What is the no poo method?
I've always been curious about trying the no poo method - despite the name, it's got nothing to do with bowel movements and everything to do with shampoo, or lack thereof. I knew that it involved ditching shampoo completely, the theory being that most commercial brands strip your hair of natural oils and damage it, thus making your scalp dry, causing your oil glands to overcompensate as a result.
This then creates a vicious cycle of wanting to wash your hair more often, therefore drying it even more, and causing your skin to secrete too much sebum. No poo advocates say that by giving your hair a break, by either washing it with natural alternatives, or not washing it altogether, it will end up rebalancing itself. The downside is that it can take up to six weeks to get to that stage, and these six weeks are said to be grim.
On the plus side, what with it being lockdown and all, I've now got all the time in the world to try this, and my husband will be the only one witnessing the greasy hair. A recent Google keyword analysis tells me that search for 'no poo method' has gone up by a crazy 1,025% since the pandemic started, so we’ve clearly all got the same idea.
No poo method water only
There are many different ways of washing your hair during the no poo method. The most popular one being a mix of baking soda and apple vinegar. You scrub your head with the baking soda, so that it absorbs oil, and then rinse with apple cider vinegar, which adds shine to your hair. Some people then add a couple of drops of essential oil to damp hair so that it doesn't smell too much of vinegar.
Now the reason I wasn't keen on trying this, is from my research (there are many, many reddit threads on the subject) I learnt that baking soda can be too harsh on your skin and cause a PH imbalance. I also didn't fancy the faff or mess of gunk in the shower.
So I opted for the most natural and hardcore rinse of them all: just water. There again, there are many ways to do it, but the main one is to simply go through all the motions you normally would with shampoo, except er, without shampoo. I kept a diary of how it went, and for reference, I have almost shoulder length thickish wavy hair which tends to curl when it's wet.
No poo method transition
Day 1: I give my hair a good old scrub in the shower, before giving it a break. I normally wash my hair every other day, and use the best dry shampoo in between as it tends to get greasy at the roots by the evening of the first day, especially if I'n public transport in London, which obviously isn't an issue right now.
Day 2: So far, it's not too bad, the usual small amount of grease at the roots.
Day 3: This is normally when I’d wash my hair, and it’s already looking pretty greasy, but I’m in this for the long haul as they say, so I'm just going to suck it up.
Day 4: I’m starting to struggle a bit now, which doesn't bode well. When I brush my hair, the roots stick to my head as they’re so greasy, and the ends lift up with static, not a good look. Plus I'm losing any waviness I had before. I try the 'scritching' method, which is essentially thoroughly massaging your scalp to release oils, before dividing your hair into sections and slowly spreading excess oil from your roots down the length of your hair. This process takes me a good 10 minutes, and my hair looks no different (yes I know I have no patience), so it decide brushing will be easier from now on.
Day 5: I couldn’t sleep so decided to trawl the no poo threads on reddit, as you do, and loads of people suggested just rinsing with water, so I’ve decided to try that. It’s a bit weird massaging your hair as you would with shampoo, but without actual shampoo. I’m not going to lie, it’s a tough workout as your hair sort of sticks to your scalp and tangles when you scrub, as opposed to the usual gliding. When it dries, I’m pleased to have some curls back, but I wouldn’t say my scalp is much cleaner than before, it’s maybe a little less greasy?
Day 7: I decide to rinse again and though my hair does curl again, it does look a bit limp. I try to brush my hair loads every morning and evening to distribute the sebum (gross) as the method suggests but that means my curls drop instantly. A popular piece of advice is to give your hair 100 brush strokes twice a day, like your grandma used to say.
Day 8: My hair doesn’t look too bad today after loads of brushing, perhaps I’ve turned a corner?
Day 9: I’ve rinsed again, because I went for a walk yesterday and it was windy and there is probably pollen in my hair and it feels like it’s just dirty not even rinsing? Psychologically it definitely helps me last longer, who knew how much I enjoyed standing under hot water? It feels like a workout for my arms though, my hair feels so waxy and just won’t budge, which sort of makes sense, you wouldn’t wash a greasy pan with no washing up liquid would you? Water and oil do not mix, physics 101.
Day 10: I’m going to try and leave it a week between rinsing now, because it’s quarantine day 45976 and I’m clearly going crazy.
Day 12: I’ve finally achieved the Brigitte Nielson look, and I don’t even need hair gel for it. I brush and brush and my hair just sticks to my scalp, which I guess is good as I don't even need to tie it up anymore. Which I don’t, because my hair is so heavy now that it gives me a headache if I do. Gross. Plus it’s starting to stink, a lot.
Day 13: After twice-daily complaints about the state of my hair, my husband begs me to just wash it. Fair enough. I compromise and rinse again. Incidentally, he has been doing the no poo, water only rinsing thing and his hair looks absolutely fine, nice even. Very jealous. He has fine hair that isn’t greasy normally so I just put this down to us having different hair/skin types.
Day 14: My hair isn't looking too bad, but it's definitely lacking shape and is nowhere near feeling clean. I miss the feeling of freshly washed hair, and I'm sick of having to soak my hairbrush in soapy water every night to get rid of the gunk. It's not all bad, I don't spend half as long in the shower, so probably saved loads of money on water and shampoo (please!), and it's giving me something else to talk about other than Covid-19.
Day 15: I fold like a pack of cards and spend a glorious 15 minutes in the shower washing my hair. Before you start judging me, I am now using 85% natural shampoo rather than my normal Head & Shoulders or Herbal Essence. Perhaps it's because my hair was full of oil for so long, but post shower, it has never felt so light.
No poo method results
So yes, I caved after just two weeks, I simply couldn't face having disgusting hair for six weeks, despite all the forums assuring me that it was going to get better very soon. I realised I missed the ritual of hair washing and the nice clean smell afterwards, even if it is all down to perfume and chemicals.
The greasiness really impacted my mood, since it was like having a bad hair day every single day, and for me it really wasn't worth it. I did see some results though. My hair doesn't get greasy as quickly now (the pics above were taken on day 2), and instead of washing it every other day like I normally would, I can now go 3-4 days without washing, which has made me gain 1-2 extra days, so I'm happy with that.
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Penny Goldstone is the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire, covering everything from catwalk trends to royal fashion and the latest high street and Instagram must-haves.
Penny grew up in France and studied languages and law at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris before moving to the UK for her MA in multimedia journalism at Bournemouth University. She moved to the UK permanently and has never looked back (though she does go back regularly to stock up on cheese and wine).
Although she's always loved fashion - she used to create scrapbooks of her favourite trends and looks, including Sienna Miller and Kate Moss' boho phase - her first job was at MoneySavingExpert.com, sourcing the best deals for everything from restaurants to designer sales.
However she quit after two years to follow her true passion, fashion journalism, and after many years of internships and freelance stints at magazines including Red, Cosmopolitan, Stylist and Good Housekeeping, landed her dream job as the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire UK.
Her favourite part of the job is discovering new brands and meeting designers, and travelling the world to attend events and fashion shows. Seeing her first Chanel runway IRL at Paris Fashion Week was a true pinch-me moment.
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