Saturday, February 25, 2012

Secrets to my No Poo Success

OK... for those of you who may not be "in the know" on such things, "no poo" means not using shampoo, as opposed to one horrendous case of constipation as the title implies.


And yes, I have been happily cleansing my hair sans shampoo since 2008. Going "no poo" seems to be all the rage in both eco and frugal circles these days, but I've read numerous accounts of people who've tried it for a while and then run into trouble and thrown in the towel.

So I figured I'd give y'all a quick run down of what works for me. Thanks to Amy over at Money 4 This Not 4 That for encouraging me to post this stuff. Before I start I just want to point out that I'm by no means an expert. In fact, I'm just some random person who is writing about her own experiences, so please remember that this is free advice that you got on the internet, from a woman who really has no clue what she's talking about, so take that into consideration when making decisions about your own beauty routines.


Anyhow, lest my actual system get totally lost in my blathering drivel, I figured I'd give it to you up front.

So here's what works for me:
  • Step 1: Wash with a mild baking soda solution. My solution is 2 tablespoons of baking soda with 500 ml of water and I use about half a cup per wash.
  • Step 2: Rinse thoroughly
  • Step 3: Apply citric acid solution to hair. My solution is mixed at the same strength as the baking soda... 2 tablespoons of citric acid powder in 500 ml of water, and I also use about half a cup. Please note: citric acid stings like words even I won't say if you get it in your eyes, so use some caution here.
  • Step 4: Using a fine toothed comb, comb hair thoroughly (at least 100 strokes per side) with the acid solution on it. You'll probably notice some gray colored gunk coming out in the teeth of the comb. I generally keep combing until the gunk either stops or I get tired of it (whichever comes first.)
  • Step 5: Rinse thoroughly
  • Step 6: Rub a few drops of jojoba oil into the hair, avoiding the scalp area. Comb in and let sit for about 5 minutes
  • Step 7: Rinse thoroughly
  • Step 8: When out of the tub wrap hair in terry cloth towel for about 5 mintues
  • Step 9: Comb with wide toothed comb
  • Step 10: Take about an eighth of a teaspoon of coconut oil and rub it between your palms until it turns liquid. Work it into the ends of your hair with a scrunching motion. Continue scrunching hair until it curls nicely.
  • Step 11: Let hair air dry

OK... so that's my system, now for the blathering part.

It seems that over the years I have amassed a huge amount of info, scientific data and/or wive's tales about various methods and recipes, and to tell the truth, I could sort of write a novel on this topic. And looking back at this post, it would seem that my brain was more clogged with anecdotes and semi-useless bits of info than I realized, so I apologize for the lengthy nature of this post!


Anyhow, since I don't think most people will want to wade through all if this, I've tried to blather in sections so if anybody comes here looking for info they'll have some prayer of finding what they're looking for.

Basic Information and Quick Troubleshooting Guide
OK... so your scalp, like the rest of your skin has sebaceous glands which produce an oily/waxy substance called sebum.We've got these glands all over our bodies, but there are more of them on our scalps and faces than any place else. All mammals produce sebum, and it's basically the stuff that helps to make the hair/fur waterproof.


The sebum is sticky and waxy, and tends to make your hair hang together in clumps, especially when you've got too much of it. Now, most people in the "no poo" movement believe that modern shampoos, by stripping the scalp of it's normal sebum, sort of trick it into thinking that it needs to produce more, and thus, we have an over production of the stuff. I've never seen any scientific evidence for this "over production" theory, and my medically inclined friends think it's nonsense, but I have noticed that as the years have gone by I need to wash my hair less and less. Not sure if I'm actually producing less sebum, or if my standards are just getting lower... either is a possibility!


At any rate, the goal here is to remove enough of the sebum so your hair looks clean, but leave enough in place to keep your hair healthy and shiny. Sounds easy enough, but I found that getting to the right amount of sebum was a somewhat tricky proposition.

Anyhow, the signs of having too much sebum are pretty obvious. Your hair will look oily, though it often feels sticky and heavy. The other common problem that people have with the "no-poo" method is a build up of a soap scum like material from the baking soda. When you've got a build up of scum, the hair tends to look dull, and feel almost brittle or crunchy. A more acidic rinse will help both problems, but if you're experiencing too much sebum a better brushing routine can be helpful, and if you've got a scum build up, you might want to try using less baking soda.

Thoughts on Motivation




Many people decide to forego shampoo for a variety of reasons. Some want to save money, some have environmental concerns, and some don't want to be exposed to the chemicals lurking in the seemingly harmless bottle of shampoo. While these are all noble rationales for abstaining, I fear my own personal motivation was a tad bit less um... lofty.

And to tell the truth, there were some real ugly patches along the way, so I'm not entirely sure I would have stuck with it if I was simply acting out a do-gooder impulse. But fortunately, my motivation was much more personal and banal.

Motivating factor number one: Allergies. As the world's most allergic human, I had developed a strange, barely visible rash which my doctor diagnosed as nummular eczema. Seriously folks, I wouldn't wish this stuff on my worst enemy, it itched so bad that it sort of made me want to rip my skin off. The doctor said I basically just had to live with it, and gave me Prednisone cream. The cream helped a bit, but then I had developed a case of chronic hives, and at that point I decided to take matters into my own hands. After some internet research I concluded that part of the problem might be my habit of soaking for hours in a hot tub, which, when I washed my hair meant subjecting my skin to what essentially amounts to a chemical detergent.

Motivating factor number two: my hair looked like shit.


I had greasy oily roots, a wavy OK looking middle section, and ends that stuck out like straw. I tried every commercial product under the sun and was pretty much at my wits end. They say that vanity will get you nowhere, but in my case, this turned out not to be true.

Silicones
So, when I first decided to try not using shampoo, I had no idea that there were other crazy people out there doing this too. I was actually surfing channels late at night and an infomercial for some non-shampoo hair product called Wen came on. Normally I wouldn't subject myself to something like an infomercial, but this one featured Melissa Gilbert, and as a life long fan of Little House on the Prairie, I'd watch just about anything with Melissa Gilbert in it.


Anyhow, there was no way I was gonna shell out some ungodly sum of money for this product, but the concept that perhaps it wasn't healthy to wash out all of the natural oils, and that shampoo wasn't actually necessary for life ingrigued me.

So I decided that instead of paying for some fancy system that wasn't shampoo, I'd just try rinsing my hair with water and see what happened. And the result was... complete and total disgusting disaster!


I'm sure that there were many factors contributing to the total fail I experienced first time out of the shoot, but one of the big ones was silicones. Apparently most modern conditioners and styling products contain ingredients that are made from silicone. Since modern shampoos strip hair of its natural oils and sebum, the silicones coat each shaft of hair and basically do the job that the sebum otherwise would. The problem is that they don't allow any of the natural oils to absorb into the hair shaft, so you end up having to wash and condition every day... which is great for the people selling shampoo and conditioner, but not so great if you want to get out of the cycle of daily washing.

Well, in my vain attempts (ha ha) to get my straw like ends to behave, I had been using just about every leave-in conditioner, curling gel and any other product I could think of... all of which contained a hefty dose of silicone. If you look at the label, anything ending in "zane" "xane" "cone" or "conol" is a silicone ingredient, and since most aren't water soluble, they probably won't just rinse out.


Sooooo, if you've been using products with silicones in them, you should do a clarifying wash with a non-silicone containing sulfate shampoo before you start this process. Pretty much any cheap basic shampoo should do the trick (pretty much all shampoos these days have sulfates in them). Once I got my silicones washed out, the process went a LOT smoother.


Why your Water Matters




Apparently, not all water is created equal when it comes to its ability to get things clean. I'm not scientific enough to explain this all in detail, but my kindergarten level understanding is that the harder the water, the worse job it does. Basically, hard water is water that has a lot of minerals dissolved in it - mostly calcium and magnesium, and it causes soap scum to form instead of lather, which causes all soap related cleansers (see the baking soda section) to clean less effectively. In fact, I read somewhere in my travels that when detergents were first introduced, one of their main selling points was that they cleaned just as well in hard water as soft.

Anyhow, I believe that the harder your water is, the stronger acid rinse you need to use. I think lots of things can contribute to the hardness of your water including where you live, the time of year, and the age of the pipes in your home. Here's a water hardness map of the US (from the United States Geological Survey) to give you a general idea:


If you'll notice, Denver is right smack dab in the middle of hard water country, so this may explain why I had such a hard time finding something acidic enough to work for me. This is just a guess, and I know every head of hair is different, but I kind of think that variations in water hardness might have something to do with why people report such different results when trying to go "no poo." My guess is that people in hard water areas have difficulties right off the bat, while people in soft water areas generally experience great results at first, and then succumb to a build up of sebum and scum as time wears on. That's just a guess though.



Thoughts on Baking Soda



OK, here's what I know about baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate as it's also called. It has a ph of 9 putting it on the alkaline or base side of the scale (7 is neutral.) Now, if you know anything about soap, you might recall that soap is generally made by mixing some sort of oil or fat with lye, which has a ph of about 13 making it very alkaline. Soooo, the way baking soda works to clean your hair is by actually mixing with the oils on your scalp and forming a very mild soap of sorts.

I've also met some people who use borax (which has a ph of  about 9.5) instead of baking soda. In fact, when I first set out on this journey I happened upon an article written around 1900 detailing how women should wash their hair at least once a month in a borax solution. I wish I had kept a copy because the article was priceless and I can't find it now.


Anyhow, I tried borax and had a really hard time getting the stuff to dissolve in water. I've also read some reports that it might be somewhat toxic, so I decided to stick with baking soda.

At any rate, knowing that the goal was to make "scalp soap" helped me figure out how much to use. I'm sure the necessary concentration will vary according to a bunch of factors, including the hardness of your water (see above) but when I get it right, it actually starts to feel slippery or soapy. If I've been really lazy and haven't washed my hair for a week or more, making it more greasy, I can sometimes swear that it actually makes a very light lather.

Acid Rinse Issues
OK, so the point of rinsing with something acidic is two fold. First of all, when you use any soap based cleanser, and baking soda counts as soap based for our purposes, you're gonna get at least some degree of soap scum.


The scum is actually a type of salt left over from when the soap reacts with minerals in the water (hence, the harder the water, the more scum). Acids will dissolve the salts and minerals and help to remove this scum or buildup. Acids will also cut through grease and wax, so they do a good job of helping to dissolve and remove excess sebum. You don't want to mix your baking soda (base) with your acid however, because this will cause them to react with each other rather than to actually clean your hair.

Now I'm sure that most people out there who have heard of "no poo" have been told that they should wash with baking soda and rinse with a diluted apple cider vinegar solution.


I tried the ACV approach, and, to be honest, it really didn't work for me. First of all, I couldn't stand the smell. They all say that the smell goes away once it dried, but according to the nose of CatMan, this is not true. It also didn't seem to leave my hair shiny and smooth like it's supposed to, especially when diluted.

Sooo... I tried lemon juice. It worked OK, but had several disadvantages, the main one being that you have to keep it in the refrigerator. I seriously can't count the number of times I'd be settling into a nice hot bath, only to realize that I'd forgotten the lemon juice again! I sort of got tired of streaking through the house to get it and then pouring ice cold liquid on my head. Lemon juice can also bleach your hair and/or turn it a reddish color. As a strawberry blonde, neither of these things was really a concern for me, and I never noticed any change in the color of my hair, but I still didn't have that nice smooth shiny feel like people claimed.


So, I decided that perhaps since we have really hard water, I just needed something stronger. At that point I switched to straight, undiluted distilled white vinegar and FINALLY my hair started working. It actually stopped feeling sticky and crunchy and started being really nice, smooth, shiny and soft. Hooray! I still couldn't stand the smell so I'd mix some essential oils in with the vinegar and while this helped, I still felt like a walking Easter Egg, but at least my hair looked better.


And then came the attack of the yellow jackets... I suddenly started getting stung right and left. Then, after getting 3 stings at once, my whole leg swelled up like a sweet potato and I had to be put on steroids. I couldn't figure out what was going on, and in doing research I found out that vinegar is used in wasp traps because they're attracted to the smell! OY!


At this point I actually got so discouraged that I tried going back to shampoo... once. I washed my hair, got out of the tub and within about 20 minutes was totally covered with hives again! Soooo... back to the acid drawing board.

I tried vitamin C powder, and it worked OK, but not as good as the vinegar had. The solution also tended to turn a funny brown color after a day or two, and since I had read an article about the dangers of using rancid vitamin C in skin applications, I decided it wasn't gonna work.

Then CatMan suggested citric acid. It's used as a preservative in most commercial shampoos and conditioners, it's odorless, and comes in a powder form so you can mix it to the strength that you need. Finally!!!


It totally worked and I'm very, VERY happy with the results! You can usually buy citric acid wherever you get supplies for canning and preserving. I actually got a big 5 pound bag on Amazon.com for not much money.


Thoughts on Brushing
Now, many people who do the "no poo" thing go all out and use a water only method. The first 6 months that I tried this, I somehow decided that this was the goal, and... well, it pretty much made me miserable. The basic plan with water only washing is that you just wash your hair with water to remove any dirt etc, and then after it dries you brush thoroughly to remove the excess sebum. It works best if you use a natural fiber brush like boar's hair or, if your hair is thicker, a wooden bristle brush.


The theory is that it both removes the excess sebum (because it sticks to the bristles of the brush) and it also helps to move the oils and sebum down the hair shaft to distribute it evenly and make your hair evenly "moisturized".

Soooo... I got a wooden bristle brush and I brushed... and I brushed... and I brushed. I'm not sure if it was because of the hard water, or if I just have a particularly sebumy scalp, but I would literally brush for hours a day and it still felt like my hair was glued to my scalp. In about an hour's time, I'd generally have a ball of sebum about the size of a large marble that I'd scraped off the brush bristles, but my hair still felt like it was waxed to my head. And my scalp was literally raw from all of the brushing...

So, after about 6 months I decided I'd never make it as a purist, and devised my own system. My hair tangles easily, so I generally keep a plastic comb in the bathtub and use it to comb in whatever I'm using in my hair. One day I was combing in my acid rinse, and noticed a bunch of gunk coming off on the comb.


I believe this gunk is some combination of sebum, baking soda residue, and dead scalp skin (lovely thought, I know). Anyhow, I discovered that the combination of the acid rinse and the combing really helps to get rid of the extra sebum and remove any sticky feeling. I actually read about one system that involves using a washcloth on the wet hair instead of a comb... I tried it for a while, but combing seemed to work better.

Anyhow, I know some people say that you should never comb your hair when it's wet because it can easily break, but I found that much less hair comes out with this method than with the hours and hours of brushing that I tried before, And I really found that the combination of the strong acid and the physical combing was what I needed to get the sebum down to manageable levels.

Adding extra Oils
After about 18 months without shampoo or other hair care products, I started to notice that my hair was feeling a tad bit dry and prone to static. It may be that I've done too good of a job of removing the sebum... I don't know. At any rate, I found people on the web using all sorts of oils as a hair conditioner. The one that really worked for me was jojoba oil.


Apparently it's actually more of a wax than an oil and will soak into the hair shaft in much the same way that our natural sebum does. I use a tiny bit (like a few drops) and avoid getting it near my scalp. It leaves my hair shiny and soft. Jojoba can be a tad bit pricey, but since I use it instead of lotion for my skin, I buy it in bulk on eBay.

If the ends still look a bit dry, or don't seem to be curling well, I use a bit of coconut oil on them.


I also LOVE how the coconut oil smells! I'm not sure how the oils help to make it curl, but they sure seem to do the trick.


OK!!! So there it is... everything you never wanted to know about hair care without shampoo. I hope someone, somewhere, sometime finds something useful in this excruciatingly long brain dump.


If not, at least I've kept you out of trouble for an hour or two!

So how about you? Have you tried no poo? What did or didn't work for you?

p.s. Comments on this post are moderated - so your comment won't appear until I approve it, which (provided you aren't a spammer) I will do usually within a day. I welcome your thoughts and really enjoy hearing about other people's experiences with the whole no poo thing!

189 comments :

  1. I am one of those who tried it and went back to shampoo. I used baking soda and vinegar and it worked just fine, my hair stayed cleaner longer. I went back to the shampoo for the simple reason that I just didn't enjoy putting cold baking soda and water on my head and then cold vinegar (our bathroom stays cool). Plus the gritty-ness of the baking soda just doesn't make you feel good like sudsing up your hair with shampoo. I know, not good reasons at all but it was my reason. I just got sick of the cold gritty feeling in my hair.

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    1. Hmmm... well, first of all, I'm not a no poo evangelist, so I don't really think that everybody needs to do this. But if the baking soda felt gritty you were probably using WAY too much. It should be completely dissolved in the water.

      I share the cold icky thing though... if I weren't so lazy I'd mix up just enough for that washing and do it with warm water! :~)

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    2. I seriously dislike the cold stuff too. Soooo I set my glass jars on the bottom of the tub while my hot water rushes over them, shake them a couple times and use. Solves it for me. :)

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    3. Great idea! I may have to try that. :-)

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    4. I keep my BS in a tupperware on the bathroom counter. Put a spoonful in my cup and jump in the shower. Fill the cup with shower water, mix and wash. after rinsing my hair and the cup I almost fill the cup with warm water and then add a glug of ACV for my acid rinse. Leave the cup in the shower upside down so it dries and does not collect water. easy peasy - and WARM

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    5. Sounds like a great idea. I actually tried mixing my solutions as needed, but it turns out I'm WAY too clutzy for that approach. After the second or third time that I accidentally bumped the box of baking soda and dumped it into the tub I decided to stick with pre-mixing!

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  2. Another no-poo-er here. I'm still with the baking soda solution followed with dilute vinegar. I keep them both in a spray bottle, which mitigates the cold water on head feeling. My hair doesn't get oily-feeling like it used to, but it does begin to stand up in vaguely intimidating ways.

    The over-production theory makes sense to me, not in some DNA-changing way, but day-to-day. Like, you pour the SLS on your head and strip the sebum off, and the cells go WHOA! MORE SEBUM! so then you have to wash it out the next day, etc.

    I avoid borax because we are usually letting our graywater run onto the ground, and borax will kill plants.

    I have been seen rubbing some cornstarch into my scalp in-between no-poos.

    For people (like Becky) who don't want the sulfates but love suds, I suggest some nice SLS-free shampoo. I like Organix, and it's available at the Evil Empire.

    Disclaimer: I don't have to go out into the world! So, my standards are lower and I don't work as hard to tweak my system. Still, I like it much better than using conventional sulfate-containing shampoos.

    Roxanne
    The Good Luck Duck

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    1. Hmmm... the spray bottle is an interesting idea, but my hair is so long and thick that I'd probably give myself tendinitis trying to spray out enough of it!

      I'm a big fan of low standards! :~)

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  3. This is really the answer to my prayers! I've been trying to research as much as possible before I make the plunge to go shampoo-free. Quick question though: I have a sensitive scalp that flakes and becomes inflamed when irritated. Would citric acid be okay to use on my head? Great article by the way :)

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    1. Hmmm... that's a good question, and I'm not sure of the answer. What I've read is that some amount of acidity is good for the skin. But, really, I wouldn't take my advice on it if I were you! I do know that it hurts pretty good if you get it in your eyes, but it's also the stuff they put in soda pop to give it a tart flavor, so it's not like it's a substance you wouldn't come in contact with otherwise.

      You might want to start with a much weaker solution and see how strong you need to make it. If you have softer water and/or a less oily scalp than I do, you may not need nearly as much as I use.

      Good luck and let me know what does or doesn't work for you!

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    2. Ha! I should read all of the comments before I start to reply! You might want to look at what Misty wrote below... the part about the natural ph of skin being acidic... I think that's what I was remembering when I said the thing about acidity being good for your skin.

      I believe lemon juice is about a 2.5 and vinegar is about 3.5. I think the ph of the citric acid totally depends on how strong you mix it. Hope that helps!

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  4. Very interesting post. Here are some thoughts from a licensed cosmetologist, if anyone is interested...1) baking soda mixed w/water is often recommended by stylists (frugal stylists, LOL) for removing excess product & buildup from hair. It will basically strip your hair shaft with the abrasiveness and it will raise the cuticle as well (bad for an end result but fine for this purpose when the hair is wet and carrying a negative charge and is about to be closed again). My warning about this would be for anyone with color-treated hair; it's also recommended for lightening bad color jobs. 2) Re: the citric acid/vinegar/lemon....all highly acidic. When you open the cuticle, you ideally want to close it again when you finish your routine. Much better for the health of your hair. Professional conditioners are lower in pH for exactly this purpose, and that's part of what makes your hair feel smoother. I used to recommend a vinegar/water mix in a spray bottle for frustrated moms with little girls with that baby fine hair that tangled so easily. Spraying w/vinegar water slams the cuticle shut, eliminating a lot of the tangling issue. So essentially, you've mastered the science here - force the cuticle open and then slam it shut again. 3) The natural pH of hair (and skin, btw) is 4.5-5.5, so acidic. Professional products are all within that range, or lower if it's a conditioner. We did pH testing on a TON of products in beauty school; commercial products are scary - saw some 13's. Nothing lower than a 10 from commercial products, if I remember right. All the pro products we tested were within the limits, which honestly amazed me. Also, commercial labeling requires the key ingreds only to be listed; professional products are legally required to list every. single. ingredient. So if you are allergic to something, it may or may not be in a bottle of commercial shampoo and it may or may not be listed. If it's in a bottle of professional shampoo, it will be listed.
    I really sympathize with the hives and itching issues; I have had hives once, and it left a lasting impression on me. Even with professional shampoos I occasionally buy one on sale that has a fragrance in it that leaves me with tiny red blisters so there are sensitivity issues even with pro shampoos. I've figured out roughly what works for me and since I'm licensed, I can buy on sale, in bulk and at cost, and limit how much I use and shampoo every other day. All of this makes it extremely rea$onable for me to keep doing what I'm doing. That being said, I have contemplated using coconut oil on my ends, sparingly, so I was really interested to read that. I use it sparingly on dry patches on my face and hands in the winter and it works wonderfully.

    One last thought - combing or picking through wet hair is fine. Brushing wet hair (which a surprising amount of people do) is what is very hard on it.

    Good for you for figuring all this out and sticking with it to find a method that works for you.

    Misty

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    1. Wow! Thanks for all that info! That's very interesting about the cuticle being opened and shut... I'm curious about the statement that baking soda opens it because of the abrasiveness. At the strength I'm mixing the baking soda solution, it's totally dissolved in the water, so there is no abrasiveness at all. I wonder if it still has the same effect.

      Anyhow, that's very interesting about the different requirements for listing ingredients. I actually have some hypo-allergenic shampoo and conditioner that I bought during the wasp attack period, but since the citric acid has been working so well, I never tried it.

      At some point when I feel like whining and feeling sorry for myself, I'll write up the nightmare story of how I had hives every single day for an entire year. But for the moment, I think I'll focus on other topics! :~)

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  5. Hives every day for a YEAR?? Oh my goodness; my heart just breaks for you :(
    RE: the cuticle opening from the baking soda - in school they told us even half a teaspoon in shampoo and mixed w/water would "strip" the hair of chemicals, etc (we used to do this pre-perm for better results for people on meds)- so it takes very little to be abrasive, apparently. The cuticle on a hair shaft is like the scales on a fish. You want them slick and laying down tightly; when they are open, they literally stand up (and it makes the hair very porous). Very healthy hair will take FOREVER to dry naturally as the cuticle is slammed shut and retains the moisture. Damaged hair dries much faster due to porosity factors. Opening and closing the cuticle is also done chemically with perming - the waving solution opens it (or heat will open with an acid wave solution) and the neutralizer will close it.

    Way TMI, sorry; hair is a passion of mine :)

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    1. Interesting... it does seem like my hair takes longer to dry these days. Perhaps that's a good sign. :)

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  6. Also... the pH of baking soda is 8.2 - 8.4, which is alkaline; (had to look up the pH). So chemically it will open the hair shaft as well ;-)

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    1. A ha! So it's a chemical process as well as a physical one... that makes total sense.

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  7. Great information from everyone. I love it. I also have loved using the baking soda, but I did run into problems. I implemented a few of the suggestions and I am a happy to say I am back to where my hair looks and feels awesome!!

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    1. Hooray! I'm so glad it helped! And thanks for visiting!

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  8. Wow, I think you've written a pretty comprehensive post on going no poo. I tried it for a few weeks, and while it worked fine at first, it started to work significantly less well by the end -- sticky, oily, and limp. Also, Kevin said that the smell of vinegar that lingered in my hair after the acid rinse made him feel queasy. (I didn't get any wasps, though!) So I went back to natural(ish) shampoo, though I'd be willing to do a baking soda wash every now and then to reduce my shampoo usage. I do find that combing a few drops of jojoba oil works as well or better than bothering with conditioner.

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    1. Hi Jennifer,

      Well... I'm not a purist in any sense of the word, so I don't think this is something everybody needs to do. But I'm heartened to know that I'm not the only person who could still smell the vinegar.

      BTW - your blog has decided it doesn't like me. I've tried to comment several times and it won't take. I've had similar problems on other WordPress blogs too... don't know if Wordpress has decided that I'm an evil spammer or what. Just wanted you to know that I'm still reading even if there's no evidence of it! :)

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  9. I've read/heard that Dr. Bronner's castile soap (which I can buy in bulk at my Co-op) is an alternative to shampoo. I have used it for other things (handwashing clothes while on vacation) and it is supposedly quite gentle.

    I have thick, coarse hair, so in general avoid frequent washing of my hair -- a move wholeheartedly endorsed by my cosmetologist.

    I also just bought (an expensive) oil product to put some life back into it. It's nice, but I'm sure there are more frugal alternatives.

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    1. Hi Janeen!

      I think I've read about some people using Dr. Bronner's. They also make "shampoo bars" which are essentially just soap. I tried some once, but it seemed to magnify the soap scum problem for me... but that may be because of the hard water.

      I don't know much about oil treatments, but I remember using those Alberto V05 hot oil treatments eons ago... and come to think of it, my hair does sort of feel like it did after one of those.

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    2. I wash my hair with Mrs Meyer's lavender dish soap!

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    3. Well my best friend has hair down to her ankles (not exaggerating) and she uses Dawn dish washing detergent! So clearly there's more than one way to get your hair clean!

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  10. Alright, your post has inspired me to make some changes to my no poo routine. I'm curious about the citric acid -- it sounds a little dangerous, but I know the vinegar is also an acid, so my fear is probably not logical. I have to use A LOT of vinegar for good results, so maybe the citric acid would work better (and end up being cheaper and greener)?

    Most of what I've read on curl care is anti-combing, brushing, etc., but the combing gunk out makes sense, so I'll give that a try for awhile.

    On the baking soda, I read somewhere else to boil the baking soda + water for a few minutes first, which helped me. I also use a much weaker baking soda solution: 2 teaspoons per 500mL or so of water.

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    1. Hey Melissa,

      Well, I seriously don't know much about the chemistry of this all... but vinegar contains acetic acid... that's about where my knowledge ends. When CatMan suggested citric acid he said that it is a simpler molecule... other reading I stumbled upon said that it was only one atom off from ascorbic acid (Vitamin C). What any of that means in practical terms, I couldn't say.

      There's also apparently 2 types of citric acid... anhydrous and hydrous... hydrous having some water in it and anhydrous not. I think anhydrous is stronger, but the batch of powder that I got didn't specify which it was.

      But it's used in literally EVERYTHING from canned food to cosmetics to cleansers... so I don't think it can be too dangerous.

      In terms of combing/brushing... my hair is wavy not really curly, so I don't know how it will work for you. I generally have best luck if I thoroughly brush my hair (dry) right before washing it... makes it less tangled and easier to comb everything in. But I also think that the gunk isn't quite so noticeable in curly hair because you don't get the stuck to your scalp syndrome.

      Boiling the baking soda is an interesting idea. I wonder how it's supposed to help... maybe just dissolving it more thoroughly? I'll ask the ubergeek (CatMan) if he can think of any chemical change that boiling it would make.

      Anyhow... let me know how things do or don't work! :~)

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    2. I'm water washing now, but when I was using baking soda the first 3 months were terrible until I read about the boiling trick. It said that the problem is the hard water, something about it not mixing well with the baking soda. When you boil it, it'll get the slippery feel that it's supposed to have. I never had the slippery feeling before that. Once I figured that out my transition was over.

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    3. Very interesting. My scientific better half can't think of any reason this would have an impact except that it would make it dissolve better. Perhaps I'll go do some research.

      I am impressed with people who can go water only. I fear I'm still way to chicken to try it!

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    4. According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_bicarbonate#Thermal_decomposition baking soda decomposes to washing soda when heated above 50C.

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    5. Hmmm... now that's very interesting. So perhaps folks who are boiling their baking soda are actually using washing soda instead? Of course, washing soda is much more caustic than baking soda with a ph of around 10 as opposed to baking soda's 8. But the article does say that the change is "gradual"... hmmm... thoughts to ponder. Thanks for the info!

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  11. Trying to catch up on long-neglected blog reading, which means I'm too lazy to read through all the comments. Shoot me if someone has already answered this.

    In all your research, did you see anything from folks who color their hair? I'm going to get mine done tomorrow and they are going to throw all kinds of toxic chemicals on it to make it something other than the dull, dried out fugly mess it is. I am in SoCal with the uber shitty water problem as well and have thick hair that sounds quite a bit like yours. I wonder if this method will work with colored hair or eff it up?

    I keep saying this is something I want to do, mostly because I hate buying conditioner and shampoo. Yes, you can recycle the bottles, but how many have I used in my life? Just seems kind of ridiculous.

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    1. Hey Aldra,

      Well I have ZERO experience with color treated hair (except for the time in jr. high when I decided I'd look better with jet black hair... but that's another story.)

      Misty (AKA Desiderata) said in the comments above that she'd caution against it (guess I have to shoot you now) She seems to know what she's talking about though, so you might want to read her comments.

      I did a quick Google search on "no poo color treated hair" and got a pile of conflicting answers, so... I guess I have no clue.

      Let us know if you do decide to try it and what the results were!

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  12. Your results may vary, but baking soda is my own personal go-to rescue every time I don't like a color job. The time I decided to go Rene Russo red (The Thomas Crown Affair) and again when I decided to go Lorelai Gilmore deep dark brown, it saved my hide, LOL. Chemically, color molecules penetrate the hairshaft but baking soda will both chemically and physically lift the cuticle (outermost layer of the hair shaft, which is what is keeping the color "locked in"), which can (and will) cause bleeding/dilution of color. In my case, it lifted (diluted) the color several levels.

    SOME of the color will of course be retained in the hair shaft. The tone will change though, and it will pull color. That's been my personal and professional experience. And because you would constantly be raising the cuticle every time you shampooed with baking soda, your results will not last nearly as long.

    A "real life" example of this is someone with very dry, frizzy, damaged hair. The cuticle is raised in damaged hair. It has a very hard time holding moisture, protein or color - or a perm. Because the cuticle is always raised, it will suck up a color job like a sponge - probably will oversaturate/go too dark initially. And will probably grab color unevenly. But then there's the after effect - it will release the color very quickly and the person who just shelled out good money for a pro color job is left wondering why it didn't last. A raised cuticle is like an open door. You could counteract this with using a very acidic rinse, but as color particles are very large, when that door is opened every time you shampoo with baking soda - they will "come out." Diluting the effect. Quickly.

    Cheaper commercial shampoos do the same thing - they are largely alkaline (we pH tested a ton of them in beauty school), which does the same thing as baking soda - it chemically opens the cuticle. This is why it's recommended that you use a professional shampoo with chemically processed hair - it chemically closes the cuticle if it's open or keeps it closed if it's in good condition as it's acidic, helping to retain the results you paid for. As I said in my previous post, pro products are legally required to be the same pH as hair and skin, which is acidic.

    One last thought - we have well water, which is notoriously HARD - blech! And I use baking soda to - guess what? Strip the well water minerals out of my hair.

    Not trying to push pro products here - I've been out of the business for quite awhile. Just trying to explain the chemistry :)

    Misty

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    1. Holy Moly Misty! You are a font of information. Thanks so much for lending all of your expert knowledge on this subject!

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  13. Damn! That was some good info. Thank you so much! I'm in a weird panic about the color now, so...hmmmm...I feel like I just went to school and gots me some edumicashun.

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  14. Weird panic about the color itself or about shampooing it? If I can help, holler :)

    My apologies, Cat for turning your No Poo post into hair care advice. Just want to help Demandra protect her investment; hair color is expensive.

    Misty

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    1. No apologies necessary! I'm thrilled you can help. :)

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    2. 300 years later, I respond. The current color is ass. Oh lord, I want to strangle that girl. Anyway, I'm too scattered and busy and am just going to put this no poo thing on the back burner. AGAIN. But one day, dammit! One day!

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  15. ECL! You have been holding out on me! Who knew that YOU KNEW so very, very much about this complicated topic!? Seriously, write the book - post it on the internet, charge $5 for the e-book and you are in the CHIPS!!! As you may or may not remember, I gave the 'no poo' method a shot for about 6 months and my hair pretty much instantly turned into dreadlocks (as it does pretty much anytime I do anything cool - like spent a month on the beach or a summer camping in the woods). Oh! I am still thinking of your business plan - you could also make up 'kits' with all of said products and sell them with your book! Come to think of it, can I be your agent ;)
    Thanks for sharing your WEALTH of knowledge with the world of 'no pooers' -- if (okay WHEN) I decide to get back on that train, I will know who to call!

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    1. Ha! Actually, back when I had one of my previous blogs (before the crazy people tried to sue me because they thought my blog name was a trademark infringement - remember that fun little episode?) Anyhow, there's a little home grown market in Denver, and I made up a bunch of no poo kits and gave them away there as a promo for my blog (which became totally defunct within like a month of that).

      Seriously, marketing no-poo kits and dealing with fallout from angry people when it didn't work for them, sound like WAY more PITA (pain in the a$$) than I'd be willing to put in! I think I'll just stick to the happy free information exchange!

      The dreadlocks thing is totally puzzling...I'm guessing your system didn't involve a lot of brushing? :~)

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  16. I've been using the no poo method for a couple months now. My extemely oily hair and dry flakey scalp are gone, but my hair is left feeling waxy. I love that its made it thicker, and holds hair styles like no other, but the waxy feeling and finding the gray stuff (sebum?) in my brush has left me wondering what I'm doing wrong. I don't want to go back to shampoo, but I'm not even sure what direction to go now. I'm going to try a few of your methods, see if it helps w/ the waxy feeling. Thank you for posting it.

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    1. Hi Dolly,

      Yup, waxy feeling and gray stuff sounds like sebum for sure! Try upping the acid and combing out the gunk in the shower - both of those things should help.

      Good luck!
      :)
      Cat

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  17. So happy to have found this! All the comments are so helpful. Wondering tho, would essential oils get rid of the vinegar smell (to discourage bugs from finding me more easily), and if so, how many drops of which oil? Also, what are your measurements for the citric acid per 8oz hard water? I'm getting flakes on day 3 that are horrible. If it weren't for that, I could probably stretch my washes to another day or so. Hoping combing the acid rinse will get rid of this problem. Thanks again!
    Lysh

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    1. Hi Lysh,

      Hmmm... well 8 fluid ounces is about 237 ml, so I'd say that one tablespoon of citric acid powder ought to do for 8 ounces of water. You can futz with it a little bit and see what works for you.

      I tried essential oils mixed in with the vinegar, and it helped. I used 4-5 drops per 500 ml bottle. But the problem was then you smell like whatever oil you use, plus the scent of the oils can also attract bees etc. I actually stopped using any soaps or lotions or ANYTHING that has scent added to it, both because of the wasps and because of my allergy issues. But when I did try them I found that lemongrass worked well to cover the vinegar scent. Some people say lavender oil works well, but I've read that it can trigger marking issues with cats and it can also trigger allergies, so I steered clear of that one!

      Anyhow, good luck with it - I found that the combing really, really helps. Let me know if there's anything else I can do, and thanks so much for stopping by!

      :-)
      Cat

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    2. So, I tried the EO's in vinegar. I'm with you-I smell like a salad no matter what goes into it. I was distracted and forgot about citric acid until yesterday, when I noticed that you had replied. Hubby finally admitted that my hair "doesn't smell that good when it's wet". Translation- my hair stinks. Sigh.

      Going to try your routine today. Before, I was using 1T baking soda in 500ish ml warm water, and that works really well after 4 days-gives me a nice soapy feeling. I tried 3T white vinegar to 500ml cold water, and added 4 drops lavender, and 2 drops peppermint. While there was no waxy feeling, this did nothing for the smell. I just smelled like EO's and vinegar, and nothing was covered or cancelled out. But, the flakes went away. I also stopped using the boar bristle brush. It seemed to make the roots look oilier sooner, even if it felt nice on my ends. Curious tho, I never see any gray gunk on my comb when washing, but I definitely see it on the comb/brush when it's dry.

      Do you find that applying the oil when your hair is wet helps with frizz? That's my only complaint now. Since I had last posted, I have waves (never had waves before no poo), and I love them, but they tend to be very frizzy on the top layer, and very flyaway. But, that's the worst of it for me. I wash every 4 days or so (sooner if I need to look more presentable-hooray for lower standards!), and I don't do anything extra to my hair like blow drying, and the occasional flat iron. I would call it success, and despite frizz, this is the first time I've actually liked my hair in a long time. =D

      Lysh

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    3. Hi Lysh,

      Well let's see...

      First of all, I'm using a much more acidic rinse than you seem to be... I mix the citric acid so it's at least as acidic as straight distilled vinegar - maybe more. I also find that if I let it sit on my hair for 10 minutes or after combing it but before I do my hundred strokes or so on each side, I get much more gunk to come off. This only works because I'm a soak-in-the-tub sort of girl as opposed to the quick shower variety. That being said, there are some days when no gunk at all comes out. Still haven't exactly figured that one out.

      But, back when I was using the vinegar and a much less acidic rinse, I noticed the same thing you describe... no gunk would come off when the hair was wet - but once it dried it would stick to the brush/comb. I think many people just make that part of their routine and do a thorough brushing once their hair dries, but I found it made my hair somewhat static filled on the ends and a bit oily at the scalp.

      In terms of the oils. I generally work a small amount of jojoba into my hair (I avoid the scalp because I've always had a problem with oily roots.) I vary the amount depending on how dry my hair seems, but never more than about a quarter teaspoon. I usually work it in with a comb and then rinse it out after 5-10 minutes. But if I've been having fly away issues, I'll sometimes just leave it in.

      The coconut oil I generally use just on the ends if they start looking too straw-like. I've had best results there by either applying while the hair is still wet or wetting the ends first if it's already dry. Then I take about a quarter teaspoon of coconut oil and rub it between my hands to liquefy it (it's solid at room temp) then I just grab the ends and do the scrunching thing.

      Anyhow, you might try the citric acid powder and mix it a tad bit stronger and see if it helps. It made a world of difference for me because it allowed me to play with the acidity level until I got what worked best for my hair without upping the um... salad smell! It seems like it also helps to make it smoother and shinier, although that may be all in my head (yuk yuk.)

      I'm totally with you on the liking my hair thing. I actually catch myself in the mirror sometimes as I'm walking by and think "damn... my hair actually looks good!" It's such a surprising and welcome feeling to actually like my hair!

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    4. Granted, I just started this no poo thing about a week ago and I am a little hesitant about putting baking soda and vinegar in my hair, but I might try it at least once. At this point, my hair feels a little oily, but it doesn't look like it. I was already kind of used to shampooing only once a week, so this transition has (so far) been easy. I really only rinse it once every 1-2 days with a good ol' scalp massage under warm water and combing through it with a fine toothed comb several times while in the shower. I also get that white stuff in my comb, but based on what I've read in this last week on this topic (a lot), this gunk could also consist largely of the residues from years of chemical shampoo use. This stuff hangs out and builds up in the hair follicles and can actually cause hair loss due to this. I am now convinced that sulfates (among other chemicals, but particularly SLS) is a significant contributing factor to hair thinning, hair loss and dandruff/dry scalp due to it taking all the oils off your scalp every time you use them. I also agree with the sebum overcompensation theory associated with oily hair in the early stages of no poo.

      Anyway, I plan on buying some basic, natural organic shampoo and just using that as a base to add essential oils and stuff to. Essential oils, which I've just only started learning about, are apparently very healthy for hair (some of them, anyway.)

      The best ones I could find were Lavender (absolutely excellent EO for hair and scalp health), Rosemary (same as Lavender, both seem to be the best for any type of hair), Tea Tree Oil (this is a potent antibacterial agent which can help cut down on odors and is *great* for dry scalp and dandruff), Clary Sage (pretty much the same as TTO) and Lemon. Lemongrass partially inhibits sebum production, but doesn't stop it altogether. Other good ones are Cedarwood, Burdock and Peppermint which gets a *lot* of praise on forums with this topic where EO's are discussed. There are literally loads of EO's that are extremely beneficial to hair and that stimulate hair growth, possibly even reverse it. In men, Olive Oil may stop DHT from causing hair loss.

      Read up on it, but as with all EO's, they are pretty potent, high concentrations of these plant oils that can cause skin reactions in people if applied to the skin without dilution (or without enough), so it's always good to test this stuff out before you start dumping it on your hair and in your shampoo. :)

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    5. Hi Mike - thanks so much for your comment!

      That's fascinating about the connection between the chemicals and hair loss - but it makes complete and perfect sense. I wonder if there is a hormone component to hair loss - it's not a topic that I've studied. Anyhow, my thought is that the vast majority of personal care products on the market contain phthalates as fragrance enhancers, and they are known endocrine disruptors. I wonder if they could play a role somehow.

      Your research on essential oils is fascinating. I used to use them when I first started down this road - mostly to cover up the vinegar smell. I stopped using them because CatMan complained that the fragrance was too strong even if I only put a drop or two in my solution and rinsed thoroughly. Plus, I've also read that they can be dangerous for cats. Not sure if the danger is from them ingesting them or just smelling them since they have a much greater sense of smell than we do. Anyhow, I stopped using them for those reasons, but I am intrigued by the topic, so please write back and let us all know what sort of results you have with this stuff.



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  18. GREAT post. I'm just starting on this no poo kick, and your post answered a lot of questions. Thanks!

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    1. Good luck with it! I'm almost 4 years without shampoo and it just keeps getting better!

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  19. This article is exactly what I needed to read. I used the no-poo method for about 8 months (baking soda and water to wash, vinegar and water to rinse). I was totally satisfied with my hair until the sebum build-up. I started using Dr. Bronner's and still have that stiff feeling in my hair even though everyone says my hair looks great (it just feels yucky to me). I'm going to go back to the baking soda/vinegar method and try combing the sebum out like you suggested. Thanks so much and I hope this is the answer I need. I'll let you know. :)

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    1. I hope it helps! I sometimes find that letting the acidic rinse sit on my hair for a few minutes before combing helps to get even more of the nasty sebum out... it's one of my excuses for luxuriating in a long hot bath once a week! There's something oddly satisfying about seeing all of the gunk coming out in the comb!

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  20. I'm been no poo for 3+ years and loving it. Lately I've been a little dry and the hair dresser says I have build up. I'm going to try a few things you suggest here THANKS. I was curious how often you do this routine?

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    1. Hey Pix,

      Thanks for stopping by. At this point I wash my hair once or twice a week depending on how it feels and how presentable I need to be - the need to wash seems to go down with each year that passes. Of course, I also work from home and don't go out much, so it may be that my standards are just slipping as the years go by! :-)

      Seriously though, I find that if I wash too often it tends to dry my hair out and leads to more split ends and a more fly away look. It also seems like the baking soda doesn't really work it's magic (where it almost feels slippery and soapy) unless my hair really needs to be washed. If I keep it down closer to once a week my hair looks smooth, the ends curl nicely and I don't have to use as much jojoba and/or coconut oil to make it manageable.

      In terms of buildup, do you know if your hair dresser meant sebum or baking soda/soap scum buildup? If it's dry and crunchy I'd guess too much baking soda, if it feels sticky and the hair clumps together then it's probably sebum. Of course, you could have a combination of both.

      Anyhow, good luck with it and I'd love to hear what does and doesn't work out for you.

      Yours in no-pooiness,
      Cat

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    2. If I "rinse" my hair with hot water every day and scrub my scalp, I actually can go weeks without a greasy looking build up, I one point I thought I could stop using anything. But I find it gets to dry if I go so long without the baking soda / vinegar treatment.

      The hair dresser said my buildup was probably from well water, but I didn't tell her that I no-poo, I wasn't in the mood to get into it. I have a hard time believing its the well because we have 2 filters on our well and have really soft water.

      I have always used the white vinegar first though, figuring the baking soda would help take out the smell. But to your point it's not getting a chance to clean out the baking soda, so I will switch it. I also will try the citric acid, because I am allergic to yellow jackets and my husband hate the smell of vinegar -- not a switch in friends I'd look forward too. :)

      I'd noticed, and the hair dresser confirmed (it was the first thing she commented on) that I have a tuff of dry hair right in the center back at the cow lick area. She said that if I don't give it protein so it can repair itself it may continue to dry up and fall off -- not a very attractive prospect.

      Currently I also use a mix of Castor Oil and Sunflower Oil to on my face and body so I was thinking of trying the mixture to help my hair (maybe add tea tree EO). Castor is really healing, but it may be too heavy. If that doesn't work I can get the jojoba oil. I used to have some, it's too bad I used it up in my face mixture when I really didn't need it.

      Anyway, just using the baking soda first may help a lot. And I figured I'd use some sort of oil in my hair, the reminder to avoid that scalp was a good one. :) I was worried about that.

      I also do have a more natural leave in conditional that I could use, but I'd like to not buy any again so finding another solution is preferable.

      I LOVE the no poo, even with these bumps... this being my first since the initially figuring out what works in the first month or so. My hair use to look like a greasy mess in less than 36hours if I didn't clean it. Now I can go 3 days without even getting it wet and longer if I rinse it in hot.

      I'm also happy to say I made the switch soon before getting pregnant, exposing him to one less thing. :)

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    3. I should tell my process for you and all the others stopping by!

      I keep baking soda in a old wide mouth screw on lotion container. I keep white vinegar in a shampoo bottle. I one Greek yogurt container I put a teaspoon of baking soda. In the other I put a health squirt of vinegar, about an oz. In the shower I fill the vinegar one full of water so about 1:6 and dump it over my head. Work in and wait at least a minute. Rinse. Then in the other put about enough water to cover the bottom of the container, maybe a bit more. Use my finger to make sure the baking soda is fully dissolved, then dump over head. Work in, wait at least a minute. Rinse. Done.

      Keep in mind I am working on changing this, but it did work for me for 3+ years. Up to now I did have a leave in conditioner I used only in winter maybe once or twice a month.

      I started out "washing" about once every 3 days. Now I'm once a week. I do "rinse" my hair under hot water every day or I need to wash more frequent.

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    4. Wow! I've never heard of anybody doing the vinegar first, but your reasoning sorta makes sense. I totally LOVE the citric acid because not only is it odorless, but you can also mix it to whatever strength you like.

      Given that you have soft water, the water alone is probably doing a fairly good job of rinsing out the baking soda, but I'm betting you'll feel a difference switching the order and you hair will feel softer & less dry and brittle.

      I think the daily rinse in hot water is a great idea. I don't actually do that mostly because I'm a soak in the tub kind of girl rather than a shower person, so it's not quite so convenient - but I suppose if I did a hair rinse when I first get into the tub the water would still be nice and hot (I fear I tend to stay in there until I'm a total prune and the water is practically room temp.) Anyhow, I might give it a try and see if it makes it easier to go longer between washings.

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    5. Just reporting back here on the hot water rinse. There's no way I'm gonna get back into the habit of the daily shower, but since West Nile Virus has been a problem here I've been wearing DEET for my bike rides, and you're supposed to wash that stuff off in the shower (as opposed to sitting in a bathtub full of poisonous residue) so I've been taking a few more showers lately, and yesterday I tried doing a hot water rinse.

      It didn't get it as clean as "washing" it does, but I certainly noticed a difference. Perhaps I'll have to find a way to do more of it!

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    6. Great! So lately, still about once a week I've been doing the baking soda followed by a white vinegar "spritz", a 2:10 mix in a spray bottle. It was working well but in this change of season my hair is getting very dry and now is matting, badly, easily and often. ug.

      How do you manage to apply oil well without getting it on your scalp? I can't figure it out. I've tried rubbing oil in my hands and then through my hair but I don't feel like "enough" is transferring. I haven't tried much lately, and its SO dry I would probably know if it was or not, but I thought I would ask anyway.

      Thanks!

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    7. Hi Pix,

      Well... I'd be willing to bet that your dryness problem is caused by not enough vinegar rinse - my hair would be a total disaster if I just spritzed with a diluted vinegar solution like that. So my first suggestion would be to try using about a half cup of straight distilled vinegar, and really do a thorough scrub with it, just like you do with the baking soda. It really does make your hair soft and manageable. I know you don't like the smell (me neither - hence the citric acid) but I'd strongly suggest trying it at least once to see if it helps.

      In terms of the jojoba oil, I just rub a little on my hands and then run them through the ends, and then comb it in - but I do have very long hair, so it's easy to avoid my scalp.

      Anyhow, those are my thoughts!
      :-)
      Cat

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    9. Let's try again. That makes since. I've been trying to use a little of possible to be as least processed as possible. I will try using more vinegar, if that seems to fix it, I will get the citric acid so I won't feel the need to shy away.

      Thanks!

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    10. I can't guarantee that it will fix the problem, but it's worth a try.

      I totally understand the whole "trying to use less" thing - at one point in this journey I got caught up in trying to use as little as possible. After more bad hair than I could stand, I finally just gave up and decided to use as much as was necessary to make my hair work and voila, problems started to resolve.

      Hope it works for you!

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  21. I live in a hard water area and read about boiling the water, adding the bicarbonate of soda and leaving it for 2 weeks. I left mine for 1 week and today was the first time that the mixture felt slippery. I also have no idea about the biochemistry and my relationship with a biochemist ended badly so I won't ask him for advice! I'm only 17 days no 'poo so still experimenting with all of the measurements! I've also been using Dr Bronners with tea tree. I'm not sure it makes much difference other than smelling nice! My hair is definitely improving and I like my waves now that they're looking natural and healthy. No more blow drying or straightening for me! Thank you for this blog! Helen

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    1. Hi Helen,

      Thanks so much for stopping by! I've also read this thing about boiling the water and it sorta puzzles me. I asked CatMan about it - not a biochemist, but an engineer, and he couldn't think of any way that boiling the water could alter the essential chemistry unless you were distilling it. Anyhow, I never tried it so I can't really say, but I've heard people swear by it.

      I've also never tried Dr. Bronners, but my assumption would be that if the point of the baking soda is to make "scalp soap" then the Dr. Bronners would pretty much do the same thing only a bit stronger. I'd assume you'd still need an acidic rinse to get the soap scum out.

      Anyhow... best of luck with it all!
      :-)
      Cat

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    2. Hi!
      I found your blog some months ago when I started having the waxy feeling... so I found your blog and it is the most useful to understand what is happening when we use all those ingredients! Thanks so much! That's how I found about the effects of hard water and about your citric acid experience... so at that time I couldn't find citric acid and I was afraid to try it, so I started using in my mix distilled water. It worked much better! But even though not perfect... I still have to comb and brush the hair so that the grey stuff goes out. After some time, my results were demotivating... my hair was still oily (not so much as it used to be) and after almost 1 year of no poo I thought it should be much better! So I found out I was supposed to wash my hair with water only between the BS and vinegar routine!! So I started doing this 3 days ago. With WO the results weren't so bad as I thought, but again the problem is the hard water! :-(

      I read somewhere about boiling the water 3 times and taking out the "crystals" that accumulate after the boiling. So maybe that is a way of taking some minerals out?... Now I'm trying to wash WO with this boiled water.
      And yesterday I finally tried the citric acid... Fantastic feeling!!! WOW!!! I guess though I should leave it a bit longer in the hair next time because when it dried it was still a bit waxy... lets see how it goes.
      So now I'll try BS and citric acid and in between WO with boiled water...

      Let's see!
      Thanks again! :-)
      Marta

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    3. Hi Marta,

      I hope the citric acid helps, it really made a huge difference for me. The in-bath combing also makes an enormous difference. I do think that some of us just have naturally oilier scalps than others though, so I wouldn't feel bad if you have to wash more frequently than you think you should.

      Good luck, and keep us posted!
      :-)
      Cat

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  22. I'm so glad I found this site. I'm going into my 4th week of no shampoo. It was working okay at first, but I started getting that nasty build up. Even after I washed my hair with baking soda and ACV rinse my hair still felt nasty and stuck to my head. I tried your suggestion of combing it out in the shower and my hair feels so much better! Its lighter and not waxy feeling at all. I have really thin fine hair. It was quite a task combing it out while it was wet with a fine tooth comb. I lost several huge globs of hair. I think next time I will use a pick first and then once most of the big tangles are gone try the fine tooth comb.

    On all the stuff I've read about no poo I've never read anything about combing out the scum. Everyone just said use less baking soda. But then when I did use less my hair wasn't getting clean. Anyway, thank you so much!!! I was thinking this no poo thing wasn't going to work but I think it will be manageable now!

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    1. So glad it's helpful! My hair tangles really easily, so I generally have to brush it out pretty thoroughly before I wash it, and then take care not to tangle it too much in the washing process - otherwise getting a comb through it is um.... challenging. Seems like the citric acid helps a bit to get the comb through - but I could just be imagining that.

      Delete
  23. Another Denver gal! So when it comes to the water you use, do you use distilled water or regular tap water? Do you do anything to your water like boil, filter, or soften it?

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    1. Also, how often do you wash your hair?

      Delete
    2. Hi Ashley,

      I don't do anything to the water... just regular tap water. For a while I had a bathtub filter that was mainly supposed to filter out the chlorine, but I stopped using it years ago... it never seemed to make much difference. The real thing that made the whole system suddenly work for me was learning that I had to use WAY less baking soda than I thought, and WAY more acid.

      At this point I'm washing about once a or twice a week, though lately I've been experimenting with washing only once a week and doing water only rinses in between. It seems to work pretty well.

      Good luck with it!
      :-)
      Cat

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  24. Thank you for your post. I have been trying to go no poo since February with several horrible results....dry, brittle hair, scalp sores and dull waxy buildup. I will try increasing the ph value of the acid rinse, waiting and combing in the shower. This is really encouraging since I thought I had already tried every option.

    Jeanne

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    1. Hi Jeanne,

      I hope it helps. Not sure how much baking soda you're using, but if upping the acid doesn't help, you might try using less baking soda. Scalp sores sound quite unpleasant - I haven't heard of that problem before. Was that from trying to brush out the sebum, or maybe abrasion from un-dissolved baking soda? Anyhow, if you have an open sore, please be careful with the citric acid, because pouring citric acid into an open sore sounds like it could be pretty painful!

      Let me know how it goes...
      :-)
      Cat

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  25. The sores are not from the baking soda. It dissolves nicely in distilled water. They are caused by clogged sebaceous glands combined with trying to brush and rub off dried sebum. Through the years, I've had several sebaceous cysts removed. So, I'm a little paranoid about sebum buildup. Am anxious to see how your method works for me. Thank you.

    Jeanne

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  26. This is a great post, thanks! So I guess it hopeless for me, I have well water (hard) AND I color my hair.
    I did read somewhere that lemon was good for an acidifier and it would help hold color in. And I was thinking, "isn't this what I used to put on my hair to lighten it in the summer!?" I did it anyway, and my color has lightened much faster than normal.
    So Misty, if you're still out there…..is there anything I can use on my hair to hold the color while having hard water?

    Debbie

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    1. Hi Debbie,

      Don't know if Misty is still listening or not, and I'm certainly not the expert that she is, but you might try some other sort of acid rather than lemon juice - like vinegar or citric acid. Having never colored my hair I have no experience - plus my hair is strawberry blonde so I don't think I'd notice it if it lightened or reddened a bit!

      Good luck with it, and please let us know if you find a good solution!
      :-)
      Cat

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  27. My day of magic has finally arrived! I was ready to give up on WO washing until I read your post about brushing with a wooden bristle brush and wide tooth wooden comb. I had both, but had read that a natural bristle brush was the way to go. No so for my hair. What also didn't work for my hair was baking soda and vinegar. I lost more hair with that method than I did at the salon during my hair cuts. Anyway, after washing and towel drying my hair, the waxy feel is there but you wouldn't believe the curls I have. In fact, the waxiness sets my curls in place the way gel would. I brush my hair before washing it and then comb it in the shower under both hot and cold water. That's it. This makes for a healthier head and definitely easier while travelling.

    I also haven't used soap for about six years. All I used is a wash cloth and scrub. Even after gardening, my calloused feet come clean. I no longer need to worry about allergic reactions to soaps or lotions and my eczema has cleared up completely.

    As for washing my face, I use a warm wash cloth before bed and and tepid water rince in the morning. I've also no need for moisturizer on my face since the sebum from washing my hair gets on my face creating a natural moisturizer.

    Our ancestors had it right all those years ago! I will never go back to shampoo or soap of any kind. Thanks for sharing your tips on the wooden bristle brush. I've had one for many years, but didn't really know the benefits to using it. Thanks again.

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    1. Wow.. that's great! Thanks so much for sharing what works for you. Brushing BEFORE washing is a very interesting idea that I hadn't considered. When I tried to go WO (which I'm assuming means "water only")I ended up with hair that didn't "hang" over my scalp... not sure how to explain it, but I've got a cowlick in back and since the hair had so much sebum in it, it would follow the cowlick instead of hanging down creating what looked like a bald spot - and I wasn't willing to go there! It might be worth revisiting though since I think my scalp is producing much less sebum these days.

      How long do you have to brush with this method to get out enough sebum? I was having to do 1-2 hours per day with WO washing, and it was just too much for my scalp to handle. But again, that might be better now since I don't have quite so much sebum to contend with.

      But I am totally with you in terms of soap. I wash my face with warm water only and it does SOOOO much better than with soap. I do use soap on my hands after using the toilet or cleaning the litter boxes though, as well as on the "smelly parts" in the bath. The thought of preparing food with hands that had only been rinsed after cleaning the litter boxes sort of grosses me out! But I do admit, that I pay for even my limited soap use with very dry skin.

      Delete
  28. Very wonderful and informative piece! I have very straight, medium-thick, never-dyed blonde hair. I am currently using your baking soda solution and after I rinse it out I use a natural shampoo bar, and then a bottled conditioner. I guess you could say I'm sort of no-poo, as I haven't used regular shampoo with silicone about two months. But after reading this I am totally going to try your routine! Also because I have found that I often get a waxy-scum area at the back of my hair. I would like to know what brand of citric acid powder, jojoba oil, and coconut oil you use/recommend. I know that jojoba oils vary among brands, and I want a good quality one that doesn't smell funky. :) Thank you.
    -Angie

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    1. Hi Angie,

      Well... in terms of brands, I generally just go for the cheapest I can find. The current batch of jojoba says "Dr. Adorable" on it, and I got it in bulk on eBay. I use it for shaving and instead of lotion too, so I go through a bit of it. But I've had numerous different brands and haven't noticed much difference except that the Desert Essence stuff I got at Whole Foods was ridiculously expensive.

      The first batch of citric acid I got at a scientific store - and it was specifically anahydrous citric acid (meaning there's no water in it - it's supposed to be stronger than the hydrous variety.) But then I found a 5 pound bag on Amazon.com for WAY less money - it's brand name is "Spicy World." It doesn't say if it's hydrous or anahydrous, but the strength seems comparable.

      The first batch of coconut oil I had was organic & expensive - don't know the brand name but I got it at Whole Foods. This batch was cheap and is called "Lou Ana." I got it at my local King Soopers (Kroger) grocery store.

      To be honest, I haven't noticed any difference with all those different brands, but maybe I've just been lucky (or ignorant.) The jojoba is odorless in my experience.

      Anyhow, good luck with it. Does the conditioner you're using have silicones? (Most of them do.) If so, it might be worth trying a clarifying wash with a non-silicone shampoo before starting on this method... and if you still have scum problems after switching I'd try a clarifying wash before giving up, because the baking soda and shampoo bars generally won't get them out. I don't really know how long silicones stay on your hair, but getting them all washed out made a HUGE difference for me.

      Thanks for stopping by, and let us know what does or doesn't work for you!

      :-)
      Cat

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  29. I have been poo free for 1 month. I am due to get highlights in a couple of weeks and I am nervous that it will mess it all up! I have to get highlights because my hair is very thin in the front and you can see my scalp. It is not as noticeable when my hair is lighter.
    Should I just let the stylist do her thing then continue with the no poo method after? Will it mess it all up?
    I would love to hear your thoughts.
    By the way, I decided to go no poo because my hair is straight but frizzy. I can't seem to get the hair folical back down.

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    1. Hmmm... I dunno - I've never colored my hair at all, but I think that the problems people report seem to be washing out of color or overall lightening, so I think you'd be safe. But you might want to ask your hair dresser what he/she thinks.

      Best of luck!
      :-)
      Cat

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  30. We have been no pooing for about 3 weeks over here. My hair tends to be a bit dry, and i am having it color treated tomorrow, so i expect i will be using baking soda less. My daughter's hair was plagued with chemicals from summer swimming that no amount of scrubbing would remove. It took us about a week of making baking soda paste and scrubbing her hair, then washing with commercial shampoo to remove the excessive amounts of baking soda out of her hair. after three such treatments, her hair returned to her normal texture, and she then started no pooing. She also has a super oily scalp, so to avoid the oil problems others had, we added a few drops of geranium oil to our baking soda solution. It contolled the oil production in our scalps.

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    1. I've never actually heard of geranium oil. Thanks for the tip! Hope the no pooing goes well!

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  31. I just stumbled upon this and I have to say, it made me laugh harder than I have in awhile! I've been thinking about doing the no-poo movement for awhile, and all of that really helped! Thanks for making my day (and no-poo journey) a lot brighter :)

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    1. You are most welcome. Best of luck on your no-poo journey!

      Delete
  32. Hello lady,
    I have been following the no poo routine with amazing results!. I love it. I do it mainly because my husband and I have been following the Slowing Living movement in all aspects of our lives. Also because of environmental issues.
    I never experienced the greasy, oily phase after ceasing to use the regular shampoo. What I have realised is that the bicard works better before I wet my hair rather than after. My hair feels cleaner and better when massaged onto a dry scalp.
    Then what I would like to know, if you do know.... I love to perm my hair, especially in the summer. Would it work well with the no poo routine of would it be like the colour that gets stripped quickly?
    Thanks for a great blog and awesome tips!
    Ciao

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    1. Hi Bianca,

      Glad you're having success with the "no poo" routine. Unfortunately I don't have any experience with permed hair, so I can't really offer any advice.

      Anybody out there know the answer?

      Delete
  33. hi there
    is there any reason not to just wash with hot water and vinegar and forget about the baking soda? I´ve been doing that with rain water now once a week for a few months and its not bad but I´m wondering why no one else is doing it....
    Thanks
    Gus

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    1. Hey Gus,

      I've actually heard of a few people using the vinegar only method - I think both had really curly hair. I occasionally use just a citric acid rinse if my hair is feeling like it's getting too dry, but if I do it regularly my hair gets too greasy and gunky, and I start to get the "hair plastered to my head" look which I'm not terribly fond of! :-)

      My guess is that since the baking soda combines with the oils of your scalp to form a mild soap it helps to both remove oils and to remove debris like dead skin cells, dirt etc. So if you don't have oily hair, or if you have short hair, or if your hair is curly so that it's not prone to the "stuck to scalp" look, I could see that method working really well.

      If it's working for you, I'd say stick with it! :-)

      Delete
    2. I use only ACV and have very curly, long hair. I have never experienced any gunk. Ever. I was actually surprised to hear about it and wonder if it is the BS. I use diluted ACV ~ once a week then apply Shea butter. I water-only wash everyday and comb out my hair in the shower but only apply the Shea butter when needed and after any ACV wash. My hair feels completely clean and never looks dirty or greasy (except when I use a double dose of Shea).

      I am also a swimmer though. I find the ACV stinks and am thankful the chlorine neutralizes it. The Shea butter helps protects my hair against the chlorine.

      My hair is very soft and healthy.

      Delete
    3. I don't think it's the baking soda per se, since I've gotten plenty of gunk even during times when I've tried the acid only thing. I'm sure that there is some baking soda buildup that adds to the gunk, but the majority of it is just sebum.

      I think that curly hair is both naturally drier than straight hair, and it also handles the sebum better, because you're now the 4th curly-headed person to report success with this method.

      I actually know some curly haired folk who use a conditioner only method with great success. I tried that for about a week and my hair was quite literally plastered to my head and looked a bit like an oil slick!

      Anyhow, I'm so glad you've found a method that works for you, and I think it's just further evidence that no two head of hair are alike!

      Delete
    4. Curly hair is definitely drier than straight hair but that is because it takes longer for the oil to move down the strand. Not sure how much of a difference it makes for the scalp.

      I am not a fan of the heavy look I often see with the conditioner only method but I have definitely seen some nice results.

      I also have a young cat that is fairly certain I am hiding a nipple somewhere on my head. I don't want to use anything that could potentially harm him so I just stick to ACV. It is safe, simple and effective.

      Delete
    5. Ha! One of my cats used to enjoy chewing on my hair. I think he thought he was grooming me.

      Anyhow, sounds like ACV is working well for you, and I'm in total agreement that non-toxic is best, for about a zillion reasons! :-)

      Delete
  34. hey,

    great post I will be trying out some of your tactics because although I've been doing the no poo method for almost a year now, I still have a lot of issues here and there. I started doing it because I was getting sebum balls everywhere and my hair just didnt seem to get clean with regular shampoo.

    Right now I use 2 tsp of baking soda dissolved in boiled water to make one cup. I think the boiling of the water just helps dissolve the baking soda better and I like the slimy feel as it feels nicer on my head. I use 1 tsp of acv in one cup of water which I only dip the ends of my hair. I have tried many things like using acv before and after the baking soda and I feel like sometimes my hair feels amazing while its drying and then when it dries it feels stiff and dry. Also I get that waxy/oily feeling underneath my hair and I thought I was using too much acv but maybe I need more? my hair is shoulder length and medium thickness but before going no poo my hair would tangle like crazy and now I feel like the acv is amazing for brushing out my hair.

    I also wrap it in a cotton cloth right out of the shower and it absorbs a lot of the moisture so I can then brush it out and it takes less time to dry. Sometimes I use aloe gel in my roots because the baking soda leaves my scalp a little dry and I can see the flakes. One thing that a lot of blogs dont mention how they use the acid rinse, do you pour it all over your hair and than comb it? I've tried doing that which makes my hair super soft but really oily. Another thing is the water temp...I read that hot water triggers your sebum glands and thats why I use mostly cool-cold water when I rinse my hair, I would be scared to just rinse with hot water. Wow sorry for the long post...let me know your thoughts and I will post anything else I can think of, thanks

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    1. Hey Katherine,

      Hmmmm... lots to think about here. Well, my first instinct is that you need a more acidic rinse. Just from my own experience, my hair looked horrible when I was trying the diluted ACV rinse - but I know it works for some people.

      Dry crunchy hair is definitely a sign that there is baking soda (soap scum) residue in the hair, so that's one vote for a more effective acid rinse. Waxy/oily feeling is generally excess sebum, so I guess that's another vote.

      In terms of how I do the acid rinse, I just squeeze it on top of my head (I use an old water bottle with one of those pull-top lids so it doesn't all just pour out at once) and then comb it thoroughly through my hair. If it feels like I've got a bad sebum buildup I'll comb it in, and then let it sit for 5 minutes or so before I start my combing regimen (at least 100 strokes on each side.)

      I've heard people talk about the acid rinse giving them oily hair, but I never experienced that. Well, actually, I should clarify - I've never experienced that using either distilled white vinegar or citric acid. When I used ACV my hair looked terrible and oily all the time. I attributed that to the ACV not being acidic enough, but maybe there's something else going on? Maybe there are other ingredients in the ACV that cause the oily feeling? I dunno...

      In terms of water temperature, I think there are different schools of thought. Some folks I encountered said you should rinse as long as you could stand it with the hottest water you could stand. Other folks say you should use cold, and some people say use hot first then cold. Oy!

      I tried different systems but didn't notice much difference... to be honest the cold water rinse was only something I tried a few times out of desperation since I hate, hate, hate to be cold!

      That being said, here's my best guess (and this is only a guess) as to what's going on. Sebum being an oily/waxy substance most likely will get softer and more fluid in heat (think coconut oil.) So I think the hot water people are trying to use that property to move the sebum down the hair shaft. This would tend to reduce oily buildup at the roots but might make the hair look oilier in general. So maybe the cold water people are trying to avoid spreading the sebum around? I dunno... it sounded better in my head!

      The other thing I've heard is that hot water opens the hair cuticle and cold water closes it, so perhaps the hot then cold people have it right? But I've also heard that this effect is only temporary so it doesn't make much difference.

      My stepmother is a physician and I've asked here about various things stimulating sebum production - her response was that the idea was "scientifically challenged." She tends to scoff at all this "natural" stuff though, so it's hard to know how much weight to put in her opinion.

      One other thought... if cold water makes the sebum "congeal" then perhaps it would make it stick to the comb better for easier removal during my combing process. Hmmm... to tell the truth, I'm really not sure if I can make myself dump cold water on my head, especially in the middle of winter, but it might be worth a try!

      OK... that's about all the blathering I think I've got at the moment. Basically, if I were you I'd try switching to either distilled white vinegar or citric acid at a much higher concentration and use it throughout your entire scalp & hair (as opposed to just the ends) and see if it helps.

      Good luck, and let us all know what does or doesn't work out!

      Delete
  35. Hey,

    so I tried adding 2 tbsp to my cup of water and pouring a bit on my head but mostly on my ends and combing it through. I didnt see the soap scum like in your picture :S so Im not sure if the stronger rinse cleaned without me brushing it or if it was something else. My hair felt so much softer and it didnt tangle at all in the shower. I did notice a bit of oiliness underneath near my neck but I managed to keep my hair clean for 3 days. Today I washed it again the same way and again it doesnt feel oily and its really soft.

    **quick note...I noticed that a lot of people seem to mention that their hair got wavier or curled more when stopping the shampoo but I noticed my hair got more straight and its very slick. I can still curl it by just twisting in while is still a little damp but just thought I would mention it.

    Anyways I may still buy the citric acid and give it a try since it is cheaper than the acv.

    Will comment later on if I find anything else useful
    thanks for the reply!!!

    Good luck to all going no poo and dont give up, your hair wants to be healthy just as much as you do so give it some time to heal :)

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    1. Glad to hear that you're making progress!

      I'm not sure about the curly thing either. Some days I think my hair is curlier, especially right after washing it... others days, not so much. Maybe the sebum makes your hair dry "in place" more so it tends to set the curls? I think that's how coconut oil works. I dunno....

      Delete
  36. Lots to take in.... what i am not seeing is a basic schedule. I shower, shampoo and condition daily. So, when I move over to no-poo, typically how often are people using this method on thier head? Do you start right off with going days w/o a cleaning routine? I have very curly almost shoulder legth hair, and wake up looking like Medusa, every morning. Hence the current need to wet it down daily. I cannot imagine not washing it daily, but would love to try this method if it will help me to grow my hair out, because I am always having to trim too much off at each haircut. Thanks for all the information!

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    1. Ha! I'm picturing Medusa wandering through office cubicles or some other incongruous place. :)

      I think the schedule is a very individual thing depending on your hair, lifestyle etc. I never washed daily even when I used shampoo. When I first started out I sorta thought the goal was to wash less and it didn't work very well. I finally decided to just keep my regular schedule and it worked much better. But at this point I only wash once or maybe twice per week. I think its partly that my scalp has adjusted but it could also be that I've gotten lazy since exiting the world of regular employment!

      Anyhow, I'd probably wash more if I had to look professional everyday. If I were you I'd start by just keeping your regular schedule and see how it goes. Good luck with it! :)

      Delete
  37. Great article Ecocatlady! So much awesome info for a newby no-poo'er. Thanks so much.
    xoxoBeccaxoxo

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    1. You're most welcome! Hope it works out for you! :)

      Delete
  38. I just discovered no-pooing last night and I was so excited to try it that I could hardly sleep! I'm glad to have all your tips before I ever run into a problem. :) I'm also going to start no-pooing my kids, my husband isn't pleased but e never is when I start some new natural thing and he always gets used to it. He even complimented the whiteness of the kids teeth after using my homemade toothpaste for a week, yeah! Anyways, the girls don't have greasy hair at all at their age so I'm thinking about doing just the vinegar part most days, unless they stick their head in yogurt or something. Especially the little one who has never had a haircut, her hair is very dry. I have some straight white vinegar at home but I'm not sure if its like distilled or not or anything special, I hope it's good enough case I'm too anxious to go shopping before trying this!

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    1. I think white vinegar and distilled vinegar are the same thing. Anyhow, I hope some of the tips here help, and please be very careful using vinegar on your kids... it really, REALLY stings if you get it in your eyes!

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  39. Hi fellow EcoCatLady :)

    What a brilliant post! Thank you so much for that! I have been nopooing for more than two years, but I've never been able to find a routine that made my look like I wanted and once and for all removed the waxy feeling. I was actually considering going back to regular shampoo as I simply didn't want to through more trials. Then I stumbled upon this post and it gave me new hope. So I have been mixing and using and combing. I really like the citric acid, much cheaper than using vinegar (at least here in Denmark!). But there is something that I don't understand, and that's the combing in the shower. I have been applying the citric acid solution and then combing the 100 strokes on each side. What exactly is supposed to happen? My comb collects a lot of buildup, am I supposed to remove this while combing? Because right now I am just combing with the buildup and my hair is gross when it dries. It's like the buildup isn't removed, instead it's just distributed from the scalp to all of the hair. Can you please clarify this routine a little?

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    1. Hi Stinna,

      The idea most definitely is to remove the buildup, not just spread it around. I generally rinse out my comb as soon as I notice a bunch of buildup on it - how many strokes that is can vary wildly, but usually after about 20-30.

      If my hair has a lot of buildup, I'll often comb much more than 100 strokes. I generally try to keep going until not much is coming out in the comb, but some days it feels like it could go on forever!

      The other thing that I find helpful is to let the acid rinse sit on my hair for 5-10 minutes before beginning to comb it through - well, generally I comb a little big just do distribute it, but then let it sit. If I do that, then much more gunk seems to come out. Of course, this only works because I'm a soak in the tub kind of a girl. I'm not sure how you'd manage that if you're trying to take a quick shower.

      Anyhow, good luck and let us all know what does or doesn't work for you! Thanks so much for stopping by!
      :-)
      Cat

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  40. Wauw, that was quick! Thank you :) I'll try again tonight, I am not sure I have the right kind of comb though. I am using a round scalp massager from Denman. I works really well in my thick hair and has a good grip, but I can't really wash it in the shower. Will try to figure something out. Looking forward to try again - thanks for the advice!

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    1. Hmmm... I dunno - I find that I have to use a very fine toothed comb in order to get the gunk out, but my hair isn't that thick, so it might be different for you. I think that as long as the gunk is coming off, then whatever you're using is working. But I do think that being able to rinse the gunk off as you go is probably important. Let us know what you work out!

      Delete
  41. Ok, I need some help fine tuning. Our hair is dry and tangly, a little straw-like. Should I add more citric acid to the mix? I used 2 tbsp/2 cups hard water, how much more can I add? Or should I add jojoba oil to the routine, or both? Also, I've never seen any sebum or other gunk coming out when I comb. Do I still need to do 100+ combs per side? Cause that takes a LONG time with 3 of us, haha. Thanks again!!

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    1. Hmmm... not sure. Dry crunchy hair with a dull sheen usually means that there is baking soda/soap scum residue left in the hair. You could try using less baking soda, or even skipping it altogether and just doing the acid rinse for a while. I sometimes let the citric acid rinse sit on my hair for 5-10 minutes before combing, and that seems to help it dissolve the gunk.

      If you're just starting this routine, it could be that you don't have much buildup of sebum at this point, so there might not be much gunk to come off. I generally comb until the gunk stops coming off, so if you're not getting any, I wouldn't bother.

      In terms of concentration, I'm not entirely sure. I use 2 tablespoons of the powder to about 2 cups of water, but I think some powders are stronger than others. I remember reading that there are 2 kinds of citric acid powder, anhydrous and hydrous - the hydrous kind has a water molecule attached to it somehow, and therefore is less strong than the other kind - but the bag I'm using now doesn't say which kind it is.

      You could try straight white vinegar and see how that does - that's about the acidity that I was aiming for with my mixture.

      In terms of jojoba, I generally use it when my hair feels sort of frizzy or fly-away. It doesn't really help with the dull crunchy stuff. But you could always give it a try and see if it helps.

      There are people who have really good luck with the "water only" method. Maybe you are blessed with scalps that don't produce much sebum, and if that's the case you could give it a try and see if it works for you.

      Anyhow, good luck, and let us know how it goes!

      Delete
    2. Oh man I'm so frustrated! Today I made up a citric acid batch except that my little one had dumped the whole container of powder into a glass of water so I wasn't really sure how much I was measuring. I thought I was putting a lot and I was right because as soon as I poured it on Little's hair she started crying and pointing to everywhere it was dripping on her. I diluted it (doubled water) and tried on Big and she complained that everything itched. So I rinsed them both and added even more water for me, and let all our hair sit and soak in that mixture. I didn't do baking soda on anyone. All of our hair feels dry, weird, and definitely tangly. And my husband says it still stinks like vinegar! I'm so ready to throw in the towel.

      Delete
    3. Geez... that doesn't sound good. If it hurt her skin it was definitely WAY too strong.

      I dunno about trying this on kids. Seems like maybe you should experiment on yourself before subjecting them to it. It took me many months before I got a system that worked for me, and I think it's a highly individual thing - hair is different, scalps are different, water chemistry is different. I would hold off on the kids if I were you.

      Really, the point of the acid is to rinse out the baking soda and to break up the waxy sebum... but if you're not using baking soda and don't have any waxy sebum, then I'm not sure it's doing much good. You are rinsing the citric acid out aren't you?

      The smelling like vinegar stuff puzzles me since citric acid is odorless.

      It's starting to sound like maybe the water only route might work out better for you.

      Please be careful with your kids...

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    4. Yeah, I guess it's definitely time to stop experimenting on the poor kids! I'm not really sure what my next step is going to be either, but I am definitely craving a good ol' chemical condition. I'm wondering if my expectations are too high. My hair has been lightened so maybe it's just not going to get silky without the chemicals?? Ugh.

      Delete
    5. I've never colored my hair, so I don't have any experience to draw on in that department... but I do have one other thought. Did you do a clarifying wash with a sulfate shampoo that has NO silicones in it before you started this? If you were using any leave in conditioners or other silicone products before you started this, it's important to wash them out before you try to go no poo.

      But the other thing I keep thinking is that your problems seem to be sort of the opposite of the problems that most people experience with no poo. Most people end up with hair that's sticky, gunky & waxy from sebum with a lot of buildup that they can't get out. That was certainly my problem. If you're not having that, then you might want to take a different tactic.

      There's a system out there called "curly girl" that advocates washing with conditioner instead of shampoo. Maybe you could try some natural version of that system? Like making some natural conditioner with honey & jojoba or something and just try that? I have no earthly idea if it would work or not... it would be a disaster on my hair, but maybe it's what yours needs?

      Anyhow, I'm sorry it's not working so well for you. Do let us know if you find a solution. :-)

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  42. I was wondering if anyone can help me. I've been no 'poo for about four months and I am still having a hard time of it. I have read so many blogs and a lot of good information on the internet, and I'm still struggling. I have hard water, and I thought that this blog may hold the key to my success, but even the citric acid rinse does not seem to help. When I use BS and either ACV or citric acid, my hair comes out of the shower feeling heavy and waxy and I can spend days coming the gunk out. I have had some success with an egg yolk and ACV wash, but it is still not great. The only time my hair ever feels really clean is when I dye it, and I would like to get away from the chemicals in the dye as well. I already make my own deodorant and lotions and have given up soap, with great success. But the hair is a problem. I've tried boiling my hard water, filtering it and just washing with that in my sink (not easy) and still no success. Today I looked at the ingredients in the hair dye and found that one of the ingredients is amodimethicone, a silicone. Could it be that the dye makes my hair look and feel wonderful for several days but then makes the wash with BS ineffective due to this ingredient? I really want this to work out but am not sure what to try next. Has anyone had this problem and solved it? If so, do you use a natural hair dye, like coffee? Thanks.

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    1. Hi Jennifer,

      Well, I've never colored my hair, so it's hard for me to know, but I do know that I had terrible problems with no poo in general until I got all of the silicones out of my hair. Maybe you could try doing a clarifying wash a few days after you color it? I dunno... Maybe there's someone out there who has a clue about colored hair. The only natural coloring agent I know of is henna.

      Do you have luck getting the gunk to come out when you comb it in the shower/bath? If not, you might want to try letting your acid rinse sit on the hair for 10 minutes or so before combing it through. That seems to help.

      The other thing I've discovered recently is this... when I do the baking soda wash, if I comb the baking soda through, then rinse... I don't seem to get much gunk to come out when I do the acid rinse. But if I just work the baking soda in with my fingers, then rinse it out, and then do the acid rinse, the gunk comes out by the TON. I'm not sure what this means. It could be that combing the baking soda in makes the gunk come out then, so there's nothing left to come out during the acid rinse, but it doesn't seem like it. It seems like the hair gets cleaner overall if I don't comb the baking soda through and just use my fingers.

      I can't exactly figure out a way that my new observation makes any sense, but it does seem to work.

      Anyhow good luck and do let us know if you find a solution!

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    2. Thanks for your advice. I never have luck getting the gunk out when I comb it in the shower. I'll take your advice and try leaving the acid rinse in longer. It just seems so time intensive. I was hoping no poo would somehow be easier and less intensive than a quick shampoo. :)

      Today I decided to start from scratch and did a clarifying shampoo. My hair feels much cleaner. In a few days I'll try a BS wash and see how it feels. If it's not immediately worse than when I went into the shower, it may have just been the silicone from the hair dye all along. All these problems because I'm vain and not ready for gray hair in my 30s! Henna seems like too much work, but I've been reading up on other natural dyes and hoping to give that a try soon.

      I'll keep in mind the fingers only with the BS wash. And I'll let you know how it goes. Thanks again!

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    3. Well, it certainly isn't a "quick shampoo" sort of a deal! It works for me because I enjoy soaking in a hot tub for hours at a time, but I think it would be hard if you're a quick shower kind of a person.

      Good luck with it!

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    4. Yes, I am definitely a quick shower kind of person. And having given up soap, it really does not take long to shower these days. But I'd still like to make it work for health reasons and not using the chemicals in the shampoos. Today my hair is clean and a great new beginning. I'm hoping that from here it goes well. :)

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    5. I hope so too! BTW - I gave up soap around the same time as I gave up shampoo... it's wonderful isn't it? Well, I suppose I should qualify that statement - I still use some soap for the obvious smelly places, and for washing my hands etc, but no on the rest of my body, and my skin has never been happier!

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    6. Agreed. Still using soap on my hands. I've also started making my own lotions and deodorant, which is great and works better than any deodorant I've had before. It's a whole new world. Thanks for the blog and making this part easier on everyone giving no poo a try. :)

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    7. I'd love to see your recipe for deodorant. At the moment I'm using one of those crystal rocks, which is better than the commercial stuff, but it still does have aluminum in it.

      I gave up on lotion completely due to allergies and now I just use plain jojoba oil. Works great!

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    8. I took the recipe from Crunchy Betty, and have also seen a nonmelty version that incorporates beeswax on the Polivka Family site. This is the basic recipe:

      1/4 c. baking soda
      1/4 c. arrowroot powder
      5 Tbsp. coconut oil
      Essential oils (optional)

      Mix it all together and store in an old deodorant container or in a glass jar. I like it better in the jar to apply less. It works after a long day, workout and a shower. Even the next day when I have forgotten to use it again. :)

      Delete
    9. Wow... I'll have to give that a try. I'm not familiar with arrowroot - hmmm... internet research is in order!

      Thanks!

      Delete
  43. You can also use cornstarch instead of arrowroot. But arrowroot seemed more appealing. :)

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    1. Thanks! I may start with cornstarch simply because I've got some on hand, and I know I'm not allergic to it (always a plus!) We'll see how this goes...

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  44. Question: when u wash with BS, do u just dump it on your head and let it run down the length of your hair? Is your hair wet or dry when you put the BS mixture on? And then when u put the acid mix, do you dump that on your entire head and then comb through? or do u only pour it on the length of your hair and avoid the scalp? I was told that the acid part can make your scalp super greasy so it was best to avoid the scalp.

    So I did the no poo for three weeks and the gunky build up got so bad that I was forced to shampoo and start all over. I'm so glad I found your blog as I now understand the gunk is sebum and not dirt from the environment. I had serious gray gunk on my comb. and yes, i was combing in the shower but probably not enough. Anyway, I'm only a week in on starting over. On day one, I washed with one spoon of BS in a full drinking water bottle (I don't know exact measurements). I dumped the mixture directly to my scalp and tried hard to not soak the ends of my hair with it. After rinsing, I then dumped 100% white vinegar onto the ends of my hair careful to not get too much on my scalp. I combed my hair as I rinsed with a wide tooth comb. When it dried, it felt fine...still a little flat from the commercial shampoo wash a few days ago. Two days later, I washed again with just water and a few drops of tea tree oil. I can see the sebum building up again. It's not nearly as bad as before but it's definitely there. I know I'm still within the adjustment phase of the no poo method so I still have quite a bit of experimenting to go but man...I can't stand the gunk!!! Today, it has been two days since my water tea tree wash and my scalp currently itches, the sebum gunk is definitely heavier than yesterday but its only around my scalp instead of all down the length of my hair and if I scratch my scalp, white powdery looking dead scalp skin is released. Which makes my hair look dirty...ugh! I'm gonna do another BS and Vinegar wash tomorrow. I will try combing a whole lot more. But I would really like to get more specific details...step by step instructions on what exactly ur doing. Seriously...how do I get rid of the gunk? Or will it never go away and the gunk is just part of no pooing?

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    1. Hmmm... well, let's see. I start by getting my hair thoroughly wet. Then I pour a small amount of the baking soda solution on my scalp and work it in thoroughly with my fingers. Since the point of the baking soda part is to wash away the oils, I try to focus my pouring on my temples, and the crown of my head, or anyplace else that feels particularly oily. I try to pour a little at a time and work it into my scalp before it can all just run out of my hair. I sometimes work the solution in with my fingers and other times I'll comb it in.

      I mentioned this next part somewhere in the comments above, but I'll say it again since there's a ton of stuff that you might not have pawed through totally. I've discovered that when I do the baking soda wash, if I comb the baking soda through, then rinse... I don't seem to get much gunk to come out when I do the acid rinse. But if I just work the baking soda in with my fingers, then rinse it out, and then do the acid rinse, the gunk comes out by the TON. I'm not sure what this means. It could be that combing the baking soda in makes the gunk come out then, so there's nothing left to come out during the acid rinse, but it doesn't seem like it. It seems like the hair gets cleaner overall if I don't comb the baking soda through and just use my fingers. I don't really know what that's all about but take it for what it's worth.

      So, in terms of the acid/vinegar rinse. I've heard this thing about it making your hair greasy, but have not experienced this myself. In fact, it kinda seems the opposite to me. The purpose of the acidic stuff is to both eat through the waxy sebum as well as to dissolve any soap scum left behind by the baking soda wash. So it seems that it would be important to get it on your scalp since that's where the largest sebum build up is!

      I kinda have a hunch that when people report the acidic rinse making their hair greasy, what might be happening is that the sebum gets spread down the hair shaft and that makes them think it's greasy? Maybe? That's just a hunch. Anyhow, you might try using your vinegar rinse on your scalp too and see if it helps to get any of the gunk out.

      So what's the purpose of the tea tree oil? Is it supposed to help with the gunk? I've never heard of that one before.

      The only other thing I can think to add is that when I'm combing out the sebum in the tub I have to use a very fine toothed comb rather than a wide one. I actually use a wide toothed comb to distribute the acidic rinse and then let it set for a few minutes before doing the "sebum removal combing" with the fine toothed one. The fine teeth seem to work better for me at getting the gunk out.

      Some people have great luck waiting until their hair is dry and then brushing or combing to get the gunk out. I found that this worked, but it sorta left my hair feeling a bit yucky rather than clean.

      OK... that's all I can think of at the moment. Let me know if you need any other pointers, and please let us know what does or doesn't work for you!

      Delete
    2. My hair biography: I live in Texas with super hard water. I have Asian, coarse, dark, long (down my mid back) straight hair. I got a body wave perm about a year ago. I also suffer from itchy scalp (scalpatitus) most of my life and have used every kind of dandruff shampoo that exists including expensive organic scalp treatment shampoos. I have to wash my hair every two days because it starts to itch and gets oily.

      My no poo story: I’m sick of the scalpatitus issue. So I started no pooing but the gunk drove me crazy. The only good thing was my hair was thick and full of body with defined waves….but the gunk…ughhhhhhh. 5 weeks of no pooing, I gave in and shampooed my hair with organic tea tree shampoo. My hair was super clean…but then it was totally flat and dull…no life and my permed waves weren’t so wavy. And my scalp started to itch and got oily again after two days. So I went back to no poo. The gunk returns…slowly but definitely building up in gunk. I’ve read a million blogs looking for answers on how to get rid of gunk…this gawd awful gunk. And then I found this blog…THANK YOU ECO CAT LADY!

      My NO POO Regimen: I bought two commercial quality spray bottles from the hardware store and each holds about 1000mL. So, for my BS bottle, I put 4 tablespoon of BS, 1000 mL of filtered water from my fridge, and several drops of tea tree oil (about 1/4 ounce). I don’t know if the tea tree oil really helps or not but it seems to be the popular ingredient in many scalp treatment shampoos. So I add it to my BS recipe to help my itchy scalp. I filled the other spray bottle with 100% white vinegar. I brush my hair to get all the tangles out before I hop into the shower. I tie my hair in a very loose ponytail. As I hold up my ponytail, I wet my scalp and spray BS directly on my scalp until I’m sure I covered my whole head. I’m careful to not let the BS mixture run down the length of my hair. I use my fingers to rub in the BS. To my surprise, it felt slippery…no lather but definitely slippery as if there was soap. I only leave in the BS for a couple of minutes then grab the shower head set to high and as thoroughly as I can, rinse out the BS while my other hand is still holding up my ponytail keeping the length of my hair dry. Then I spray down my ponytail with the vinegar until it’s completely soaked. I also spray my scalp ensuring I don’t miss any area. By this point, I have removed my hair tie. I comb through the vinegar and it’s just like using a conditioner…super smooth, slippery and soft. I use the wide tooth side of my comb to comb through the vinegar. I comb a lot. I leave the vinegar in as I wash the rest of my body. Then I rinse out the vinegar with the shower head on high and switch to the fine tooth side of my comb to comb out the vinegar. Again, I comb A LOT. And there is plenty of gunk on my comb but I keep combing until my arm gets tired. When I get out of the shower, I squeeze out as much excess water as I can and towel dry my hair. And then I comb some more…still using the fine tooth side of the comb. More gunk comes out. I keep on combing and after a long while there’s some friction…I guess maybe I combed out all the gunk? Whatever the reason, I’m tired of combing anyway. All that combing does flatten my hair so I flip my head upsidedown and fluff my hair then flip back and crunch the ends of my hair in hopes of forming some good waves. I let my hair air dry.

      The result? It WORKED!!! The combing is so important…sucks that so much combing is necessary but it really, really worked to get the gunk out. For the first time since no pooing, my hair feels normal! As in, it feels soft, not gunky, I can run my fingers through them…just like how it used to be when I was washing with regular commercial shampoo. After 7 weeks of trial and error and nasty gunky hair, and sticky grossness on my brush, it finally worked! I can run my fingers through my hair without the waxy, gunky feeling. I’m still in the “adjustment phase” of no pooing but this is the first time I’ve had success. Apologies for the long post…I’m just so excited!

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    3. Woo Hoo! I'm so glad it worked for you. It's sooooo nice to get rid of the gunk isn't it?

      I think tea tree oil is an antifungal and antibacterial, so it makes sense that it would help with the scalp stuff.

      Happy no pooing! :)

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  45. Oh my goodness, thank you!! Everyone talks about the greasy adjustment period when your scalp supposedly over-produces oil, but that couldn't explain why I would go into the shower mildly-greasy and exit feeling (and looking) like I had dunked my head in oil. Moreover, the harder I tried to wash my hair with baking soda (or even soapnut liquid!), the worse it got. Every search result I found that even acknowledged there >could< be a residue just slapped an easy dash of ACV on as the ultimate cure. Yeah right, that accomplished nothing. I tried boiling the water, using distilled water, ACV rinse on my scalp or just on the ends, pouring it, spraying it, scrubbing it, combing it, lemon juice, white vinegar, green tea, essential oils... the only thing that worked was hiding it in a pony tail. XD

    I'm SO GRATEFUL to you for clearly explaining the symptoms that no one else seems to acknowledge, as well as describing how and why you fixed it. I suspect I might need to increase the baking soda just a tad (it wasn't quite slimy) and I am going to try using pure vinegar. I think the diluted vinegar was definitely an issue. I'll also use your method of letting it soak and combing the heck out of my hair.

    Unfortunately, I just caved and used commercial 'poo on my hair last night. I can't believe I'm regretting my clean hair right now... because I can't wait to try your methods out! Thanks again for your detailed and helpful blog (and comments!).

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    1. You are most welcome! And don't feel bad about resorting to shampoo... maybe you can start with a "clean slate" so to speak!

      Just one thought. I wouldn't be too quick to up the baking soda if I were you... well I suppose that kinda depends on how much you're currently using, but I found that I actually had to decrease the amount I used in order to get the slippery/soapy feeling. Anyhow, just know that you might need to play around with it a bit in order to find the mixture that works best with your particular scalp and water.

      Good luck with it! I hope it works out for you.

      Delete
    2. Well, first off, your tricks completely fixed the gross symptoms I was having. No more sticky, oily hair!! Now it feels luxuriantly soft to run my hands through. I took your advice and actually decreased the baking soda (2 tsp per 1 cup distilled water) and am using pure white vinegar with a dash of essential oils to help with scalp health and vinegar smell.
      I just washed my hair a third time, and I'm starting to be less pleased with the results. My hair feels soft and clean, albeit >a little< oiled (but not greasy). However, it looks dark, flat, a little stringy... essentially it >looks< greasy. Maybe this is the 'unavoidable' transition period everyone is talking about? Is there anything I can do to help dry out that extra oil, such as increasing the baking soda after all? I'm doing the combing you suggested and a small amount of sebum comes off, but not much of significance.

      Delete
    3. Hmmm... I'm not sure. But I did experience a period where my hair looked clumpy and stringy but didn't feel greasy, and it was still the old sebum problem. I'm sorta guessing that's it, especially since you're not getting much off on the comb.

      You could try more baking soda, but I'd do it slowly because you might end up with more baking soda buildup which won't help anything. And the baking soda doesn't generally help too much with the sebum.

      You could try citric acid instead of vinegar and see if it helps you to get more of the stuff to come off. One of the advantages with citric acid is that you can mix it a bit stronger than vinegar... although you don't want to mix it too strong because I think you could probably burn your skin if you made it really strong.

      I do have one other thing that helped me, but I'm sorta hesitant to recommend it because you can easily do serious damage to your hair if you're not careful. My cat has a brush called a "furminator" that's designed to pull out loose fur. It's got these very fine metal teeth that meet in a point so they grab the fur and pull it out. Here's a picture: http://www.moderncat.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/FurminatorDeLuxe.jpg

      Anyhow, one night in desperation, I decided (after thoroughly disinfecting it) to try it on myself in hopes that it might scrape some of the sebum off. It actually did a wonderful job, but if I wasn't really careful I broke off a bunch of hair... soooo... I'm not sure I'd recommend it.

      Have you tried any dry brushing with a wooden bristle brush? I didn't really like the results that I got that way, but it might be a good test to see if you've got some sebum buildup. I found that if I brushed with the wooden bristle brush as soon as my hair was dry after washing it, the sebum would stick to the bristles. It did get some of the sebum out, but also made my hair feel kinda yucky. But even if it didn't work long term for you, it might help you sort out if sebum is the problem or not.

      That's all I can think of at the moment. Good luck, and keep us posted!

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    4. Wow, I know what pet brush you're talking about and you are a brave lady to put it to your hair! But that did give me an idea. Instead of a wood brush, I bought and tried a boar bristle brush. It seems to help break up the clumps (giving it a fluffier texture) and tame a lot of my frizz. It makes my hair appear nicer overall.

      The big improvement came when I tried diluting the vinegar. I have a large spray bottle that was about 1/3 full of white vinegar. This last time around I tried filling it the rest of the way with distilled water. This way it would be diluted but still stronger than what most people recommend. I think I found the perfect balance!! My hair came out clean and the vinegar helped get rid of the baking soda residue, but my hair is also significantly less heavy and waxy feeling. Apart from some slightly dry ends I need to work on, my hair is finally in the condition I've been hoping for. :-)

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    5. That's fantastic news! You might try some jojoba or coconut oil to help with the dry ends. I'm so glad it's finally working for you! :-)

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  46. Hello!
    Thank you for your post and for all the previous replies to the comments. This page became a treasure of no poo information!
    First I must comment that you posted more than 1 year ago and it's still a hot topic! :)
    I'm no poo for about two weeks and loving it. But I'm beginning to have build up. Ok I still have to try the combing in the shower (I'm sure it will work), but I just wanted to share this: I know what you mean by slippery feeling while "shampoing" with BS, and when this happens, my hair won't have any build up left and dries out perfectly clean, but the thing is I only have the slippery feeling SOMETIMES! When I don't reach the "slippery phase", the hair has build up. I don't know, I guess I just have to measure more accurately since I just "eye measure" the 2 tblspoons in 500mL of water.
    I totally agree with letting sit the acid conditioner for a while, as it makes the hair even softer.
    Sorry for a somewhat weird english (i'm portuguese).

    Thank you and happy no poo!

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    1. Hi Melanie,

      That is very interesting about the correlation between the "slippery phase" and how clean your hair gets. I wonder what it means... I don't always get the slippery sensation either, especially if I wash too soon when my hair hasn't had a chance to build up any oils.

      My assumption is that the slippery feeling is caused when the baking soda reacts with oils on your scalp to make a sort of soap. So maybe if you don't have enough oil, there's nothing to combine with the baking soda to make soap, so it doesn't get as clean? Maybe? I dunno...

      No worries about your english, I wouldn't have guessed that you weren't a native speaker! The only thing that gave you at all away was "eye measure." We would say "I just eyeballed it" which... now that I think of it, is a very strange idiom!

      Anyhow, if you have any more insights about the slippery phase, please let us know!

      Thanks so much for visiting and commenting!

      xoxoxo,
      Cat

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    2. Hello again Cat!


      I want to give you an update! :D
      So in the last comment I was having oily build up on my hair. I washed with BS (again no slippery feeling) and combed it while the conditioner (vinegar) was sitting, but nothing came out... When The hair dried it was almost the same...
      In the last week I travelled so I didn't want to take my little botles for BS and vinegar mixtures with me (you know, hand baggage), and since the BS wasn't working any way, I decided to use hand soap (followed by vinegar conditioner) and it worked!! The soap took off the oily build-up of my roots.
      After one week (three washes) I began to have build-up again, but I think this time was from the soap. So I went back to BS. BUT I remembered that when I started this method, I did the BS mixture the night before, instead of mixing just before the shower. So I did it again, and let it sit. And finally I had the slippery feeling!!! Ok I just tried this once since I got back from my trip. I will continue to do this and see if the result is the same. But I remember to read somewhere someone saying to let it sit and even boil the water (I also have to try this, the water here is medium-hard).
      I agree with your theory BS+sebum=mild soap. But the sebum on your hair may not be the only requirement for this to work. The way the BS is dissolved may also be important (maybe this is why some people boil the water, let it sit, or even use the BS undissolved).

      Anyway I just want to say to all that I'm very happy for not having to buy more shampoo (and conditioner... and leave-in... and...). I'm still trying different things, and it is not working every time (I'll get there) but I can tell you that right now my hair is clean, shinny, nice curls and less flyaways (like if I putted a leave-in conditioner but without the sticky feeling that you get the next day). So perfect! :P

      Thank you Cat and thanks to all!

      Melanie
      PS: OMG this reply got big... Sorry if it's boring.

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    3. I'm so glad that you're finding ways to make it work for you! It's very interesting that the soap worked and the baking soda didn't... and I'm puzzled about the baking soda preparation methods. I've heard of these boiling techniques before, but still can't figure out a good reason why it ought to make a difference - I'm not saying that it doesn't, I just wish I could figure out the mechanism if it does indeed work!

      Another thing that I'm unclear about is whether sebum and "scalp oils" are one in the same, or different. It seems that I read somewhere that sebum is really a wax, and not an oil... or maybe that was jojoba oil I'm thinking of. Or maybe sebum is made up of both oil and wax...

      Well, at any rate, it would be nice to more fully understand the chemistry behind it all so we could come up with ways to get more consistent results.

      Maybe some scientist will find this post and enlighten us all! :-)

      In the meantime, I'm so glad it's working, at least for the moment!

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  47. This post is exactly what I needed! I have been no-poo for a few months, we have really hard water and I get the soap scum like feeling from about halfway down my hair to the ends. It makes it completely unmanageable. Feel like I've worn a top knot/high bun forever!

    So I've run out of ACV and decided to do some research on other acids when I found this! I want to try your method. Your hair sounds quite similar to mine, so I think it should work... I was just wondering if you could share what type of citric acid you buy please? After looking on Amazon there are lots of different brands and the cost varies a lot; some made for cooking, some unmarked bags, etc.

    By the way, I've shared your post on Facebook after a friend mentioned she was no-poo curious - this is the most informative post I've found, thank you :)

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    1. Hi Lucy,

      Thanks for stopping by! Well... let's see. Citric acid is a fairly simple organic compound, so it's not like there are a lot of "ingredients" that can be different from one brand to another.

      Broadly speaking it comes in two different forms, anhydrous and monohydrate. The only difference between the two is that the monohydrate form contains a bit of water in the crystal structure, while the anhydrous form does not. Once dissolved in water, they are identical.

      I do believe that the anhydrous form is slightly stronger by volume though, because there is no water to take up any space in the crystal structure. If you want to "go geek" and read all about it here's a basic summary of what citric acid is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citric_acid

      The first batch that I bought I got from a scientific supply company. It was specifically marked as the anhydrous form and I think I paid about $12 for 500 grams (which is a little over a pound.) The next time, I went on Amazon.com and found some made by a company called "Spicy World" (that name totally makes me giggle) http://www.amazon.com/Spicy-World-Citric-Acid-5-Pound/dp/B000OZFECU/

      It didn't specify if it was the anhydrous or monohydrate form, but it was significantly cheaper, so I figured even if I had to use twice as much it was still a good deal. I haven't really noticed any difference between the two. Not sure if that means that they were the same kind or that the difference between the two forms is so trivial that I didn't notice it.

      Anyhow, good luck with it, and please be careful with the citric acid. The stuff can really sting if you get it in your eyes, so be careful using it and also be careful mixing it because if you dump a bunch of the powder out so it makes a cloud you can get that in your eyes too and it really hurts (don't ask how I know!)

      Thanks for sharing the post on Facebook. I fear I am a "conscientious objector" of sorts with social media - as a good friend of mine put it, "Facebook puts you in touch with people you've been trying to avoid your whole life!" Anyhow, let's just say I don't have a presence there anymore, so I appreciate it when people share my stuff there since I can't (or won't - whatever.) :-)

      Hope the citric acid works for you, and please don't hesitate to write back if you need any further tips!

      Delete
    2. Hi! So, I got the citric acid. And oh.my.goodness completely fixed the soapy/waxy feeling at the end of my hair! And I love not having the smell of vinegar. Though I think I still need to play around with the ratios.

      Yesterday I washed with 1 tbsp of bs to a cup of (cooled boiled) water and chucked most of it on my roots and massaged. Rinsed. Followed with the same ratio of acid putting it all through my hair. Rinsed. The majority of my hair feels pretty good, but the ends are crunchy?! Ever had that? Also, I get a stingy head when I dump the acid on - too strong acid, or too much bs making it abrasive?

      Further tips would be greatly appreciated, thank you!

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    3. Hi Lucy,

      I'm so glad that things are working better for you! Let's see here - crunchy ends... I had a lot of problems with that for the first year or two. I think the ends were just soooo damaged that without the silicones coating them they just started to look like straw. I suppose it's possible that you're not getting the acid down thoroughly onto the ends so you've still got baking soda residue there... so try that first, otherwise it's probably just that they're dry and damaged.

      I found that using some jojoba or coconut oil on the ends really helped, although I seldom use it anymore now that all of my "pooed" hair has grown out!

      In terms of stinging - I do notice a little bit of a stinging sensation when I first put the citric acid mixture on my head, but it's not enough to bother me. I notice it most if I've been out in the sun recently (we redheads are notorious for getting sunburned scalps) or if I've been really scrubbing with the baking soda. You might try playing with the proportions a little bit and see if it helps. There shouldn't be any undissolved citric acid once you mix it up, so it shouldn't be at all abrasive.

      Hope that helps!

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  48. Wow, such a lot of info here! I've been attempting no poo...at the moment I have settled on a half way house solution- I have gone from washing and conditioning every day, to washing with a 'natural' (no sulphates, no silicones etc) and rinsing with vinegar every other day, and on the alternate days using baking soda and rinsing with vinegar.

    I'm planningn on using shampoo with a two day gap, eventually maybe shampooing once a week and then eliminating it entirely. I would love to eventually get to using baking soda once a week, or not at all!

    I have naturally really greasy hair, and can't bear it feeling yucky...

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    1. Hey Nicola,

      I totally hear you on the yucky hair thing, I can't stand it either. For me the combing really, REALLY helps.

      Best of luck with it!

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  49. Thank you for such a detailed post! I have been no poo since November and have had a heck of a time finding detailed information on what worked for people in the long term. I have curly/wavy hair and brushing it makes a frizzy disaster. Your tips on brushing pre-wash and combing the vinegar through worked like a charm! I want to try to do the water rinse only thing, but I've tried it before and it was a mess. I'm afraid!

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    1. Hi Rebecca,

      So glad it helped. I haven't been brave enough to try the water only thing again. I just can't stand the gunk!

      Delete
  50. Such great information on here! Side note, your comment about the article had me curious...is this the one you found?

    http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/66818317

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    1. Ha! That's actually a different one, but it's equally wonderful. The main thing I remember about the article I found was how it stressed that women should wash their hair "at least once a month." My, oh my how times have changed! :-)

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  51. I loved your article and thought it was the most helpful one yet. I tried the citric acid rinse with the BS wash for the first time today :/ Before I even left the shower my hair felt hopelessly waxy.

    I normally have incredibly greasy hair and have to wash every day or more than that depending on the day and my plans. I just want to extend washings.

    ANYWAYS I followed your list of instructions to a T, or so I thought, and I combed and combed and never saw any gray gunk and my hair was nasty once I blowed dried it. I.E a waxy nightmare and I had no time to rewash. Some dry shampoo helped some but what did I do wrong?

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    1. Hi Gwen,

      Thanks so much for visiting, and I'm so sorry it isn't working for you! I'm not entirely sure what to recommend... I'm not exactly an expert, I just know what has worked for me.

      But if this was the first time you've tried the whole no poo thing, my first guess would be that you might have some silicones in your hair that need to be washed out before this will work. Did you check the label on any shampoos, conditioners or other products you've been using for anything ending in 'xane, 'zane or 'cone? I found that I had to do several clarifying washes with a silicone free shampoo (and no conditioner or product afterwards) before I got it to work at all.

      The other thing is that it does take some time for your scalp to adjust, and your hair will definitely NOT feel like it does after washing with shampoo. It feels more like you've just given yourself a hot oil treatment or a very deep conditioning.

      It sounds like your goal is to shampoo less frequently, not necessarily to get away from shampoo... I guess I could see that working if you could find silicone free shampoo/products to use on the days that you do shampoo... but in order to achieve that you either have to get special clarifying products or go with something really cheap like Suave - although even there, you might need to check the label to be sure. I actually have a friend who uses Dawn dishwashing detergent (just on her scalp) because it's the only thing she's sure doesn't have any silicones or waxes in it! Sounds crazy I know (and I'm not sure I'd try it) but she has beautiful hair down to her ankles!

      The other thing you might want to consider is to choose a time when you don't have to be presentable to experiment with some of this stuff. It might take some of the pressure off.

      Anyhow, good luck and I hope something in there helps. Let us know how it goes...

      :-)
      Cat

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  52. I've been doing cold water only (no bs or vinegar) for two and it's actually going pretty well. I landed on your page while researching the still-sticky-ish feeling I have. I read that the vinegar rinse and combing really helped with this and wondered: do you apply the vinegar to the roots too, or just the ends?

    Thanks so much! This was a great read!

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    1. Hi Sara,

      I actually put the citric acid rinse (instead of vinegar) primarily on my scalp and then as I comb it in, it works its way down to the ends. But since the acidic stuff helps to dissolve the waxy sebum, I think it's important to put it on your scalp area. It does sting a little bit if you use a strong mixture (as I do) especially if you've done any vigorous brushing or had a sunburn (me) lately!

      Good luck with it!

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  53. I've been reading this post over and over! I haven't had the greatest success yet and I've been trying it out for almost over a month. So there are a few things from this post that I'm going to try... And then I'll probably be back go share whether it worked or not. Haha I did take particular notice that you said your friend washes her hair with dawn dish soap.... So I did that last night, as my "cleanser" since I never really did that and it seems important. However is dawn isn't so bad for your hair I might just use that all the time! Ha it worked great!:)

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    1. Well, the Dawn works well for my friend, but I wouldn't be brave enough to use it on a regular basis! But I do think it would work well for a clarifying wash! :-) I think my fiend is just genetically blessed in the hair department. Sigh.

      Anyhow, I do hope there's something in my blathering that helps you.

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  54. Oh I meant to ask you how much baking soda mixed with water, and how much citric acid, or I'm using vinegar, would you use?

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    1. Not sure if you're asking about amount or concentration. I mix both the baking soda and citric acid at 2 tablespoons of powder per 500ml bottle of water, and when I was using white vinegar I used it straight. I think the amount you need to use depends on how thick and long your hair is. My hair is long and fairly thick so it usually takes me 1/4 to 1/2 cup to saturate my hair, but I don't measure it or anything. I just pour enough on my head to get it to feel like I'm able to work it into my entire scalp - with the baking soda I know I've got enough when my hair starts to feel slippery or soapy.

      Hope that helps!

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    2. Alright, so I think I'm getting closer to perfection! Haha, right now with everything I'm doing and can get a really clean soft feeling around my scalp, but the length of my hair still feels a bit waxy/chalky... What do you think the reason for that is?

      I really appreciate you replying to comments! That is so awesome:)

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    3. Hmmmm... I'm not sure. Are you combing all the way through the length of your hair? You need to make sure to get your vinegar/acid rinse on the whole length of your hair, not just your scalp.

      The other thing I found was that the parts of my hair that had been subjected to shampoo for so many years never looked as good as the "never poo'd" parts. I made up for it with the jojoba/coconut oils, but once I grew out and cut off the damaged parts, I find I almost never need to use oil on it. So you might try that.

      Hope that helps!
      :-)
      Cat

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  55. Wow, I really appreciate this post! I've been no-poo for just under a year, and while I've never been 100% happy with the results, it's still better than the disaster that was my scalp and hair on shampoo. Your post here is super awesome, because so much of the no-poo information out on the internet is from someone who just started it last week. It's very helpful to hear from someone who's been doing it long-term, and is also willing to get real about the downsides! Thank you, thank you. I've been having some waxy sebum buildup (and I don't want to increase my BS, because my scalp freaks out), so I'm eager to try the genius combing-out-the-acid thing and see if it works for me. Many thumbs up to you for sharing this information!

    Oh, a side question - when you apply the BS solution, do you only focus on your scalp? Or do you apply it to the length as well? I've been focusing only on my scalp, but I'm guessing this may be contributing to the waxy feeling in the length?

    Sorry to leave an anonymous comment - I don't have any of the accounts mentioned.

    Best wishes,

    Sadie

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    1. Hi Sadie,

      No worries on the anonymous thing... you're not really anonymous if you sign your name are you? :-)

      Anyhow, I generally focus the baking soda on my scalp area, but lately I've been combing it in so it gets all through the length too. Honestly though, I doubt that has anything to do with the waxy buildup. In my experience the baking soda helps clean the oily greasy stuff but doesn't do much for the waxy buildup. In fact, it sure seemed like using too much baking soda actually contributed to the buildup - I'm guessing that's because of the soap scum/hard water phenomenon that I mentioned in the post.

      At any rate... as CatMan (who is significantly more scientifically minded than I am) constantly has to remind me, it's always better to change one variable at a time rather than making a bunch of changes simultaneously, because that way you can tell which change actually causes which result!

      So I'd leave your baking soda routine alone for the moment and try the acidic rinse/combing thing and see what results you get. You can always futz with your BS amounts and system later, but you don't want to "muddy the waters" so to speak by changing everything at once.

      I hope it works for you... it certainly has done wonders for my hair!

      xoxoxo,
      Cat

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  56. I've been using no poo for awhile but give up on it a few days each month when I can't stand my greasy hair anymore. I just kept adding more and more baking soda (which I can see now was the exact wrong thing to do). I would use 1/4 cup of baking soda per wash! Thank you so much for the tip about the citric acid as I live in central Florida I am sure hard water is the problem ad hopefully I can now stick with no poo as the shampoos out there tend to really mess with my hormones. I can literally stop my period at will by using some shampoos. They also give me migraines etc.

    I do have a question. How you get the build up of oils off your comb? My comb is looking awful. Also how do you apply the citric acid and how much do you use? Thanks you again for the post!

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    1. Hmmm... not sure if you're a real person or not - your screen name makes me wonder. But... giving you the benefit of the doubt here - there's no trick to getting the gunk of the comb... I just swish it around in the bath water. And I just squirt some of the citric acid solution on my head and work it in with my fingers. Good luck with it.

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  57. Hi there,
    this is a great post and comment thread-by far the most comprehensive I've read. Most posts are either by people that love the no poo method and who've had very little problems, or others I've read have been by people that gave it a go but went back to normal shampooing for one reason or another. I really love this system, my hair has stopped falling out, I don't need to wash nearly as much and the natural wave has come back into my hair-it's pretty fine so it could never handle the weight of all the silicones. BUT that's about 70% of the time-right now, I could shave it all off, it's driving me nuts! When I use baking soda the maximum I can get away with is 1/2 teaspoon in squeegy bottle with boiled water, I use a rinse of acv, couple of tablespoons to another squeegy bottle. Of late I seem to have a lot of build up at the roots, so I increase my baking soda slightly, this KILLS the ends of my hair so I embark on a week of trying to replace some of the lost moisture by oiling gradually and lightly with coconut oil, brushing through with a natural bristle brush to distribute it through to the ends. One of the applications, I use the teensiest bit too much coconut oil and end up with stringy lifeless hair, in between dry patches. Baking soda is not going to help remove the excess oil so unfortunately I had to use some dry shampoo to offset the oiliness, this seems to have soaked up the oil but left me back at square one with dry brittle ends, so I repeat the oiling very carefully and today the same thing happened, greasy stringy hair, from using literally half a fingernail too much coconut oil. Today I had to use a paraben & silicone free shampoo to see could I clarify the roots and remove the excess oil. I love this method but it's just SO inconsistent, my hair goes through these patches at THEE most inconvenient times, and then it swings back to fabulous strong, shiny hair. I just can't seem to pre-empt any problems that arise, and any attempts to fix the problems always backfire. Having used the shampoo, my hair again feels like it did before I went no poo, squeaky clean but stripped down, fuzzy, fly-away and lifeless. I have extremely pourous hair that seems to be uber-sensitive to anything I try to do and what seems like "too much" or "too little" of anything (baking soda, avc, dry shampoo, coconut oil) seems to depend on the correct alignment of the planets as anything else! I don't know what I'm asking, but if there are any suggestions you could make or you notice anything I am or am not doing that might regularise things a little-that would be great!
    Thanks so much : )
    Ber

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    1. Hey Ber - thanks so much for visiting and commenting.

      I'm not exactly sure what words of wisdom I might be able to impart, but I've suffered from everything you're describing. Getting the roots and the ends to cooperate sometimes seems like a never ending battle.

      I'm not sure how long your hair is, so this may or may not work, but I find that I have to be REALLY careful when using oils of any kind or else I end up looking like an oil slick. When I use oil, I apply it after I've already gotten out of the tub, and I just take a tiny bit and rub it into my hands like I was gonna use it as lotion. Then I take my slightly greasy hands and scrunch up the ends but I do NOT touch anything above the ends. Then I let my hair dry thoroughly and don't brush it until it's dry. That method seems to keep the oil concentrated on the ends where it's needed and keeps it off of the rest of my hair.

      The other thing that seems to help if my hair is gunky up top but dry elsewhere is to try to be really careful with the baking soda and keep it concentrated on my scalp area. So that means not combing it through and using only a small bit so it doesn't run down the hair shaft too far. It's kinda challenging, but seems to help.

      The only other thing I could suggest would be to try something more acidic for your rinse. You mentioned that your hair was sensitive to too much of anything, but what symptoms do you get with too much vinegar - other than smell, that is. I never have really noticed a problem with too much acid, and it really helps to keep the baking soda from over-drying my hair... or it seems to anyhow.

      I think the combing in the tub during the acid rinse also really helps to distribute the sebum down the hair shaft which both makes the top less gunky and helps to add some shine to the rest. But it's important to continue the strokes all the way down the hair shaft to get this effect.

      OK... so that's all I can think of at the moment. Hope something in there helps you!
      x -Cat

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  58. Oh thanks so much, yes I might just try a spritz of undiluted vinegar at the ends and see if that makes a difference. I'll give the combing a go also, I used to brush out the roots before my shower with a natural bristle brush and that did used to help. I was in my home place over Christmas where the water is quite hard, I think the no-pooing caused a pretty big build up from that time. I'm thinking I might just low-poo in future if I'm at home for any length of time as baking soda seems to have very little effect unless I really ramp up the amount I use, which terrifies me to be honest.
    Thanks again for your advice, I'm sure it will all come around again soon when the cold winter weather eases up! I'll let you know how things go in the next couple of weeks for the sake of other posters who may be in the same boat.

    Kind regards : )
    Ber

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    1. Can't wait to hear how it works for you... I've found the combing thing to be huge.

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  59. Holy moly what a long thread and great post. Im poo free since jan 1st - hard well water so waxy locks. Excuted to try out all this great advise. Its actually been a luttle depressing abd grubby feelin sone days but im determined to make this work. Woohoo, morw techniques to try :)

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    1. Hey Annie - sorry for my delay in responding but glad you're finding something useful here. Please let us know what does or doesn't work out for you. :-)

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  60. Hi there! What a well thought out post, and my goodness, so many comments.
    I went "no poo" several years ago, but quit because I felt like the BS was damaging my hair. My hair turned to lifeless straw. I've recently cut my hair short, and the remaining damaged hair is now gone- clean slate! So I wanted to start over.

    Regarding the pH problem, I've been reading that BS is terrible for the hair because of the way it opens the hair shaft, causing damage. That the acidic rinse at the end "closes" the hair shaft, but that this back and forth business is what causes problems for some of us, at least.

    So I wanted to "no poo" even after years of good "organic" shampoo, and I'm 6 weeks in, using only honey rinses (honey from our bees!) and dilute ACV at the end, quickly rinsed out. Right now I'm troubleshooting because most folks who do WO or the honey rinse say things gradually get better and better, and for me, I'm heavy and greasy with a flat spot at the back of my head.

    We do have a deep well, with hard water, so I just bought a shower head filter. I'm absolutely intrigued by the idea of combing, however, and perhaps trying something a little more acidic. I'm going to try that today and see how it goes. All I have is white vinegar or lemon juice so I'll try that and see what happens.
    Oh, and I use a BBB every day, especially before I shower, so I will do that and try the combing and see! I'm excited! I was dreading the thought of giving up and going back to shampoo… I love how shiny and healthy my (straight, fine, blonde) hair is but loathe the gunk.

    cheers!

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    1. Very interesting stuff about the pH issue. Early on in this comment string there are a number of comments from Desiderata (AKA Misty) who is a licensed cosmetologist. She had similar things to say about the opening and closing of the cuticle. But her stuff seemed to imply that as long as the cuticle was closed at the end of the process it was OK. Or at least that's what I took her comments to mean. But it certainly makes sense that opening and closing it could cause an issue. Perhaps this is why I seem to get better results when I use only a very small amount of baking soda.

      Anyhow, I've tried skipping the baking soda altogether but ended up with hair that felt and looked very greasy. I tried to wait it out, but after a month or so with no improvement I gave up and went back to the baking soda.

      But you have given me much food for thought here. I wonder if using a small amount of soap would be any better than baking soda or if it would have the same pH issue. I'm sure soap is alkaline, but I wonder if it's any less so than baking soda.

      Anyhow, I am intrigued by the honey thing, and very interested to learn how it all works out for you, so please keep us posted!

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  61. Hi there, I'm back with an update to my post above. Very interesting considering the intervening posts to do with ph. After a week or two of nearly going demented with dry ends in my hair and greasy roots and swinging back and forth between over moisturised hair and brittle ends, I've decided to ditch the baking soda completely. It's just far too abrasive for my hair. So for the last few weeks I have water-only washed my hair. I tried this once before not long after I had gone no-poo but the build up and the scummy layer on my scalp was too much to cope with so I dropped it. Anyway, something is very different this time, initially I had the same oiliness at the roots (although much lighter than first time around). I set to brushing my hair from roots to tip as often as I could for the first few days of water only washing, I also invested in a nit comb (nice!) to do the job of 'scritching' my scalp. I sectioned off my hair and scritched and brushed like nobodys business and this definately made a huge difference to my transition to water only and I'm delighted to say that my oil production has completely settled down. Now I do think the fact that I've been no poo had something to do with how quick my scalp has transitioned. The ends are so much more soft, still not amazing or anything but I'm sure it takes time for the benefits to work it's way down the hair. Too terrified to do water only initially, I finished off with a vinegar rinse as recommended on various sites for people in hard water areas but again, this was proving too much for my little weakling lock, I started to get that rough inflexible frizzy dry hair again. So I'm now leaving the rinse to every third or fourth wash or as is necessary. My hair feels amazing, it just doesn't look it yet, but I am excited to see what may unfold from this-will I finally get the consistency in hair quality that I've been looking for???
    I'll report back in another couple of weeks!
    Ber

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    1. Wow... that's great! I have been very interested in the pH stuff as well, and since I just lopped of a few inches of dry stuff on the ends decided to try using a less concentrated baking soda solution, and to refrain from combing it through - just keeping it on the scalp area. It takes me about twice as long to comb the gunk out, but I think my hair does feel a bit more moisturized. Hard to tell if it's gonna make any difference on the ends or not since they generally do pretty well for about 6 months or so after a trim. We'll see if I stick with it or not as I'm prone to getting that stuck to the scalp look which I detest.

      But I'm really surprised that you're getting rough frizzy hair from the vinegar. After reading the pH stuff I decided to experiment with a citric acid spritz after getting out of the tub to make sure that the cuticle on the hair shafts were nicely closed, and it's made everything silky soft and really shiny. Hmmmm... I guess no two heads of hair are the same.

      Rachel over at http://growingthingsandmakingthings.blogspot.com/ has reported fantastic results with the water only method, so you could always ask her for some pointers. She's done several posts on the topic and if you just enter "no poo" in her search thing you'll find them.

      Keep us posted!

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  62. Thank you for your blog, it has been the most helpful resource in this transition from shampoo. I am about 2 months in at this point and my one and only problem has been sticky, dry, straw-like ends. I have adjusted levels of baking soda and vinegar--now citric acid. I have hard water. I use a 3T to 20 oz water baking soda mix on my scalp and thoroughly comb through and rinse with 4T citric acid to 25 oz water with essential oils. Any more acid and my roots look oily. I have very oil roots.

    I was having a problem with the buildup and noticing the grey stuff on my brush until I upped the acid. Now there is no buildup that ever comes off my brush or comb in the shower. However, often the ends of my hair, after they have dried, look like they have gel on them. They are a bit crispy until I brush them. No amount of rinsing, combing, or leaving the acid rinse on for longer, or twice rinsing seems to change the fact that my ends are horrible. I tried not using baking soda at all today and left the rinse on for a long time. I combed through the rinse and as I was rinsing out with water several times.

    I don't know what else to try. My hair is basically greasy at the root and dry on the ends, so it's hard to work with both extremes. My main goal for doing this method was to reach the point where I don't need to wash every day. While my hair is not as greasy on the days I don't wash, I wouldn't go to an interview on those days, so there is still a long way to go. My hair used to be shiny and soft and sleek. Since I've started this routine, I haven't been able to run my fingers through my hair due to dry sticky tangles. I don't notice any split ends and don't think I've fried my hair with the baking soda. The ends aren't as bad as they were in the beginning when the hard water soap scum residue was coming off on the comb, but they are still bad. The only thing that fixes the problem is shampoo, which I have used a couple times. Any thoughts or suggestions? Thanks, Katie

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    1. Hi Katie, Thanks so much for stopping by.

      Well... not sure I've got the answer, as getting the ends and roots to cooperate seems to be the age-old problem, but here are my thoughts.

      First of all, sticky generally indicates residue - either baking soda, sebum or some combination of the two. My hair felt like that after each wash for the first 6 months or so, and when I would brush it after it dried, a LOT of sebum and white stuff came out on the brush. So it could just be that there's just a buildup because your hair is still adjusting. You might want to try some brushing with either a wooden bristle or boar's hair brush right after it dries and see if it has any effect.

      Also, I'd try using a bit less baking soda and see if it helps. Maybe 1-2 tablespoons for that amount of water. And how much of that solution are you using for each wash? I try really hard not to get the baking soda on the ends, just using enough to wet the scalp area - so probably a quarter cup max. And I just work it in with my fingers, I don't comb it through so as not to coat the ends with it.

      Another thought, is that even with the strong acid solution, and having done no-poo for 6 years now, I still get a LOT of white stuff on the comb. But the trick is that I need to let the acid solution sit for 5-10 minutes before I begin the combing regimen - it seems to loosen the stuff. So you might try that and see if more stuff comes off... it just sounds like there's probably a buildup of some sort causing the hair to be sticky.

      The other thing I've tried recently with great results is to spritz the ends with a weaker acid solution after I get out of the tub, or to just spritz the ends on days that I don't wash it - then while everything is still wet I rub a bit of coconut oil on my hands and scrunch it into the ends. The ends are still a tad bit stiff when they first dry, and need to be brushed out afterwards, but the result is generally soft and silky smooth.

      Those are all my thoughts at the moment. Hope something helps at least a little. My general experience was that the first few months were the worst and it got much better after that. These days, my hair seems to look a bit fly away and crazy the first day after I wash it, and looks its best on or about day 3. I generally wash it once every 5 days or so, but I'm considering going longer between washes because I'm finally getting to the point where grease is less of a problem. Never thought I'd see the day!

      Anyhow, hang in there... it will get better.
      xoxo,
      Cat

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  63. THANK YOU for posting this!!! I have been no-poo for 2 months and my hair FEELS healthier but LOOKS like ick. Tonight I showered and used some of my former regular shampoo and I almost want to gag from the smell. I just wanted to be able to wear my hair down and have a little volume. But I don't really want to go back to that at all. I have sensitive skin as well, and I feel like all of the scents are too much. Anyway, this post gives me hope that I can actually try again and make it work! I'm so relieved. :o)

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    1. I hope something in this enormous brain dump actually does help you. Please let us all know how it works out! :-)

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  64. Hi EcoCat and other posters,

    just a quick post to report back a couple of findings since my previous posts. My hair feels amazing and it looks great too. Ok...

    1. I think if you are using baking soda and have dry brittle ends, regardless of how greasy your roots are, the bs is just too damaging for your hair so the next step is to finish up with the bs and find a way to deal with your greasier roots.

    2. I invested in two boar bristle brushes as advised and a nit comb (nice). When I went bs free I made sure to use the nit comb to scritch my hair every night and also to comb a little bit down through my hair with it, this really helped with that waxier oil, it eliminated that grey scalp scum also.

    3. Brushing with the boar bristle brushes was really important too but something very important I learned was that the initial brushing should be about moving the sebum down the hair but when that was done a second brushing should be done to try lift some of the oil/greasiness from your hair. In doing this there is no point continuing to brush your hair with a brush that is covered in, well, grease. You need to brush, then rinse out your brush under the tap and repeat. Initially I did this and it completely refreshed my hair, drawing out the time between washes. After a while something shifted and the brushing wasn't working as much, I asked myself what I was doing differently. Almost instantly I realised I had used washing up detergent to clean my brushes but soon after I switched over to my moisturising shower gel which was just not cutting through the grease on my brush. So now I always make sure to brush through my hair, rinse with a good quality washing up detergent, brush again and repeat until I feel I've removed enough oil.
    3. I was completely wrong in my post above about the vinegar, turns out I just wasn't using enough-the water in my area is very hard, I was too scared to up the vinegar in my water solution. As soon as I increased the vinegar, well that was my dryness problem solved. People are stopping me in work to ask what I'm doing with my hair-I can't believe the difference.

    4. I invested in a silk pillow (ebay). I have quite porous hair and even the cotton in my bedsheets is enough to dry out my hair. If nothing else, it keeps my hair from looking like a birds nest in the morning and I don't have to wet it to get it to calm down.

    5. I wrap my hair in a cotton t-shirt after washing, no towels.

    6. I 'm trying to keep away from using any kind of products, natural or unnatural, in my hair. That's not to say I'm always successful, recently I used a little too much vinegar in my solution so my hair was a little on the greasy side, really I should have just tied it up and waited for the next wash, also hair ends tend to lose moisture from one day to the next so things do regulate themselves. Anyway, I was too impatient and used some dry shampoo-my hair was fine but it did knock the balance off kilter somewhat.

    My hair is growing like crazy, it's in great condition even after I colour it. Previous to this it would look like twigs for a week after colouring (I oil my hair intensely the night before-that's the only exception I make to adding products to my hair).
    By the way, I know that everyone's no poo experience is very very subjective so the above might not work for other but by and large I think I've come to the conclusion that strong, thick hair with plenty of sebum to protect it is able for the baking soda. Hair on the finer side, that is porous just can't take the baking soda on a constant basis, I'm sure during the summer I might use it once or twice over a few months if the build-up gets a bit much but I'd prefer not to.

    That's it-must fly!
    Ber : )

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    1. Hey Ber, thanks for the report! That's all mighty interesting stuff.

      I've been experimenting with using less baking soda, and while I can get away with less, if I skip it completely I've got a complete and total oil slick! So, at the moment I've cut the amount in half and have stepped up my efforts to keep it contained to the scalp area and am having pretty good results. My hair is definitely softer and more moisturized, though it's also heavier and not nearly as curly/wavy as it usually is. But it's been several weeks since my last trim and I'm not noticing any dry ends.

      I think you might be onto something with your theory about the thickness of hair and its ability to withstand the baking soda. My hair has always been on the thick/wavy side... it's never lacked for volume and there's nothing wispy about it. After 6 years without shampoo, it still takes half an hour to scrape off enough sebum so that I don't feel like I'm wearing a hair helmet, so there's no shortage of sebum to protect it!

      Your thoughts about the boar's hair brush are also interesting. I haven't had much luck with those brushes because the bristles are just too soft to penetrate my hair. It just sorta skims over the surface and doesn't get anywhere near the roots. So, it basically leaves my hair tangled and untouched except for a small layer on top which it smooths over, but that's about it.

      I have one brush that's a combination of boar's hair and plastic bristles, and it does a little bit better, but it's like the plastic bristles penetrate my hair, but the boar's hair ones just get all bent and pushed to the side. Anyhow... I've been trying to up my brushing a bit with the wooden bristle brush because I have better luck with it, but it doesn't really seem to have the effect that you describe. Hmmmm.... I think we might be getting back to the thin vs. thick hair thing, but it probably wouldn't hurt to be more regular about cleaning my brushes and see if that helps.

      The other thing that stands out is that you mentioned that you color your hair. From what I understand, coloring hair involves using something with a relatively high Ph to open the hair cuticle so it will accept the color. So, I wonder if that process might make colored hair more porous, which would make it more susceptible to damage from the baking soda? I've never colored mine so I really have no experience in this department, but it would sorta make sense.

      Well anyhow, I think it's clear that no two heads of hair are the same, and I'm glad you're having success. Thanks so much for writing about your experience!

      xoxox,
      Cat

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  65. This is a funny blog. I hit the (ugh) no poo brick wall. Been doing this for almost three months now due to thinning hair. Prior to no shampoo, I washed my hair pretty regularly. Was on Rogaine foam, used hair fibers to hide thinning. In addition, I have Rosacea. Dermatologists gave me prescriptions for all of these things.... But when the cost became nearly $1,000 a month I said "enough!" I was tired of using chemicals on chemicals. This journey has not been easy. The research, the dreadlocks, the smells! What compounds the issue is I work for a shampoo manufacturer.

    I made up mixes for thinning hair using Castile soap and essential oils. I have evening routines (brushing and treatments). I tried baking soda and ACV rinses....clay detox treatments....all natural dry shampoo for worst case days. Still, I have bad days.

    With that being said, if it weren't for the fact that my skin and allergies are improving, I would have given up by now. Today, I bought a water testing kit and a filter for the shower. I am convinced the issues are with my hard water. The test showed water hardness at the highest level. I think the filter will only reduce chlorine levels. We shall see.

    Thanks for allowing me to vent! I'll keep you posted!

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    1. OK... that's hilarious that you work for a shampoo manufacturer! I have no experience with thinning hair, although it does seem that my hair has gotten a bit thicker and fuller since I went no poo. Anyhow, hard water is a real challenge just in general - please keep us posted, and thanks so much for stopping by!

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  66. This is such a great post - thank you! Two years ago my hair started falling out loads and my scalp was red and itchy. Somebody suggested it was the Sodium Laureth Sulphate in shampoos (basically an industrial cleaner and skin irritant) so I got an SLS-free one and it instantly went - no more hair falling out and no more red scalp. My hair was gorgeous. But a few months later I got my hair highlighted and my scalp rebelled at the chemicals and dryness and I've been really fighting the grease ever since. Also, the SLS-free shampoos still had chemicals in which were hurting my scalp and making it painful to wash my hair, so I was avoiding it. I went no-poo two weeks ago and it has been amazing. My scalp is calm and not itchy or greasy. But my hair has gradually become so waxy it's almost possible to put it in a ponytail without a hair tie!! So I did some more research and came up with your amazing post. I live in a very hard water area and had been using several table spoons full of bicarb with each wash. Urg. Going to start with apple cider vinegar etc tomorrow as a matter of urgency :-)
    I just wanted to add a tip that I found from another site, and which I found used to work in the past too. Another way to make the cuticles lie down and be all lovely and smooth is to do your last few rinses with cold water. Or at least one if you can't stand more. It snaps them shut nicely and hair is much smoother and easier to comb through.
    Thanks again - so helpful!!

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by! I've heard the cold water rinse thing too, and I sometimes do it in the hot summer months... but in the winter, Ooooo! I've got goose bumps just thinking about it!

      Anyhow, I'm glad I was able to help. Best of luck on your no-poo journey! :-)

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    2. OK so I'm having some problems getting rid of the waxy feeling. I think it's because I'm having problems distributing the bicarb solution and end up putting too much on. I have thick, long hair. It might sound like a strange question but how do you wash your hair with this? Do you wet your hair and just pour the solution over the scalp or do you try to get it through to the ends of your hair too. I've tried combing and am getting no sebum at all out (which I used to when I used SLS-free shampoo) so I'm a bit worried I'm actually stripping my hair of everything!!!

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    3. Hi there Anon... well, generally speaking the bicarb does little to deal with the waxy stuff. The baking soda solution, for me at least, seems to take care of the greasiness, but the waxy sebum requires the acidic rinse to loosen it.

      Anyhow, I too have long thick hair. What I generally do is brush and/or comb my hair thoroughly while it's still dry. Then I wet my hair and slowly pour some of the baking soda solution on it, working it down to my scalp with my fingers. It helps to have a very diluted solution. I actually try not to get it down to the ends, and to keep it in the scalp area as much as possible. Sometimes it helps to comb my hair out once it's wet so the solution can distribute more easily. You'll know when you get it right because it will start to feel slippery or soapy.

      After I rinse out the bicarb, I put on the acidic rinse, comb it in and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Then I start my combing regimen, and generally the sebum comes readily out at that point. But, I have to confess that there are some days when the sebum just doesn't want to loosen, and I have yet to figure out what that's all about! Sometimes an extra citric acid rinse will help loosen it, but some days it just wants to stay put!

      I guess I'd try using a weaker baking soda solution to start with and see if that helps. Sometimes, if you've got too much baking soda it doesn't rinse out properly and that can feel somewhat waxy too - although baking soda residue generally makes your hair brittle and crunchy with very little shine. You might also want to try increasing the acidity of your rinse and see if that helps. If you're feeling a lot of waxy buildup, I think it's unlikely that you're completely stripping your hair - since buildup and stripping would seem to be opposite problems!

      I hope something in there helps! Good luck with it and let us know it works out for you. :-)

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