The No 'Poo Experiment

Showering is a modern ritual; often it feels like the only time we are able to relax and wash our problems away. But what we don’t think about is a bigger issue going down the drain: chemicals.

Shampoos and conditioners are among the most commonly used hygiene products, and they are known for having dozens of unidentifiable ingredients, including some known irritants like sulfates. But the thought of using less, or completely eliminating, shampoo seems unclean. It would, however, reduce the contamination of waterways, the amount of synthetic substances on your body, and the quantity of plastic bottles that get thrown away or recycled. (Reducing the need to refine oil to make plastic is better than recycling in the end.)

Many health and wellness bloggers have tried alternative shampoos, sometimes known as the ‘no-poo’ method. Instead of the common products, a combination of natural household cleansers is used instead: baking soda and vinegar. In the hopes of finding a healthier hair routine, or at least making a science-project volcano on my head, I decided to try it out.

The first step for me was just washing my hair less often. I decreased to washing every other day, then to every three days. The first few skipped days were not pleasant, as I expected, but it soon adjusted and produced less oils.

I then began the baking soda routine. Dissolve one or two tablespoons of baking soda in a bottle with warm water, pour it over sections of wet hair, scrub lightly, and rinse. After rinsing it out and letting it dry, my hair was clean, but it also felt thick, dry, and dull, as if there was still residue.

I was disappointed in the results, but I wasn’t ready to go back to regular shampoo. I reread the article I had found, where I found that an apple cider vinegar rinse would act as a conditioner. Diluting a small amount of vinegar in warm water and pouring it over the hair after rinsing out the baking soda should remove the residue and soften the hair.

With this treatment, my hair felt at least as soft as it ever had with traditional shampoo and conditioner. And I actually got complimented on the scent!

image of results of unwashed, shampooed and baking soda washed hair

While it may not give the same smoothness and shine as traditional shampoo and conditioner, baking soda and vinegar work better than I expected, and the impact on myself and the environment is one less thing I have to worry about when I get in the shower.

But the best part of alternative shampoo? I’ve spent less than $5 on hair care this year.


Story by Helen Sanderson, Sustainability Ambassador