The 'No Shampoo Experiment,' Six Months Later

My switch to baking soda and ACV was supposed to last a month, but now I'm hooked.

overhead shot of person in shower washing hair with diy shampoo in glass jar

Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

My switch to washing hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar was supposed to last only a month, but now I can't stop.

It has been six months since I stopped using shampoo. It all started as a short experiment when my editor asked if I’d try the ‘no poo’ method just for the month of January. I agreed reluctantly, and together with Margaret Badore, dived headfirst into the world of extremely alternative hair care. Our experiment resulted in the “The No Shampoo Experiment.” While Margaret went cold turkey for a month, I continued to ‘wash’ my hair with baking soda and condition with apple cider vinegar.

I never dreamed I’d still be doing it at the beginning of July, but here I am, a staunch convert to the 'no poo' method with no intentions of going back. There are so many things I love about it, and this is what I tell people who are curious about my strange hair-washing habit.

There Was Almost No Adjustment Period for Me

stainless steel shower head on full blast with plants in background

Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

...which I think is common for people with really thick hair, or hair that is washed no more than once or twice a week. People with thinner, straighter hair might take a few weeks to adjust, so don't jump to conclusions too quickly about whether or not it works.

The biggest hurdle for me was psychological and getting over the fleeting smell of salad dressing in the shower as I poured vinegar over my head. (Don’t worry—it dissipates immediately and there’s no residual odor.)

My Hair Is Getting Healthier and More Manageable the Longer I Avoid Shampoo

before and after shot of giving up shampoo and switching to vinegar and baking soda

Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

It gets less greasy and I can go longer between washes, usually 4-5 days. It is softer, shinier, and less frizzy than before. I have fewer bad hair days, and can get the natural, loose curls I like with just a bit of coconut oil rubbed into my damp hair.

There have been only two times that I used natural shampoo instead of soda and vinegar, and that was when I travelled to Honduras and Mexico for writing assignments this spring. Both times I thought it was better not to get questioned about a strange white powder in my luggage. I saw a big difference after washing with shampoo. My hair was drier and frizzier, and it looked greasy within two days. I also noticed that my scalp was itchier after using shampoo, perhaps because the natural oils were stripped away.

I Love How the No ‘Poo Method Fits in With My Quest for Zero Waste Living

beauty shot of diy shampoo being made in glass jar and stirred with wooden spoon

Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

In six months, I’ve gone through one cardboard box of baking soda and I’m only halfway through the same jar of vinegar. There are no empty plastic bottles of shampoo and conditioner to toss in the recycling bin, nor the accompanying host of hair care products that I relied on to tame my hair.

If the no ‘poo method has intrigued you for a while, why not give it a try? You might be pleasantly surprised at the result. Here is what I do:

Measure 2 tbsp baking soda into a 500 mL/1 pint glass jar. Wet hair. Fill jar with water and stir to dissolve baking soda. Pour over head and scrub into hair. Rinse. Measure 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar into same jar. Add water, pour over head, and rinse almost immediately.

These amounts are for long hair. If yours is short to medium length, use 1 tbsp of baking soda and vinegar in 1 cup of water. If your hair doesn’t seem clean enough once it’s dried, use a bit more soda next time.

You can also use white vinegar, and its smell dissipates more quickly than ACV, but neither lingers after rinsing and drying. If the smell really bothers you, trying adding a few drops of essential oil to the water-vinegar mix ahead of the "conditioning" step.

I've also heard of rye flour being used as a substitute for baking soda. It's a bit gentler on the scalp than soda, and leaves hair nice and shiny; but you have to be careful to sift it well and dry hair thoroughly.