I wanted to ditch shampoo for years but I was afraid of the process. No penny goes unpinched around here though and during a time of reduced income, I decided it was now or never. That was almost a year and a half ago and my only regret is that I waited so long to try.
In addition to saving me tons of money, getting rid of shampoo has had unexpected side effects. My hair is much healthier, grows faster and has more body. Perhaps most surprising though is how this journey has helped me to love myself more.
Here is the process I used to go shampoo free and the regular care routine I use now.
Getting Started Going Shampoo Free
The first few months are unpleasant. How unpleasant depends on how oily your hair tends to be. Mine is oily and the most I could get away with when using shampoo was washing every other day. It took me about three months for my hair to stabilize.
The basic routine that I began then and use now is to wash with baking soda and rinse with a homemade hair tea that has apple cider vinegar. I’ll go into detail about those later. I want to point out that I don’t use any styling products or dyes in my hair, so what works for me may not for someone who does use those things.
Detoxing is Important
Looking back, I really think my hair would have adapted more quickly if I had used a detox regimen in the beginning. After a period of improving hair health, my hair started getting oilier than ever in that early period. What finally caused breakthrough was detoxing with bentonite clay.
To do this, make a pliable paste of bentonite clay and water and use it instead of baking soda to “wash” your hair. Rub it into your scalp well and down through all of your hair. Leave in while you shower and then rinse well. Don’t use the ACV rinse for the detox day. You’ll probably find your hair feels much better after a bentonite clay wash. Use it about once a month if you need it.
Choose Your Hairbrush Wisely
A good quality 100% boar bristle brush is a tool I consider necessary. Boar bristles are unique in how they interact with our own hair, helping to pull the sebum produced in the scalp down through each hair shaft, resulting in healthy, shiny hair. A note about purchasing: read the reviews thoroughly because I’ve noticed many “boar bristle brushes,” even those advertised as 100%, contain at least some artificial fibers as well. If this is the case, you’ll see it in the reviews if you’re purchasing online.
The Regular Shampoo Free Routine
Things to have in the shower:
- container of baking soda (I use an old large cinnamon shaker)
- small bowl for mixing soda/water
- bottle of hair rinse (old soy sauce bottles work perfectly for this)
To begin, wet your hair thoroughly, rubbing through your scalp with your fingers and rinsing water through your hair to remove and dirt or particles. Put about 2-4 tablespoons of baking soda into the small bowl and add enough water to make a runny mixture. Pour this over your scalp, reserving some to put in your hand and apply directly where you can’t pour, such as the base of your head. Using fingertips, rub and massage deeply into your scalp. This takes a bit of time and once in a great while when I’m rushing, I’ll cheat and use this gentle shampoo, but I don’t recommend using it as a regular part of the routine or it will strip oils. I might use it once a month and find that infrequent use does not affect my hair’s health.
It is important to not rub the baking soda down the hair shaft as it is abrasive and can damage hair. You’re really focusing on the scalp during this process, having removed any dirt/debris/other in the first rinse.
Next, take your hair tea ACV rinse and apply it well throughout your hair. I shake it over my scalp with my repurposed soy sauce container, then twist my hair up against the back of my head and pour it throughout, making sure all of my hair has some of the rinse. Leave this in while you do the rest of your shower stuff, then rinse out.
Let your hair dry all the way, then brush with a regular brush to detangle. Finish up with a thorough brushing using your boar bristle brush and you’re good to go!
Between Washing Maintenance
During the initial adjustment time and any time you feel like you need it, you can dust your hair with a dry shampoo. Make your own dry shampoo with corn starch for light hair and corn starch + cocoa powder for darker hair. I tap some gently into my boar bristle brush, then pull it through my hair until everything is soft and clean feeling. Using this dry shampoo is how you survive the first stages when you have to leave the house and your hair isn’t inclined to comply.
Homemade Hair Tea Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse
Herbs are a great way to help improve your hair’s health. Both nettles and horsetail are well known for hair health and are the basis of my hair tea rinse.
- quart jar
- 1/4 cup dried nettles
- 1/4 cup horsetail
- boiling water
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 4-6 drops essential oils for scent, optional
Start about a quart of water to boil. Put the nettles and horsetail in the bottom of a quart jar and add boiling water. Cover gently and steep overnight, then strain. Add apple cider vinegar and essential oils. Go easy on essential oils; they are oils, after all, and can cause buildup
When it is finished, I pour some into a soy sauce bottle to use in the shower and store the rest in a cupboard. You’ll probably see a vinegar mother develop, just compost this and continue using the rinse. You can also store the extra in the fridge.
That’s it! Going shampoo free is not difficult at all. The hardest part is waiting out the adjustment time while your hair relearns how to produce the right amount of oils.