily hair is a REAL problem for me and caused me to give up using only water during the 8 days. So, here I go for round two using some of your tips! Thanks!

    • Lucy says:

      Woah, Katja, what an awful experience.
      How wonderful you have your sight back.
      The biggest thing with water is the MASSAGE! Really get in there, shifting the oils from your scalp.

  22. mel says:

    how do you massage your hair while washing?

  23. I think if I was younger I would go through with no shampoo, as it is now, I only wash my hair once a week and it is far better off. I have my professionally coloured for the simple reason I would be grey and I am not ready for that hair colour.
    AlwaysARedhead recently posted…What happened when she didn’t sleep for five days?My Profile

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  26. Alithea says:

    I was wondering how the no poo method effected your split ends. How often do you feel the need to trim?

    I’ve been playing with shampoo alternatives for a month or so and don’t see any new breakage at all. Is this consistent with your results?

  27. Ash says:

    I am going to try the no poo method very soon. I am determined.

    My only question is, I like oiling my hair every once in a week. I use coconut oil from scalp to tips. Then of course it really requires a lot of shampooing to remove the grease.

    How will I be able to remove this oil from my hair with the no poo method?

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  29. Serena says:

    How do you wash the Henna dye from your hair? I can get it out only with a conditioner.

  30. Marissa Lee says:

    You are a brave soul. I don’t know if I could actually go without shampoo for more than two weeks, especially when I’m out walking the streets in humid, pollution-infested cities in Asia…. :)
    Marissa Lee recently posted…L’Oreal Paris Volume Filler Shampoo & Conditioner ReviewMy Profile

  31. Antigones says:

    Do you believe that giving up to shampo would help my hair being less greasy and thin ?I am also taking minerals wight now , to help my hair , but it gets oily very easily , extremly oily and i cannot go out without washing it at least at every 3 days .
    I am thinking about replacing the “natural” shampo from the drugstore with a mix of egg and lemon juice .Still i will have to wash it quite often i guess.
    Antigones recently posted…Din jurnalul AntigoneiMy Profile

  32. Carly Saggau says:

    I mentioned this wonderful post in a recent blog post of my own! Thanks for the inspiration and here is the link to the post:

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  37. Michele says:

    Hello, Lucy, your blog is inspiring.
    What about hair-drier?

  38. Julie says:

    Hi, I stopped using shampoo little over a week ago. I have curly hair and non-damaging hair-care is costing me a fortune right now, so that was my main incentive I guess.
    I’m still using my leave-in conditioner though, but I’m trying to wean off that. I’ve just hit that stage where it’s starting to look really greasy, and it’s the only thing that keeps it from looking greasy AND frizzy. It’s from Aveda, if you know that.
    Second question: what about sea or swimming pools? My hair always gets gross, dry and tacky; I don’t feel like bicarb would cut it.

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  40. Lisa says:

    Lucy, there’s no talk of your scalp. I can go for days without washing my hair, and it’s always my scalp that drives me to it. Did you get an itchy head during your ‘weaning’ process?

    • Lucy says:

      Hello! Yes I didn’t have scalp issues, but my husband did! Check out the “Itchy Scalp” FAQ in the book… a Rosemary tea works wonders, as does topically applied tea tree oil (that is what my husband used.)

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