A year without shampoo: No-poo?

It has officially been a year since I rather accidentally backed into the ‘no-poo’ (not using shampoo) movement.

While I had mentioned my no-poo habit in passing (in my DIY beauty products post), I have been hesitating to write this post, partly because I was scared people would be somewhat repulsed that I never wash my hair, and just like in the movies, recoil with disgust or jeer with judgement (which is, I guess, always a possibility).

Where it all began:

Last summer, while at a music festival (WAYHOME ❤ ❤ ), I was one of the thousands who didn’t shell out the extra money for a shower pass. By the end of the weekend, I was covered in filth literally from head to toe, but my hair was looking ridiculous, wild, and amazing.

Getting filthy with friends, where this all accidentally started.


The transition:

Since I was heading from the festival on a road trip with my sister, I decided this would be the best chance to see if I could transition from my shampoo-dependent ways to a slightly less consumption, more filthy existence. There were a few days on this literal and metaphorical journey in which my hair got WILD, turning into the impressive stand-on-end troll hair!

Getting a bit greasy, but Heidi didn’t seem to mind. (She obviously loves me the best).


Starting to get a bit wild. Even Heidi is looking suspicious.

Troll hair achievement unlocked.


Even though I didn’t have a particularly compelling reason to start a no-poo lifestyle, I also found that I didn’t really have a reason to stop. For the first few months, I was blissfully ignorant of the entire “no-poo” online community and didn’t read much about the movement. I just would rinse my hair with water when I showered and went about my life.

At some point, I was starting to get a little bit bothered by the texture, so I read that using some baking soda to scrub the oil and doing an apple cider vinegar rinse to condition could help with some of the days that I was finding this to be a bit much.

Eventually, I was using baking soda and apple cider vinegar about once a week, and the rest of the time, water rinsing seemed to do the trick.

To be completely transparent, there were a handful of situations that shampoo did encounter my scalp including two hair cuts and one bridesmaid wash-and-blowout. I did try to explain to a new hair stylist that I didn’t want her to shampoo my hair, and that was the only time that someone reacted in disgust and horror at the suggestion. After that experience, I decided to sit back and enjoy the occasional scalp massage (with shampoo) because it was totally fine.

Frequently asked questions:

To address the most commonly asked areas, here are my thoughts on smell, grease, and texture.

Does your hair smell horrible?  

One of the little delights in life is the lightly-scented freshly washed hair, which you don’t get when you go no-poo. However, the opposite isn’t true either – you don’t stink every day either. I would say my hair just smelled like a person – not the rank one sitting beside you on the bus, nor the bouquet of roses. Inoffensive, unspectacular, human, normal.

Is your hair always really greasy?  

When I talked to most people about this, they uniformly say “I could NEVER do that – my hair would be so greasy!” Which is both true and not true. I did find that my hair did have a bit more oil (particularly in the crown), however, most of the time, that translated into just some pretty spectacular volume. The transition (which for me was 1-2 weeks) did see some pretty extraordinary fluctuations with oil, however, after that time, I think my oil production normalized. On days when I felt it was getting to be a little intense, I would whip out the baking soda then apple cider vinegar sequence and it cut through the grease and gave me normal hair again. Also, I do exercise most days, so even at that, I didn’t think my hair was getting excessively disgusting, even after a long run or intense yoga class.

What does it feel like?  

I think the biggest change was in the texture department. In my opinion, my hair was so much fun when in the throughs of no-poo. I had TONS of volume, and it was really easy to style it in that piece-y “run my fingers through my hair to look a little like a ragamuffin” look, which is kinda my go-to style. Previously, I would use a texturizing product to achieve this look, but I found that I could effortlessly reproduce it without any product. The trade-off was that my hair was a little bit less soft and smooth, which was the downside. Also, on the days that it didn’t want to fall right, there was no way to coerce it into some sort of semblance of acceptable style. Those were the days that I worked on my scarf style.

So, what did I conclude?

The most important things I learned in a year without shampoo: 

  1. Hair DEFINITELY doesn’t need to be washed every day. 
  2. It is totally possible to go no-poo. You don’t need to be a dirt squirrel living in the woods to consider challenging what products we “need” in order to exist in modern society.
  3. Nobody notices. Literally. There were no elaborately staged interventions to get me to recognise that my personal grooming habits were unsavory and inappropriate. There wasn’t a barrage of Facebook comments on my pictures throughout the year saying “Ugh! Your Hair!?” If you go back to any photo of me in the past year, I think you will agree that my hair looked largely normal (although, feel free to correct me if I am completely wrong).


As this marks the end of a year of no shampooing, I found myself spending a lot of mental energy debating about whether to get back on the sauce or continue with my alternate lifestyle. I realised I tend to make life more cognitively taxing than necessary – most people just wash their hair with shampoo, and here I was spending a lot of time mentally debating whether shampoo is a necessary part of life or whether I should continue on this no-poo road.

In the end, I decided that while no-poo was possible, it was sometimes a hassle, particularly the days when I had no tools at my disposal to wrangle my voluminous locks. I decided to look into a biodegradable, organic shampoo that I can use when my hair needs a wash. I do plan to keep lesson #1 in mind, and continue to only wash my hair when it needs to be washed, sticking with the water rinse other times (particularly in the summer, where the lake does a fab-o time of rinsing my hair!).

So today, I went to the salon, got a lusciously sudsy scalp massage, and a new cut. I also picked up this Danish organic shampoo (which includes the words “soap mud” in the description, which made me feel like I was not venturing too far off the filthy hippie path) and I am excited to see if I can use minimal amounts of good products, that make my hair happy and don’t destroy the world in the process.

Have you gave up any “essential” products? Do you have a suggested challenge for me to take on, now that I am lying the no-poo project to rest? Let me know!






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