A hairy dilemma

For some time now I’ve been trying out the “no ‘poo” method of hair care. Rather than using shampoo, you wash with a paste made of baking soda and water, and rather than using conditioner, you simply rinse your hair with diluted apple cider vinegar. I got the idea from my friend Mari, who has been doing it for years and loves the results. My own experience has been a little uneven, however.

The main purpose of going no ‘poo is to allow your hair’s natural oils to come out. This should, in theory, make your hair prettier and more manageable. It’s also supposed to be healthier for your hair, since you aren’t stripping away natural oils and then applying unnatural products.

My hair is long, straight, and naturally blond. I have never really done much with it. It can’t hold a curl for more than an hour. It’s very convenient, in that I can simply wash it and go, but I’ve often despaired of how flat it is. I was hoping that going no ‘poo would add some body.

It took some time for my hair to adjust to the baking soda and cider method. Once it did, I noticed two improvements I really liked. First, my hair no longer seemed susceptible to static electricity. It lay flat and was easy to move without worrying about tangling. It also held its shape better, meaning I could give the appearance of volume by brushing it up in the front and then allowing it to fall. I was pretty pleased with these changes. While my hair wasn’t actually thicker, it felt more manageable.

However, there were a few problems. The first problem: Sean didn’t care for the smell of my hair while I used this method. Frankly, I didn’t either. It didn’t smell dirty, but it didn’t smell pretty, either. I suppose this problem might be fixed with a spray-in fragrance, or perhaps a lemon or scented oil as I’ve seen suggested on no ‘poo forums, but for me, fixing baking soda paste and diluting cider is already more fuss than I normally feel like doing. I’m not particularly girly; I like to look nice, but I don’t want to spend hours in the bathroom each morning.

The second problem: My mom told me my hair didn’t shine like it used to–that it looked dull. This was very disappointing to hear. I could almost deal with the smell issue, but if my hair isn’t going to look good, what’s the point? I don’t have cascading golden tresses or anything, but I like to think my hair is fairly pretty. I don’t want to sabotage a facet of my looks that I’m perfectly happy with.

A third problem is simply the issue of getting a thorough washing. Baking soda works all right for cleaning hair after exercise, but when I tried it after swimming in the ocean or a chlorinated pool, my hair did not get clean. Chlorine is similar to baking soda, so it was actually recommended somewhere not to use the baking soda at all, but to simply rinse the hair before and after swimming, or to use a bathing cap, something I don’t own and have never used. Again, more fuss.

My no ‘poo experience ended when I went to New York state recently. While there I didn’t feel like taking the trouble to find a store and buy baking soda and apple cider vinegar, so I simply used hotel shampoo and conditioner. And let me tell you, it felt so good to actually lather up my hair again. My hair felt nice and clean and smooth afterwards, too. The no ‘poo method changes the texture of hair, makes it more oily. Maybe that’s better for it; I don’t know. All I do know is I’ve used shampoo and conditioner since I’ve been home, and I’m loath to give them up again, despite the fact that I can already feel my hair getting thinner and frizzier.

Neither option seems ideal at this point. I wonder if there’s a happy medium out there somewhere.


  1. Baking soda is really drying- maybe that’s why your hair wasn’t as shiny as it used to be! Sounds like we have similar hair textures. While drying your hair out will add more volume (because the cuticle isn’t laying flat), it can also damage it in the long run. I’ve found that the best thing for my hair is a daily clarifying shampoo (which is slightly drying but not a problem for my hair) (I use Herbal Essences Drama Clean if you’re interested) (it smells fruity) and skipping conditioner entirely. There’s no need to moisturize when things get so oily! And then I just brush it and leave it alone. The less I mess with it the better it behaves.

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