DIY Shampoo and Conditioner – The “No-Poo” Method


I never realized modern shampoo is so… modern.

Shampoo was essentially invented in the 1930s, before which people mostly washed their hair with soap or used vegetable starches, herbs, or ash to absorb oil. However, soap, especially in hard water, can leave the hair dull, weak and Breck shampoo 1980, by twichery, on Flickrrough. So around the turn of the century, chemists whipped a magical frothy formula using synthetic detergents called surfactants, and they called this formula “shampoo.” The invention of shampoo effectively solved two problems (cleaning the hair AND leaving it soft & shiny) but it also created three new ones.

Problem #1

Shampoo stresses the scalp. When the detergents in shampoo strip away the natural oil (sebum) from your scalp, the scalp starts over-compensating for the artificial loss by producing more sebum. This causes the hair to look greasy more quickly, and you have to wash it again. Strip the oils, over-produce the oils, and around and around we go.

Problem #2

Shampoo lather in hair, by thejbird, on FlickrShampoo contains potentially toxic chemicals which get absorbed through the skin. Many of the surfactants, foam boosters, thickeners, conditioning agents, foaming agents, formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, modifiers, and additives (think: sodium lauryl sulfate, lauramide DEA, quatemium 80, methylparaben, DMDM hydantoin, 1,4-dioxane, and FD&C dyes, to name a few) are considered to be potential endocrine-disruptors, carcinogens, or allergens by the Environmental Working Group.

Problem #3 

Shampoo can be expensive. I thought my products were pricy, but Kiss My Face ain’t got nothing on salon-worthy brands like Aveda or Paul Mitchel or TIGI.

A quick calculation: If my 11 ounce bottle of Kiss My Face shampoo costs me $7.99 and lasts about two months if I wash my hair 3x/week, I am spending about $1.85/wash (and I have VERY SHORT hair).

Baking Soda

Solution #1

Baking soda does not stress the scalp. It’s a non-detergent cleaner, which arm and hammer baking soda, by Rakka, on Flickrmeans it will remove the dirt and grease without stripping away the scalp’s natural oils and without subsequently causing the scalp to over-produce those oils. The result is a clean and balanced head.

Solution #2

Baking soda is non-toxic. The EWG gives it a “0” toxicity rating out of 10. Remember, we EAT this stuff when we bake cookies.

Solution #3

Baking soda is really, really cheap. Washing my hair 3x/week for two months with baking soda would cost about $1.32. That amounts to $0.03/wash!

You may need to adjust your amounts depending on whether your hair is thin/thick/straight/curly/dry/oily. (The consensus seems to be: Try less baking soda for thin/straight/dry hair and more baking soda for thick/curly/oily hair. Some people swear by washing with only water (?!) and others like a 50/50 baking soda/water concoction.)


1. In an old large shampoo bottle (or spray bottle / squirt bottle / ketchup bottle… whatever), dissolve approximately 1 tablespoon of baking soda into 1 cup of water.

2. In the shower, squirt as much baking soda water onto your scalp as you think you need, then start massaging your head in a circular motion until you sense a slight sliminess.

3. Rinse very thoroughly; leaving baking soda in the hair will cause it to feel like straw.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar Weight Loss, by Health for Joy, on FlickrConventional conditioners pose the same potential problems as shampoo. One of the most popular natural alternatives is apple cider vinegar. Sounds weird, right?

Studies show that the skin should be slightly acidic (with a pH of less than 7) to allow for the healthy resident microflora to live. Baking soda is alkaline, with a pH of 9, so a follow-up acidifying rinse of apple cider vinegar will gently restore the slightly acidic pH of the scalp. (White vinegar is too acidic.)

Apple cider vinegar also exfoliates the scalp, thereby removing dead skin and dandruff; closes and flattens the hair cuticle, which helps it retain moisture and project shine; and breaks down residue caused by hair products.

 Again, this formula may need adjusting. Some people like as much as 50/50 ratio.


1. Mix the apple cider vinegar and water together in a second squirt bottle to be kept in the shower alongside the baking soda bottle.

2. Following the baking soda wash & rinse-out, squirt the apple cider vinegar solution onto your scalp and massage. Your head will smell like salad dressing for a moment.

3. Rinse thoroughly. The smell will vanish!

Well, there you have it. I’m going to start my “no-poo” experiment today. How about you?


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