No ‘Poo: The Benefits of Ditching Your Store-Bought Shampoo

by Mio  Higashimoto

Ever heard of no ‘poo?  It’s really not what you think.

No ‘poo advocates ditching store-bought shampoo and conditioner for ethical, environmental, economic, and health reasons and replacing it with baking soda and apple cider vinegar.

I had severe dandruff that none of the store-bought shampoos cured.  Head and Shoulders made the dandruff and the itching worse.  Neutrogena’s T/Gel worked a while, then it stopped working and the itchiness came back.  Selsun Blue helps with the itching but the scent is completely intolerable to me.   I couldn’t even watch those dandruff shampoo commercials on TV where the person can’t wear black because of embarrassing dandruff.  Desperation led me to no ‘poo two years ago and I lasted a whole three months.  In short, after going no ‘poo, I found that my hair was cleaner for a longer period of time and that my dandruff problem was cured (for the duration that I went no ‘poo).

So why should you try no ‘poo?  No more harmful chemicals polluting our waterways. Looked at the ingredient list of shampoos and conditioners recently?  I don’t know about you, but I certainly do not know what most of the ingredients are, let alone how to pronounce them.  Take, for example, the ingredients in Pert Plus shampoo:   Water, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Glycol Distearate, Cocamide MEA, Dimethicone, Cetyl Alcohol, Fragrance, Sodium Citrate, Polymethacrylamidopropyltrimonium Chloride, Sodium Benzoate, PEG-14M, Dihydrogenated Tallowamidoethyl Hydroxyethylmonium Methosulfate, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Chloride, Citric Acid, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Ammonium Xylenesulfonate, D&C Yellow No. 10, FD&C Blue No. 1.  I probably should have paid better attention in chem class.

Going no ‘poo is also very animal friendly.  I highly doubt baking soda and apple cider vinegar mix needs to be tested on animals.  Companies that do not conduct animal testing proudly advertise that they do not conduct animal testing.  For a list of companies that might conduct testing on animals, click on this PETA link.  PETA has separate listings of cosmetics companies that do and do not conduct animal testing.

Another reason to try no ‘poo?  Economic reasons.  It is vastly cheaper to buy baking soda and apple cider vinegar than it is to purchase shampoo and conditioner, even if it’s a two-in-one shampoo.  After the initial shock of switching to no ‘poo, your scalp will begin to secrete less oil, and as a result, you’ll wash your hair less frequently.  Fewer washings means that you’ll stretch your baking soda and apple cider vinegar supply much longer.

Initially, there may be no difference after switching.  It took two weeks for me to notice that my hair was less oily, less itchy, and less flaky.  My main problem with no ‘poo, however, was the inconvenience of it. There are no shampoo and conditioner-filled plastic bottles ready to go.  With no ‘poo, you need to prepare your own baking soda and apple cider vinegar concoctions.  It’s not complicated, but it is very inconvenient.

Here’s the recipe:  For “shampoo,” mix together 1 tablespoon baking soda with 1 cup of warm water.   For “conditioner,” mix together 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar with 1 cup of warm water.  Warm water is very important because the one time I used regular room temperature water, it felt very cold once I dumped it onto my head.

Now for the inconvenient part.  I keep my baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and measuring spoons/cups in the kitchen.  I make the mix in the kitchen before I head to the shower and put it into two separate soda bottles.  I use soda bottles because I have a lot of them (soda is my vice), and the smaller neck allows me greater control on how much I pour onto my head at once.  I also mark with a permanent marker on the bottle itself how much water goes into the bottle so I need not constantly bring out the measuring cup.  Finally, I keep handy a newspaper so I can funnel the baking soda directly into the soda bottle.

One more piece of advice:  keep your mouth closed so the baking soda or apple cider vinegar mixtures don’t accidentally stream into your mouth.  It’s all natural so it won’t kill you, but it might dampen your enthusiasm for going no ‘poo.  The baking soda and apple cider vinegar mixes are not nearly as viscous as regular shampoo and conditioner, and hence, they do dribble all over your head no matter how careful you are.

Finally, does it work, you ask?  I had my doubts about this, but I tried it anyway, reasoning I didn’t really have anything to lose and that I’ll be wiser for the experience.  The apple cider vinegar especially worried me as well as I did not want to smell vinegary.  I even took precautions for my first attempt to make sure I didn’t have to interact with anyone immediately following my first no ‘poo experience.  But to my surprise, my hair did not have even a whiff of vinegar tainting it (with a thorough rinsing of the hair, of course) and my hair was very soft after my first no ‘poo experience.  Now, I still do no ‘poo once a week to keep my dandruff in check and use small amounts of shampoo and condition during the week because I cannot resist the sweet smell of shampoo.


Mio Higashimoto is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the East Columbia Branch.

She has a background in history and spends much of her spare time knitting, reading, hiking, and watching Star Trek reruns.




  1. Sounds fine if you want to drop everything you touch for the rest of the day and attract bees.

  2. I heard about this “no poo” option more than a decade ago and was intrigued. Something about it made so much sense. Clearly, humans didn’t evolve with shampoo at the ready. And animals seem to do just fine not washing their fur with soap. But it seemed too drastic: the person who told me about this said you could NEVER wash your hair.

    Fast forward: I started no-pooing a few years ago upon the rec of a hairdresser, and it’s been a fantastic choice. My hair is so much more luxurious and soft: the kind of soft that marketers valiantly claim their products will create. I do use a no-poo product and, on occasion, a small amount of super-diluted Dr Bronners. All in all, I’m really happy with my choice and heartily recommend it to others.

    I use this product, found at Tagi’s in Thunder Hill –

  3. Nicoline Smits

    One of my son didn’t wash his hair with shampoo for several years. He has the most beautiful, thick, curly hair! I would kill for hair like his, but I can’t quite bring myself to go no shampoo. I’m afraid my hair might get thoroughly greasy and smelly. Though I have to say my son smelled fine, overall (unless he had been working at the petting farm, sometimes)…

  4. Darlyn Dyson

    I’ve been using the “no ‘poo” method for only one day so far. I LOVE the method so much!! Prior to doing this method, my scalp was frequently itchy and my hair used to dry so quickly.

  5. I started using this method just over a month ago. At first my hair was fine and then it got really greasy. I tried leaving the baking soda in my hair for a few min to absorb more of the oil. My hair looks and feels wonderful. I often get comments on how my hair looks and people are often surprised that i use baking soda and apple cider vinegar. I have also noticed that I can go longer periods withouth washing my hair at all which is so nice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>