Still Shampoo Free.

One of my post popular blog posts, and the topic I get most emails about is being shampoo-free.

After over a year of using only these ingredients for my hair and face care, I have learned a lot and have more to share.

Hair and Face Care.The goods: Apple cider vinegar, olive oil, castor oil, baking soda, and tea tree oil.

First, let me show you how I use these ingredients, then I’ll answer the questions I get most often.

Hair Care

Beauty Products

I used to use a bottle with some baking soda and water and squirt it on my head, but now I do this: I keep baking soda in a little jar under the sink, and before I take a shower, I mix a couple of tablespoons of baking soda with just enough water to make it into a paste. Then, and this is key for my hair, I add four drops of tea tree oil. After years – years, I tell you! – of itchy scalp and even sometimes flaking (sorry, gross, but it’s true!), I finally, finally found a solution: tea tree oil in my baking soda. That tea tree oil shampoo never cut it. Anyway. I wet my hair, then massage the paste into my scalp. I rub it in a circle around the crown of my head for about half a minute, face my wash, then rinse it all out.

For oily hair: use more baking soda.

For dry hair: use less baking soda.

Beauty Products

I fill this old conditioner bottle with half apple cider vinegar and half water. After I rinse out my shampoo, I squirt some of this on to the ends of my hair and let sit for a minute while I shave and wash.

For oily hair: use less apple cider vinegar.

For dry hair: use more apple cider vinegar.

Beauty Products.Now, this seems completely counter-intuitive. Yes, I use olive oil and castor oil as my face wash. That little bottle in the middle is about two-thirds olive oil and one-third castor oil and lasts me a couple of months of face washing. I rub dime-sized amount of the oil mixture into my face for 30 seconds, then hold a hot wash cloth on my face for a minute. Then, I use the wash cloth to wipe the oil off. I rinse my face in warm water. Instead of taut, over-dried skin, I’m left with blemish-free, soft skin. It’s amazing. The oil dissolves the ‘bad’ oil on your face and replaces it with ‘good’ oil. Seems crazy, but is totally amazing.

For oily skin: use more castor oil.

For dry skin: use more olive oil.


My hair is too oily to do this! It’ll never work.

Well, okay, that’s not a question, but I’ll answer it anyway. Your hair might be oily because you wash it too much. I know, crazy, right? But it’s a bit like nursing (bear with me), when a baby nurses more, the mother’s body produces more milk. Supply and demand. When you wash your hair more, it’s stripped of the oils and, thus, produces more oil. Try cutting down on how often you wash your hair for a few weeks, then try dabbling in baking soda and apple cider vinegar. And definitely Google it. Lots of oily haired folks have found success in this crazy shampoo-free thing.

My head got really itchy after doing this for two weeks. Help?

Try putting a few drops of tea tree oil in the baking soda – it is a natural, effective anti-fungal and antiseptic. Also, play around with all the ratios to see what works best for you.

What do you do when you’re traveling?

I use my travel-sized shampoo and conditioner, but I do bring my little oil face wash container. Washing with shampoo and conditioner every few months hasn’t seemed to mess up how great my hair does with baking soda and vinegar.

What does your hair smell like? Does it smell like vinegar? I would love to switch but the shampoo I use now smells so good.

I’d say it smells like, well, hair. Sort of neutral, but not vinegary at all. I, too, was a sucker for super-fragranced bathing products (my weakness? Coconut. Mmm.). But, sort of like the natural laundry detergent we use, I’ve had to adjust my idea of what clean smells like. It’s not overpowering fragrances that are chemically derived, you know? (It’s so hard to let go of that super strong clean laundry smell!) You could certainly put a few drops of essential oil in either the shampoo or conditioner substitute, though.

Does your hair get tangled? Can you still straighten it? Can you use products?

Okay. Lots of questions. First, yes, it gets more tangled than with conditioner. But, I just brush it gently after I take a shower, and it’s perfectly fine. I usually straighten it – since my hair can last a few days between washing that way. I try to stay away from using hair products on a daily basis, but I use mousse and curly hair gel on days I want wavy hair, and it washes out just fine with the baking soda. Also, proof that my hair is still clean and normal.

But, why do you do this?

Environmental reasons (reduces plastic waste, less chemicals rinsed in the waterway), money reasons (saves lots of money), and health reasons (avoids contact with lots of questionable chemicals). Five ingredients are in my shampoo, conditioner, and face wash. Total. There is probably ten times that in the commercial products. Plus, it works really well and it’s sort of fun.

Questions? Comments? Tried this at home? Think I’m crazy?

About Ashley

Ashley is a web designer, mother, and social media addict. She blogs about her attempts to live more simply and pursuing happiness while juggling a job she loves and life with two adorable sons and an academic husband.


  1. If you really love the smell of coconut I’ve been using this combination lately: castile soap and coconut milk. My scalp was getting really dry so I wanted to try something other than the baking soda/water for awhile.

    It works almost as well but is more moisturizing and actually lathers up which is kind of a nice change!

  2. After a year of using baking soda in homemade deodorant, I would say that the people who get itchy after a few weeks of baking soda might be having a reaction to the baking soda. It can be too harsh for delicate skin. I use corn starch to cut the baking soda and it helps my sensitive skin. I don’t see why the same wouldn’t work with the scalp and hair.

    I am a hairstylist, and it has been my mission for years now to get people to stop obsessively shampooing their hair. it’s just not good for your hair or your scalp. I tell my clients to at least try to cut in half how often they shampoo. If it’s every day, cut to every other day. If they just have to get it wet and put something on it, I tell them to just put conditioner on it on the no shampoo days. All of them, once they actually do it, thank me because their hair looks better and behaves better once it settles in to the new routine.

  3. Ashley, thanks for posting this (again). I didn’t catch it the first time. Do you know of any natural ingredients for color-treated hair?

  4. Do you use natural ingredients like these on Gabe too? Topher has such sensitive skin that he develops a bad rash if we don’t use a certain laundry soap, shampoo, body wash, and lotion but that stuff is so expensive. Maybe natural would be better?
    Holly’s most recent post :: Etsy FavesMy Profile

  5. I’ve started using natural products in cleansing my house (baking soda and vinegar ROCKS!). I bought the apple cider vinegar to wash my hair with, but I’m still trying to use up my shampoo and conditioner (I bought really big containers which seem to last forever). Thanks for the encouragement! And yes, it is something to get used to – that natural ‘clean smell’…but then again, it just smells so much better than the normal detergents! Fresher, even!
    Ronél’s most recent post :: The incompetence of the GSSCMy Profile

  6. Alright… I’m almost out of shampoo and conditioner anyway, and I’ve been toying with trying this. I think I’ll give it a shot.
    Ashley K.’s most recent post :: The flames will not set you ablazeMy Profile

  7. I am going to try this when my shampoo runs out!
    Brianna’s most recent post :: Letter to 20 year old meMy Profile

  8. You’re so very spot on about producing more oil the more you remove oil. This is exactly the case with me, at least. The less often I wash my oily hair, the less oil my scalp produces and the longer I can go between washes! It’s been the best thing ever.

    I’m still vary wary of washing my face with this oil method because of my tendency to break out. But I think I may give it a shot anyway. I’m a huge fan of baking soda for my hair, though!
    Michelle @ To mother with dignity’s most recent post :: Fun stuff from around the internetsMy Profile

  9. Did it take a little while for your hair to get used to the switch? I tried doing this about a year ago and my hair was such a mess (super static-y ends but greasy scalp immediately after I blow-dried) that I gave up. I wasn’t using the tea oil, just baking soda and apple cider vinegar.
    Jayme’s most recent post :: A Day In The LifeMy Profile

  10. We use two of those ingredients for Gavin’s homemade wipes for the same reasons you use them (tea tree oil and olive oil), but it never occurred to me to use them on myself. My only question would be what are the effects on color-treated hair? My head is already a cesspool for very expensive chemicals – I’d hate to mess that up!
    Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks’s most recent post :: TromboneMy Profile

  11. I just posted about my lack of shampoo use too. I have extremely hard water and just can’t do the baking soda, I would get a AWFUL buildup and while my hair loved it my scalp hated it. Now I use acv as a wash for my scalp and beer (yes beer) as a rinse/conditioner for my hair. It works great and the beer leaves my hair extra shiny. My husband isn’t so keen on the ‘wasting’ of the beer though, hehe.
    mudnessa’s most recent post :: I fell back to no ‘pooingMy Profile

  12. I have fine, thin hair and oily roots… do you think this would work for me? I can hardly go two days without washing right now and I’d really love to have more time between washes. I am weary though because I hate the way my hair feels when it gets greasy. You mentioned that you have pretty thick hair, so greasy roots might have not been a problem for you in the first place? (I hear that people with thinner hair unfortunately also tend to have oilier scalps…).

    I am really willing to give this a try though. How did you make the transition? Is there an “adjustment period”? I’ve tried to stretch time by using some dry shampoo, but I don’t love the results so far.

  13. Katie Earley says:

    I tried the baking soda and water but hated how cold it was and that it didn’t have the fun lather feel. I’ll have to give your baking soda paste a try though once my shampoo runs out. Do you use anything for a face moisturizer or is the oil combo enough to keep your face from getting dry?

  14. I’ve been using the oil cleansing method on my face door about a week and I’m loving it so far. I think I’ll take a leap and try no-poo next. Thanks for the info!

  15. Liz Yoder says:

    Hey! Glad you talked about this again. I’ve actually been meaning to send you this link to see if anyone else would be interested in it. This is for the not so naturally wonderfully skinned people :-) I’ve been doing this for a few months now, and I really like it. Check is out:

    Say hi to your boys for me!!

  16. I tried the facewash stuff and love it! My skin feels amaaaaaazing.
    doniree’s most recent post :: Tanooki Suit FridayMy Profile

  17. Hi, I was just wondering if you know if this will strip colo out of color treated hair? I want to try it but read on one site where it said it would. I color my hair cause its black with silver lol I dont want the silver back

  18. Haven’t started this yet (finishing up all the products in the bathroom first), but wondered if you wash your washcloths separately from other washables since they contain oil or does it not affect your laundry?

  19. Hi there!
    I just found your site and I am finding it to be an invaluable resource! Great tips and information on here and it’s really apreciated!
    I only have one concern with the face wash- specifically with the castor oil. Castor oil is fine for human use, but castor beans and the plants are highly toxic. The people who harvest them often suffer from very harmful effects and it’s for this reason that I would prefer to use something else; however, every place I go they say that there isn’t really a substitute for it. Do you think there is anything that you could replace it with that might not work as effectively, but would still (over time) do almost the same thing? I’m not very good with this sort of stuff, but you seem to have a lot of experience.
    Any advice would be welcome.
    Thank you for your time! :)


  20. I’ve had (fairly bad) trouble with itchy flakey scalp. I found washing more frequently than I liked kept it somewhat at bay. But late last year I went the longest I ever have without washing – 2 months in the wilderness. Itchy flakey skin on my face and head went away completely. But when I got back to regular bathing my skin came apart quite dramatically.

    So right now I’m trying washing normally below the neck, and using just water for my face and hair. Seems to be helping, though the texture of my hair is rather unappealing.

    I’m planning to try some of your ideas here after I’ve been a few weeks on this current program. Sounds really promising. Thanks for the detailed info.

  21. I’ve been shampoo-free for 2 weeks now, except for one day about a week ago when I really couldn’t stand it anymore and I just rubbed a soapy washcloth across the top of my head. Apparently, I am one of those people with that “transition” phase. I am really trying to hang on for a full month of being “poo-free” but it is getting really challenging. My hair feels super dry but also greasy at my scalp. I am starting to wonder if this is how dredlocks start. I had really itchy, flaky scalp after a week, too, but the apple cider vinegar rinse has helped with that. I tried this because my hair felt like a dried-out wreck before and I wanted to spent $30 to try Wen (who knows what that is made out of, maybe its just tea tree oil and baking soda, too!) but decided to try this route first.

    • Before I started using baking soda only, I had a “transition” phase of about a year of using health shop shampoos so my hair gradually got used to less chemical options. Then when I started using only baking soda I had no trouble at all getting used to it. I think adding the tee tree oil in the mix is very important… Good luck, I hope you have kept it up! Oh and the vinegar rinse helps me a lot too in keeping it untangled and not so dry…

  22. Does it matter if the baking soda is expired?

  23. I’m just starting this (day 2). I was already thinking I would probably need more baking soda and that I would just keep some in the bathroom and use as needed.

    But I read on another site that you can leave the vinegar in and it works the same. Has anyone tried just keeping it in a spray bottle and using as needed? Seems to me that that might be easier then trying to get liquid in your hair in the shower. (Also, I got vinegar in my eye today and it doesn’t feel any better than shampoo).

  24. Hi,
    You know how if you use the same shampoo for too long your hair gets used to it and then either becomes too dry or too oily and then you have to change shampoos.. Would this happen with the natural products you’re using?

    • That’s a good question – I don’t *think* so because these products aren’t artificial in the sense that they aren’t stripping oil from your hair or adding buildup to it like shampoo and conditioner do.

  25. kate from south korea says:

    OMG, I followed your posting on a shampoo substitue today and it worked out amazingly well! My hair has never been silky like this much in my life, thanks so much for sharing!

  26. Hi, I was wondering if you could use coconut oil instead of the tea tree oil? I heard that coconut oil is good also but never have tried it tho. I have curly hair and I feel like shampoo drys my hair out.

  27. Many comments are telling me that this is really working and awesome!

    I will try right now!

  28. I tried the baking soda and ACV for the first time with my naturally curly hair and think I may be a convert! Just a question about your caster oil and olive oil face wash, when you put the hot cloth over your fave, is it hot from water or straight from the dryer hot? Love your site, thanks for all the info posted! I’m looking forward to following your blog :)

  29. Excellent post! Vinegar, olive oil and tea tree oil work really well as a shampoo, you cannot get really more organic than that.Most people use regular shampoos and conditioners that contain harmful chemicals like sulfates and parabens. These can cause all kinds of health problems. There are also sulfate free products on the market, but I guess you can get better results by just using vinegar and olive oil.At least it is a lot cheaper.

  30. I had no idea that I can use these products in order to clean my hair! Sounds almost unbelievable! Thanks a lot for sharing the article! Cricklewood Carpet Cleaners Ltd.

  31. Hi Ashley,

    Thank you very much for your very helpful article. Thankfully my hair responds well to the baking soda. In stead of only one day of oily free hair, I now have three days :-)

    I have a question though, hope you can help: how often can we use the baking soda? At the moment I use it once every three days. If I use it more, will my hair become dry? Is once every three days normal? Or should I use it even less?
    Thanks very much,

    Kind regards, Marijke


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