Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What is "No Poo" (and Does It Work)?

I have had several questions in the last couple of weeks asking for info on the "No Poo" method. In particular, I've been asked to "debunk" it. I'm not going to do that, exactly, but I will talk about it.

Since y'all are beauty blog readers, you probably already know that the "No Poo" movement has nothing to do with constipation, despite how it might sound. It's a movement towards elimination of shampoo from your routine. There is a huge hodgepodge of methods currently in use, but the two most common are 1. using baking soda and apple cider vinegar and 2. Conditioner-Only washing (aka CO-washing). For the purposes of this post, I'm going to focus on the latter method.

Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/beglendc/

Why Would One Want to Do Such a Thing?

I think that a big part of the reason that I've been asked to 'debunk' "No Poo" is because a lot of people are motivated to cut out shampoo for reasons that are not empirically supported. A lot of people are under the impression that there is something "dangerous" about shampoo, which is simply contrary to the scientific evidence.

With that said, there are still valid reasons to be interested in reducing or eliminating shampoo use.

Firstly, many people find the shampoos can be harsh and damaging. Like any soap, surfactants are comprised of a lipophilic (oil-attracting) side and a hydrophilic (water attracting) side. The lipophilic side glomps onto the oil in your hair and traps it in a sphere called a micelle. Afterwards, you can happily wash it out. (I have a lengthier discussion of soap mechanisms available here, if you want more info.)

Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) is a surfactant. Because one side is polar, it is hydrophilic, whereas the long, non-polar chain is lipophilic.
Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sodium_laureth_sulfate_structure.png

Shampoo surfactants are really good at this. They get your hair squeaky clean. However, they can definitely be hard on your hair. In the International Journal of Trichology, Zoe Draelos (2010) notes, "Many persons feel that they do not have good hygiene unless they bathe daily. Technically, it is not necessary to shampoo the hair daily unless sebum production is high. Shampooing is actually more damaging to the hair shaft than beneficial." Any time you get your hair wet, you're causing some damage, but the surfactants in shampoo are certainly harsher than water alone.

Thus, many people want to avoid traditional shampoos to help minimize the damage they are causing to their hair.

Basic shampoo ingredients
Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3002407/

The second big reason to avoid shampoo is because it is expensive. As many of you already know, I have a shitload of long hair. I am not "No Poo", but I personally do not wash my hair on the daily simply because I don't want to spend a gazillion dollars on shampoo.

Does It Work?

Shampoos typically contain anionic surfactants like Sodium Laureth Sulfate or Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate. (High school chemistry reminder: an ion is a molecule with a charge; an anion is a molecule or atom with a negative charge.) They are anionic because the polar, hydrophilic group is negatively charged. They are super awesome at removing sebum and other yucky shit in your hair, which is the point of shampoo.

Still, conditioners frequently also have surfactants. Usually, they are cationic surfactants, like Cetrimonium Chloride or Distearyldimonium Chloride. Since a cation is a molecule or atom with a positive charge, you've probably already guessed that cationic surfactants have a positively charged polar group. Cationic surfactants are awesome at leaving your hair silky smooth, but they are not as effective at removing sebum, so they aren't used in most shampoo. When they are found in shampoo, it's usually shampoo that's specifically designed to be as gentle as a snuggling guinea pig.

Cetrimonium Chloride
Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cetrimonium_chloride.png
If you are using a conditioner that contains cationic surfactants, you can definitely effectively cleanse your hair using only conditioner. It will be more gentle and will likely leave your hair soft and pretty. Like all things in life, though, you'll be making a sacrifice. In this case, you will be sacrificing having super clean hair, as conditioner contains surfactants that are both crappier at removing sebum and present in lower concentrations.

Additionally, people who go the CO-washing method frequently run into trouble when they use a ton of other hair products. In particular, silicones tend to be really difficult to remove, and could build up in your hair until you finally break out the shampoo.

Should I Try It?

Ultimately, it's up to you to decide whether CO-washing is a good idea for your hair. If you like it, I suspect that you'll feel your hair is softer and less damaged and/or that you're spending less money on haircare products. If you hate it, my guess is that you'll feel your hair is dirty and weighed down, and/or that it's too much trouble to find products that work without shampoo to lend a helping hand.

48 comments:

  1. As a girl with long, curly, super porous hair in a dry climate with hard water, the sulfates in most shampoos just beats the shit out of my already weathered hair. I loathed my hair until I discovered 'no poo' and realized it needed to hold onto every drop of oil my scalp can manage to make, haha. Now I can actually wear it down and air dried without looking like a dandelion fluff!

    Thanks for the post, I'm glad to see it approached from the 'omg everything is cancer' angle AND the harshness of surfactants angle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awesome! I haven't tried it myself, but it seems to be something that some people love and others hate, depending on hair type and preferences.

      Delete
  2. I've tried going no poo (and 'no sulfate') and it was a fail both times. I have thick, coarse curly hair that usually frizzes a bit, so I figured no poo would make it softer, shinier and less scarecrow-esqe. My sister tried it and her hair was beautifully shiny. After 6 weeks of the baking powder method my hair was greasy, you know that 'forms rats tail of grease in the roots' level of greasy. Even combing it to distribute the oil failed. I don't use any other styling products or hair treatments, so I guess I just have naturally rank, slick hair. It was honestly embarrassing to go out with my hair looking like that.

    The second time I tried using only a sulfate free conditioner. My hair quickly greased up, so I added in a sulfate free shampoo, which promptly dried out my hair to the point where I had to cut two inches of it off.

    I wash my hair everyday because it is curly enough that if I go a few days without washing it starts to matt, and brushing it makes it frizz out to where it looks like I have a giant triangle of fuzz around my head. Can't win...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have you tried just wetting your hair in between shampoos? I used to have the kind of hair that would dreadlock if not brushed out. I would wet it and then use leave in or spray conditioner and could go a week without shampooing. Now I have a keratin treatment and my curls are gone. I have been using diva curl and love it. It took a few weeks to get used to and you cannot use silicones.

      Delete
    2. I generally do that, but I worry it causes split ends, because I still have to comb it. Hmm, I will have to look into a spray conditioner. I didn't know such a thing existed.

      Delete
    3. I hope you find something that works well for you!

      Delete
  3. I tried baking soda/ACV and it was SO GREAT for my hair. My hair is very thick and I live in a very humid place. It was the lightest it has ever felt in my known life!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cool! Glad it's working for you. I didn't write about that method because I don't see any reason why it would be effective and I do see a lot of reasons why it would be damaging, but your hair is dead, so if it looks and feels healthy with baking soda and apple cider vinegar, that's all that matters!

      Delete
  4. I wonder why people don't try sulfate free shampoos before trying this? Aren't they more gentle on your hair? Forgive my uninformed question.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've heard they are not as effective on thicker hair. I tried several brands of sulfate free and they did nothing for my hair - left it greasy and limp even though it's naturally bouncy and shiny.

      Delete
    2. I use a sulfate free by Shielo and it's both gentle, cleansing (I must wash every day due to baby fine hair and a naturally oily scalp), and makes my hair shine. It's the Color Protect line. They also have several other lines. I think the volumizing shampoo has sulfates though.

      Delete
    3. Not sure about everyone else, but I've had really mixed experiences with with sulfate-free shampoos. Some have actually dried my hair out even more than sulfate shampoos do (the Ology ones from Walgreens were TERRIBLE), and a lot of them don't lather well - so at that point it's just as easy to co-wash and be able to skip the shampoo step.

      Delete
    4. I am sure that many people do try sulfate-free shampoos first! But if you're trying to cut down the time and money spent on a routine, it might make more sense to skip straight to CO-washing.

      Delete
    5. I've tried several and found absolutely no difference at all. The good thing is that there's some fairly cheap brands here, but there's no point for me because it doesn't do anything different.

      What has helped is co-washing (if the oil is really bad) or even just a rinse in a hot shower between washes. I also had some success with dry shampoos, but the problem is that because I have dark hair and most of them use cornstarch or other light-coloured bases it makes my hair look grey. I've heard using cocoa powder as a base makes it look less bad on dark hair but I've yet to find a dry shampoo that does and I'm not confident about trying to make my own. (I've also heard of Fuller's earth being used but I have no idea where to get it.)

      Delete
  5. I went no poo for a couple of years. I was washing every day and still had majorly greasy hair. Back then it was pretty straight except for a single wave near the bottom. No poo got rid of the greasy and my hair got really curly. BUT, it never felt really nice. Now I use shampoo bars and conditioner and my hair is still grease free and curly but it's also really shiny and soft. I don't think I'd go back to no poo now that I've found some thing else that works better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What shampoo bars/conditioner do you use? I have a similar issue and would love to know!

      Delete
    2. The ones I make. I sell them online at www.dirtypigbathbeauty.com but if you are in Canada, there's a list of stores on the website that carry the product.

      Delete
    3. Yay for figuring out what works!

      Delete
  6. I used to shampoo every day and then condition occasionally, but now I do practically the opposite. About once a week I use a T-Gel from Neutregena on the top of my head and scrub it in my scalp because I have bad flakes. :( I only use that sparingly though because it dries my hair out like a mother, but it does work wonders for my flakes. Every other day or every couple days I will then use a little bit of daily clarifying shampoo from Suave to get the product build up out of my hair. Every time I take a shower I will use conditioner. I love the Daily Renewal one from Pantene, but lately I have been enjoying the Almond and Shea conditioner from Suave Naturals.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are definitely a few different rules of thumb for people with dandruff! I'm glad you've found something you like!

      Delete
  7. I have a whole lot of very long, thick hair and I don't use a whole lot of shampoo...I really only wash my scalp, then condition the whole shebang...that's been the recommended method forever.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's pretty similar in function to the CO-washing method!

      Delete
  8. I really wanted to go no-poo and tried it for almost a year with no luck. I tried all the suggestions but bottom line - my hair was always greasy. I was told it would be greasy at first but then as my hair became used to the lack of shampoo, my scalp and hair would become less greasy. NOPE. And no one thinks you're cute when you're itching your greasy scalp all day like you have lice. I have very thick and naturally shiny/wavy hair and I was worried about damage - but after going back on the poo wagon, I've cut out all heat styling and FINALLY I have great hair. Avoiding heat cuts down on the frizz and dryness and damage, while I can still get my scalp and hair clean with shampoo.

    I would suggest, as someone else stated, that if you feel like you are using too much shampoo, just concentrate on the scalp region! I have long hair but only really shampoo my scalp, then do a really quick once over of the length. Then I only apply conditioner to the length so my roots have body.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 'if you feel like you are using too much shampoo, just concentrate on the scalp region! I have long hair but only really shampoo my scalp, then do a really quick once over of the length. Then I only apply conditioner to the length so my roots have body.'

      Quoted for so-much-truth-it-hurts. :-D You took the words out of my mouth, Sarah!

      My hair is tailbone-length at the moment, and I was it every second day (perfect for my level of oiliness, which is probably normal, I'd say). I only really shampoo the roots and my scalp, and then use a conditioner sometimes on the ends to keep them from splitting. You use less stuff, and my roots don't feel weighed down and sticky like they do if I use conditioner. :-)

      I'm not really much with the hair stuff anyway - my shampoo is whatever's on sale at the supermarket when I need more, and the 'normal' option of I have the choice...my conditioner was some serum for the ends I was given by the hairdresser who did my hair for my wedding, which I've run out of, actually...

      Delete
    2. Please go into more detail! This is fascinating. How do you use Shea butter?

      Delete
    3. Heat styling is definitely a killer.

      Delete
  9. I used to shampoo/condition daily but a few years ago was persuaded to shampoo every other day by a new stylist. (And just rinse on the days in between.) This has made an immense difference! I have very fine hair and thought daily shampooing was essential since any day I skipped it would feel so oily and limp but now instead of being frizzy and prone to breaking it's much more resilient and actually has substance.

    That said there was definitely a period of 3 weeks in the beginning where my scalp was itchy and my hair was persistently oily. The biggest problem was that I would break out if my hair hung near my face. On long camping trips (with no shampooing) I always wear my hair pulled back for the same reason. My face does not like it when my hair is oily, even just a little. (It also despises hair products with oils. Let's not talk about the catastrophe of argan oil!)

    I doubt I would ever go no poo. I just don't see the point. I like washing my hair, I like my products, and I like how my hair behaves.

    ReplyDelete
  10. The part I'm curious about is that stuff claims that it doesn't feel so great at first and then suddenly BAM your hair is light and awesome all of a sudden. I don't really understand how that could be.

    I've never been interested in trying no poo but the fact that a lot of people try it intrigues me. I'm one of those if I don't wash my hair in a day my hair will be limp and greasier than a vat of oil type. But the idea of enduring a couple weeks of that terrible feeling of non-washed hair? I don't think I could bear it! It's not like my hair is crap or anything. Why try to fix what ain't broke I say!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is definitely plausible that undergoing a greasy period will cause you to come out the other side with a nice texture, although I haven't looked up any articles on the topic. Your body has a huge number of homeostatic mechanisms and I am sure that sebum production is regulated in a homeostatic way.

      Delete
  11. This might just be me, but I've found the method works better on long hair. I used to have hair about halfway down my back, and on the days I'd skip shampooing my hair it would feel softer and look a lot healthier. A few months ago, though, I donated my hair (it's now about jaw length) and I have to shampoo it every day or it gets greasy and gross-looking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting! I have heard a lot of elements that allegedly factor into whether "no poo" works. No reason hair length couldn't be one!

      Delete
  12. I've been using Terressentials mud wash on my hair since 12/6 (no shampoo or conditioner since 12/6). I have long, wavy S waves. It took a while (3ish weeks) for my hair to even out and not produce so much oil. I use only shea butter to hold the wave in my hair. It's SUCH a huge savings since I'm not spending money on hair products. My hair genuinely feels different - it's lighter, I assume because it isn't weighed down by the chemicals and plasticky things in shampoo & conditioner. It's pretty amazing! The only bummer is that my hair was more prone to static electricity. Apple cider vinegar (1 part vinegar to 4-5 parts water) helped with this though and also made my hair super soft!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just to clarify, since I am a nitpicker-- all hair products are 100% chemical and there is no plastic in shampoo. ;)

      Delete
  13. I went "no poo" with super long hair and the transition was stupidly easy for me - but I was only washing/conditioning my hair once a week anyway (and with sulfate-free products). I'm pretty jazzed about not spending anywhere near as much money on haircare products, and a huge perk (well, to me) worth mentioning was realizing how many fewer plastic bottles I was buying. I mean, I recycled them, but still. Also, this ACS press release (http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/presspacs/2010/acs-presspac-may-26-2010/household-detergents-shampoos-may-form-harmful-substance-in-wastewater.html) gives an overview of the components of these products and how they can form a water contaminant (NDMA) in the presence of chemicals used for disinfection at wastewater treatment plants. I'm not at work, so I don't have ACS access to link you to the full article. Additional source, my boyfriend is an environmental engineer working at a water treatment plant.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the article! That's super interesting and an issue I was not aware of. It looks like conditioner is also a problem for NDMA production, though, is that correct?

      Delete
  14. I've been using WEN for the past year and wont ever go back to shampoo and conditioner again

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Are you using it for CO-washing?

      Delete
  15. I have very fine, thin hair, and I was really suffering from how often I was washing it--daily, at one point, because it got just that greasy in between. A hair stylist at some point told me, "Oh, you can just wash with conditioner, it has surfactants," but as you point out, they are not nearly as effective. Especially on fine hair! I ended up with EVEN GREASIER HAIR. No fun. So no CO-only for me.

    The only thing I've tried that has worked for me, honestly? Is wetting my hair daily, but only washing it every 2-3 days. (Somehow I've only figured this out in the last year!) Also when I wash it, I only shampoo the scalp area--the runoff of the lather cleans the rest effectively. I wonder if this is in part because I have well water on the hard side--extra surfactants? Dunno.

    I might try the apple cider vinegar thing eventually. On day 3 my hair does feel oily at the crown, but it doesn't look like I stood under an oil slick, which it does if I don't wet my hair during those three days.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you've finally found something that's working well for you!

      Delete
  16. Ruby: Actually, your scalp probably didn't change production at all! Your scalp's still producing enough sebum to coat the shafts of hair that no longer exists, so all of that excess is getting caught up and feels gunky with nowhere to go. There's nothing wrong with no-poo or what you did, your scalp just needs time to adjust to the new status quo.

    Lise: I'm pretty much the same way as you, except I've managed to delay the actual hard *wash* to once every six days or so. I also don't use shampoo at all -- I went and picked up some handmade SLS-free shampoo soap bars from my favorite indie soapmaker. It's helped with my dandruff.

    Robyn, what might be cool is perhaps a debunking of some of the claims made by people who make shampoo alternatives!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You'll have to send me some specific claims!

      Delete
  17. Oh yeah! Rinsing with a weak ACV solution is great! It makes my hair all soft and shiny, and it soothes my scalp. I use whatever I've got on hand, but I find it works best if I've got frou-frou organic ACV and purified water lying around.

    I've been no-poo for ... three and a half years?

    ReplyDelete
  18. I went sorta-nopoo for a while when I had mid back hair. Before, I had to shampoo the roots daily because they were disgusting by day two, and although I always conditioned the lengths liberally they were very dry and breakable. I switched to co-washing with a silicone free conditioner, and my hair felt much softer. The roots kept their natural oil, but were glossy rather than droopy and slick like before. With this method I could co-wash every 2-3 days and then give the roots a shampoo once a week to remove any extra buildup, and my hair looked so much better. I figured that the skin on my face is dry/dehydrated and will produce crazy grease if not adequately moisturised, so why wouldn't my scalp be the same? For me the important part of co- washing wasn't so much the product, but the act of massaging something moisturising into the scalp. Shampoo was just stripping the skin.

    I don't bother with it now because I got rid of the hair and the root oiliness doesn't work with a pixie cut! I would absolutely do it the next time I grow my hair out though!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Just wanted to say that I adore your blog and your Internet Persona. I've been reading it since the beginning! Could you please cover the other method that you mentioned with baking soda and ACV? Thank you for this blog. It is perfection.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I have thick, coarse hair and no 'poo was awful on me. Going sulfate-free, however, has been great - what I thought was dandruff turned out to be some kind of reaction to sulfates, my scalp was always itchy. I use Palmers olive oil shampoo, it's cheap and lathers up well. Although I don't have afro hair, I find that brands aimed at afro hair are often sulfate-free and are usually cheaper than more mainstream brands (Palmers was originally a brand aimed at black women I think?). The Palmers shampoo paired with a little argan oil conditioner (Dr Organic) leaves it incredibly shiny.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Customer ratings and score
    There is a Swahili that goes that, he who praises the rain it has fallen on him. This saying means that only those who have experienced the benefits of something are qualified to talk about it.
    Oster Classic 76 Universal hair clippers enjoys high user ratings. On Amazon for instance, it enjoys a 4.6 star rating out of 660 reviews.

    ReplyDelete
  22. FHA advance rates and FHA contract rates are great new companies to owning a house. VA advances improve owning a house even, with the goal of aiding and rewarding the individuals who served and safeguarded the nation amid the war. payday loans

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...