A Better Alternative To The “No-Poo” Hair Washing Method

Sulfate-Free Shampoos

A Better Alternative To The “No-Poo” Hair Washing Method

In the natural hair care community the use of conditioners to “wash” hair has been a hot trend for several years. Another option for “no-poo” has been to use baking soda and apple cider vinegar as a shampoo substitute. In most cases, these alternatives have been adopted to avoid contact with sulfates, aggressive cleansing agents found in common shampoos. At this point, the no-poo method has been practiced by enough people over a long enough period of time for some consensus to have formed regarding its effectiveness.

Baking Soda and Apple Cider Vinegar

The baking soda and apple cider method seems to provide the greatest impact over a short time [1], but with prolonged use (12 months or greater) appears to have the potential to produce undesirable effects like excessive dryness[2].

Two important factors to consider with using baking soda as a shampoo are: baking soda is highly alkaline (9.5 on the pH scale) which disrupts hair’s pH balance and swells the hair shaft. Rinsing with vinegar after a soda wash is intended to bring the pH of the hair back into balance but does nothing to assuage the other problem with baking soda. The minute crystals of the material act like little shards of glass that scratch the scalp and over time, can damage the hair shaft.

Washing With Conditioner

Another practice in the no-poo method, washing with conditioners or “co-washing”, likewise can produce initial positive results, but over time, can also contribute to excessive build-up and scalp issues[3]. The ingredients used by cosmetic chemists to create products for hair care exhibit various charges: negative (anionic), neutral (nonionic) or positive (cationic) charge. Most conditioners contain a cationic component which is naturally drawn to cling to and coat our negatively charged hair. This coating helps contribute to glide, shine and ease of styling, but to maintain hair and scalp’s health, it needs to be regularly removed.

Sulfates work extremely well (often too well) at removing build-up from hair, and in many cases, their cleansing power is over-kill for our delicate hair and skin. Washing frequently with sulfate-heavy cleansers can lead to disruption or total removal of hair and skin’s protective hydro-lipid layer resulting in excessive dryness and eventual damage.

A Good Alternative to No-Poo and Sulfates

Day One Gentle Clarifying Cleanser for Hair & Skin

Try Day One Gentle Clarifying Cleanser for Hair & Skin

It’s important to regularly cleanse your hair and scalp to maintain your hair in a healthy state, but to do so without removing vital moisture. There are now many sulfate-free shampoos on the market to allow you to do this effectively, however even among these products, users may find some to be too drying. One helpful hint is to seek out cream cleansers that are pH balanced and which contain some form of conditioning oil or butter. An example from FAR Botanicals is our Castor Oil and Safflower Oil-based Day One Gentle Clarifying Cleanser for Hair & Skin.

Keep in mind that if your hair is especially fine or oily, an oil or butter-based cream cleanser may not be your best option. Alternately, you can look for products that don’t possess a heavy load of surfactants[4], this can be determined by seeing how high or low a surfactant is on a product’s ingredient list. For oilier hair types, FAR Botanicals Day One Gentle Clarifying Cleanser is a good example of a low oil, low surfactant wash that effectively cleans without stripping.

Remember as you shop for these types of washing products, that as a rule, sulfate-free, low-surf and oil-containing shampoos and cleansers tend to have low foaming action, but this feature should not impact a product’s ability to properly clean your hair.



  1. http://www.treehugger.com/organic-beauty/no-shampoo-experiment-six-months-later.html
  2. http://blog.kanelstrand.com/2014/01/baking-soda-destroyed-my-hair.html
  3. http://www.blackhairinformation.com/growth/shampooing/co-washing-everyone/
  4. http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/Issues/2003/July/amphiphiles.asp