An Introduction to the No-Poo Movement

How many times a week do you wash your hair?

I have very thin and fine hair, and oil buildup has been one of my worst enemies for as long as I can remember. In high school and college, I washed and conditioned my hair every single day. Because I worked in a restaurant kitchen during my teen years, and food grime seemed to get, well, everywhere, I sometimes even washed my hair twice a day – once in the morning and again after my shift.

It wasn’t until my early twenties that I realized I could control oil buildup in my hair by exposing it to fewer chemicals less often. A post-college friend introduced me to “training” my hair by washing it only every other day. It took six months before I was comfortable, but it worked. Since then, I’ve picked up other tips to help my hair go longer between washes and have tried to avoid using products with more chemicals than I need.

About a year ago, I stumbled across an article about the “No Poo Movement,” featuring stories of women who have dramatically reduced their shampoo use. It’s been on my mind ever since, and, after some careful research, I dipped my toes into the movement six months ago.I’d love to share the important insights and tips I’ve picked up along the way.

If you’re trying to figure out how to get away with washing your hair less or are just concerned with the chemicals you’re putting into your hair, this is a great place to start.

1. The No Poo Movement means different things to different people.

Ultimately, it’s a method to return to your hair’s natural state. For some, it means completely forgoing putting any kind of chemical product in their hair – shampoo, detanglers, volumizers, hairsprays – you name it. If you want to try this, I suggest checking out this post from No Poo Expert, Amanda. She still uses hairspray and mousse but has completely sworn off shampoo for more than six months.

For others, it means cutting down on the number of washes per week or switching to a healthy, environmentally-friendly shampoo. For me, it means a combination of these last two. I now only wash my hair every four days and am hoping stretch this to every seven days by Christmas.

2. Most stylists recommend shampooing your hair at least once a week.

At the salon for my routine hair trim last week, I broached the subject of the No Poo Movement to my stylist. I was there on my fourth day after dumping half a can of dry shampoo into it just to look presentable enough to get on the bus. I knew she’d wash it there and didn’t want to dry out my scalp with two washes in one day, but I felt I owed her an explanation for the condition of my hair. She immediately gave me this horrified look and launched into a 10-minute explanation about all the oils that build up on your scalp that water can’t handle on its own. She then made me promise to wash my hair at least once a week. According to my stylist (and other experts), dirt, oil and dandruff can stunt hair growth, so pay attention your hair growth if you forgo shampoo completely.

This being said, many stylists have an agenda to sell chemically-rich hair products. Take their advice with a grain of salt.

3. There’s going to be a transition period.

As your scalp and hair adjusts to less shampoos/washes, it’s going to look and feel gross. As I mentioned above, it took me six months to adjust to washing my hair every other day during my first minor hair transition after college. When I stretched the period between washes to twice as long earlier this year, my hair got…interesting. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I work from home. I recommend either getting really good at styling your hair up or saving your first few months for a time when you’ll be less self-conscious about your hair. (I moved to a new city, worked from home and had few friends in town.) Many give up during the transition period, because it seems like their scalps will never adjust. I promise you, your hair will look great if you can make it through!

Transition pro tip: wash your pillowcases more often. It was probably a self-inflicted Jedi mind trick, but I felt cleaner if I knew for sure I wasn’t sleeping in yesterday’s hair oil.

4. Shampoo alternatives can help your hair between washes.

On the days I don’t shampoo my hair, I still run my fingers or a wide-tooth comb through it in the shower, using water pressure to pull the oil down from my roots. After a quick blow-dry, it looks great. If you need more than water, you can also use shampoo alternatives, such as apple vinegar and baking soda. I haven’t tried these types of rinses, but I may do so soon to see if I can see a difference. Many women who have completely abandoned traditional shampoo swear by these natural alternatives as their only hair-cleaning solutions. 

5. Sulfate-free shampoo can be a game-changer.

Sulfate-free shampoo is highly recommended by women who are concerned with the chemicals they’re putting into their hair but need a good wash at least once a week. I recently started using L’Oreal Everstrong Sulfate-Free Shampoo,* and I LOVE IT. I’ve only been using this product for a few weeks, and I already feel like my hair is different – cleaner and healthier. Even better, it doesn’t break the bank and is available at Target. And best, it’s good for the environment!

SFS no poo movement

6. Sweating creates issues.

I push myself through difficult workouts six days a week. I usually sweat buckets and end up with hair you could practically wring sweat from. Obviously, this creates a huge excess of oil on my scalp. Before you map out a No-Poo plan for yourself, take your workouts into account. I schedule my weekend shampoo on Friday night post sweat session to ensure my hair looks its best all weekend long.

7. We’re all different, so experiment to find your best results.

Many factors go into hair and health scalp – hair type, hormones, even physiology, so what works for me might not work for you. In fact, if you have thick hair, you can probably get away with much less maintenance than me. I encourage you to experiment with shampoo schedules and products to see how your hair responds. Don’t forget to let me know how it goes! Good luck!

What’s worked for you?

Have you jumped into the No-Poo movement? What’s your hair regiment like? If you have any tips or products to share, please let me know in a comment below.

*I wasn’t asked to promote this product by anyone. I just love it and want to share it with you. It’s amazing.

  • Michelle
    August 6, 2015

    I have never been a fan of frequent shampooing. I wash my hair about every 5 days and have used sulfate free shampoo for almost as long as it has been available. and, I rarely use other products in my hair. My hair grows like crazy. My stylist of 15+ years totally supports my regimen and encourages her other clients to cut down on frequent shampooing and excessive product use.

    Great read Allison.

    • Allison
      August 6, 2015

      Thanks, Michelle! What sulfate-free shampoo do you use? Have any other tips to share?

  • Brian Sirimaturos
    August 7, 2015

    Hey Allison! So love the set up with the email so far! It did get trapped in my spam folder but I did – hopefully – fix that. I like the setup and design of the email and I like that you get a taste of all the topics in an easy to read format!

    As for the hair – I agree! Now I’m in a bit of a different situation than you but it seems that every girl I know that goes a few days without washing, they love it! And quite honestly – i think their hair looks great when they do it. I agree with you that it is going to be different for everyone as to their schedule of when they wash and how often. Good tip on the pillow cases. I’d be concerned for acne break outs but I think change the cases more often would help like you said. I change my sheets weekly anyway. Wash my hair 2 times a week unless I’m a sweaty mess.

    • Allison
      August 10, 2015

      Hi Brian,

      HA! When I started the no-poo journey, my husband told me, “Just please don’t smell.” He could wash his hair with lye and not notice the different. I’m jealous of his (and other men’s) scalp!


      • Brian Sirimaturos
        August 11, 2015

        Yeah, I don’t think with the hair issue we’re talking about, that smell will be a problem. Now if you aren’t going to shower for days/weeks then I agree with him. But I guess we’ll have to see how your hair responds over time. I think it will be great!

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