Wash Your Hair Without Shampoo

There are many reasons to eschew typical shampoo if you have naturally curly or wavy hair. Cleansing hair without a shampoo can give straight hair back its natural fullness and body, and maybe even a wavy texture that was being shampooed out. Most shampoos contain harsh, drying sulfates that are extremely damaging for curly hair (ammonium laureth sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, etc.). They are often foaming agents that make curly hair frizzy and uncooperative. Using conditioner, or another replacement such as baking soda in place of shampoo will cleanse the hair just as effectively without stripping it of moisture.


  1. Prepare before you begin a no-shampoo routine. You need to clarify which, if any, hair products you use cannot be removed without shampoo.
    • Use a sulfate shampoo to remove any silicones or waxes in the hair. (Only do this once before beginning the method!) Also, get your hair trimmed if you have any split ends. It will take 2-4 weeks for your hair to adjust to the no shampoo. It may even look worse at first. Hair is a long-term project and it may take a couple weeks for it to regain its health.
  2. Begin your routine by wetting your hair in the shower.
  3. Wash your hair with a shampoo replacement.
    • For curly or wavy hair that isn't oily: Distribute conditioner on your entire scalp and massage your scalp with the tips of your fingers. This will cleanse the scalp of any dirt and get rid of dandruff. Then rinse thoroughly. You only need to do this step every other day.
    • For straight hair or hair that's oily: Consider using home remedies in place of harsh shampoos. All of these still may be a little drying to the hair so be sure to condition afterwards.
      • Baking Soda Mix: Baking soda is also known as sodium bicarbonate. It is sold in most supermarkets, health food stores and similar places. Before showering, combine one tablespoon baking soda with one cup warm or hot water in a plastic bottle and shake thoroughly. Work into the hair and comb through. Rinse thoroughly with water thenfollow with a vinegar rinse to condition your hair.
      • 'Apple Cider Vinegar or Distilled White Vinegar Rinse: This of course, smells like vinegar. Don't worry though; once you have rinsed your hair the smell will go away. If it doesn't, you are using too much vinegar. Combine one to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with one cup water in plastic bottle. Work into the hair and comb through. Rinse thoroughly.
      • Lemon Juice: Combine the juice of one lemon with an equal amount of your normal conditioner. Work into the hair and comb through. Rinse thoroughly.
  4. Distribute a moisturizing conditioner throughout all of your hair. Skip this step if you are using baking soda to wash your hair and a vinegar rinse to condition it.
  5. Untangle using your fingers or a wide-toothed comb. Take a small section of hair on one side of your head and untangle from the bottom up. Repeat until all of your hair is combed.
  6. Let the conditioner sit in your hair for five minutes or so for extra moisture. Skip this step if you are using the baking soda / vinegar rinse method.
  7. Do the final rinse of your hair with cool or cold water to decrease frizz and add shine. The outermost layer of a hair strand is comprised of downward-facing cuticle scales (away from the scalp).
  8. Leave some conditioner in your hair, especially in dry sections like the ends.
  9. Avoid waxes and silicones, ingredients that generally end in -cone, -conol or -xane, in hair products. Short term, silicones will make hair look sleeker and less frizzy, but in the long run they will coat the hair shaft and seal out moisture causing hair to become straw like, less defined, and frizzy. The only way to remove silicones and waxes is to use a harsh, drying sulfate shampoo. Most of the highly commercialized lines of hair products (Pantene, Garnier Fructis, Aussie, Tresemme, Sunsilk) contain silicones. However if a silicone has "PEG" in front of it, it is water-soluble and will not build up.
  10. Apply a gel or mousse and leave-in to wet hair after showering (for curly or wavy hair). If straight, simply let your hair air dry. Read this article about curly hair for more tips and tricks.
  11. Realize that there will be an adjustment period of two to four weeks. Your hair may become frizzy or oily as it adjusts to the no-sulfate routine, but eventually everything will level out and you will reap the benefits of going shampoo free! For the period in which your hair is adjusting (2-4 weeks) try wearing your hair in braids, a healthy, protective style for hair.


  • Cold (or cool) water during the final rinse causes the cuticle scales to tighten & close down (go back together or lay flat against inner layers). Because closed, flattened outer-layer scales are smoother and more uniform (than opened scales), they reflect light better/more, like a good mirror. Closed scales do not catch on (tangle with) one another; resulting in shiny, manageable, frizz-free hair (which is why properly flat-ironed hair looks so nice). Final rinsing in hot or warm water keeps the cuticles open and they "catch" onto one another and are not smooth & flat, resulting in dull, unmanageable, frizzy hair.
  • If you want to reduce the 'shock' to your hair in the transition from using shampoo, then all you need to do is progressively water down your shampoo before going 'no poo'. Once you have decided to go 'no poo', buy your last bottle of shampoo, use it as normal - but top up the bottle with water each time you use it. After a short while you will find that using more and more dilute shampoo works just as well, and eventually you can stop using it altogether.
  • Watch out for over conditioning your hair if it is fine. Over-conditioning can result in hair strands that are "too" softened, frizzy, and mushy in texture. If you find this is the case, using cool/cold water, simply rinse out more or all of the conditioner. If you do rinse all of the conditioner out and have dry sections or dry ends, try a "leave-in" conditioner. All conditioners are "rinse out" conditioners unless specifically labeled "Leave-In Conditioner."
  • Try adding honey to your hair with your conditioner. It cleanses the hair and adds moisture and shine. Rinse it out like it is normal conditioner. You can leave some honey in your hair, but make sure it's not more than a drop or two- your hair will end up sticky and coated.
  • After swimming in chlorinated water, conditioner is not sufficient to remove the chemicals. You can try using home remedies, but it's best to use a non-sulfate shampoo. Look in the ingredients and make sure it does not contain sodium/ammonium lauryl/laureth sulfate. See this page for a full list of sulfates.
  • Hot (or warm) water causes hair scales to relax & open up like flower petals; they separate or curl up slightly away from the inner layers. Scale separation aids in the process of product ingredients being absorbed into the core of the hair strand.
  • Try to go alcohol free too as this can dry out your hair making it frizzy. That means no hair spray.
  • You can use an inexpensive silicone-free conditioner to scrub your scalp. The cheaper the conditioner, the more likely it is to be silicone-free. Supermarket and drugstore own-brand products, as well as Suave Naturals and Vo5 (check the label for this one if you don't live in the US, in other countries this brand is often high in silicones) brands are often good choices. Use a moisturizing conditioner, Devacurl and Jessicurl make great ones, for the rest of your hair.
  • Be patient and experiment with hair products and changes to your routine. Your hair may never be perfectly frizz-free all the time, but it can get close. Visit the external links for more suggestions and hints.


  • Make sure to wash out the lemon juice completely. Otherwise it could lighten your hair in the sun.
  • Don't be afraid to experiment and do what works best for you.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic bottles
  • Conditioner
  • Wide-toothed comb
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Sulfate free shampoo
  • Lemon juice

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Sources and Citations