My First Foray into the No-Shampoo Method

As of today, it’s been 2 months since I last used shampoo, and my hair has truly never felt cleaner.

Let me give that statement a bit of context.

I’ve always had “oily hair”. I needed to wash every other day with two helpings (two!) of cheap Suave shampoo. Else my hair would end up looking greasy…. as in, “Is it raining outside?” greasy.

I’ve known for a long time that the excessive use of shampoo probably wasn’t really doing my hair any favors (due to stripping the natural oils from my hair and whatnot). Thus, after much mental debate, I finally decided to take the plunge in April and ditch the shampoo. Entirely.

I had happened upon this easy-to-read (and recommended) article where the author lists 10 things she’s used to wash her hair as alternatives to shampoo. Besides plain water, using Baking Soda paste and/or a splash of Apple Cider Vinegar (henceforth known as ACV) in water seemed the simplest, so that’s what I went for to start.

Buying in bulk, yeah!

Again, my hair “type” is as follows: very straight, “oily”, about average thickness, and currently very short. Everyone’s hair is different, and thus your hair’s reaction and your overall experience may end up quite different than mine! My main point in sharing my experience, though, is to provide a look into how forgoing shampoo can work out, and to provide a “you can do it, too!” to anyone on the fence about trying it.

The Experiment

To be honest, I went into this experiment expecting my hair to look terrible and greasy and gross for several weeks, if not several months, and just hoping I could power through and possibly emerge with acceptable-looking hair at the end of it all.

For about the first week, I washed with a Baking Soda paste alone every other day, making sure to scrub out my hair well with just water before and after. I was pleasantly surprised to find that, although my hair didn’t feel as “clean” in the shower as it had when I had been using shampoo (it still felt like there was some grease in it), it looked really pretty clean once dry. In fact, that first week I found my hair almost *too* dry, so I supplemented the hair-washing routine with a splash of ACV in about half a cup of water henceforward.

For the next several weeks, I used  a “Baking Soda followed by ACV” routine every other day. My hair still seemed to feel a little “greasy” in the shower (although the ACV seemed to do a good job of cutting this down), but it looked fine and clean once dry. I then started trying washing with just water (and an ACV rinse) every second time or so, with good results. As someone who had never been able to get by with more than a couple of days of no washing – or even with just using water rather than shampoo – this seemed nothing short of amazing to me!

Now, two months in, I’m finding that I only feel the need to use Baking Soda a couple of times a week, if that; my hair does just fine with a water scrub and the splash of ACV. My hair has also recently started feeling clean and non-greasy in the shower as well as out – there really seems to be much less of any oily buildup.

(FYI, it’s way harder to take a picture of one’s own hair than it seems. I didn’t put any gel in my hair this morning and let it dry funny to try to best show that it is Decidedly Not Greasy! Hopefully you can sort of tell.
Also, I need a haircut.)

And for those wondering – yes, Apple Cider Vinegar does have a rather strong smell to it. I do still notice the smell after rinsing right when I get out of the shower and my hair is still wet (note that I have a very sensitive sense of smell). But once my hair is dry, any sort of residual smell is undetectable. I even asked a few trusted family members/friends to smell my hair to check this, and they all reported that “your hair smells like hair.” Woo!

The Cost

Since thriftiness is my thing, I decided to chart out how much washing with the Baking Soda and ACV was costing vs. my old shampoo routine. The results? Very interesting (to other intrigued-by-math nerds).

Baking Soda prices vary, of course, depending on region and amount bought, but the 13.5 lb bag above cost $6.79 (and apparently, you can also use it to clean your pool!). The “serving size” is listed as 1/8 tsp, and there are 10,863 servings in the bag. Estimating that one hair wash takes about 1 tsp (this will vary based on hair length, preference, etc), the cost of the hair wash would be $0.005, or half a cent.

Similarly, Apple Cider Vinegar prices vary, but the 32oz bottle pictured above was $1.98. I use a “splash” of ACV mixed with water in a small plastic cup; I estimate one wash uses roughly 1 Tbsp. One “serving” is listed as 1 Tbsp, and there are 63 servings in the bottle, making the cost of the hair wash $0.0314, or about 3 cents.
[for comparison’s sake, I could buy a gallon of Great Value ACV for $3.83, bringing the cost per wash down to $0.015, or I could buy a gallon of organic Bragg ACV for $19.09, making cost per wash $0.075]

Thus, using the prices above, a wash with both Baking Soda and ACV would cost about 3 and half cents per wash. Using just ACV would be 3 cents, just Baking Soda 1/2 a cent, and using water alone is “free”.

Figuring out “cost per wash” of shampoo is a little trickier, as there aren’t any “serving sizes” listed. A bit of online research revealed a vast variety in the amount of shampoo people used per wash. “About quarter sized” seemed to be average/recommended, but there were a good number of people saying that they used “a palmful” of shampoo per wash! I tested the amount I used (roughly quarter-sized), and it’s about 1 tsp [5ml]. Since I would wash twice, it’s safe to assume that I was using about 2 tsp [10ml] of shampoo per wash. A 665ml bottle, then, would yield about 66.5 hair washes for me. At $1.98 a bottle for my current shampoo, it was costing me $0.0297 per wash, or about 3 cents.

For me, then, the cost of a wash for my cheap shampoo (3 cents) is a bit less than the cost of a wash with Apple Cider Vinegar and Baking Soda together (3.5 cents). If I wanted, I could bring the cost of a Baking Soda/ACV wash down to 2 cents if I bought ACV in cheap bulk. I could also use just Baking Soda alone to bring the cost down, but that alone tends to make my hair feel dry. Washing with water alone would obviously be the cheapest of all, and I feel that as my hair continues to adjust, I’ll be able to do this more and more often.

The above is, of course, a very individualized price discussion made up of rough estimates. Perhaps your default shampoo costs much more than $1.98 and you also use conditioner. Maybe Baking Soda costs more in your area. Maybe you use much smaller or much higher amounts than I calculated for my individual preferences. Maybe you don’t even want to use Baking Soda or Apple Cider Vinegar and would rather use one of the other suggestions in Lulastic’s article – or you would prefer something like a shampoo bar. Whatever your situation, you can usually fairly easily calculate out the cost to know what various options would cost you. In my case, despite the fact that there isn’t a huge difference in cost that my new natural routine has over my old, I much prefer it for several reasons:

1. I don’t get exposed to any “unnatural” or unknown ingredients, and I create less waste overall.
2. Both Baking Soda and ACV have many other uses besides hair-washing; multi-use products tend to save time, money, and space.
And most importantly,
3. My hair is much cleaner and happier using the “natural” household ingredients I’ve tried vs. using shampoo.

So, have you ever tried going shampoo-free? How did it work out? If you’ve never tried it, would you ever?