Cleaner Living: I banished my shampoo

Welcome to the first Cleaner Living Column!

Most people who want to reduce their chemical use, may start with something innocuous like kitchen cleaner, something that no one will really see or care about if it goes wrong or doesn’t work.


I picked my hair!

For background, I currently have shoulder length, auburn/brown hair.   I have colored my hair since my best friend and I smuggled some Sun-In into my moms bathroom when we were 17, so i really can’t remember my true natural color.  It is somewhat wavy/curly when I don’t blow dry it, and has a fair amount of natural body.  I have never really had any shampoo brand loyalty, having to switch quite often when my hair became “immune” to one kind or another.   I get it trimmed about every 8 weeks unless I get the urge to cut it all off.

Just prior to my epiphany I was shampooing about every other day, sometimes more with L’oreal EverPure Sulphate Free Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner (sounds all natural and healthy).  I would also use a bit of Moroccan Oil on the ends just before drying, you know because my stylist recommended it.

Well, one particularly bad hair day,  I had washed my hair  in the morning, but by the nighttime my scalp felt greasy and itchy while the ends were just split and dry.  Plus my hair had been falling out like crazy!  Huge clumps in the shower, clogging my drain.

So I headed over to Dr. Google and I found all of these posts on the No-Poo Method (quite an unfortunate name).  I read that shampoo really only came out in the 30’s, with women washing their hair once a week.  In the 70’s and 80’s the every day washing became the norm to the point that even my mentioning that I would even skip one day of shampoo might make some cringe.

But the one thing that grabbed my attention and made me want to do this was for the health reasons.  Shampoo is a detergent.  It strips your hair and scalp of its natural oils causing the body to think it needs to produce more, meaning you feel like you need to wash your hair more, perpetuating the cycle of wash, grease, wash, grease….

Think about it like breastfeeding.  Our bodies know how much to produce by the demands we (our babies) make.  Ever nursed every 30 minutes for a couple of days while baby is sick and then that first 3 hour stretch makes you look like Pam Anderson and you are aching to release the pressure of over-production.

Also, my “oh so natural” sounding shampoo wasn’t so great for me.  Looking at the EWG Skin Deep database, my shampoo got a 6 (on the high-end of moderate hazard).  And thinking that higher end “salon quality products” would be made of better ingredients (since they cost a fortune!), think again!  Many of them were in the High Hazard range.

So, I was going to try it!  I mean if all else failed I could go back to shampoo.. no harm done.

I began my experiment and I will give you a little warning-  There is a balancing period where your hair and oil needs to figure out how much it really needs to produce.  So, for me it was about 2 weeks (some report up to a month, but they may have really oily hair) where I either wore my hair up or did the BS every other day until I could wean myself to every third or fourth day.

But I stuck with it and I am happy to report I have ditched the bottle… My name is Dena and I have given up shampoo!

Not only has my hair stopped falling out, but it looks less greasy and doesn’t itch.  Most of the time it looks better on Day 3 of rinsing than it did after shampooing on Day 1.  Plus, my wallet thanks me!* (See the end of the post for the breakdown).

So how can you do this too?  These two articles here and here were particularly helpful in making my decision, but here is what my routine consists of:


1-1 1/2 tbsp of Baking Soda (any kind, I got mine at the grocery store for $.89)

1 8oz color applicator bottle (got it at Sally for $1.89)

– Some people mix there BS mix ahead of time, but I don’t find pouring cold water on my head very enjoyable, so before I get in the shower I put my BS in the bottle and fill it to the top with my hot shower water.  The applicator tip allows for me to get it where I want it, which is my scalp and crown since I tend to have dry ends and the BS will only make them drier.  I find it helpful to apply this to my hair before getting it wet so I can avoid the ends better.  After applying I massage my scalp to dislodge any dirt and grime- your fingers should feel a bit slippery.  Then I rinse thoroughly with warm water.  I do this every 3 days, sometimes going 4 if I put my hair up on Day 3.  In between I just rinse with water and brush with a boar’s head brush from root to tip.


2-2 1/2 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV- again any kind, I bought a 32oz bottle for $1.79)

4 drops of Jojoba Oil (got mine at Trader Joe’s for $6.99- I will use it in future products- be on the lookout!)

6 drops of Grapefruit Essential Oil (to cut the vinegar smell- got it at Whole Foods for $5.99)

2 drops Aloe Vera Gel ( Also at Trader Joe’s for $$2.99- get the pure stuff, not the green stuff)

One old 12oz shampoo bottle (rinsed well with hot water)

– I mix all of these ingredients in the bottle and then fill with water.  After my BS wash, I squirt some of this on the ends only, then rinse out thoroughly.  A little goes a long way, and one bottle lasted me almost 2 months!  Jojoba oil is as close to your natural sebum as you can get, which is why I use it on my dry ends.  If you have more oily hair, skip this and maybe even do less ACV rinses, or use less ACV in the mixture.  The Aloe Vera gel acts as a natural defrizzer (is that a word?) which I need, but if you don’t you can skip that too.  I only do this ACV rinse on my BS days.

I have also made a “Detangler”:

1 cup water

2-4 drops of glycerin (you can get it at CVS for $1, but I had some handy!)

2 tsp Aloe Vera Gel (see above)

6 drops of Grapefruit Essential Oil (see above)

1 oz spray bottle (got it at Sally for $1.99)

– Sometimes if I have used too much BS or my hair feels extra dry I will use this after I have towel dried my hair, but before styling.  I mix all of the ingredients in the bottle and shake before each use.  I spritz 3-4 times and comb through.  Then style as usual.  It doesn’t leave any residue and detangles beautifully.

*So for a rundown of cost comparison:

Cost Months Bought Yearly Cost
L’oreal Shampoo $6.99 8 $55.92
L’oreal Conditioner $6.99 8 $55.92
Moroccan Oil $18.00 3 $54.00
Total $165.84
Baking Soda $0.89 3 $2.67
Bottle $1.69 1 $1.69
Apple Cider Vinegar $1.79 2 $3.58
Jojoba Oil $6.99 3 $20.97 (I use it for other things)
Grapefruit Essential Oil $5.99 2 $11.98
Glycerin $1.00 1 $1.00
Aloe Vera Gel $2.99 1 $2.99
Spray Bottle $1.99 1 $1.99
Total $46.87
Difference in Cost for the year $118.97

WOW (and I know some of you readers may save more by ditching those super expensive salon brands)!

I am saving $118.97 a year AND making my hair and body healthier!

I encourage you to give it a try!

15 thoughts on “Cleaner Living: I banished my shampoo

  1. Hi!I’ve been wanting to go all chemical free since a while now. Your post gave me some useful info, thanks 🙂 I’ve some questions though.. I’ve pretty thin hair and an oily scalp. I do a hot oil treatment using castor oil every 3 days. Its been helping a lot with the overall health of my hair. But the downside is that I end up using more shampoo than usual to get all the oil out of my scalp and length of my hair. If I use the bs shampoo method will it be able to get rid of the oil?


    1. Nikki,
      It will take your hair a while to adjust to the ‘no-poo’ method. If it is too oily during the first 4 weeks try sprinkling a bit of corn starch on the roots of your hair only. This will soak up the excess oil. The more baking soda you use (making a paste) the drier your hair will be after you wash it with the BS and water mixture. I don’t recommend this every time you was with BS because it will eventually completely dry your hair out.

      Also, if you have naturally curly or wavy hair DO NOT TOWEL DRY! Get an old T-Shirt or a microfiber towel and wrap it up in that. DO NOT RUB your hair dry. I bought a microfiber turban style hair towel at Wal-Mart for less than $6. My hair is down past my bra strap and naturally curly/wavy.

      I have used the no-poo method off and on my entire life, as this is how my mother grew up washing her hair. I have found that the no-poo method is cheaper and honestly the best way for me to go with my natural curls and waves. I also use the ACV rinse that is described above only I use peppermint essential oil, ACV, water and a minuscule amount of coconut oil.


  2. I just want to say thank you so much for this! I have thick Celtic curls, and curls of all types generally HATE suds, but finding cheap alternatives seems to be impossible. I was spending way too much money a month, mostly on conditioners, to fix and rehydrate my curls. After only 4 days of using the rinses and detangler my curls already feel 10x better. I don’t have nearly as many fly-aways and my curls don’t feel as dry and brittle. I have also discovered that the detangler also makes a great “spritzer” for curls during the day, a couple sprays here or there revamp the ringlets and waves from humidity and sun damage!


  3. I love my shamppo made from soapnuts (NaturOli), it suds up (naturally, due to the nature of the soapberry ), but I miss the scents. I’ve been wanting to find a good conditioner, because I just cannot go without– so I’m excited to give your recipe a try!


  4. Well…it’s been 2 weeks exactly since I began this new hair regiment and here’s what I’ve got:

    1. I’ve been washing with 1 Tablespoon and some water (making it a paste) every 3 days or so. If I work out and sweat it up, I’ll do a small wash with half a Tablespoon or so.
    2. I’ve been using my former conditioner because I’m too lazy to get the ingredients for the “good stuff”.
    3. I’ve been sprinkling on and combing out baby powder (per a friend’s recommendation) to fight some of the greasy look and feel in between washes.

    1. I FEEL myself saving money (86 cents for my mini-container of baking soda) and my septic system (by not dumping chemicals down the shower drain),
    2. On a good day, my hair looks and feels fuller, heavier and longer (yes, I want full, heavy, long hair again),
    3. I’ve noticed my hair is less greasy in-between washes now than 2 weeks ago,
    4. Surprisingly, my hair is less tangled out of the shower, even if it mostly dries while up in a towel, and
    5. I FEEL like I’m losing less hair on the daily basis.

    1. I do NOT like the way my head and hair feels with the baking soda. Rarely does my hair feel what I’d call not greasy. It’s testing my patience. I’m hoping this changes in the next week or two,
    2. My hair seems static-y. I think it’s the baby powder…this needs to be fixed, pronto (any suggestions?, and
    3. I miss the raspberry and coconut scented shampoo, not to mention the bubbles. I miss the shampoo bubbles!

    It’s been a tough 2 weeks and the only thing keeping me from switching back to my old shampoo is my fiance’s constant reminder that I should at least give it a month to really see any affects. Has anyone else been trying this new regiment and care to share their experience(s)?


    1. Hi Nicole!

      First, I’m so happy to know people are trying this out! Like I said in one of the other comments, I have had to experiment some more with this process since a combo of hard water and over processed damaged hair did not like long term BS use. I’ll write a post about it soon as to what I have come up with. I still recommend this for those wanting to try to reduce their chemical exposure in beauty products, and my new experiments include it still.

      So, to answer some of your questions:

      – Everyone’s adjustment period is different, but on average people saw improvements in the greasiness in 2-4 weeks. Stick with it!

      – That being said above, check the ingredients in your conditioner that you are using. Some conditioners contain sulfates (think dish detergent) that are also in your shampoo you gave up. Sulfates strip the natural oils causing our bodies to produce more to replenish… also try a conditioner that is silicone free. This give hair that slippery feeling, but can trap excess oil and bacteria (a reason people sometimes get itchy scalp from the BS). I’m currently using Nature’s Gate conditioner in my experiment and I really like it (you can get it at Target).

      – I suggest skipping the baby powder for cornstarch for dusting. It’s cheaper, no extra chemicals, and it may be nicer to the static. Also this is the static time of year! Maybe try not rinsing out the conditioner fully so some of it stays as a kind of leave in.

      – Bubbles are something you can only recreate with detergent, which unfortunately is not great for our hair health. But I just think about what I can splurge on with the money I save!

      Hope that helps a bit… stick with it and if it doesn’t work, experiment a little with fewer BS washes mixed in with a poo wash every now and then or otherwise. Good luck, and keep us updated!



  5. I think this is absolutely brilliant! I’ve been worrying about how much hair I’ve been losing in the shower (starting almost a year ago) and am willing to give this a shot to get my natural fullness back! I’m also hoping it helps restore the shine and softness I had years ago…the changing quality of my hair is NOT something I expected to happen as I got older.

    I plan on starting this immediately and will let everyone know how it goes (if you’re at all interested). But I do have one question: has anyone tried oils/scents other than the grapefruit? If yes, I’d like to hear of your experience(s)!


    1. Hi Nicole,
      I’m glad you are going to give this a try! I will admit (and this was going to be a blog post soon) that I have since failed with this method.

      To be more specific, my water has failed me. I have hard city water and that combined with some fried hair from an overzealous stylist with bleach left my hair showing it’s damage. I have not gone back to shampoo and am experimenting a bit, but I found the BS to be really harsh on my over-processed hair.

      That said, I would still try it and see if you like it. It takes some experimenting, but I still totally recommend this method to those looking for a more natural way to shampoo and condition.

      I have not tried any other oils, but I found that the citrus mixed well with the AVC to mask it and didn’t clash. Some people use lavender, but I have heard it can be rough on your scalp and cause irritation. Others use tea tree oil (just a few drops, and skip the jojoba.)

      Good luck, I hope it works for you!


  6. I have a few questions!! So, when you don’t use anything on your hair (the in between days) you still get it wet in the shower right? Or do you not get it wet??

    Also, if you work out, does that affect anything? Does your hair still get just as clean?

    I actually don’t use conditioner so it sounds like I should go straight up baking soda. I read in one of the articles you mentioned that you can make a little bottle of the baking soda/water combo and use it till it runs out – so you don’t have to mix it everytime you shower. Is that what you do?


    1. I rinse with water on the in between days. Or sometimes just brush and not get wet… It depends on if it looks like bed head in the am or not, really.

      If you work out your hair will be just as clean with the BS, however you don’t have to BS every time you work out. If your hair is relatively clean you can rinse with some water mixed with an essential oil ( I really like grapefruit, since it smells fresh and clean). You mostly want to get the sweat smell out, but you can always do a lighter BS rinse, so it won’t dry your hair out.

      If you want to make a big batch you can, but I don’t recommend it. I find sometimes I need less BS on some days and alter my ratio a bit. Also, I dont like pouring cold water over my head first thing in the morning. I just got a pointed tip coloring bottle at Sally Beauty, fill it with my BS amount before getting in the shower (I keep a box in the bathroom) and then fill it with water once I get in the shower. That way it is warm on your head.

      Much of the BS is a kind of experiment based on how your hair feels that day… Greasy- maybe more BS, dry- less or no BS… After about a 2 weeks when your body bakances its oil production it wool get easier to judge.

      Happy Washing!


  7. So happy you guys are going to try, let me know if you have any questions! Also, another plus that I noticed it that before I would break out on my back and chest (backne) and now it is gone! Good luck!


  8. Hi vtnative! Thanks for the feedback! I will admit that I was skeptical as well, but really if it didn’t work I could just go back to my commercial shampoo. I will say, and I will update my post to reflect this, that the first 2 weeks can get a bit hairy as your hair and oil figure out how to re-balance, but stick with it! It will get better after that! For me I wore my hair up more, or did the BS every other day until I could wean to every third or fourth to get through it. Try it and let me know how it woks for you!


  9. Dena, this is a GREAT post! What a fabulous idea. I love the analysis that you did for the cost savings throughout the year, very helpful. I have to say, I’m a bit skeptical, but your post definitely convinced me to give it a try…your hair looks great!


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