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Carissa Mendoza
Updated on March 14, 2022

When we reach for a new food or skin care product, many of us turn to Google to find out what is in it. We want to know what makes it “good” for us or if it will “work” to make us look better and more youthful. Unfortunately, most people do not do this when picking out hair care products, and our scalp is often given little thought.

Do you know what shampoo really is or why you even use it? Did you know you have a choice and there are many shampoo alternatives that give better results? Find out more about the no-poo method and why ditching the shampoo is not as crazy as it sounds.

What Does the No-Poo Method Even Mean?

For those of you that may not have heard of the no-poo movement, it is the choice to not use a shampoo that contains harsh detergents to cleanse your hair. Whenever I approach this conversation with a new client, the majority of the time they are unaware that using traditional shampoos means putting detergent on a scalp and stripping the oils that a scalp and hair need to be healthy.

Over the years, more and more people have created their own techniques for healthier scalp cleansing and are actively falling into the no-poo crew. Here are some compelling reasons why you should, too.

Why Switch to the No Shampoo Hair Care

What made you buy the shampoo and/or conditioner taking up space in your shower? Was it the way it lathers up and releases a pretty scent, was it the cool packaging that hooked you, or did someone tell you that you needed to have it?

What if I told you that it lathers because it contains detergents that are not supposed to be on your scalp and scents that are more than likely artificial and irritants? Detergent is an amazing cleaning agent. It is great at stripping away everything on your scalp, but it doesn’t pay any attention to what is being stripped away.

Think of the things you use detergent on. Clothes, cars, floors… Now imagine putting shampoo, which has detergent, on your body or your face. At this point, you might give me an uneasy look.

Woman Angry About All the Ugly Things She Put into Her Hair

Freepik / wayhomestudio

Hear me out though, you have immediate reasons as to why you would not do this: it would dry your skin out, be too hard, make you break out, etc. Why then do you think it is safe and necessary on your scalp? Is the skin on your scalp really that different from any other skin on your body? The answer is no. However, what makes it different offers more reasons as to why you don’t want detergent touching the scalp.

Your scalp has a protective layer of oil called sebum. Sebum is the body’s defensive layer to protect your scalp. Shampoo (or rather detergent) is such a “great’’ cleanser that it strips this away. This sends signals to your scalp that its defensive layer has been removed and it then goes into overdrive trying to get it back. This can lead to overproduction of oils (oily scalp) and the inability to make up for the loss (dryness). As a result, your hair feels brittle, dry, and rough.

Related Post: How Often Should You Wash Your Hair to Keep it Healthy

What happens next? Well, the makers of shampoo strategically lean into this because they now have created a need to mask the damage that has been done, and here is where conditioner, masks, and treatments come into play. These products bandage up the damage that has been caused and now you are reliant on a second and possibly third staple product in your routine. If you do not strip the sebum from the scalp and rough up the cuticle, there is no need for conditioners because you are not damaging the hair, to begin with.

Shampoo being bad for your scalp should be enough reason for anyone to seek out other options, but an even stronger argument would be for those individuals who color or highlight their hair. Any shampoo, regardless of being “sulfate-free”, “paraben-free”, “organic”, “natural”, or labeled “color-safe,” will strip your color. If it lathers, it has detergent and detergent will strip color and toner and dull highlights. Those buzz words listed above just mean that your shampoo is a step above cheap drugstore options. Your color is most protected when no detergent is introduced to your haircare routine.

Shampoo Alternatives

When you choose to use no shampoo in your hair, you can take up one of many no-poo method variants that have been developed out of the need for people to cleanse their hair without using detergent. These include using only water, rinsing hair with DIY creations, or using cleansing conditioners and creams. Let’s explore the most popular ones:

H2O Only

The first and most extreme method for opposing shampoo is to stop using any form of cleanser altogether and just use water. This is one I would not recommend.

Dirt and build-up occur on the scalp from the environment every day. When you add styling products to that, you will eventually feel dirty and your hair may even start to smell. This will also clog the hair follicle. You do need to clean the scalp in some way to keep your scalp balanced and stimulate hair growth and overall health.

Woman Rinsing Her Hair with Water Only

Freepik / yanalya

DIY Shampoo Substitutes

Another popular route among individuals who embrace essential oils and natural hair remedies is DIY no-poo concoctions. I am all for this! Still, if this appeals to you, I do encourage you to do research on hair types and each oil that Pinterest or your favorite blog may tell you to incorporate. Certain oils such as coconut oil are not good for all hair types (it can cause breakage on color treated and fine hair).

Many DIY versions use apple cider vinegar, which is great for removing build-up. You can mix a couple tablespoons of ACV with water and apply to the scalp; scrub and rinse. You should follow this with a form of conditioning, as ACV is acidic and can dry the hair out if used alone.

Apple Cider Vinegar for Hair

Pixabay MikeGoad


This is the method most people associate with the no-poo method. With this approach you don’t use a shampoo, hence the term “no-poo”, and go straight to a conditioner. Many of these products are marketed towards thicker, coarser, curly textures, and The Curly Girl Method encourages to take up this routine.

The downside to this method is there is no cleansing component and it will not be suitable for all hair types. If you have tried a traditional no-poo and been unsuccessful, it is probably because you need a specific cleansing component.

Curly Girl Following a No Poo Method

Instagram / @carissa.obrien

Cleansing Creams and Conditioners

My go-to method is using a strategically created cleansing cream. What makes this different from the conditioner-only method is that it has a balance of cleansing and conditioning properties. This makes it a great option for all hair textures and densities.

The only thing I will use on my clients, husband, kids, and my own hair is New Wash by Hairstory. Cleansing creams can take the guesswork out of figuring out what is needed to effectively wash and cleanse hair. Still, do not rely on the labels and be sure to look into the ingredients when selecting a cleansing cream or conditioner. Silicones and surfactants are components of many products that should be avoided. New Wash, in particular, uses aloe vera and essential oils to gently remove dirt and impurities from hair while not disrupting the scalp’s natural oils or stripping away color.

No Poo Shampoo Alternative

Instagram / @hairstorystudio

No-Poo Method Mistakes to Avoid

To make the no shampoo method work, be sure to avoid these common mistakes:

  1. Not committing for long enough. Commit to no-poo at least for a month. Your scalp needs time to adjust. Do not use any shampoo during this time – just one of the shampoo alternatives described above.
  2. Not targeting the scalp. Make sure you are using enough cleansing product and target the scalp. Try using a scalp massager (scrubber) while washing your hair to stimulate and exfoliate the scalp.
  3. Not rinsing thoroughly. If your hair feels oily, dirty or greasy after washing it with a cleansing cream or conditioner, you did not get it all the way to the scalp and/or have left some product behind.
  4. Being not consistent. You cannot use a no-poo method one day and shampoo another. It is not a treatment, but a new and better way to wash your scalp and treat your hair.

If you avoid these mistakes and commit to a gentle detergent-free hair care routine, good hair results are sure to follow.

Shiny Brown Hair with Subtle Balayage

Instagram / @carissa.obrien

My clients know they have the choice to use whatever they wish to care for their hair; however, if they chose to use shampoo, I cannot guarantee longevity and they will need to see me more frequently for maintenance.

If you are curious about making the switch, I encourage you to try it out and commit for one month. Whether you have fine hair or coarse hair, virgin or color-treated hair, curly or straight, ditching shampoo and finding the best no-poo hair cleansing method for you will greatly improve the health and appearance of your hair. Feel free to contact me at my Instagram @carissa.obrien with any questions about no-poo or discounts for the no-poo products.

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