Skip To Content
    Mar 5, 2020

    Four Different Heads of Hair on the Upsides of Going No Shampoo

    Here's how to quit shampoo without looking like a dirty hippie.

    We hope you love the products we recommend! Just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Oh, and FYI — prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.

    Fun(?) fact: Shampoo is full of detergent. And when I say detergent, I mean the same stuff that you wash your dishes with. You know that satisfying lather you build up in the shower? Yeah, that’s the result of a type of detergent called sulfates.

    Hannah Wong / BuzzFeed

    That sneaky soap isn’t so much cleaning but rather stripping your hair — not only of dirt but also of all of its protective oils. And then you get to pay premium prices to put some artificial oils back in your hair, in the form of conditioner.

    Screen Gems / Via giphy.com

    Humans have actually been doing this whole shampoo-with-commercial-detergent thing for less than 100 years. Before that, people relied on various combinations of essential oils, heat, and even ingredients like lye (which is made from ash that’s traditionally in soap) and castile soap (a vegetable-oil based soap, like Dr. Bronner’s), to varying degrees of success. 

    But these days, in the early decades of the 21st century, people who don’t want to purposely damage their hair in the name of squeaky-cleanliness have options — ranging from a couple of dollars per month to around a hundred bucks, depending on the method and hair type. 

    Hannah Wong / BuzzFeed

    After years of using sulfate-free shampoos, I switched to HairStory New Wash (Rich) ($45) nine months ago. Instead of detergent, it uses a combination of essential oils, along with hot water and the friction from rubbing it in, to get my waist-length, thick, wavy hair clean without stripping it of its natural oils. I use a little bit of the brand’s version of leave-in conditioner, Hair Balm ($35) — the bottle lasted me nearly nine months — on my ends for styling. And that’s it! That’s my whole hair-care routine. 

    While HairStory’s products are more expensive than what I was using before, and the shampoo lasts about a month, I’ve been able to ditch all of the other styling products and the multiple types of shampoo and conditioner that I was constantly rotating. Not only is it better for the environment, but now my hair is curlier and more voluminous than it’s ever been. 

    But not everyone has waist-length, wavy, white-girl hair. So I chatted with three different people with three very different hair types to find out what they used when they ditched the ‘poo.

    DevaCurl for Curly Hair

    Hannah Wong / BuzzFeed

    Jess Lipsky, an editor in New York City, has fine, curly hair that she washes every three to five days — hair that she once used “some regular-ass shampoo” and “probably something with anti-breakage” properties to clean. After a hairstylist suggested she stop using traditional shampoo in order to free her curls, she started washing with DevaCurl Low-Poo ($24) or No-Poo ($10). The former promises “mild lather,” and the latter doesn’t lather at all. 

    “I only really realized I had curly hair that I could work with about four years ago,” Lipsky says. “I always thought my hair was wavy and, like a lot of us who came of age in the early aughts, I spent a lot of my junior high and high school years trying to get my hair pin-straight.”

    Jess says that while the process of switching to DevaCurl was a little rough — she had “greasier hair for a couple weeks” — she’s never going back to regular shampoo. In fact, she recently used a “fancy” shampoo her best friend bought for her birthday, to disastrous results.

    “It messed with my hair so badly,” Jess says. “It was undefined and I had to wash it much sooner while my bottle of DevaCurl was up there on the shelf like, Haha.”

    Shampoo Bar for Spiral-Curled Hair

    Hannah Wong / BuzzFeed

    Yalitza Ferreras, a writer in San Francisco who describes her hair as “curly, 3B,” is a former DevaCurl No-Poo user as well. But after finding the product to be “too heavy” and going through a conditioner-only phase that ended when her hair started falling out, she’s now washing her hair with a Babassu Marsh Mallow Shampoo Bar ($9) from Chagrin Valley Soap. 

    The bar uses a combination of oils to help cleanse and soften curly hair. Yalitza says her hair feels cleaner and has more “slip,” allowing for fingers to easily slide through and detangle, according to her hairdresser.

    It also brings Yalitza back to childhood: “I grew up in the Dominican Republic,” she says. “I lived with my grandmother in a very modest home, and she would give me a bath with this all-purpose soap that she would use all over her whole body. This smells just like that soap, so every time I use it, I think of her.” 

    Baking Soda for Fine/Straight Hair

    Hannah Wong / BuzzFeed

    Lauren McKenna, who lives in New York and is a tech startup cofounder, has very fine, very straight hair. And no matter how many times she rinses it when using conventional shampoo, she finds that there’s still residue. She says her best washing method is using baking soda — to which she adds a “couple drops” of water, applies like a paste to her roots, then rinses out in the shower — and that her hair has never been healthier. 

    The first month of switching over to baking soda, however, wasn’t fun: Lauren’s hair hung dull and greasy. “Once I got it down, I didn’t even have to think about maintenance or anything,” she says. “The thing I like about it the most is that my hair grew several inches and has more body than when I was using shampoo.”

    Baking soda (and, for some people, apple cider vinegar as a clarifier to remove any buildup and help condition) is undoubtedly the cheapest option for people who are looking to move away from the ‘poo. 

    Ultimately, all of us have hair-care needs that are unique to us. If you’re looking to quit shampoo, though, you may want to give one of these methods a try; like all four of us, you might be surprised by how much you love the results.