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.
First, let me show you how I use these ingredients, then I’ll answer the questions I get most often.
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.
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.
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?
November 2011: Shampoo Free: Reader Questions.
February 2012: Shampoo Free: An Update & Elsewhere
September 2013: Are You Still Using Baking Soda to Wash Your Hair?