Ten Alternatives to Shampoo

At the start of this year I began an experiment with my hair.  The purist in me was tired of putting toxins into my body, the spendthrift in me was weary of pouring so much money away on these toxins and the optimist in me was persuaded by our bodies ability to cope without reliance on products! I was in a wash-every-other-day-routine and was a slave to dry-shampoo. I knew there had to be a better way.

Enter the No Poo way of life!

In a typically extreme move  I totally gave up shampoo and have in the last 10 months put everything from a homemade nettle brew to mustard powder on my hair! It has gone quite wrong at times but ultimately my hair is a million times more healthy, voluminous, and grows much faster. Plus I can go away for weeks at a time and need nothing for my hair but a good bristle brush. This really appeals to my hopes of living more simply and with less impact on this beautiful earth (even though I am rubbish at this in lots of ways.)

Here are TEN options for going No Poo I have played with- and sometimes made a lot of mess with! Most are the BEE’S KNEE’s for me and the rest are the dog’s whatchya’s for others…

(*INTERRUPTION* I have since written a comprehensive guide on giving up shampoo and it covers OVER THIRTY amazingly effective alternatives to shampoo, conditioner and styling products. Buy the Ebook version of Happy Hair here for less than a bottle of shampoo! Or get it through Amazon in Print or Kindle (currently at Number one in Beauty & Fashion!)

One- Water! Oh groan, I know, I’m sorry.  What kind of an alternative is this?! I hear you cry. The best, truly. It took me 9 months to realise it was all my hair needed – and now it has been one month since anything has been on my hair at all. The key is in the massage- as you soak your hair, get your fingers stuck in, pushing away at your scalp and any particularly grease-o bits. I do a five minute massage every five days. My hair is thick and voluminous and does whatever I want it to do. Whooppiiee for H20!!

Two- Bicarbonate of Soda/ Baking Soda. This gets your hair SQUEAKY clean. Every ten days or so I put one teaspoon in a cup of water and dissolve it, chuck it on my hair mid shower and wash it straight out. The only reason it isn’t number one is because it isn’t free and I’m a cheapskate. Using bicarbonate of soda regularly and often, and using too much of it will damage your hair more than shampoo. My hair gets a bit bicarb weary after too many times in a row, brittle and waxy and needs a bit of Number Three Action:

Three- Egg. I use the whole egg, whisked in a cup. I pour over my head and massage in. I leave for a few minutes and rinse well.  It leaves my hair SO clean and SO soft and shiny. However, the water must be cool! I have had a couple of scrambled disasters venturing into too warm territory….

Four- Soapnuts. These are a natural cleaner and work incredibly well. My hair is like silk after- certainly the closest to shampoo I have found. I heat them in water on the stove for 10 minutes, whiz them with my hand blender and use the liquid. I am too lazy to make this my Go To alternative, but use it if my hair has become filthy. Buy them here and use them for cleaning a million and one things!

Five- Rhassoul Clay. This is LOVELY stuff. For skin and hair.  It not only cleans but also conditions. I make a paste with two spoonfuls and boiling water. Once cool I smooth it into hair, after a few minutes I brush it through hair and rinse off. It is truly divine but a little on the expensive side for my thrifty self. (But doesn’t come close to the expense of good shampoo.) Buy it here!

Six- Henna. This is my once-every-six-weeks deep treatment! I mix up about ten spoons of it with hot water to make a paste. Once cool I apply it all over and leave it for two hours. (Epic I know, I use a plastic bag and grips to keep it all in place.) It needs a SERIOUS rinse, and a good brush, but my hair after is brighter, cleaner, softer.

Seven- Tea. This relies very much on the massage bit too, and the result is the same as water except you get a nice smell! Some people swear that the different aspects of the tea change your hair – chamomile adding a special softness, for example.

Eight- Lemon. Lemon has some seriously potent anti-bacterial properties and can work as a lightener for people wanting to be blonder.  Squeeze the lemon straight on to your greasy roots, massage well and leave for a few moments. I found it to be slightly drying.

Nine- Tea Tree Oil. Full of incredible properties! You would probably need a little bit too much of this to work solely as an effective shampoo. However added to the bicarb paste, the lemon or the water only wash, this makes a lovely difference. Tea tree oil is perfect for people with scalp issues, dandruff etc. In fact, one person I am VERY close to but who shalt remain nameless has had a life-long scalp issue fixed with this method!

Ten- Mustard Powder. Nettles. Mayonaise. Ketchup! These were all possible contenders that simply didn’t cut it for me! In theory they should work- they have the right mix of either anti-bacterialness or emulsifier/ acid shizzle and the internet is jampacked with people on whom these work. It just ALL depends on your hair.

A note on conditioner- Nearly all of these, bar the clay and the egg need a rinse with Apple Cider Vinegar. I use a splash in half a cup of water and throw it over the ends of my hair, leave for a few minutes then rinse out. It’s a WINNER.

The biggest lesson in all of this is to not give up  and be a brave old soul – often different hair just needs different proportions of things.

And don’t forget, a shed load of advice and recipes for natural ‘poos, conditioners and styling products can be found in this Ultimate Guide to No Poo!

PS I’d hate for you to miss a post- do pop over and like Lulastic on Facebook!

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58 Responses to Ten Alternatives to Shampoo

  1. Wow! Your hair looks seriously great! I’m just not sure I’d be brave enough for this experiment. And I do so love a wash & blow dry in the hairdressers too. I’m probably a list cause but well done you!

    • lulastic says:

      Ha brilliant, thank you. I have to say your hair was STUNNING at the MADs, so y’know, each to their own hehehe x

    • Kris says:

      Thank you for the suggestions for alternatives to shampoo. As I’m “getting older” my hair is becoming thin, dry and brittle. I have always been a daily shampooer and needed conditioners. I have recently begun to skip a day to try and restore the natural oils. Now to try alternatives to my usual products.

  2. Jools says:

    Your hair does look glossy. I am a hairdresser with the most greasy of hair and at 41 it shows no sign of drying up. How do you combat grease?

    • lulastic says:

      The idea behind it is that our hair produces so much grease as a result of being wiped out daily with shampoo. Once your hair readjusts to it’s own oil balance it produces loads less. In my case it was MASSES less! Now what it produces is much less greasy and much more oil/ almost waxes that can be massage out. It takes some time- for me about 6-8 weeks initially and then getting better and better every month since. x x

  3. lally Young says:

    Wow, I use all sorts of styling products. I admire your sprit Gal!!! Ill just stick to my aveda, its the nearest thing to eco. Shame its damn expensive. But keep it going!!!

  4. Mama Syder says:

    Your hair looks soooo healthy! I’ve often thought about trying natural shampoos but never got round to it…might give the egg a go :-)

  5. shinypigeon says:

    I am soooo not brave enough to take this challenge….

  6. Wow, you are amazing…I really want to try it…but I’m scared! My main problem is I haven’t got time to do much with anything for me.

  7. Wow your hair is BEAUTIFUL!! I’m on bicarb and ACV about once a fortnight and would NEVER look back. I recently bleached my tips though (yeah I know horrible horrible toxic stuff), but coconut oil makes it soooooo much better. Totally awesome hair moisturiser.

  8. Ditto on all the compliments Lucy!! GREAT HAIR! You inspire us all :) I had a hair/head crisis last year, where my scalp just gave up on anything remotely chemically/smelly etc… It was crying out! I found that Simple shampoo and conditioner which is not that ‘simple’ but seems to be the only thing (besides not washing/natural alteratives!) that it liked. I think my head crisis will be even more impressed with some of these, as its still not quite right! Thanks for all the ideas! Also stoked that Hania gave some advice about when she runs and how she copes with yucky sweaty hair! Ax

    • lulastic says:

      Honestly I reckon your head will LOVE the tea tree oil options!! Look forward to hearing how you get on – be brave!! x

  9. Circus Queen says:

    I’ve been wanting to ditch the chemicals for a while and this has given me a bit of encouragement, so thanks. I saw a friend earlier this week with curly hair who’s ditched the shampoo so it obviously isn’t just for you straight-haired types!

    • lulastic says:

      Curly hair works SO amazingly, no, hair-slick-scalp transition business for them! Jealous.

      I am slowly eliminating more and more chemicals. The last thing to go will be my mascara. A tube lasts me years though, so won’t have to worry until I’m forty at which point I’ll probably be over this fad. (KIDDING)

  10. Good post! First off let me say that I’ve been visiting your blog off-an-on for a while now and when I finally decided in late September to venture into blogging, you were right there in my “blogs I follow” list, I only had to wait to get a blog and then follow. I know I could have followed before, but I kind of did anyway, since I had you bookmarked and stopped in – I just kind of got more serious, lol!

    Anyway, as I’ve started into a greener lifestyle, making my own household cleaners now, etc. I’ve thought more than once about shampoo alternatives. I found your post to be both educational and inspiring (thanks!). I had thought of trying it with either baking soda or egg (btw, your comment “scrambled disasters venturing into too warm territory” has me actually LOL, no kidding!). Can I ask your advice on this subject? When I shampoo now I use a shampoo/conditioner mix and then follow up with a conditioner. While the conditioner is in, I have to use my “pick” to go through my hair – if I don’t I pull so much out that it’s horrible. So I guess my question would be what would I use in place of the conditioner? Would I make my own “detangler” with conditioner – that would be defeating my whole purpose though! I’m so close to going shampoo-free, but the tangly-hair thing is big with me so if you can ease my mind with a suggestion, it would be so helpful!

    Oh and your hair looks gorgeous! Yay for you!! That’s great that we readers get the benefit of all your experimentations. I imagine you’re right about another thing, and that is that our hair would have to readjust to not having shampoo (or should I say “not having all the natural oil stripped from it)?

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  14. Caitrin Lange says:

    Hey Lucy. I read this blog when you first posted it and I thought … It’s not for me! BUT…. I have been trying to simplyfy and cheapify my life so I washed my hair one last time at the end of Novemeber and now I am at least 7 days in to not washing. I have noticed that it needs a condition so will try the apple cider vinegar tomorrow but other than that I have gone straight to just water with a little bit of tea tree oil. It’s fabulous! Thanks so much for the insight and inspiration. I am hoping I can go the distance and keep it up. Last time I tried this I got to 1.5 weeks and gave up :( so bring on the new year and the no shampoo!

    Oh and congrats on the wee one on the way! Can’t wait to see photos and more musings especially on having a toddler and a new baby :)

  15. Caitrin says:

    Ok update. I have got to day 11 and was all good until I went for a swim in the sea and my hair felt all yucky so tried tea tree oil and then vinegar again but still was feeling not great. So tried the baking soda and then vinegar and it actually feels clean! I am also planning on experimenting on making my own home made shampoo with natural ingredients. Keep you updated : )

    • lulastic says:

      Oh SO impressed you made it to 11 days!! Glad bicarb worked out, there is a lovely recipe out there for coconut milk shampoo. Breaking your hair’s dependence on chemicals would be best first though, so NICE ONE!!!

  16. KarenCreftor says:

    Hi Lucy, I’ve just found your blog and would firstly like to say this is one of the best articles I’ve read about going ‘no poo’…and I’ve read a LOT!

    I last used shampoo on 27th December and I’ve had huge problems with oil. I always had an oily scalp anyway, but this is crazy! On the plus side the ends of my hair have never looked healthier.

    The only slight success I had was when I re-henna’d my hair, but otherwise no combination or method of BS and ACV has worked~ if anything my hair looks worse after using it! I’m considering water only after reading your post, but wondered if you had another transition period going from BS/ACV to water only?

    Sorry for the long reply, but I really want to get this to work!
    ~Kaz x

    • Lucy says:

      Hi Karen, thanks for your comment! Yep, the transition to water only takes a while too. I think BC can be really unpredictable. I think hard London water effects its impact, maybe boil water first? Make sure it really dissolves in the cup. Waitrose own works the best, too :) See if an egg works?! Use very cool water though. It is all just about experimenting sadly. Have you found the No Poo Live journal too? It is a good source of support :)

      • Nikki says:

        I have been wanting to try going “no poo” for so long. I tried to do BS and ACV but I gave up when I started getting flakes and greasy hair. I really want to try it again with water washing and maybe clay and egg washes but I’m scared. Oh, do you boil the water for your water washes?

        • Isabelle Marie says:

          I used bs and acv once and didn’t like it. I use an egg once a week with a drop of mint essential oil. Then when I want a little more cleaning, I use two tsps of rhassoul clay with coconut oil.

  17. Debra says:

    Hi Lucy,

    I have tried going longer periods without washing my hair in the past and found that I got an oily build up. I used water between washes, but did still notice an oily build up in less than a week. I wondered whether your scalp took some time to adjust to your new no-wash life style?

    Thanks!
    Debra

    • Lucy says:

      Yes, a long, long time! At least a couple of months to get to a week. Head massage and lots of brushing help, and it took me monthd to get down to just water and not these alternatives.
      Sorry, wish I had better news. Once you nail it it IS brilliant…

  18. Lucy Woodman says:

    Hi Lucy,

    I’ve been no-poo for a while and still experimenting with different things. I’ve also been following your blog for a while and didn’t realise you were no-poo too! I have conquered the hair washing part and it’s in the best condition ever. My trouble now is with my scalp. I have tried tea tree but it doesn’t seem to be helping much. I blame my stupidly hard water! Any other tips?
    I was also wondering if you had tried out any alternatives to ACV? I’m not a fan, and am currently trying out citric acid (ACV smells, white vinegar smells, lemon lightens hair and I think they all attract bees/wasps?).
    Thanks, Lucy

    • Lucy says:

      Are you using bicarb? It can be quite harsh. Try eggs/ clay or soap nuts for kinder alternative. I have a post all about the alternatives.
      I don’t love acv either- big fan of coconut oil. Brush a little bit through when damp at night, by morning lovely and soft and not oily.
      Xxx

      • Lucy Woodman says:

        Yes I have been using bicarb, but quite watered down (about 1 tbsp to 1 cup water) – will definitely try eggs though!
        Big fan of coconut oil here too, use it for everything. I made the silly mistake when I first started no-poo of chucking loads on and it took aaaaages to wash out! Will try that tonight – thanks for the tips! x

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  20. Isabelle Marie says:

    I love the egg method and recently tried out the rhassoul clay. It’s fantastic!! I did it last night and now my hair is SO soft and shiny!! I won’t be going back to shampoo anytime soon!

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  22. Rosealys says:

    I read your posts about no-poo about a couple of months ago, and I wanted to try but was a bit scared. Then a few weeks later I started by accident (well, just by thinking “oh, I’ll wash it tomorrow, it still looks ok” for a few days in a row.) I’m on day 17 now, having used only water and it’s not looking too bad (my hair’s not that greasy naturally) but my scalp feels like it needs a bit of something. I thought about bicarb, but I think it sounds a bit harsh, and I picked up a bag of soap nuts at the weekend in an organic shop… I’m wondering if I really need to rinse it out with ACV afterwards…
    Thanks for your inspiration!
    Rose

    • Lucy says:

      Hey Rose
      Awesome! So cool. It depends how naturally tangly your hair is. I tend to prefer coconut oil for conditioner. Didn’t really like ACV by the end. Soap nuts are great- boil them up and use the liquid. Rub a tiny bit of coconut oil on hair before bed, by morning it is soft and not oily! All the best! X

      • Rosealys says:

        Thanks for the coconut oil tip, I’m hooked on that now, for everything!
        I’m using soapnuts now, trying to give it a fortnight between washes, I last used them a week ago (although I think I used waaay too much, it was a bit stiff the next day) and last night I gave my head a good soak and massage in just water (or at least, I got The Boy to massage it for me ;) but this morning my scalp feels greasy but my hair’s kind of greasyish-dry… maybe I need to soapnut it more often, or maybe it’s because I used too much.
        Actually, what I originally wanted to ask before I got side-tracked (that’s a common problem…) is I’m getting dandruff.. nooooooo.! Do you think adding tea tree to the soapnut water would work?
        From a no-pooer in distress!
        Rose
        Rosealys recently posted…My contribution to HalloweenMy Profile

        • Lucy says:

          Oh, I’m really not sure as I’ve never had dandruff with it:( in theory tea tree oil is great for scalp issues…
          What about using a really nourishing wash right in to your scalp, like an egg?

  23. Fionn says:

    Hi

    Just came across your blog (and subscribed immediately!) while looking for ‘no-poo’ methods in the UK. The majority of posts I’ve come across have been American and really complicated. I really like how simple you have made it and am hoping you can give me a bit of advice/motivation to keep going.

    After having two children in the last 2.5 years my hair is in bits. I suffered from a lot of hair loss a few months after giving birth both times and after my second in January this year still hasn’t grown back in fully – frustratingly slow! And to add insult to injury I now seem to suffer from dry, breaking hair for the first time while still having super greasy roots. So for reasons including financial, chemical-free lifestyle, and ‘I will try anything to get hair as gorgeous as yours’, I’m giving up all those shampoos and conditioners sitting in my bathroom.

    I last used shampoo/conditioner 7 days ago. I used a baking soda mix a couple days later to clarify and an egg yolk/natural yoghurt mix to deep condition. Then 3 days after that I used a lemon & water shampoo mix and raw honey & water deep condition. My hair is seriously greasy but am going to go till Thursday night before doing anything (interview on Friday morning so want to look my best). I was thinking of doing a baking soda paste to clean it out but not sure if I need to use an ACV rinse after or can I just go straight for an egg yolk? I’m in Scotland and have pretty good soft water.

    Sorry about the epic post – I love to share my life-story with complete strangers – but I do also want to say thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I love how complete strangers are so generous with their knowledge and experience online.

    • Lucy says:

      It depends how much your hair needs conditioning I guess? Bicarb will make it squeaky clean. An egg should do? I prefer the way mine feels after an egg! ( Though it can also go most wrong, no one wants an omelette head for an interview!)
      Hope it goes really well on Friday!

  24. aBystander says:

    Fabulous post! I have been using baking soda and apple cider vinegar for months now and it works great!
    The question I have however is how can I convince other people to try this? Specifically my girlfriend who refuses to believe anything but store bought shampoo can clean hair and thinks I am crazy for ‘doing chemistry experiments in the bathroom’? I really love this and want people I care about to try for themselves because I KNOW it will improve their hair! Plus then perhaps then they might agree these are legitimate hair cleaning solutions and stop regarding me as a dirty hippy for not using L’oreal. Any suggestions?

  25. Jessica Renae says:

    I really enjoyed your post, I’m looking forward to trying out the tea. I mean I love drinking it so I’m sure my hair will love it too. Also to add to your list, I’ve recently been trying beer shampoo which I review on my blog http://wordsofsimplicity.com/2014/01/16/tasmanian-handmade-beer-shampoo-bar/
    I’m finding it works well and used to be used for adding bounce to hair, I’d like to see how it goes combined with a tea rinse.

  26. Eden says:

    hello , thanks for the tips.
    how often do you have to wash your hair when using this method ?
    do you wash everyday ?
    do you dry your hair with blow dryer afterwards ?

    thanks a lot !

    • Lucy says:

      At the moment I am just washing it with water once every 5-10 days. Dont really use anything else, the odd bit of bicarb. I do sometimes use a hair dryer when I ‘ve wet it as I have short hair that needs styling :)

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  28. Anastasia says:

    Hi Lucy! I’m glad I found this article, thank you for writing!

    I’ve been trying to go no-poo for a few months now but continue running into the same problem — my scalp is ETERNALLY itchy. I’ve tried bicarb/acv, soap bars, and tea tree oil, but nothing leaves my scalp feeling “clean” and itch-free! I really want to make this work out, but I’ve been miserable during the entire experience. Any suggestions?

    Thanks!! –Anastasia

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  30. Jessie Parker says:

    Hello Lucy, I’ve just been flicking through your ’10 alternatives to shampoo’ blog post and these sound like very good potential shampoo alternatives. However, I was wandering which one in particular you would suggest that I use because I do have very sensitive and eczema prone skin. Also does just using water actually work?

    Thank you,
    Jessie Parker :)

    • Lucy says:

      Hello! Well, in my book I have a story from someone who turned to bicarb and her family’s eczema problem healed within weeks! Water CAN work- but it does depend on the water in your region. (A bit on water only in the book!) I think that egg would be the mildest substitute – i’d go for that one and see how you get on! (Sorry to go on about the book!)

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