Is No Poo a Good Way to Clean Hair?

In recent years, there has been a growing trend known as “no poo,” which involves abstaining from traditional hair cleansing methods. Many people have turned to alternative methods such as using baking soda as a cleanser and apple cider vinegar as a conditioner. In this article, we will delve into the various methods of washing hair and examine their effectiveness. We aim to provide you with comprehensive information to help you make an informed decision about your hair care routine. Let’s explore the different approaches to hair cleansing and their potential impact on your hair’s health and appearance.

The Ultimate No Poo

The ultimate no poo method involves completely abstaining from cleaning your hair, even rinsing it with water. While this method may result in less damage to your hair and potentially impart a shinier appearance, it comes with some downsides. Hair washed with the ultimate no poo method can become greasy, develop an unpleasant odor, and be challenging to style, except for keeping it flat on your head.

Shampoo-Free Poo

Another alternative is rinsing your hair with water alone. While this method can provide a refreshing effect, it is not effective at removing heavy styling residue or thoroughly cleansing your hair. It’s important to note that even without using shampoo, you may still be causing damage to your hair.


Cowashing, also known as conditioner washing or “co-poo,” involves using a conditioner to cleanse your hair. While conditioners contain surfactants, they are used at lower levels compared to shampoos. Consequently, conditioners do not clean as effectively as shampoos. Moreover, conditioners may leave your hair feeling dirty due to their oily components. Using conditioner as your primary cleanser may result in buildup and attract more dust, pollen, and dirt from the air. If you wish to try this method, look for an inexpensive silicone-free conditioner like the traditional VO5 and Suave products.

Reverse Shampooing

Reverse shampooing involves applying conditioner or oil to your hair before using shampoo. The idea behind this method is to “use up” some of the detergency of the shampoo on the applied substances, minimizing the removal of natural oils. While reverse shampooing can yield some benefits, such as reduced color fading, it shares the same disadvantages as cowashing.

Dry Shampoo

Dry shampoo is a popular option for skipping regular shampooing. It usually comes in an aerosolized powder or sprinkle form that is applied to the hair and then brushed out. Dry shampoo absorbs excess oils from the hair, providing a refreshed feel. However, it is not as effective as regular shampoo in terms of thorough cleansing. Dry shampoo may leave a white residue and make the hair feel unpleasant. Nevertheless, it can be a convenient choice for extending the time between washes or preserving color-treated hair. Some dry shampoos also offer the secondary benefit of enhancing hair texture on the second day, resulting in better styling outcomes.

Alternative Shampoos

Using something other than shampoo, such as baking soda or vinegar, is another option to consider. However, the effectiveness of these substitutes depends on the specific product used. Body wash, for instance, is chemically similar to shampoo and offers no additional benefits. Baking soda is not recommended as it does not effectively absorb oil like the starch found in dry shampoos. Moreover, baking soda has a high pH, which can impede the restoration of the scalp’s acid mantle and potentially damage the hair by causing swelling. Vinegar, despite its low pH, does not provide significant benefits beyond removing mineral buildup. Claims that vinegar closes the hair cuticle and enhances shine are unsubstantiated myths.

No-Rinse Shampoos

No-rinse shampoos are formulated like regular shampoos but do not require rinsing. One popular brand is No Rinse Shampoo, which has a runnier consistency than regular shampoos and lathers without water. To use it, simply apply the shampoo to dry hair, work it through with your fingers until it foams, and then wipe out the foam with a towel. While no-rinse shampoos offer better cleansing than dry shampoos and conditioners, they still fall short compared to regular shampoos. However, they can be a practical option when water is scarce or if you prefer not to shower. It’s worth noting that the residual surfactant left on the scalp may cause irritation for some individuals.

Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Sulfate-free shampoos have gained popularity as an alternative to traditional shampoos. The preference for sulfate-free products depends on personal factors. Sulfates are effective cleansers, making them suitable for individuals with greasy hair or those who use a lot of styling products. However, sulfates can potentially irritate the scalp or cause dryness in some individuals. It is essential to note that most sulfate-free products function similarly to sulfates, and only a few detergents have been proven to be significantly milder.

The Damaging Effects of Washing and Drying

Both washing and drying processes can cause damage to the hair. When the hair fiber becomes saturated with water, it swells, resulting in the lifting of the cuticle. While drying the hair does not reverse all of the cuticle lifting, leaving the cuticle lifted can lead to hair damage. Additionally, friction from rubbing the hair with a towel or using a blow dryer at high heat can cause damage. Surprisingly, even air drying may not be completely safe for hair health. One study found that air-dried hair experiences more damage to the Cell Membrane Complex (CMC), which consists of proteins, lipids, and fatty acids that bind the cuticles together. Prolonged exposure to water during air drying can cause buckling in the CMC layer, leading to rough, damaged hair that may eventually split and break. However, it’s important to note that this is a single study, and further research is required to validate these findings. While blow drying appears to cause less damage to the CMC, it can still cause surface damage. Ultimately, both air drying and blow drying present their own set of challenges and potential hair damage.

Is No Poo Better for Hair’s Natural Oils?

There is a common misconception that not washing the hair allows the natural oils (sebum) to remain, resulting in healthier hair. However, this is a myth. Sebum is produced by tiny sebaceous glands beneath the skin’s surface and reaches the skin’s surface through hair follicles. Some sebum is beneficial, serving as a natural moisturizer and keeping the hair and skin soft and supple. Nevertheless, washing your hair with shampoo and removing oil does not lead to increased sebum production. In fact, shampooing can cause the sebaceous glands to produce more oil. The presence of oil on the skin’s surface signals the sebaceous glands to turn off sebum production. This signal is triggered by the pressure of the oil in the follicle or by the creation of a chemical signal that travels back through the skin. However, the oil production quickly reaches a stable level after shampooing. Therefore, the notion that not washing the hair allows for the accumulation of more natural oil is not supported by evidence.


In conclusion, the “no poo” trend offers various alternatives to traditional hair cleansing methods. While these methods may have certain advantages, such as reducing damage and preserving color, it’s essential to consider their limitations.

Profilbild Laura
About the author

I've been a curly girl since I was little. 💝 But it wasn't until I discovered the right curl care for me that I learned to understand my curls. I'm happy to pass all this on to you - so that you too can learn to love your curls.

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