One of the most popular methods out of the Purely Primal Skincare Guide is the “No ‘Poo” (or, No Shampoo) method of cleansing the hair. It’s a simple, inexpensive, basically product-free way of cleansing that uses only baking soda and apple cider vinegar (or another acidic solution, like lemon juice) instead of shampoo and conditioner in the shower!
Not only that, but it’s a fun little term to confuse folks with. (“No Poo? what?”)
Note: I’ve had conversations with stylists who are horrified by the idea, fearing the baking soda is too harsh. In fact, however, baking soda has an incredibly low score on the abrasivity scale (a scale often used in dentistry called relative dentin abrasivity) versus other “cleansers” used in conventional shampoos.
Baking soda FEELS grainy and harsh to us, but truthfully, the stripping chemicals used in conventional shampoo register much more “harsh” to the hair than baking soda. That’s why I like this method so much.
This method is so easy and inexpensive that it’s easy to fall in love with. Here’s a picture of my results when I first started using this method in 2011. No ‘Poo has kept my hair smooth, shiny and strong for years running!
Here’s the thing, though: just because I like this method and list it as a favorite in the Guide DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE TO LIKE IT. If it doesn’t work for you, don’t feel bad or try to force it. It’s not the only natural solution for safe hair care.
Like every other self-care routine on the planet, there’s NO one-size-fits-all. We’re all looking for the best solution that works with our body chemistry and our environment. That’s why ‘No Poo is NOT the only hair care solution I mention in the guide.
If you’re up for trying it, there’s often a 1-3 week “adjustment period” as your scalp – and you – adjust to the new routine. Hair and scalp can feel any mix of oily, dry, or a combination of both. Hair can frizz out or limp up. And then, suddenly, it becomes perfect.
When it works, it’s wonderful.
But it doesn’t always work, and many folks like to troubleshoot before they give up altogether. Here are a few reasons why No Poo might not be working for you.
Reason #1: your water is too hard.
How to tell: your hair looks fried and feels dry and crunchy, even after the “adjustment period.”
To make this method work, the hardness (or lack thereof) of your water must be juuuust right.
“Hard water” simply means your water is rich in minerals. Minerals create an incredibly alkaline solution (the hair is more acidic, naturally) and the harder your water, the more difficult it is to achieve that “balancing act” between the baking soda (which further alkalinizes) and apple cider vinegar (which brings back the natural acid balance).
Baking soda, or bicarbonate, combines with calcium ions in very hard water and creates an even harder-water solution. This is a recipe for “over-cleansing.”
Make sense? No? Good. I’m no chemist, but I’ve been told (in layman’s terms) that this is what’s up. Whatever happens, it often looks like this:
What to do: if you don’t know how hard your water is, there’s an easy way to test whether too many minerals is your problem. It involves just one extra step to the routine.
If it works, you can make this extra step part of your routine. If you don’t want to work that hard, you can use a “natural” shampoo and conditioner of your choosing, OR try one of the other options or products outlined in the guide!
Simply take your normal solution of baking soda and water and boil it for a few minutes (you may have to play with boiling time – the harder you suspect your water, the longer you may want to boil).
Boiling precipitates calcium (a mineral) out of the solution, making the water softer!
Allow the solution to cool to a temperature you’re comfortable using in the shower, and No ‘Poo as usual! If your hair feels different using this method, you know that your water was too hard to begin with. And you also know how to fix it!
You CAN pre-make this solution; however, you run the risk of having a cold days-old solution poured over your head in the shower. I prefer warm water, so I’d probably make a new solution each time. It’s a minimal amount of water, so shouldn’t take long to prepare.
Further, once you adjust to No Poo, you want to be washing just a few times each week anyway. (See #2.)
If hard water is your problem, you can also try installing a softening shower head. These work for many folks, although not everyone has success. It depends on your water, your plumbing, and your personal needs. They’re pretty affordable, though, so may be worth a try!
(Plus, you shouldn’t need to use this method too often – see Reason #2!)
Reason #2: you’re doing it too often.
How to tell: Your hair will feel dry, fried, and like straw – much like #1 (above).
No ‘Poo is beautifully simple, and it removes all the extra so-called “conditioners” (I like to call them “coaters”) in conventional hair products that encase the hair, claiming to “protect it.”
Because No ‘Poo leaves nothing but a clean, balanced scalp and hair shaft, it’s unnecessary (and not advisable) to use that method daily. And you don’t need to do anything else on “off” days – in fact, you may find that you don’t need to wash your hair every day at all!
It’s a deep cleansing way to wash, and just like other “cleansing” shampoos, it’s not intended for everyday use. It’s supposed to set you FREE from daily washing!
Rule of thumb: aim for No ‘Poo three to four times per week, max. The other days, don’t wash your hair at all.
Reason #3: you’re leaving the vinegar rinse on too long.
How to tell: your hair feels oily, slick, or like waxy straw.
The vinegar rinse serves to correct the pH of your hair and scalp. If you leave it on too long, the over-correction can lead to a strange, oily/waxy feeling.
What to do: shorten that vinegar rinse time! When I pour the solution over my head, I rinse it out immediately.I don’t wait one second before I rinse it right out! Play with timing, and you should find your solution.
Those are the top three reasons No ‘Poo might not be working for you!
If you still have “ifs,” “ands,” or “buts,” it may simply be that No ‘Poo just isn’t for you – and that’s OK! That just means you get to explore a bit more.
Primal Life Organics has a clay-based “Dirty ‘Poo” that many people swear by, and other people have washed with everything from lemon juice to whole eggs or egg yolks.
The Purely Primal Skincare Guide discusses several other methods and products for cleansing the hair, and there are many other ideas all across the internet! Get creative, and have fun!
Thanks for reading!