As a beauty editor, part of my job is to be a guinea pig. From testing 10 different lipsticks in a day to diving into the latest juice cleanse, I’ll try anything once. Something that really takes some grinning and bearing, though? Going no poo for 30 days.
The “no poo” trend has been around forever, and when you hear about the women who’ve sworn off shampoo for years, it’s impossible not to wonder why it’s such a beloved way of living for those who choose to go there. With all of the shampoo ads out there telling us that clean hair is beautiful hair, and the general look of disapproval in someone’s eyes when you say, “Hey, I’m going to stop washing my hair forever,” deciding to go without shampoo can make you feel a bit squirmy. Regardless of all of this, I wanted to know what the fuss was all about. Now that I’ve gone without washing my hair for 30 days, here’s what I’ve learned.
When I did use shampoo, I’d wash my hair about once every 4-5 days, using as much dry shampoo as possible between washes to save my hair from heat styling and becoming dried out. Once I decided to give up shampoo, however, I instead picked up Ojon Cleansing Conditioner. Every 4-5 days, instead of using shampoo to clean my hair, I’d use the cleansing conditioner, which was putting moisture back into my hair, unlike shampoo which can strip it of natural oils. Cleansing conditioner is low lather, which means you’re not rubbing your hair (and essentially breaking and damaging with the friction) to build up a foam. When you rinse the cleansing conditioner from your hair, it feels clean and soft, not the squeaky clean you feel right after shampoo and before conditioner. The moment your hair feels “squeaky” is when you know it’s over-dried.
Typically, I blow dry my hair and then use a curling iron to get it styled just right. Though my hair holds a curl pretty well, I still use mousse or sea salt spray to get the style to last a few days. Going without shampoo, though, my hair held onto its own texture and there was a really even distribution of natural oils. Once I realized I didn’t need as much product in my hair, I used less and less, and then finally by the second week, no styling product at all (besides a heat protectant spray). This wound up being the best route to go, because using less styling products means you don’t have as much product build up in your hair, so you really don’t need more than a cleansing conditioner in the shower.
My hair has been dyed and bleached so many times that I’ve lost sight of its natural color, and I’m constantly hitting it with a heat styling tool. Basically, I have very dry hair, so it it’s not the healthiest. After about three weeks of not using shampoo, I noticed that because my hair’s natural oils were allowed to really nourish my scalp and strands, my braids and ponytails were looking thicker. My mother, who I only see once every month or two, saw me two weeks into not using shampoo and mentioned that my hair was the healthiest it’s looked in years. If that’s not proof of change, I don’t know what is.
In general, I prefer my hair’s texture when it’s dirty to when it’s clean. The only downside I experienced through using no shampoo was that even for me, sometimes the gritty hair texture got me to the point of wanting to cave and just wash my hair. Because cleansing conditioner is meant to be used in conjunction with shampoo, 30 days straight made for a bit of a filmy texture on my strands by the time it was ready to be cleansed again. If I had been using the cleansing conditioner more often (every other day or so) that wouldn’t be the case, but the fact that my hair felt a little dirty was just part of the process.
I’ve decided to go for a co-wash lifestyle rather than a zero shampoo one. Co-washing means that every other time you go to wash your hair you use a cleansing conditioner instead of shampoo, so it’s an alternating system. This way, my hair will maintain its health that’s come about because of cutting back on the shampoo, while also keeping the fresh, cleanness that comes from shampoo.
Originally published June 2014. Updated June 2017.