Lately, as I’ve been reading various online articles and forums, I’ve come across several phrases I had not heard before: “no-poo,” “low-poo,” and “co-washing” amongst other savvy terms, I’m sure. What happened to shampoo? Suddenly, it seems, shampoo is the enemy. It’s as if in the last few years, anti-shampoo conspirators have been meeting in dark alleys behind hair salons to scheme against the product with which we wash our hair, or even if we should wash our hair at all. Personally, I’ve always been rather fond of the nicely marketed bottles of botanical goodness that fill an entire aisle in each local convenience store. What do these conspirators have against shampoo? I’ve done a little research to find out what these anti-shampoo trends are all about.


No-poo refers to not shampooing–at all, or at least not with shampoo. Shampoo as we know it now was first introduced in the 1930s, and shampooing daily became the American standard by the 70s and 80s. So, why do we need it now? Shampoo strips hair of natural oils, some of which we need. If left alone or minimally fussed with, a person’s scalp will naturally balance the oils. However, shampooing creates a vicious cycle: when hair is washed with shampoo, the hair is stripped of oil so the scalp secretes more oil to compensate. We then wash our hair again to get rid of excess oils, our scalp secrets more oils, and the cycle continues. Thus, the theory behind no-poo is to only wash one’s hair with water so that the oils naturally balance, which can take anywhere from two to six weeks. Some advocates of no-poo also suggest shampooing with natural products such as baking soda, honey, or coconut oil. In a six-week no shampoo challenge, 500 Australians went without shampoo, 86% of whom reported that their hair was “better or the same as when using shampoo.”* The results of not using shampoo? Easier on the budget, better (or the same) for your hair, and less waste for the environment!


For those not willing to give up their colorful bottles with salon-quality promises, the low-poo method is here to save the day. To low-poo, all one has to do is give up shampooing a few days of the week. Low-poo is a commitment to washing your hair once every few days with a small amount of shampoo. Some choose to use their regular shampoo or there are, of course, certain shampoos marketed as “low-poo” shampoos which are usually natural and sulfate-free. Many people also use baking soda or “dry shampoo” to absorb excess oil in between shampoos, but the theory is that a person’s hair will naturally balance when washing with less commercial shampoo. Some report the balance can occur within a few weeks, although I’ve noticed personal improvement in the health of my hair even after months of practicing the low-poo method.


Co-washing is a type of no-poo; it consists of washing one’s hair with only conditioner. Conditioners don’t have the same lathering chemicals as shampoo does, and therefore is easier on the hair and scalp and doesn’t strip oils away. This is trending especially with those who have curly, thick, or coarse hair that are looking to ease the frizz.


Dry Shampoo
As I mentioned earlier, dry shampoo is used to help absorb excess oils in between washes. It’s simply a spray or powder that is applied to hair on the days between washing. Dry shampoo usually consists of a type of starch (corn starch, rice starch, etc.) that absorbs oil like magic. As a fan of the low-poo method (I didn’t even realize I was becoming a part of a trend, I just stopped washing my hair so frequently) dry shampoo has worked wonders for me! Let’s face it, most of us don’t want to go to work or out to dinner with greasy hair even if it is just for three to six weeks. If I could hibernate inside my house or with some hippies until my hair naturally balanced it’s oils, I would, but most of us have to be seen in public. Dry shampoo applies easily and helps my hair look fresh and clean in between washes. Another upside is that the longer I have used dry shampoo and the less frequently I wash my hair, the less I need it–my oils have begun to naturally balance! As a commercial product, dry shampoo does have some downsides. First of all, most dry shampoos on the shelf are in an aerosol can–bad for the environment. Secondly, those in aerosol cans have some not-so-natural ingredients such as butane (an aerosol propellant) and perfumes. While the dry shampoo in aerosol cans sprays so nicely and conveniently, there are some homemade recipes in both powder and wet-spray form that work well, too.


Now that the scheme against shampoo is out in the open, maybe the anti-shampoo conspirators will move out of those dark alleyways and into the light. I can hear picketers outside the local salon now: “Save our scalps!” “Just say no to shampoo!”

*ABC Sydney,

Originally posted 2013-01-15 22:13:00.


2 Responses

  1. This is a great read. I did the Curly Girl method a few years back and researched others that were just coming out. CG uses the conditioner method you mentioned above and it made my hair greasy. I couldn’t last the 2-6 weeks looking like that with a job so I completely relate to your hippie reference. I now live in a higher elevated/arid climate so it may work but I want to try your dry shampoo too. I would have stuck with CG if only back then they had that spray. This article really helps me to see the differences next to each other. Thanks for the post 🙂

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