Top 5 “No Poo” Shampoo Alternatives

Despite recent criticism in the media, the “no poo” method is still a popular choice among those of us who wish to reduce the number of harsh chemicals that we introduce into our bodies and our environment.

If you are not familiar with the phrase, “no poo” is a term used to describe the act of not using conventional shampoo to wash your hair.

Now, if you are saying to yourself, “ew!” please hear me out. While some people do practice “water only washing” to clean their hair, that method does not work for everyone. It didn't work for me.

There are still plenty of ways to wash your hair and still leave behind those chemically-laden commercial shampoos. It may require a bit of experimenting to find out what works for your hair type.

Why Should You Stop Using Shampoo?

There are two things you should think about when deciding whether or not to stop using shampoo. What is in your shampoo and what does it do to your hair?

Harmful Ingredients in Shampoo

Commercial shampoo contains nasty ingredients… lots of them! Here is just a sample of common ingredients:

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate  – A known cancer-causing ingredient that is found in most commercial shampoos.

Polysorbates – An emulsifier that helps bind oil to water. The problem with this ingredient is that it can mess with the pH of your scalp and often leaves a residue.

Propylene Glycol – Another cancer-causing ingredient found in a majority of shampoos.

Others include artificial fragrances, hydrolyzed soy protein, and more. Read about the chemicals in shampoo here.

Shampoo Strips Hair of Natural Oils

Our bodies, including our scalp, produce oils for a good reason. The oil that your hair and scalp produce is called sebum, the oil responsible for keeping your hair and skin soft and supple. Ignoring these natural oils, and seeking to rid our body of these natural oils, can be detrimental to our health.

What usually happens with shampoo is that we strip our scalp and hair of natural oils with harsh chemicals, causing our bodies to try and make up for the deficit by over-producing oils.

What did our ancestors do without shampoo? After all, shampoo was only introduced in the 19th century. The answer is, apart from some of the various natural “no poo” methods used to periodically cleanse the hair, brushing was used to redistribute oils throughout the hair, keeping it soft and healthy.

If you are planning to try the “no poo” method, I would recommend investing in a good natural bristle hair brush to help with redistributing the natural oils in your hair as much as possible, even if you do use one of these shampoo alternatives.

So what alternatives are there to commercial shampoo?

1. Shampoo Bar

One popular alternative to commercial shampoo is the shampoo bar. A shampoo bar is similar to a bar of soap, except that it is specially formulated to wash your hair.

Just like traditional shampoo, not all shampoo bars are created equal. If you are new to the world of shampoo alternatives, you will want to find something that you are sure can do an effective job so that you don't become frustrated.

This brand comes highly recommended.

2. DIY Shampoo

Don't like any of the natural shampoo brands out there? Try making your own shampoo! You will know exactly what ingredients are in it, and you can tailor it to your personal needs.

There are plenty of DIY shampoo recipes on the web. I found one at Wellness Mama that includes:

  • coconut milk
  • Castile soap
  • vitamin E oil
  • almond or olive oil
  • and essential oils

Get the recipe here.

3. Baking Soda

Baking soda cuts grease and can be very effective at keeping hair clean. This method is often called “baking soda washing” and it's a popular method among those who have decided to ditch the shampoo.

There are several ways to do baking soda washing, but it's all pretty simple. I think the easiest way is to dissolve the baking soda in some water and apply it to the scalp, then rinse thoroughly.

Baking soda can be hard to get out of your hair, which makes rinsing the most important part. A little baking soda goes a long way.

Read more about baking soda washing at My Healthy Green Family.

4. Dry Shampoo

Dry shampoo is another option, though it will probably take a bit more getting used to than other methods.

The great thing about dry shampoo is that it doesn't require that you get your hair wet. This is beneficial because water tends to dry out hair, especially if you have hard water.

Here are two dry shampoo recipes that account for light or dark hair.

5. Soapnuts

Soap nuts are not just for laundry. They can be made into a liquid that can be used for anything from cleaning dishes to washing your hair.

If you are not sure what soap nuts are, Mountain Rose Herbs has a good introduction here.

Here's a soap nut shampoo recipe from Wellness Mama, plus a ton of soapnut recipes from Crunchy Betty.

You can buy soap nuts here, or here.

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Vanessa Pruitt, PLMHP, MS

16 thoughts on “Top 5 “No Poo” Shampoo Alternatives

  1. For the baking soda method: once the baking soda is rinsed out of your hair – rinse with apple cider vinegar mix as conditioner. I use about a quarter of a bottle raw apple cider vinegar, fill the rests of the bottle with filtered water, and top it of with a few splashes of essential oil (I use grapefruit). I’ve been no poo since January, my hair is thicker. I had a little bit if hair loss in the front, and it’s all back now. I also no longer have eczema on my scalp. You can wash your body with the same stuff too – my skin is so clear!

    1. Emily, do you wash your hair with baking soda every day ? I’m using it every day but my scalp is very dry now. I’m using olive oil with rosemary but I don’t think it’s going to help if I continue washing my hair every day with baking soda.

  2. Interesting. I knew about the baking soda method and have actually tried it. You can also try vinegar which foams and helps get out the gunk. Adding honey or tea tree oil to the vinegar is beneficial. Coconut oil is great for just about any hair condition.

  3. My hair is very fine. Commercial shampoos were making my hair brittle and my hair was thinning. Commercial conditioners weighed my hair down and look greasy. Finally, I gave up and dreaded my hair. As a result, I was introduced to the natural options for washing my hair, including using castille soap. I also began rinsing my hair with 1 part vinegar and 3 parts water. Vinegar breaks down any residue left on the hair after washing and it leaves my fine hair very soft. I love the DIY shampoo recipe posted here, however, because my hair is so fine, I only need to use the essential oils once per week. For the rest of the week, I wash my hair every other day, unless I got really dirty that day, with just castille soap and I rinse with vinegar.

  4. Wow, I hadn’t realized there were so many alternatives to regular shampoo. I definitely want to check into making my own natural shampoo, especially for my kids. My daughter has very sensitive skin so we buy expensive baby shampoo/body wash made with organic ingredients, but if I can make it at home and get good results, that would be amazing. I will have to look into these alternatives more and see what I can do over a weekend.

  5. I never knew it was so easy to make your own shampoo; I love the idea of the coconut milk based shampoo, and I’m going to start with that one.

    The use of baking soda for cleaning your hair is new to me too. I use baking soda all around the house for various cleaning tasks, and have even made up a batch of your dishwasher detergent mix which is fantastic! As I almost always condition my hair with raw cider vinegar, I think I will be ok with rinsing out the baking soda.

    There’s so much interesting and useful stuff in this article. Thank you so much for bringing us another great solution for living a more healthier life.

  6. I have really fine hair and I think I am going to try these alternative and see how the affect my hair. I feel sure the condition will improve.

  7. Thanks for all of the info! I am trying the no poo method with a shampoo bar made solely from essential oils. Just started four days ago, already can’t wait for the final results. Do you know if I am to use the shampoo bar every day when I shower? Also, is it okay for me to use mousse or gel that do not contain sulfates during and after this process?


    1. Chelsea, I would personally use the shampoo bar everyday. I actually currently alternate between shampoo bar and a natural shampoo brand. As for the mousse or gel, I think that will just be up to your comfort zone and what works for you. You could possibly have issues getting all of the gel or mousse out with the shampoo bar.

  8. I have been using baking soda for shampoo and Apple cider vinegar for conditioner for about a year now. I have long straight brown hair that has always been greasy and hard to style. Since I have been using baking soda and ACV my hair is less greasy, I never have a problem with dry itchy or flaky scalp, and my hair can be styled with no hair spray or gel. I can even (comfortably) go three days without having to wash my hair. Before I would have to wash my hair everyday because it would get so greasy.
    If anyone decides to use baking soda I definitely recommend using ACV as a conditioner or making sure to brush your hair before you shower. The ACV will help detangle long hair and makes it 100x easier to brush. It also will add a nice shine to your hair.
    I hope these tips help any first timers. Good luck. And have a happy, healthy, natural life. 🙂

  9. Most shampoos contain sulfates, parabens and other harmful chemicals that can cause serious health problems.It is really difficult to find a good natural product on the market and if you find a good one, it is often very expensive.A good option would be to make your own shampoo as you mentioned.I think I will try! Thanks very much for the tips!

    1. I just started going low ‘poo today and clarified my hair with bentonite clay-using it as a shampoo-and followed that with a low ‘poo shampoo made by Shea Moisture. It’s the Moisture Retention shampoo with raw Shea butter. I have fine straight hair and it didn’t weigh my hair down like I thought it would. My goal is to transfer to no ‘poo and then to ROM. I believe all shampoos and conditioners by Shea Moisture can be used while going low ‘poo. Just check the ingredients for sulfates and other nasty chemicals to make sure that it does not contain those ingredients. I learned so much from the blog “Almost Exactly.” If you have questions regarding no/ low ‘poo or ROM/WOW, I would highly suggest that you read her blog as well as all the comments. I hAve learned so much from the comments alone. This process is about getting to know your hair and what it requires to be healthy.

  10. Great site! I started no pooing about three months ago and love it. My hair is fine and it started to have new growth right away! I mostly use baking soda and rinse with either acv or white vinegar, and go a couple days between washing or sometimes just rinse with water. The only issue is I can only make it 4 weeks without a MAJOR trim because my ends get soo dry! Are their any tips for no poo deep conditioners to use on your ends? I’m sure it’s because my hair was hi lighted and abused from the past, but I don’t want to cut it all off because it’s fine after the trim. Any thoughts?

  11. Thanks for the article. I’m from Iran and I’ve abandoned Shampoos for a month now. But My alternative is something that was not mentioned here. I have been using Zizyphus Spina Christi ( Also called Sedr and Lotus Powder) for a month now. it’s too soon to tell about the results because I have to keep using it for another few months to see. (because I shaved my head when I quit using shampoo). I was just wondering if you could tell me if this is a good alternative for shampoo or not. I mainly chose it because people from my village used to wash their head with this before shampoo was available. ( Even my mom washed my hair when I was a kid with Sedr)
    Thank you so much again for the article

  12. Is it OK to alternate no-poo recipes each week? 1st wk I did egg yolk, yogurt and lemon juice; next was honey, herbal tea and bananas, then coconut milk, egg yolk and vinegar. Kind of experimenting and just like ‘they’ tell you to alternate shampoos, thought this might not be bad idea. Any thoughts?

  13. Baking soda (1/4c to a quart of warm water) to wash, rinse with fresh water, kombucha vinegar (1/4c to 1c water) for an acidifying rinse, then a quick rinse with fresh water. I’ve been doing this for several years now. Occasionally I use a gelatin hair mask as a conditioning treatment. Coconut oil on the very ends is my newest addition

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