Last Update: September 29, 2022
On a scorching day last summer, I was driving by a salon and in the heat of the moment, I impulsively pulled over. In a flash of what felt like divine inspiration, I decided to chop off my waist-long hair.
I’ve never really been attached to my tresses. In high school, a friend declared them “dead tentacles” and that’s how I’ve thought of them ever since. Also, I’m a low maintenance chick, and I’m way happier in general when I keep things simple. But after letting a hairstylist friend “practice” doing highlights on my head years ago, effortless hair went out the window—or more accurately, broke off onto my brush and went into the garbage. Traumatized, I suddenly had to care for my hair A LOT in order to get it back to a healthy state.
A while back, I overhauled my whole beauty regimen to banish anything tested on animals—natural, cruelty-free beauty all the way. I’m obsessed. So when I decided to skip shampoo for our latest “Thrive Tries It,” I was stoked. Mainstream hair products are more often than not, loaded with chemicals and tested on animals.
The name for this method is little misleading—no, that doesn’t mean what you think—“poo” is short for shampoo! I’m always down to simplify my beauty routine even more, especially when I can do it with stuff already in my pantry. Plus, fans of “no poo” swear it transformed their hair, and mine could use a miracle.
So what’s the deal? The most common “no poo” method is to wash hair with baking soda and condition with apple cider vinegar. The theory is that using this base and acid combo balances the hair’s pH. It sounded kind of scary at first. I mean, baking soda can be used to scrub toilets clean, and is a key ingredient in making volcanic “lava” in elementary school science projects—so it seemed inappropriate for my scalp! I decided to skip it and see how far ACV alone would take me. It was only the lesser of two evils, though—I’m not a fan of this pungent scent. But I was promised shiny hair, so okay.
For ACV conditioner, I simply put about a half cup of water into a jar and topped it off with about an eighth cup of ACV. I poured half the mixture onto my scalp and hair and worked it all around. ACV is supposed to be a good detangler, and I’ll attest to that—I could comb my wet hair easily afterwards. And after air drying, my hair seemed clean, and even had a little bit more body. Cool.
The next couple of days doing this though, my hair got progressively greasier. Ponytail time! By the fourth day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I sprinkled a quarter-sized dollop of baking soda onto my palm and worked it throughout my scalp, avoiding the shafts and ends since I was afraid of damaging my fried hair even more. I conditioned with the ACV mixture. The baking soda did seem to cut the grease a bit, but my hair was nothing to really rave about.
After my boyfriend casually noted the vinegar smell, I was over it. On the sixth day, I skipped the baking soda and ACV, but I still went “no poo” and just used one of my regular conditioners. My hair was still a little bit oily, but manageable.
By the seventh day, I found the magic formula. I bit the bullet and doused a whole palm full of baking soda onto my scalp, again avoiding the shaft and ends. This time instead of ACV, I opted for my Alba Botanica Coconut Milk Conditioner. I went to sleep with wet hair, like I always do, and the next day, my hair’s texture was pretty awesome. The once brittle patches from my bad bleach job of the past seemed to blend delicately into a soft tousle. And at work, people noticed, chalking up my pretty hair to my “no poo” experiment.
I gave baking soda and ACV one more chance after that, but it really didn’t compare to using real conditioner. Some proponents of this “no poo” method say it takes weeks and months of habitual use before the transformation occurs. For me, that’s the opposite of effortless. As tempting as it is to continue shampooing with baking soda (it’s so cheap, and seriously, my hair was super soft), my gut says it’s not the best idea to do it long-term. I’m not interested in another potential hair disaster. Luckily, I have tons of natural, cruelty-free shampoos and conditioners to choose from.
Photo credit: Dana Poblete
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