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Is No Poo a good way to clean your hair? Episode 30

Can you make hair healthier by skipping shampoo? This week Perry and I discuss 7 different ways to “no poo” your hair. Plus ….another rousing round of Beauty Science or Bullsh*t.

Show notes

Beauty Science or Bullsh*t

The game that’s taking the internet by storm – we give you 3 beauty science headlines and you have to pick the fake one.

  1. Dying your hair with stripes can keep  flies off of your head.
  2. The world’s first robotic tattoo has been created by hacking a 3-D printer.
  3. A new “flesh eating” shower sponge uses a keratolytic enzyme to exfoliate dead skin cells while you bathe.

Listen to the show for the answer!

Question of the week: Is No Poo a good way to clean hair?

Allie asks…What’s the deal with this “no poo” craze? Does the hair get more healthy because of the natural oils you use? I’ve seen on Pinterest people talking about using baking soda as a cleanser and apple cider vinegar as a conditioner.

To answer Allie’s question we review several alternate ways to wash your hair.

The Ultimate No Poo

This means you don’t clean your hair AT ALL. Not even rinse it with water.

Does it work? Sure. You don’t actually have to shampoo your hair. Of course, it won’t be clean either. It will be less damaged and probably look more shiny. However, it may also look and feel greasy, smell funny, and be difficult to style in any way except laying flat on your head.

Shampoo free poo

This is rinsing your hair with water.

Does it work? It will certainly refresh your hair but it won’t remove heavy styling residue. (And, as we’ll explain, you’re still damaging your hair even without the shampoo.)


Also known as conditioner washing or “co-poo” this simply using a conditioner to wash your hair.

Does it work? Yes because conditioners contain surfactants (although a different kind than the ones used in shampoos.) Also, they are used at much lower levels so they don’t clean as well and conditioners may have more oily materials which leave your hair feeling dirty. For everyday cleaning you’ll likely be disappointed by using conditioner as your hair cleanser. It can also start to build up on hair and feel heavy. It will also attract a lot more dust, pollen, and dirt from the air.  The WEN brand is probably most popular in this regard but you don’t have to spend a lot of money to try this. Look for an inexpensive silicone free conditioner like the traditional VO5 and Suave products.

Reverse shampooing

This involves applying conditioner or an oil to your hair BEFORE you shampoo. The idea is that you’re “using up” some of the detergency of the shampoo on the “fake oils” so less of the “natural oils” are stripped away.

Does it work? Yes, to some extent. We did some experiments and saw some reduction in color fading. But it has the same negatives as cowashing.

Dry shampoo

This is typically an aerosolized powder (for example, starch) that you spray onto your hair and brush out. (also sprinkle in versions)

Does it work? Absolutely. The powder absorbs excess oils from your hair and then you brush the powder out. It also is scented so it’ll leave a bit of that fragrance behind. But it doesn’t clean your hair nearly as well as a regular shampooing. It also may leave a white residue and can leave hair feeling gross. However, if you want to skip a shampooing day or two this product is good in a pinch. It’s also good for color treated hair because it will help reduce the amount of color lost. We developed one of the first mass market dry shampoos and saw a secondary benefit which was “second day hair.” Gave hair better texture on the second day so it styled better.

Alternative shampoos

This is washing your hair with something other than shampoo (like baking soda or vinegar.)

Does it work? It depends on what your shampoo substitute is. Some people think they can use body wash instead of shampoo. And you can…but chemically body wash is almost identical to shampoo so there’s no extra benefit. (In fact if anything it will leave your hair feeling worse.) What about baking soda and/or vinegar? Baking soda is NOT a good idea. It’s not a good oil absorber so it won’t work like the starch in a dry shampoo. Plus, it has a very high pH which can slow down the restoration of the acid mantle on your scalp. Theoretically the high pH can damage the hair as well by causing additional swelling. Vinegar has a low pH but other than helping to remove mineral buildup, it doesn’t really provide any benefit. The idea that the low pH closes up the cuticle and makes hair shinier is just a myth.

No-Rinse shampoos

What is it? Here’s another way to wash your hair without water. The formula is a real shampoo except you don’t rinse it out. The most popular brand is No Rinse Shampoo. The formula is much runnier than a regular shampoo so you don’t need water to make it lather. Just put it on dry hair, work through with your fingers and watch it foam. Then wipe out the foam with a towel for clean hair.

Does it work? This formula will work better than the dry shampoos. It can clean your hair better than a conditioner. But it won’t be nearly as good as a regular shampoo. But if water is in short supply or you just don’t feel like hopping in a shower, this no-rinse shampoo might be for you. Also, you may find the residual surfactant that’s left on your scalp can be irritating.

Sulfate free shampoo

Honorary mention:  Again it’s a matter of personal preference. Sulfates are excellent cleansers and if you have very greasy hair or use a lot of styling products will probably will welcome them. On the other hand if your scalp is easily irritated or if you think you’re prone to dryness you may not like the way they leave your hair and scalp feeling. The sad thing is that most  sulfate free products work very similarly to sulfates. There are only a few detergents that have really been proven to be demonstrably milder.

Why is washing and drying damaging?

Two reasons: the hair fiber swells when saturated with water which causes uplifting of the cuticle. Drying the hair does not reverse all of this cuticle lifting and once the cuticle is lifted it can become loose.

The second reason is that you have to dry your hair. If you’re using a towel to any extent you’re causing a lot of friction by rubbing the hair. If you’re using a blow dryer the high heat can cause damage. Of course if air drying your hair must be perfectly safe, right? Not necessarily.

One study found that air dried hair sustains more damage to the Cell Membrane Complex (CMC), the sandwich-y layer of proteins, lipids, and covalently bonded fatty acids that is the “glue” that binds cuticles together. Once the CMC is damaged cuticles can become dislodged more easily which leads to rough damaged hair which may eventually split and break. The authors hypothesize that because air drying takes so much longer  than blow drying that some internal components of the CMC are exposed to water for much longer time. This water exposure over time causes a buckling in the CMC layer. Blow drying removes the water more quickly so the CMC doesn’t have a chance to buckle. While this is intriguing discover there are two major caveats: first, this is a single study and one should never completely believe a surprising finding that comes from only one study; more research needs to be done. Second, even though blow drying appears to cause less damage to the CMC, it does cause MORE surface damage. Therefore you’re trading one kind of damage for another by air drying hair.

Is No Poo better for hair’s natural oils?

This is another myth. Let’s talk about how oil (also known as sebum) gets on your scalp in the first place. Sebum is generated in tiny sebaceous glands beneath the surface of the skin. These glands produce an oily substance that reaches the skin’s surface through hair follicles. Some sebum is a good thing – it’s a natural moisturizer and it keeps your skin and hair soft and supple. (Of course  some people are prone to excess sebum production and that can be too much of a good thing.) The proponents of this myth must think that washing your hair strips away the natural oils  so that NOT washing hair leaves more natural oil on your hair. Right? No, not really.

Actually, stripping away oil with a shampoo will make your glands produce more oil. To understand how this works, you have understand how sebum production is regulated – in other words what turns the sebum glands on and off. It turns out that it’s the presence of sebum on the surface of skin that controls sebum production. How is that possible?

If you want all the details check out this study in which scientists stripped oil off skin and then measured how long it took the skin to re-oil itself. But their bottom line is that the presence of oil on the skin’s surface sends a signal to the sebaceous glands to turn off. This signal is caused by either the pressure of the oil in the follicle or by the creation of a chemical signal that travels back down through the skin. But then why doesn’t shampooing make your scalp oilier and oilier? That’s because the oil production levels off very quickly.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

To sum up the science: Any time you’re wetting and drying your hair you’re damaging the fibers and stripping color. Therefore, any alternative that eliminates water will reduce damage and keep color from fading. But there is certainly no evidence showing that at home solutions like baking soda and vinegar are better for your hair than shampoo. In fact, some alternatives (like using baking soda) may do more harm than good but other than that it’s really just a matter of personal taste.

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  • Clever lies that the beauty companies tell you.
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  • Which ingredients are really scary and which ones are just scaremongering by the media to incite an irrational fear of chemicals.
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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Judith May 13, 2014, 5:39 am

    I tried the conditionner only method and the sulfate free shampoo and it was horrible on me. I have a lot of small hair strands and my hair get’s greasy fast.

    I just can’t live without sulfates and I hate any type of moisturizing shampoo that doesn’t rince clean

  • BeautyMaze May 13, 2014, 9:06 am

    In this article you mentioned – There are only a few detergents that have really been proven to be demonstrably milder.

    I would like to know what they are because my scalp gives negative reaction on sls and sles.

    • Randy Schueller May 13, 2014, 10:20 am

      This one is generally considered to the be mildest:

      Sodium Cocoyl Isthionate (or SCI for short) is thought to be milder than other surfactants for two reasons: It doesn’t strip as much natural oil from your skin and it doesn’t attach to protein as strongly as other cleansers so it rinses better and is therefore less irritating. So why doesn’t every cleansing product use this ingredient? Again, two reasons: it’s expensive and (by itself) it doesn’t produce the most aesthetically pleasing product. That’s why you’ll most commonly see it used as a secondary surfactant in products.

      • Andrzej S. January 15, 2019, 5:34 am


        And what about Cocamidopropyl Betaine when it’s used with SCI? CAPB makes anionic surfactants milder, that’s why there are so many shampoos that have SLeS+CAPB.

        So, will CAPB make SCI even milder or just the opposite – harsher?

        Could you, please, tell me more examples of these detergents that have been proven to be milder? I have SCI, but I need some other surfactant, which will “melt” SCI in the heat phase and make it more liquid.
        I have Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate – I read that it’s generally one of the mildest detergents, but I found some studies in which this detergent was one of the worst irritants.

        By the way, I think citric acid used as a pH adjuster irritates my skin. What pH adjuster could be milder – lactic acid?

        Cheers from Poland,

        • admin January 15, 2019, 1:09 pm

          CAPB is unlikely to make the SCI even more milder. It will likely have no measurable effect. I’d suggest you post your formulating questions in our forum. http://chemistscorner.com/forum

  • Laura May 13, 2014, 9:56 am

    I use sulphate free shampoo and it’s totally eliminated the dandruff problem I always thought I had. Also seems to keep my colored hair from fading as quickly, and I get less dryness and spliit ends between cuts.

    • Randy Schueller May 13, 2014, 10:22 am

      If switching to a sulfate free shampoo fixed your flaky scalp, then you may have just had dry skin and not true dandruff. Either way, it’s good that you found a solution!

  • Antoinette May 13, 2014, 10:10 am

    Alternative ways of shampooing hair has been a part of the African American hair cair community for many many years. Most shampoos are not formulated for kinky. those of us with natural hair struggle. Literally. Moisture rention is a big deal so we add oil after a wash routine. It is necessary for detangling, keeping hair soft and ultimately preventing hair fall. Squeaky clean takes a backseat to retaining length. This article is interesting but again, I find myself disappointed in the lack of scientific discussion in the context of African hair and oil (natural or otherwise). Not the beauty brains fault. There just isn’t much out there in the way of research.

    • Randy Schueller May 13, 2014, 10:24 am

      Antoinette – thanks so much for your thoughts. If you could provide a little more information on your “oil cleansing” method I’d be happy to add that to our list of alternative shampoo methods.

      • Mel October 9, 2014, 9:07 am

        Hi Randy,
        Just wanted you to know. It isn’t an oil cleansing method that she is speaking of at all. She’s simply stating that after cleansing, an oil is added to damp hair. Lol

  • Lisa May 13, 2014, 10:59 am

    In March 2013 I set out on a “improve my hair” journey. I have thin, fine, straight hair that I was perming every 4-5 months. Also, I have washed -and conditioned – my hair daily since high school (Now in my 50’s) I tried no poo, baking soda, vinegar, etc. to no avail.
    I settled on 2 items that I alternate: watered down Bronners castile soap, or homemade shampoo made with coconut and castor oils (I make soap as a hobby) There are many castile soap “shampoo recipes” on the internet.
    After one year, there is a HUGE improvement in my hair. It is thicker, has more body (no more perms) and does not need conditioner. Also, I oil my scalp once in a while before shampooing.
    The most important lesson I believe I learned was the value of less frequent washings, and probably milder shampoos. Yes, initially I had greasiness which I eased with dry shampoos – or arrowroot powder, but now I can go 2-3 days without washing.
    Thanks for all the info on this topic. I guess everyone has to experiment to get their own optimum formula!

    • Barb Perkins March 4, 2016, 7:54 am

      Hi, could you be a little more specific about the coconut and castor oil part? We have same hair and I am struggling with the no-poo journey. Also, do you alternate daily or are you washing less than that? Thanks.

  • Monique May 13, 2014, 11:50 am

    I have natural kinky dry hair and I notice that the less ingredients in my shampoo, the better. I started formulating my own shampoo and found out that the amount of soap concentration may be the problem. Sometimes we may think its the soap that is causing the issue, but in actuality it’s the amount of soap used. I used the same surfactants ingredients, but at a less amount and I experienced better results. Antoinette can remove a small amount of shampoo and try diluting that small amount of shampoo with water. She should keep records of the amount she is using. If she gets better results; then its not the soap itself, but the high amount. She can then make that her hair care regimen by always diluting a small amount; however, she should calculated how much to use so she does not waste any unused diluted shampoo. hopes its helps

    • celeste October 29, 2015, 7:35 pm

      this is not making sense to me because the shampoo is diluted as soon as you wet you hair.

  • Barbara Bird May 13, 2014, 1:40 pm

    Great info. I especially appreciated the explanation about sebum production. It was disturbing to see the notion of vinegar closing the hair cuticle being called out as a myth. I had thought it true that high pH (i.e., baking soda) raises the hair cuticle and low pH (i.e., vinegar) closes and tightens the hair cuticle. I am guilty of passing this on as fact to pet groomers in my seminars on canine coat damage.

    • celeste October 29, 2015, 7:37 pm

      so Brains what if anything actually closes the cuticle

      • Randy Schueller October 30, 2015, 8:03 am

        It’s very difficult to “glue” the cuticle back in place once it becomes loose and uplifted. The secret is to condition hair to reduce friction to prevent the cuticle from becoming uplifted in the first place.

  • S.N.N. May 13, 2014, 2:09 pm

    I love your website—I often send links to my friends who have been hoodwinked by “natural” marketing gimmicks. However, after going back and listening to your 27th podcast, I must say that I highly recommend taking an intro to ethics class at your local college. I’m not an animal rights activist, but I am a professional academic and philosopher, and you guys are making some sloppy inferences to make the least. I highly doubt anyone who takes the time to carefully think through the reasoning would find field mice dying in a field relevant to animals that are bred to live their entire lives in a cage for experiments.

    Let’s consider an analogy: Let’s say that a certain people die every year in tractor accidents as a result of farming. We wouldn’t consider that analogous to keeping someone on a chain and using physical harm in order to make them work. Why do we find these two cases different? Because one is the indirect result of actions–it is an incidental cost of farming that one increases the risk of tractor accidents, but no one intentional falls (or causes someone to fall) from a factor. We do not find the farming industry *answerable* for these kinds of incidental deaths, however tragic they may be. However if someone intentional chooses to harm someone in order to farm by, say, whipping them on the field or keeping them captive, we view these tragedies differently. It isn’t because the harm is greater—arguably the person being whipped in is a better state than the man who fell of the tractor! It is because someone commits a deliberate harm that we feel is unjust given that their motivation is simply to farm (not to punish a war criminal, etc). They are seeking to profit by exploiting someone who we feel has a certain level of worth or dignity.

    Now let’s look again at the animal testing and mice case: A farm, in tilling land to plant a field, is not looking to exploit or cause direct suffering to an animal. We might say what they do is more akin to a child who steps on a bug when they go outside to play (a cost of playing in the grass) than someone in a lab putting masks filled with toxic vapors on dogs that are never allowed to leave their cages their entire lives. The person in a lab is not indirectly harming an animal—the harms aren’t incidental. Their immediate action is to exploit an animal in order to profit in some way.

    Now this isn’t enough to show that animal testing is wrong. First, we need to establish the value of animals. Do we think bugs are of equal value to a human? Not most of us. What if we get a little smarter—fish? Dogs? Apes? What level of sentience (or other value) is enough to imbue a creature with morally significant status?

    Further, based on that status, what sort of endeavors are worth the kind of suffering animal testing causes? Treatments for cancer? Developing new medications? ….Mascara?

    Finally, there are all kinds of reasons to shop cruelty free other than thinking that your products are “pure” of any wrongdoing. My spouse worked at an NGO for years. Everyone who works at NGOs knows that even the best are sausage factories. Abuse, embezzlement and waste are rampant. These evils are terrible given the stakes involved. That said, the other alternative is to do nothing. As of now, dysfunctional NGOs are often our best way to get money to people suffering in the third world—and, at least some of the time, they do good work.

    Likewise, maybe it’s worthwhile to shop cruelty free because it sends a certain message to a market that investing in cruelty free methods might pay off in terms of value added to the customer (and incentives to the consumer to buy). It also might draw attention to an issue that would otherwise remain invisible to a large percentage of the populous…So one does not have to believe that animals are not harmed in order to feel morally compelled to buy cruelty free.

    • Randy Schueller May 13, 2014, 3:17 pm

      SNN – thanks for your thoughts. We’re hoping to revisit this topic in the future.

  • Tsippi May 13, 2014, 5:07 pm

    Not only African American women, but most women with curly or very wavy hair find that a lo-poo or no-poo routine will make their hair much more manageable. Because our cuticles don’t lie flat, moisture retention is a big problem; most curlies wash (and condition) their hair to ADD moisture rather than just clean their hair. Pre-conditioning, Co-Washing, or using a Lo-Poo can all help with that. Also, the foam in traditional shampoos roughs up our cuticles and makes us look like Rosanna Banana Banana for a few days, so most of us find low foaming shampoos better. I’m intrigued by what you say about vinegar, though. When I put a vinegar rinse on my hair, I can feel the volume of my hair decreasing for the first 60 seconds or so, and it take a lot less time for my hair to dry. Would vinegar affect curly hair differently than straight hair?

  • Christina May 14, 2014, 6:44 pm

    I love Beauty Science or bulls**t. Keep it up! It’s a fun and enlightening part of the show. I also see a comeback story for Perry’s track record with the musical stylings of the Rocky Soundtrack in tow.

  • Kaylee May 15, 2014, 9:39 pm

    Okay, a lot of this stuff does not work for ethnic hair. No way do black people use dry shampoo. Plus removing oils from ethnic hair is a no, no. Ethnic hair needs all the oils it can get. Maybe this stuff is for people who have hair like Caucasians, but doesn’t work for others. The only thing that might work would be sulfate free shampoos.

  • chinabestwigs May 16, 2014, 2:30 am

    Keep your hair clean. Hair tangles when dirt and sweat build up, wash your hair after exercise, swimming etc. Brush your hair and remove all tangles before washing it. Wash your hair going in a downward motion. Use a good quality shampoo, your stylist can advise you what product is best for your hair. When lots of water is added at once to very dry hair, hair can swell up and tangle. Gradually wet the hair and brush gently before you completely wash it. This is more common with less expensive extension hair.

    • celeste October 29, 2015, 7:41 pm

      nothing you said China will work for afro hair

  • Danielle June 17, 2014, 6:03 am

    I’ve been no-poo for over a year. Pre-trial I had frizzy, oily hair. I tried bicarb soda and apple cider vinegar for around 4 months and found that it dried my hair out more, although I wad able to stretch the time between washes. These days I rinse with water every 2-3 days, then rinse with apple cider vinegar around once a week. I have type 1 hair, long & these days quite sleek & shiny. Training my scalp to be able to only use water was definitely a good idea.

  • Raquel June 20, 2014, 4:01 am

    Hi, I’ll go straight to the point and tell you that I didn’t like your article so I’m not bothering with the podcast, and I don’t think I’ll ever bother with any others. You seem to want to look impartial about the “no-poo” subject but it became clear to me very soon that you were consistently emphasizing the supposed “cons” of everything but shampooing, very biased IMHO, and not worthy of any serious consideration.

    I must tell you that I am a non-practicing cosmetologist and very knowledgeable about hair product ingredients and how the scalp and hair react under different circumstances. Moreover, I have curly hair and I’ve been co-washing it for over 12 years with EXCELLENT results, and when I use a blow dryer it’s with a diffuser and only for a few minutes, but whenever I have the time I just let it air dry completely and I’ve never noticed any negative effect on my hair whatsoever and I’m sure that thousands of other curlies who also air dry (plus the millions who existed before hair dryers were invented…) would agree with me.

    I’ve colored my hair all these years and worn it at different lengths, right now a few inches below my shoulders and despite repeated colorings and one bleaching in the last 3 months my hair looks very healthy and the color LASTS, why? Because I do not use shampoo. Hair doesn’t need shampoo, in the history of makind shampoo is a very recent invention and all the hype about “how good” it is for our hair really comes from marketing, period. Oh, I almost forgot, I was losing at least double the amount of hair that I now do when I used shampoo, and I (along many others) suspect that a lot of those harsh shampoos contribute to the rampant hair loss seen today, both in men and women.

    I really don’t have much patience for “science” that tries to sell modern practices as “better” for us than the tried and true ones that humans have used for many centuries, so you may convince younger and less knowledgeable people but certainly not me.

    • Randy Schueller June 20, 2014, 6:19 am

      @Raquel: I’m sorry that you don’t care for our approach to this topic. I agree that our discussion tended emphasize the “cons” of no poo options but that’s because that’s what the evidence that we found indicated.

      You (and others like you) play an important role in this discussion because you can share your personal experience with others and let them know what worked for you. After all, as we said in our bottom line “other than that it’s really just a matter of personal taste.”

      I hope you’ll stick around to continue help inform our “younger and less knowledgeable” readers.

    • Erica August 12, 2014, 11:35 am

      What is your weekly hair washing routine involve? I am extremely interested?

      • Randy Schueller August 12, 2014, 6:54 pm

        Lather, rinse, repent.

        • Pilgrim September 28, 2015, 9:26 pm

          you said “repent”! hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee!
          actually, it is so much easier for short short hair and especially men.
          i have hair growing past my waist and it’s a big job to wash it.
          whereas husband wets hair, puts shampoo in and rinses out with water.

          but about the wash and the inquiry of the woman you responded to. i just use the shampoo to remove the accumulation of dead skin, etc. on the scalp. i don’t really do anything on the hair.

          i know some folks put the shampoo all over the hair.

          something else, there could be an entry about this further down –
          read about a scalp cleansing method from India. about three ingredients mixed to form a paste. i don’t know what the three are, sorry. and rubbed into the scalp and rinsed out with water.

          and from Renaissance France, very fine sawdust rubbed into scalp to soak up the oil and then brushed out.

  • Jennifer August 22, 2014, 5:50 pm

    The information you provided gave me a whole different perspective on how our hair works per say, but I just wanted to know if you could explain the effects of different levels of ph on hair? How low does an acid need to be to remove the minerals in your hair and why doesn’t it affect the sebum on our hair? Also does the ph really not affect the cuticle at all? Sorry for all the questions but from all the websites I visited they do not seem to explain these areas very well.

    • Randy Schueller August 23, 2014, 8:39 am

      Hi Jennifer: Vinegar, with a pH of 2.2, is low enough to remove minerals from hair. Keep in mind that you don’t have to use an acid for that. Shampoos with a chelating agent like EDTA can also remove minerals.

      The pH of most products doesn’t have a big effect on hair. Very high pH (like above 10 or so, like you’d encounter with a relaxer) will lift the cuticle which is not good.

  • Rhoda Lewis September 10, 2014, 8:42 am

    I have dry frizzy hair. I had the Brazillian Blowout done three times, and while it worked, the chemicals hurt my eyes, I worried about what it must be doing to the stylist and it is expensive! I also am very active, so even if I don’t wash my hair, it gets wet from sweating. I’ve always thought that leaving the sweat on is bad for my hair, so I would wash it almost every day. But now my frizz problem is getting out of control. So my question is, what would you think about a combination of shampooing/co-washing? Like every other time, or every two times I wash my hair, I only use conditioner? I saw that you like coconut oil for deep conditioning, so I plan to try that too. Also, am I right that leaving sweat to just dry in my hair is bad for it? Apart from being stinky?

    • Randy Schueller September 10, 2014, 10:09 am

      Hi Rhoda. You can certainly alternate shampooing with cowashing. And you may see improvement with coconut oil since it works from the inside of hair. Good luck and let us know how it turns out!

  • Kellie November 16, 2014, 11:14 pm

    Hello Randy,

    I find it interesting that water alone can be damaging to our hair. I knew this before, but I guess I didn’t take heed. I’ve tried a few of the methods listed, including sulfate-free, alternative, and co-washing, and I’ve decided that my hair responds best to diluted moisturizing shampoo. However, I have begun washing my hair weekly instead of biweekly to deep condition more often. Do you think washing my hair more often is damaging to my hair even though I deep condition every time? And is spritzing my hair with water daily just as damaging as wash day?

    • Randy Schueller November 17, 2014, 10:53 am

      Hi Kellie. From a technical perspective, every time your hair is saturated with water it swells. When it dries, the hair shaft shrinks but the expansion and contraction can cause cracks in the cuticle. The more often you do this, the more damage you cause. Of course, that’s on a microscopic scale and it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to tell the difference between the amount of damage caused by weekly vs biweekly shampooing.

      Just spritzing water on your hair will not cause any damage because you’re not saturating the hair shaft.

  • Tona Aspsusa March 16, 2015, 8:46 am

    Thanks for a very interesting podcast. Only one major thing I feel that you forgot to cover: water hardness. This really, really matters.

    I’ve been diving into the various “noo-poo” discussions these last few months, and the main thing I’ve discovered is that people in general seem to wash their hair really often, and use an amazing amount of styling products. Out of convenience/lazyness I’ve had long hair for over 20 years now, and I had no idea how crazily productified haircare had become.

    Of course I’ve also been trying out some of these alternatives, and have discovered that some of the things recommended by the hard-core noo-poo contingent (no washing at all) are actually really beneficial to *my* scalp.
    But mostly I’ve discovered what I already knew:
    1. Neither hair nor scalp likes frequent washes.
    2. You don’t need much shampoo (or body wash or soap or whatever), not when you have soft water.
    3. Silicones are the friend of the long och fine haired.

    The only really new thing I’ve learned about is coconut oil – and that’s a nice find. Hair likes it, skin likes it, it’s cheap and I can get it everywhere.

  • Kira May 17, 2015, 10:27 pm

    I have to add another shampoo product. Shampoo bars. Instead of liquid soap with sodium laurel sulfate, which my skin is allergic to( it makes my skin have little red itchy bumps and made my scalp itch like crazy and painfully), it is a solid. I use aloe juice on it as a rinse after using the soap. I have never gotten so many compliments on my hair since I stopped using shampoo with sls. Also, I have stopped losing a ton of hair when I wash it. Another thing you didn’t mention is the importance of brushing the hair with a boar bristle brush. If you don’t do this, you will have dry ends and greasy roots. Brushing with that kind of brush will distribute the sebum evenly throughout your hair. It really isn’t less work to do without “normal” shampoo, but my hair and scalp feel so much better I don’t really care. I haven’t tried the other methods you mentioned, but how do you know if they work or not?

  • Dominique June 23, 2015, 12:55 pm

    I no-poo since November 2014. Started with the baking soda mix and rinse with vinegar. Though my hair didn’t feel good, so I did some more research. Found some other ways to no-poo and I tried rye flour water mix (3table spoons rye flour and add just a small amount of water so it will be a thick shampoolike mixture). I only wash my hair with this mix once a month and wash my hair with water only once a week. My hair doesn’t get as greasy as it did before, it’s way more healthy and manageable then ever before.

  • kamala July 16, 2015, 2:30 am

    THANK YOU for common sense science about ‘no poo’. People who do anything active or work in a zillion dirt producing industries aren’t getting the real dirt, skin particles, oil buildup & yes, pollutants off their hair and scalp unless they *wash* their hair (including the vinegar water routine) or use a type of oil cleaning not common in the Western World. Not washing hair and scalp makes just as much sense as never washing the rest of the body. I don’t see any recommendations for cleaning up after, oh, let’s say a nice 20 mile bike marathon with talcum powder or body lotion, and hair/scalp are exposed to the same things as the body.

  • Jo M August 23, 2015, 7:17 pm

    May I just add to this that shampoo how we know it today was invented no more than one or two centuries ago. Before that, humans washed their hair way less frequently with often nothing more than water. Shampoo strips the scalp of all it’s sebum which makes the scalp produce more and more; it may not feel like it but many people report having to wash their hair more and more often. I myself believed in expensive shampoos and conditioners for a long time, but when my hair got down to about the height of my elbows and had to be washed, conditioned and moistorized thoroughly every second day – a year before i had gone 3 days between washes – i decided there must be an easier way. That was 6 months ago and since then I have not used shampoo once. I started using honey dilited in water, then experimented with rhassoul clay, soapnuts and have now not used anything on my hair but water for about a month. An guess what: my hair is healthy, beautiful and clean! I wash once or twice a week, max. and that just with water. My hair is growing like a weed – it’s nearly reached my tummy button – and I don’t have to do anything else for it other than brushing it with a boar bristle brush to spread my sebum down to the ends and moisturize them. Since I gave up shsmpoo i have got so many compliments for my hair and I’ve now reduced my entire body care routine to natural products. I believe our society must understand one thing: our bodies don’t need any modern chemicals – it can care for itself!

    • Alice September 19, 2015, 1:54 pm

      Jo M I agree with you. I stopped using shampoo when my hair became so thin you could read through it. I am using water only to wash and that is with distilled water. I move my sebum down my strains with my fingers. I have notice that my hair has stopped falling out and it is thick again and the shine has come back. I will make my shampoo once a month to clarify, just to remove some of the sebum, because that is how long it takes for my length of hair to be covered by it. I have been natural for 5 years and shampoos and co-washing were not working for my kinky hair. My hair did not like coconut oil nor did my scalp. It does like my sebum and distilled water along with aloe vera gel and juice. What I would like to say is find what works for you and if you like it and your hair likes it, that is all that matters.

  • Carly December 20, 2015, 4:31 am

    Hi Beauty Brains,

    I’m curious- if you are vigorous in massaging the scalp while shampooing, could this potentially trigger an increase in sebum production? Also is it necessary to massage the shampoo in thoroughly to clean the scalp or does just producing a lather from the shampoo and rinsing it off clean the hair effectively?

    I’ve listened to your podcast non-stop since discovering it. Really addictive! Definitely purchasing the books. Thanks for all your contributions.

    • Randy Schueller December 22, 2015, 8:57 am

      Hey Carly. I’m glad you’re enjoying the show!

      It doesn’t take a lot of massage to get your hair/scalp clean. The mixture of shampoo and water will do a good job of dissolving dirt and oil. (Of course it depends how much styling “gunk” is on your hair.)

      I’ve never seen any data showing that massaging the scalp increases sebum production.

  • Carly December 20, 2015, 4:47 am

    I also would like to add I have fine-medium hair type, and I find that if I use a clarifying shampoo, my scalp seems to be more oily the next day. I’ve tried dry shampoos and find they don’t seem to make my hair any less oily (or only work for a few hours), whilst also reducing the shine. Is there a reason why this could be happening?

  • Randy Schueller August 12, 2016, 10:06 am

    Here’s a great explanation from one of our audience:

    Hi Beauty Brains!

    I’m working my way through the archives of your podcast and loving it. I’m currently listening to you answering the question on petrolatum-based product use with a low-poo hair routine. I just thought I’d clear up what low- and no-poo are, if you haven’t looked at it since April 2015.

    No-poo is where one removes common surfactants from their hair washing routine with the aim of reducing their scalp’s sebum reduction and to create a non-greasy layer of protective sebum. It is similar to “seasoning” an old-style frypan. This also means that one can no longer use products containing occlusive silicones or petrolatum/paraffin/mineral oil due to the lack of effective surfactants. One can either choose wash only with water or to co-wash (conditioner only).

    Adjusting to no-poo requires an adjustment period of up to six months where one’s hair can be greasy or waxy, and one can deal with this by shifting the excess sebum being created down the strands of hair with a natural bristle brush to coat them to the tips. Some no-pooers (?) temporarily wash with a very dilute sodium bicarbonate/water solution then rinse with a very dilute apple cider vinegar/water solution in an attempt to neutralise that high pH, but this can damage the hair even in the short term. Otherwise the process of weaning one’s hair off of shampoos is by gradually increasing the time between washes. Once the hair has moved past the greasy period, co-washing or water-only washing begins.

    Low-poo is the lower-maintenance version of this where one incorporates washing once a week with a gentle shampoo bar or a sulfate-free shampoo and a conditioner whilst still omitting silicones and petrolatum. The shampoo doesn’t remove as much sebum as normal shampoo use would.

    Reasons for following a low- or no-poo routine include allergies, to add volume, and to tame frizz.

    You may have covered this since April 2015, in which case, nevermind! Thanks for the information you provide every week!

    Tasmania, AU

  • Ellie October 27, 2016, 5:51 pm

    “Like, don’t you wash your hair in a bowl?” LMBO you guys are so funny :’D lol. Love your podcasts!

  • Julia February 28, 2017, 1:57 pm

    Would you have an example of sulfate free shampoo that proved to be milder?

    • Randy Schueller February 28, 2017, 2:10 pm

      The Ever Pure line has some nice sulfate free shampoos at a reasonable price.

  • Melissa April 16, 2018, 10:11 am

    Thank you! I have tried various methods of cleaning my hair “naturally” because I was scared of all the chemicals in drugstore products. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I let fearmongering ruin my hair and scalp health. My hair has never felt worse, smelled worse, or been more damaged. I have found a lot of breakage from using shampoo soap bars. The absolute worst. Well, maybe besides baking soda and vinegar, which left me smelling like a pickle, according to my husband. I really appreciate this website. I’ll be back!

  • nik October 26, 2019, 3:12 pm

    I’m looking to grow my hair out for the first time and want it to look healthy. I’ve never used heat, chemicals, or done anything extra (not even comb). I just wash with shampoo and let it air dry. This is the first time I’ve read water damages hair though. Is there any way to avoid this? Is it damaging to shampoo every day or other day if I let it air dry? I use vo5.

    • Perry Romanowski October 28, 2019, 9:48 am

      If you want to wash your hair, you won’t be able to prevent all damage. It’s just important to always use a conditioner when you wash.

      • nik October 29, 2019, 12:11 am

        Thanks for the reply! I read your other articles and just switched to a milder shampoo with only sodium laureth sulfates (suave essentials). I’m going to try washing less frequently too. Right now I skip conditioner because it weighs my hair down, but when it’s longer I might try it on the ends