When people find out that we don’t wash our hair (for me, going on three years and for AJ about two) they have a million questions. What do you mean you don’t wash your hair? Like, you don’t use shampoo and conditioner? Isn’t it oily? But what do you use instead? Cider vinegar? Baking powder? Shampoo bars? You must use something surely?
Water. We use water – and while AJ wets his hair most mornings in the shower, I can’t be bothered. Mine gets wet once every 5 – 10 days depending on how it looks or feels.
So, in order to try and explain a little bit about how, why, how and pretty much why . . . we’ve put together our most common Q&A’s.
What was your hair like before ‘no wash’?
Em: My hair has always been long and fine. Oily at the scalp, dry at the ends and I also suffered from dandruff. I have tried it all, cheap stuff, expensive stuff, salon stuff. But nothing – NOTHING was making my hair look like the ladies in the shampoo commercials. It remained oily at the scalp, and dry at the ends. My split ends had split ends. I got really good at buns and plaits. My hair was not my favourite feature.
AJ: Like a horses. A wild horse! With twigs and mud and knots galore.
How did you hear about ‘no wash’?
Em: Late one night, many years ago, I saw an advert for a new hair care system. Touted as ‘the big thing’ in beautiful natural hair and claiming to help with all the issues shampoo and conditioner were not making happen for me – it looked promising. It explained a few things, how regular shampoo and conditioner build up in your hair, how they coat it, hence the ‘silky glossy sheen’. How your body creates more oil to compensate for the oils being stripped. It was meant to fix all of that. So I bought some.
AJ: I’m a boy. ‘No wash’ was my mantra growing up. Until girls happened anyway. . .
Did it fix your hair?
Em: No. It was rubbish – don’t waste your money.
AJ: Na, my hair wasn’t broken.
So. . . how did you hear about ‘no wash’?
Em: After the hopeless experience with the system I bought, I went back to normal shampoo and conditioner for ages. Then, about 3 years ago, still very unhappy with my hair I decided things needed to change and I started googling. I came across the term ‘no poo’ – washing hair with an alternative to shampoo such as baking soda and apple cider vinegar or even just water only. Apparently you’ll achieve clean hair without the damage or dependency on daily shampooing.
AJ: I didn’t bother with the vinegar and soda thing though. I didn’t want my hair to fizz or smell like vinegar.
Em: Well then I started with the common baking soda and apple cider vinegar route. Basically, you make a paste from baking soda and water, use that to clean your scalp and hair near your scalp, rinse, then use a diluted apple cider vinegar to rinse your hair.
AJ: I stopped washing my hair.
Why did you stop that method?
Em: I did more reading. I found out that prolonged baking soda use damages your hair more than shampoo! It drastically alters your hairs natural PH and can make it dry and brittle after a long period. It is a great ‘one off’ wash option when you start the no-wash route, to clean the shampoo coating from your hair, but it’s not a ‘full time’ wash option. While pregnant with Ziggy, nearly 2 years ago I tried rising through with salt water but it took a few water rinses to really get out.
AJ: Still not washing my hair.
So you went to water?
Em: No, not right away. See – the issue with the ‘no wash’ method is that it takes a while for your scalp and hair to adjust to not being washed. Takes a while for it to get its groove back, and so, in the ‘transition’ stage it’s extremely oily (which can be well managed with frequent water rinses). I did more reading and found that gritty honey was a good shampoo option. Luckily we had a bucket of the stuff from a mate’s hive. And so, for about a month, once a week I melted honey, rubbed it into my scalp, rinsed it out and then did a diluted vinegar rinse. Then I reduced that to twice a week. Then, after about another month it was too hoha so I just stopped.
AJ: Still just using water. I couldn’t be arsed washing my hair most of the time anyway cos I’m a boy. When it was short it was easy but when it was long and needed tending to, I would make Em get in the shower with me and groom me. Like a horse. True story.
What about the special scalp massage and special brushes I’ve heard about?
Em: I had also read about the ‘pritch and preen’ method where you ‘groom your scalp with your fingertips’, a bit like monkeys do. And every blog I read spoke about the importance of a boar bristle brush to evenly distribute your natural oils through your hair. I pritched and preened once and though ‘bugger this, it’s too hard’. So I stick to a simple ‘scalp massage’ when I water rinse it. And the brush, honestly? I was too cheap to buy one.
So when did it stop being oily?
Em: Good question – the problem is I never really documented the stage by stage process my hair went through. When you ‘no wash’ in the beginning you have a day or two of lovely hair, and then the oil begins. And you want to wash it again – but you can’t or you’re back to square one. I would wash it with water (just stand under the shower massaging my scalp) and then chuck it in a bun, or a plait. It took a few months until it was at a ‘nice for days after a water wash’ stage but it was never gross or smelly or super oily as I would water rinse as needed.
AJ: Dunno. Never been that oily I guess.
Note: This is why most people give up. They get to the oily stage and they think – bugger this. So, I think the gradual reduction of washes with a natural alternative is a good option here. Use a gritty honey and water paste to massage into your scalp and rinse with diluted apple cider vinegar. Once a week, then once a fortnight, then once a month, and then stop. You might find that easier than going full cold turkey. Maybe not as fast, but not as greasy either.
AJ: My hair is amazing.
So what is your hair care routine?
Em: Um… I don’t have one. I shower every day, and for six out of seven or so showers I have my hair in a bun so I don’t need to bother with wet hair. Being a mum I wear a bun a lot, it’s just easier – but if I let it out it’s still lovely. For the shower where my hair does get wet I use my fingertips to massage my scalp, and let the water run through it. Then I wrap it in a towel, get dressed, comb it and tie it up. (It’s better to dry it out, but I’m a mum. Who has time for that?).
AJ: Wet it, dry it. Be glorious. Brush it once a week.
What about when you visit the hairdresser?
Em: I let them know I am ‘no wash’ and ask that they just use a spray bottle of water to wet my hair as required. I only go for split end trims, my days of being able to afford highlights and colour and beautiful things like that are long gone. They are often really interested about ‘no-wash’ and I do wonder if they scrutinise my hair and scalp more than a regular client! I’ve had nothing but good feedback about it’s condition.
What hair care products do you have?
Em: A pretty heavy duty comb. I had to order it via a hairdresser. We’ve had it for about 9 years and it’s AJ and I’s only hair care item. That’s it. I don’t own a hair straightener, or a hairdryer. I don’t use treatments or masks or hairspray or anything at all. I get my ends trimmed twice a year, I really should do that a bit more often but yeah… When people come to stay I think our shower must trip them out – our shower has soap and a body puff washing thingy. That’s all.
AJ: The One Comb.
So it’s not just hair then? You don’t use product on your body either?
Em: I use minimal product. I wash with soap. I brush my teeth with toothpaste and once a week with a tooth power. I use an aluminium free deodorant and that’s about it. I’m pregnant at the moment so I massage coconut oil into my belly, and occasionally I remember to moisturise my face. For special occasions I’ll chuck on mascara, eyeliner and lipgloss. I have no clue when it comes to makeup and if I tried to put on anything else, I would look like a clown.
AJ: Just a soap bar. And toothpaste.
What about AJ?
Em: He is even more minimal than me! AJ hasn’t washed his hair in about 2 years. He uses soap, toothpaste and tooth powder and occasionally spray a bit of deodorant. He isn’t a guy to smell or sweat a lot (lucky bugger). He also has the smoothest skin I have come across (people ask him what products he uses on it) and it’s 100% natural – he uses nothing. Although he does enjoy having his toenails painted.
Em: When Ziggy was born I was very conscious about what we put on his skin. Until very recently Ziggy has only washed in water. He’s 18 months and gets a bit dirtier now, so we use some soap on his bum after a big poo, or as needed. We don’t wash his hair either, although he doesn’t have much! I use a natural sun block in the summertime and sometimes add a few drops of almond oil or apricot kernel oil to his bath. This was very effective when he was a newborn and had patches of dry skin, especially on his feet. We use cloth wipes that are wet with just water and nappy cream only if needed, No powders or lotions or sprays are used on his skin.
AJ: Glorious like hims Dada.
So, three years later, what is your hair like now?
Em: Compared to when I used shampoo and conditioner – it’s bloody amazing. No more oily scalp and dry ends. No more white shoulders from dandruff. Yeah I still have patches of flaky scalp, and I still get split ends, but my split ends are no longer trees. Some days my hair looks a bit limp – and so I will water rinse to clean it, and we’re good again. Usually after exercise and a bit of sweat, which I think is pretty normal. I have found that air drying it out gets better results than tying it up wet, when I have the time. I love no wash, it makes my mornings so much easier, especially when my son was new born and my showers were little more than pits, groin and face. And with our second child due in September, well, I think ‘no wash’ would have possibly happened by default anyway! But now I’m over the hard part and I have lovely hair to enjoy.
AJ: Friggin glorious!!
So there you have it. There are many different ways to become ‘no-wash’ or ‘no poo’ with your hair. And yes, you have to push past the ‘super oily transition’ stage, which is where many people throw it in (unless you are glorious like AJ). But – if you can rock the mum bun and plaits for a while, water rinse every day or two to keep the main oiliness away, you will come out the other side with low fuss, low maintenance, no wash hair. How does it go . . . It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.
Catch up with more of AJ and Em at their blog Raising Ziggy