What Is No Poo? Plus, How to Wash Your Hair Without Shampoo!

BY Rahimah Herd · February 22, 2018

model with dry shampoo I Dermstore Blog

Popular with curly-hair types, cleansing without shampoo, or “no pooing,” has become somewhat of a movement over the years. Derived from the belief that commercial shampoos can strip the hair of its natural oils, no pooers feel that forgoing shampoo can have exceptional benefits on the look and feel of their hair. Some report having softer and smoother strands, less dandruff and a healthier sheen. No pooing also has some bearings in the green and eco-conscious community, too, with those hoping to curb the usage of plastic packaging or spend less, opting for diluted baking soda and vinegar rinses instead.

What’s in Traditional Shampoo?

According to an article published by McGill University, shampoos do not nourish, energize or rejuvenate hair, because unlike skin, the hair is not alive. Traditional shampoos are meant to cleanse hair and nothing more. “There is no scientific reason that hair should be washed every day,” the article says. “Most people don’t enjoy greasy hair, so they ‘poo.'”

Traditional shampoos are typically made with foaming agents like sodium lauryl or sodium laureth sulfate, which is a great cleansing agent but can also strip your hair dry, causing your scalp to overcompensate by producing more sebum (your hair’s natural oil). This creates a vicious cycle of greasy hair needing to be washed frequently. According to some hair experts, these harsh detergents can dry out the scalp, irritate sensitive skin (when not properly rinsed out) and create frizz.

“Sulfates don’t add nutrients to the strands. [Overusing them] can strip hair follicles of essential oils which can cause your color to fade, dryness, untamable frizz and damage to the scalp,” says Justin Anderson, creative director at dpHUE and celebrity colorist at Chris McMillan salon. “It’s like when you overwash your favorite T-shirt and it starts to fade. Shampoo can [act] like detergent and make your color fade over time, as well.’’

The Case for Alternative Hair Cleansers

So should you ditch your shampoo altogether and join the “no poo” movement? Hair expert and co-founder of The DevaCurl Academy Shari Harbinger says not necessarily. Just because you’ve decided to stop using commercial shampoo doesn’t mean you can’t cleanse your hair and scalp as often as necessary. “Shampooing can mean different things to different people, depending on their product of choice,” she explains. “At DevaCurl, ‘shampoo’ does not exist in our brand. We removed the ‘poo,’ or the harsh dehydrating detergents from our products and refer to our sulfate-free, botanically infused products as ‘cleansers’ and NOT ‘shampoo.'”

Lucky for us, there’s now a wealth of hair-washing options and shampoo alternatives to choose from. Here’s how to determine the right one for your hair needs:

  1. No Poo (or no shampoo): a shampoo alternative or sulfate-free shampoo product
    • What it does: gently cleanses hair without causing frizz, dryness or stripping hair color
    • Who’s it for: curly, color-treated, dry, frizzy or damaged hair types
  2. Low Poo: a mild lather cleanser or washing less frequently
    • What it does: gently cleanses hair without causing frizz
    • Who’s it for: all hair types, especially curly, wavy, dry, coarse or damaged hair
  3. Co-Washing (or conditioner washing): using a non-lathering conditioner to cleanse hair
    • What it does: gently cleanses the hair, detangles and adds moisture
    • Who’s it for: all hair types, especially curly, thick, dry, damaged, color-treated or coarse hair
  4. Dry Shampoo: a waterless, starch-based shampoo in an aerosol or powder formula
    • What it does: absorbs oil and residue
    • Who’s it for: oily, color-treated or curly-hair types or those pressed for time, frequent gym-goers
  5. Water-Only Washing: a water-only–based cleansing method
    • What it does: breaks up dirt and oil, moisturizes and protects the hair
    • Who’s it for: all hair types, best for those who are styling product–free, since this method may not remove silicones or heavy waxes

How to Make the Switch to No Poo 

Those with oily hair may find that making the switch to no poo will initially give them greasier-looking locks. There is an adjustment period, but over time, you should see favorable results. To ease into the no poo method, try using an apple cider vinegar rinse. “[Our Vinegar Hair Rinse] will gently cleanse, breaking up the molecular structure of buildup without stripping natural oils. This will train your scalp over time to produce less oil,” explains Justin.

Ready to take the no poo plunge? Or already a fan and need more product recommendations? Below, we’ve got you covered:

1. For a Soothed, Healthier Scalp

Less itch? Fewer flakes? Yes, please. With scalp-soothing ingredients like peppermint, tee tree oil and witch hazel, this scalp treatment alleviates a dry, itching scalp in no time. Binchotan charcoal detoxifies the scalp to draw out impurities, while biotin strengthens and enables healthy hair growth. Massage a couple drops into your scalp each day without rinsing for a cool, clean feeling.

Try: Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Tea Tree Scalp Treatment

2. For Smoother, Shinier Locks

Eliminating shampoo from your routine may initially result in oilier-looking strands, but hope is not lost thanks to this fabulous hair rinse. A scalp cleanser and conditioner in one, it’s the perfect alternative for your no poo routine. It gently rids your hair of buildup and boosts shine with the help of apple cider vinegar and plant extracts. The nifty applicator tip makes it easy to evenly distribute onto your scalp. dpHUE’s creative director Justin Anderson says, “It’s perfect for when you need a clean that won’t strip your hair: daily, weekly, after the gym or when you need to freshen hair between shampoos. It’s your one-stop shop for color-safe clean.”

Try: dpHUE Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse

3. For Clean, Hydrated and Frizz-Free Curls

For curly-haired gals, finding the right products to get your hair looking and feeling right can often feel like an endless quest, but DevaCurl’s No-Poo Decadence just may fit the bill. This sulfate-free shampoo has a gentle yet highly moisturizing formula that removes dirt and oil while hydrating each strand. Peppermint oil shines as the star ingredient to clarify the scalp while lending a clean, fresh scent.

Try: DevaCurl No-Poo Decadence

4. For that No-Shower Showered Look

Have you recently perfected the art of second-day hair and refuse to let all that pretty go to waste? Then you need a dry shampoo. Or, perhaps you had a little too much fun on Sunday Funday (and need to snooze an extra 20 minutes come Monday morning), then you, my friend, need a dry shampoo. Klorane’s must-have formula is a customer fave that instantly absorbs oil and gives added body. Plus, its petite size makes stashing it in gym bags or carry-ons a breeze.

Try: Klorane Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk – Aerosol 

5. For Hydrated Curls that Bounce

We know that curly-hair types are prone to frizz and dryness, so using gentle cleansers, like this one from Ouidad, can keep delicate curls feeling cleansed and nourished. Packed with rich oils like coconut and Abyssinian, this co-washing conditioner deeply moisturizes curls, boosts manageability and adds shine. Rich and non-foaming, this luxurious formula will have you eagerly awaiting your next shower.

Try: Ouidad Curl Immersion No-Lather Coconut Cleansing Conditioner 

Rahimah Herd

Rahimah Herd is a Beauty Copywriter at Dermstore. Throughout her career, she’s written about everything from furniture to fashion. You can catch her at the beach, in bookstores or booking her next flight.

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