It is important to know what exactly is no poo to get the no poo method. Also, it sounds simple that no poo means no use of shampoo. But the alternatives to shampoo are also too many.
Depending upon where you live, your hair/scalp and your lifestyle, the no poo process differs.
Since you are reading this post, you might be considering alternatives to shampoos. I have been following the no poo methods of washing hair for a few years.
You can dive deeper into my insights by reading further.
What Is No Poo Method
Past few years there has been a lot of discussion regarding the no poo method. But there are still a lot of people who may not know what exactly the phrase stands for.
The no poo method stands for no shampoo. Yes, the whole trend of no poo is about giving up the regular shampoos.
The regular shampoos contain SLS and silicones as the primary ingredients. They are the ones that all of us are comfortable using. The thought of going shampoo-free sounds gross and crazy.
Most of the time I get weird reactions from people when they get to know that I have not used shampoo for years.
Yes, I have not bought/used the regular shampoo bottle since the year 2015. But that does not mean that I have not washed my hair since then.
Rather I have washed my hair with anything but not the shampoo. That is what the no poo process is all about. It is about giving up the usual shampoo bottle to wash hair.
Why the No Poo Method
Now that what is no poo method is clear. The next logical question that follows is – BUT WHY? Why would one want to boycott a shampoo bottle? What is wrong with using shampoo?
You could understand the answer to that question if you take a look at what is a shampoo made of. You can have a look at the ingredients in shampoo by looking at its label.
I pulled up the ingredients list from a popular shampoo – Total Repair 5 by L’oreal. They are as below:
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate
- Glycol Distearate
- Sodium Chloride
- Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride
- Lactic Acid
- Sodium Benzoate
- Sodium Hydroxide
- Salicylic Acid
- Benzyl Salicylate
- Benzyl Alcohol
- Butylphenyl Methylpropional
- Citric Acid
- Hexyl Cinnamal (F.I.L. C16847713)
The list is exhaustive and filled with complex names. You can know more about each one of them through secondary research.
But the important ones that raise an alarm are as follows:
1. Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
It is interesting to know that it is a principle ingredient in detergents. It is a surfactant, thus popular for its lather making qualities.
But did you know that as per the International Agency for Research on Cancer, it can be a possible cause of CANCER? Its production process can produce a certain by-product that may cause cancer. That is why I fail to understand its inclusion in a shampoo.
This is short for the chemical name – Cocamidopropyl betaine. It may surprise you that this chemical in your shampoo received accolades. It was the Allergen of the year in 2004 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society. Does that impress you?
It does not sound that harmful when compared to others. But it is non-biodegradable. So, traces of it can be in the water that we drink.
This ingredient gives an artificial citrus aroma. It is toxic to aquatic life. That means the use of shampoos can lead to lemon smelling dead fish.
Another artificial aroma. It may cause irritation, pain and allergic reactions.
6. Benzyl Alcohol
This can be the cause of irritation in the eyes during the shampoo routine. This ingredient kills the infections and the lice on the head. Its percentage is not mentioned on the bottle. But in high concentrations, it can cause toxicity. The effects could include respiratory failure, vasodilation, hypotension, convulsions, and paralysis.
7. Butylphenyl Methylpropional
This is a synthetic fragrance. It may cause allergies, contact dermatitis, and hormonal issues.
8. Citric Acid
It is a chelating agent. That means it helps to deal with product build-up. But in high concentrations, it can irritate and cause pain to the skin and eyes.
9. Hexyl Cinnamal (F.I.L. C16847713)
It is an artificial aroma that mimics the smell of chamomile. It may cause allergies to some.
The above data is from Wikipedia. But you can dive deep on the information by the Environmental Working Group website. They have information on the toxicity and environmental pollutants found in various products.
They grade products as per the harmful effect it causes to humans and the environment. On a scale of 1-10, the highest is the most harmful.
I could not find a grade of this particular shampoo by Loreal on their website. But they do have a grade on one of the Loreal conditioners as 4 (not good).
What Is No Poo Shampoo
As you can see from the list above, the pretty looking shampoo bottle looks a little scary when you intrude into it.
That is the reason a lot of health and environment-conscious people say no to shampoo.
So, when they abandon the regular shampoo, they switch to a no poo shampoo.
A no poo shampoo contains none of the ingredients listed above. Rather it contains natural products that come from plants or the soil.
It does seem unbelievable that natural products could replace shampoo. But the truth is that they can, and they do.
Over the years, I have used a variety of natural products to clean my hair. Some of them include:
- Baking Soda
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Clays – Fuller’s earth, Bentonite clay
- Borax powder
- Soap nuts
- Coconut milk
- Flours – Chickpea, Arrowroot, Rice
- Plain tap water
Surprised? Yes, I have used each one of the above-listed products to wash my hair.
Of all the above methods, water only hair washing results were the most disappointing.
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I can get into more specifics below:
No Poo Results
Back then 5 years ago, I did not have much idea how to go begin the no poo procedure. With some preliminary internet research, I got to know the most popular method of no poo – baking soda.
Baking soda did help my hair in the beginning. But over time it did not give me good results. I still use about half a teaspoon of it once in 6 months. But not as a regular no poo shampoo. Also, it is mandatory to follow it up with diluted apple cider vinegar rinse. Else, your hair will break and you will have a no poo itchy scalp.
After the baking soda debacle, I invested in a few books by the no poo experts. After that, the process of not using the shampoo got better.
In particular, the No Poo method books were the most helpful. You can read that book before you venture into the no poo journey. Else, it will take you a lot of trial and error to troubleshoot the process.
Some of my experiences with every step of my no poo journey are as below:
1. Baking Soda
It is wonderful to remove build-up. But not good when used often.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
It works wonder to tame the no poo itch. But not good at removing oil and dirt.
3. Clays – fuller’s earth, bentonite clay
They remove dirt and oil. They also straighten the hair.
4. Borax powder
It makes the hair super soft. But is not good at removing oil.
5. Soap nuts
They remove all the traces of oil and dirt. But can overdry the hair when used often.
They are remarkable in removing dirt and oil. But the shampoo process is a little messy.
7. Coconut milk
It conditions the hair while cleaning. But does not remove oil.
Not only it cleans the hair, but it is also a no poo conditioner and hair detangler. It is my favorite form of no poo shampoo.
It works well when the water is clean and pure. But it does not clean the oil. It can also cause the greying of hair.
10. Flours – Chickpea/Arrowroot/Rice
All the flours remove dirt and oil. But they require a chelating agent to remove the build-up.
11. Plain tap water
It works well when there is no water pollution. Else, tap water leads to hair loss and makes hair messier.
Troubleshooting the No Poo Method
Now I wash my hair with a no poo shampoo made of shikakai, reetha and Indian gooseberries. All three ingredients are in a dried and powdered form.
I add water to the mixture and use it to rinse my hair and scalp. But it took me a lot of trials and errors to zero in on them.
The performance of a no poo shampoo depends from individual to individual. Meaning what works for me may not give you the best results. The quality of water also plays a role in the effectiveness of a no poo shampoo.
Since there is no SLS in these natural products, that is why most of them do not work on hard water. You can use a charcoal water filter to reduce the impurities in water. But if you indulge in oil massages, then the water will not clear the oil.
Baking soda does clear off the oil, but it is also ineffective with hard water. Plus, it spoils the ph balance of the scalp and also spoils the hair when used for long periods. Hence, it can never be the regular no poo shampoo.
After a lot of trials and errors, I found shikaki and reetha the best among all the no poo shampoo options. Neither do they give an itch on the scalp, nor do they underperform with hard water.
You can find a lot more easy and useful recipes in the no poo method book. Following the book will make your natural hair care journey a lot easier and worry-free.
As per Wikipedia, shampoos have come around in the year 1814. Before that people have used natural resources to clean the hair.
It is nice to know that history is repeating itself through the no poo process.
Although no poo is not as simple as abandoning shampoo at the drop of a feather. It requires a lot of permutations and combinations to get it right as per your hair and lifestyle. But once you get into it, you will love the no poo before and after results.
If you wish to shorten the curve of getting free from the nasty chemical-filled shampoos. Then, you can widen your no poo knowledge by using a good no poo resource. That way you will know which methods to avoid before you spend time on them. Else, you will keep on experimenting till you jump on the perfect solution that works for you.
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