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My No ‘Poo Failure

No poo experiment

Every hero becomes a bore at last.~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don’t like admitting defeat….ever…. but I have to admit baking soda has beaten me. I had planned, initially, on issuing a “no ‘poo” challenge to you, my readers, but something, in the back of my mind, made me think I should try it and see the efficacy and sheer workability of it all.

Most of you remember that I am a huge fan of the Oil Cleansing Method or OCM and that I even mix my own oils much of the time (unless I am travelling and then I take along my One Love Organics Skin Savior Balm and May Lindstrom The Clean Dirt which keeps my skin glowing no matter where in the world I am).  I really love being “crunchy”.  I have such fun coming up with new recipes for household cleaners, hair oils, and pretty much anything that would, under normal circumstances, come in a package with a million, often unpronounceable, ingredients.

I really wanted to love the “no ‘poo” method.   I felt like I was in good company with many awesome bloggers such as Crunchy Betty and Nature Moms who extolled the virtues of baking soda and water and ACV.  I tried to love it. I really did try hard.

The Baking Soda Fiasco

I should probably start by saying, when I embarked upon this experiment I was already only washing my hair about once every 4 to 5 days. I oil my hair to nourish it and help it grow long and strong before I shampoo it.   Many that start the “no ‘poo” method go cold turkey after washing their hair every day.  I was already using natural SLS/SLE- free natural shampoos and silicone free conditioners. I didn’t have the major shock to my system that most people that try to go cold turkey from conventional shampoos straight to baking soda normally do because I already am used to coating my hair in oils and using natural shampoos that don’t suds as much as conventional ones do.  It was a natural progression…. or so I thought.

I started with the baking soda paste and water.  That was a miserable fail from the get go, though I stuck with this for about a week.  I used this twice (once and then 5 days later once again).  I made a paste using about 2 tbsp. of baking soda and a little water.  First, the baking soda paste does not get the oil out of my hair which is a negative to me because oiling my hair is an integral part of my slow beauty routine that I just don’t plan on abandoning because it really does nurture my tresses and make them shine.  Oddly enough, it also managed to dry my hair out at the same time as not removing the oil.  How that happened I will never understand but happen it did.  I even did an ACV rinse after with 3 teaspoons of raw apple cider vinegar combined in about 1 1/2 pints of water, run through the ends of my hair.  I still had oily and dry hair.

The only troubleshooting guides I could find really involved people freaking out from going from conventional shampoos to no ‘poo so their major issues involved the “funky” feeling your hair will go through even when you switch to a natural SLS and other chemical-free shampoo.  My hair already had a beautiful distribution of natural sebum from roots to tip because I had long since abandoned toxic conventional shampoos.  I was a completely different animal.

I started playing around with quantities of baking soda and water, making more of a rinse with a few tablespoons down to a few teaspoons of baking soda and varying amounts of water.  No dice.  I literally could no longer oil my hair if I wanted to use this method and that was a deal breaker.  I tried adding lemon juice.  Nothing.  If I did not oil my hair no amount of ACV would moisturize it. Even adding honey to the ACV (like a teaspoon with the ACV and up to a quart of water) just gave me hair that was either really dry or, when trying to remove the oil, I would end up looking and smelling a little like cake batter.

If you go cold turkey and you don’t oil your hair it will take between 6-8 weeks of hating your hair but you will eventually love your hair with this method but only if you don’t oil your tresses like me.  It is fantastic for curly girls!  I have fine long hair that I highlight so for me….not so much.

Herbal Powders to the rescue

I gave up about 3 weeks into the experiment with baking soda.  I got to where I could only wear my hair in a pony tail or bun and that was just not acceptable.  I had brought back some shikakai powder from India with me and mixed it with Aritha powder, placed it in about two cups of boiling water and let the mixture sit for about 20 minutes.  I used this in two ways.  The first was a paste. Incredibly drippy and even harder to rinse the bits out.  I don’t know if I did it right but it did take the oil out of my hair so that was a plus.  Aritha powder really is ground soap nuts so all of you who use this as your laundry detergent, it also works wonders for your hair.

The second way I used it is as a tea.  I liked this method so much better, mixing it the same way but then straining it and putting the “tea” in my hair.  It even  creates suds in the shower a little.  I could oil my hair and get my hair clean without stripping it.  I liked it but it is a little bit of a pain to mix it and a mess to strain it.

I did also still use the ACV to give my hair a conditioning kick.

This all went well until I wanted a short cut and bought Hesh herbal powder shampoo.  It has both aritha powder and shikakai powder but also a blend of I don’t know how many other herbs.  It was a disaster and a half.  I am not convinced it doesn’t have questionable ingredients in it as many “beautifying oils” in India are now (sadly) full of petrochemicals and other chemicals.  The good stuff is still made by Ayurvedic doctors and by grandmothers who still use traditional wisdom but don’t get me started on Darbur or any other mass manufactured product there.  Anyway, in my bid to take a shortcut with this ready made powder my hair ended up very dry and seemingly coated with some sort of film that it took 2 weeks of oiling it, leaving the oil in for 24 hours at a time, every other day and then using a good natural shampoo and conditioner to get my hair back to its shiny bouncy norm.

What I kept from the experiment

I still use the ACV rinse.  Sometimes I substitute lemon juice for the ACV but mostly it’s the ACV.  I, every now and again, use the herbal powder mix of shikakai and aritha as a tea but only when I have a LOT of time on my hands.  I still oil my hair every four or five days and I only use natural shampoos and conditioners.  Though I have a review coming up, I have to tell you, my new love is Body Deli Living Shampoo.  More on why in a little while.
As a protein pack I will, every few weeks, use about 2 cups of coconut milk mixed with 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and about 2 tablespoons of aloe (or sometimes just the coconut milk) on my dry hair and let it soak in for about an hour before I shampoo.  Alas, I still buy my shampoo.  I am a girly girl and I do love my indulgences.

I hope, if you do want to try the no ‘poo method you let me know as I do know how to make it work for most types of hair but for me, it was such a failure I couldn’t even issue the challenge but I know many more people that do it and love it.

They say you can’t win ’em all.  I think I will stick to my non-toxic and luxurious natural, organic shampoo!


  • Toni South

    Thanks for sharing your story of no ‘poo gone awry. I think the biggest take away for any of us that are constantly trying out our own concoctions is that it’s all a journey, and what works for everyone else may not work for you. I went no ‘poo about 6 or so months ago, and it’s definitely been a process that sometimes involved success and sometime tears. I have curly, dry long hair and it is definitely the healthiest it’s ever been but I absolutely have to mix in either botanical conditioners or coconut oil after the ACV rinse or I’m a tangled dry disaster.

    Once I get my hair washed, ACV rinsed and conditioned I can re-rinse it in ACV to reactivate curls easily. I also love to make a lavender tea and spritz that on dry hair to give me some curls.

    I think in the long run I’ll keep some backup non-toxic shampoo/conditioner on hand and do the no ‘poo routine semi-regularly. I just love that I had never heard of this whole process a year ago and no I actually get excited when I see a post on the topic:)

    • thedetoxdiva

      The herbal powders, for me, were not a total disaster but oh the backing soda….. not my friend. I listened, along the way, to those that insisted I was just going through that “grungy” phase but I did honestly already pass through that when I started washing my hair only every 4 or 5 days…. I hear you when you say you have to mix a botanical conditioner. I have ZERO curl in my hair and the tangles were 6 year old type tangles that made me cry to take them out! I love my non-toxic shampoos. If I ever need clarifying ( which I really don’t because I don’t use product) then I know how to use the no ‘poo method! Thanks Toni for the vote of confidence because when I posted, I doubted myself tremendously whether I should actually admit defeat!

  • jess

    what great tips! i’ve started adding time inbetween my washes and i don’t think i could commit to no shampoo! i’ve written about my journey here …

  • I am way too oily for this I think. I have very oily skin that soaks into my hair. It’s great for wrinkles to have oily skin, but my bangs literally are soaked with oil by the end of the day. Even more now with age than before. I have to wash my bangs twice/day if I want to look fresh and clean. I tend to go much longer on washings with the rest, but it gets probably as oily as your treatment on its own. You should see my pillow cases;) I’m an oil source. Pretty soon, it will just start shooting out of me!;)

    • thedetoxdiva

      You find, when you switch to a sulfate free shampoo your hair does get less oily!! It happens around the 4th week, but then you realize, keeping the oil distributed roots to tip does something magical to your hair! Same goes for hair oddly enough. I should teach you about oiling your hair. It does wonders for oily hair!

  • I totally hear you – I have long, fine hair too and I just never got that lovely glossy look I was after – I too had oily yet dry hair. Weird. I did stick it out – for 3 years LOL! But my hair never really looked that great. I then experimented with other things and the best thing for me?? Pineapple juice 😉
    I found too that over time my hair started to go red with the baking soda / ACV mix – I didn’t mind that I have natural red highlights in my dark hair, but I can imagine for someone blonde it would look horrible and straw like. My husband uses soapwort grown in the garden with wonderful results.
    Have you ever tried rhassoul clay? I had a reasonable amount of success with that; it might be worth a try if you still want to try something, but in all honesty; if you have something that works – why reinvent the wheel?
    I don’t see this as a fail, I see it as an opportunity to learn more about ourselves and the things that keep us, as individuals, healthy and feeling good about ourselves.

    • thedetoxdiva

      Pineapple juice! I could actually see where that would work, though off the top of my head I can’t tell you how I could envision it! I could see it as a rinse. I have been using this one shampoo though that yes, I buy, and yes, it comes in a package but it has all kinds of raw greens and algae and it is giving me the shine and the condition I crave. The weird thing is, it doesn’t make my hair feel at all slick in the shower yet it washes and conditions beautifully. I haven’t tried rhassoul clay on my hair BUT one of my favorite cleansers is a rhassoul face cleanser that I could theoretically try. By the way, my hair started to go red too, and I am blonde! I didn’t MIND the red, but I minded very much the straw like red from the dryness!!

  • I tried both baking soda and apple cider vinegar on my hair and it worked quite well for me. I just got bit lazy with it though and then I headed off overseas and promptly forgot all about it when I got back. So I am on a natural shampoo at the moment that doesn’t have too many chemicals.

  • Skikakai is AMAZING!!!

    I absolutely ♡ shikakai. I have Hashimoto’s so my hair was always dry. I started co-washing but then switched to shikakai and couldn’t stop touching my hair because the ends had never felt so moisturized. I also do a light oil sometimes after.
    My recipe is just one tablespoon hikakai to three cups water. Bring to a boil and remove from heat . let sit for an hour to cool and steep the nutrients into the water. I store it in an old shampoo bottle and squeeze it onto my hair after wetting it in the shower and before I wash up. It rinses out easily this way and leaves my hair better than any other natural cleanser or homemade method…and I’ve tried them all I think 🙂

    • thedetoxdiva

      I like it too but I can’t use it often because it tends to dull my blonde! Glad to see you are a fan!

  • Nola

    Hello everyone,

    I tried baking soda and it was really awful too. My hair was also both really dry and still oily. However, when I switched to ghassoul clay, everything got back to normal, even if I, actually, was one of those who used traditional industrial shampoo before.
    However I still have to use shampoo, when I use castor oil on my scalp. When I tried to wash it only with clay, it did not work at all.

    • thedetoxdiva

      I know what you mean about rhassoul, it’s awesome. I use it everywhere, but you are right. You need something with a surfactant after castor oil!