Friday, September 7, 2012

Natural hair care - alternative ways to wash/clean hair

There are several ways to go all natural in hair care. I have mentioned natural styling products and other such things before, BUT now I will talk about natural ways to clean hair. In all honesty each of these methods deserve their own entry, but I do not plan to do that for all the methods that I haven't actually tried for myself (long term), but I will do my best to link you to more sources so you can have a good start to whatever method interests you.

Alternative ways to wash/clean hair:

No Water / Sebum Only (NW/SO)
This is not for the faint of heart, it is the most hardcore natural way to cleanse and condition hair. Just as the name says no water is used, only sebum. Sebum is an oily substance naturally produced by your scalp, that is what will clean, condition and protect your hair with this method. The two main components of NW/SO are: preening and scritching.
- Preening is the action taken to move sebum down the hair shaft, it can be done by taking a piece of hair between your palms/fingers and running them down the length from roots to tip, or with the help of a Boar Bristle Brush, a narrow tooth comb, satin, a towel, a cloth, or whatever else you may use.
- Scritching is the way in which one cleans their scalp while doing NW/SO. A narrow tooth comb can be used by keeping it parallel to the scalp and moving it back and forth thus exfoliating the scalp, nails can be gently used, sometimes people just massage their scalp before, after or in between scritchings.
There is an adjustment period of 4-10 weeks where your hair will look oily and your scalp will start adjusting to producing less sebum. This does not happen for everyone, some people never adjust, nothing works for everyone. Some people use oils to loosen up scalp sebum and make it easier to move it down the length (just a few drops), other people spray water with a mister to condition the length or just rub a bit of oil into the length, there are also people that use essential oils to give a certain smell to their hair (if they don't like their natural hair/head smell). Here are some other resources, more information: The Official NW/SO ThreadNW/SO success (with pics)Sebum-only Hair Washing MethodScritching Instructions?Guide to BBB Free PreeningScalp Massage MethodBoar bristle brushing.

Water Only (WO)
This is another hardcore method to clean hair. While it is not as extreme as NW/SO, it is not for the faint of heart. As the title suggests this is a method where one uses water only to clean/condition hair. There are variations of this and no one gets a medal for being hardcore WO. Some people do ACV, citric acid or club soda rinses to remove build-up sometimes, others do tea rinses (catnip, chamomile, etc.) to help condition the hair, or add oils/essential oils to condition/perfume the hair. Other than that, people just use water to clean their hair. There is an incorporation of the methods above for NW/SO such as preening, scritching, and scalp massages. This also has an adjustment period of one to three months. Here are some other resources: (Official) Water Only ThreadPros and Cons of Water-Only Hair WashingWater-Only Hair WashingWater Only Washing Method.

Baking Soda / Apple Cider Vinegar (BS/ACV)
This is the most known method to go "no poo" (no shampoo), it will be your first hit when you google it. It is done in two steps:
- Cleaning the hair with Baking Soda: mix one tea spoon of baking soda with a cup of water, stir until it is fully dissolved  pour the mixture on your hair, massage it in, leave it on your hair for a couple of minutes, then rinse it out.
- Conditioning the hair with Apple Cider Vinegar (White Vinegar also works): mix one tea spoon of vinegar with a cup of water, pour the mixture onto your hair and scalp, you can either rinse it out a few minutes later, or leave it in your hair. This is an ABSOLUTE MUST kind of step, not the "I can skip conditioner because I usually do that anyway" kind of thing. Baking soda is VERY basic and will damage your scalp and hair, NEVER EVER EVER skip the ACV rinse, it will balance out your scalp and hair ph (back to normal). I mean it.
The concentrations can be altered based on your needs and experimenting but be warned this is a harsh way to cleanse hair, chances are your hair will become very dry with this method. This is a method used to clarify the hair (remove build-up from the surface of the hair strand). Other resources: How to Go “No Poo” – You Tell Me Because I’m Clueless!How to go No Poo in 5 easy stepshow to go No Poo.

This method uses the liquid from soaked soapnuts (overnight) as a shampoo. The recipe I found (on LHC) said to use 22 soapnuts for one cup of water (but you can change it depending on how your hair reacts to it). It also says to add the juice from one half a lime for extra shine and to prevent dryness. It is applied to dry hair (for 30 seconds~2 minutes), then rinsed out. Fair warning this stuff smells kind of vinegary, so you may want to add some essential oils to it. Here is the article I used: Soapnut Foam Washing, and a few other articles on this: How to wash your hair with soapnuts (reetha)?The Mother of All Soap Nuts Recipe ResourcesHow to Buy Soap Nuts.

Shikakai and amla
This is the Ayurvedic method of cleansing hair (sometimes soapnut liquid is used with them). The two powders are mixed together with warm water (creating a paste), left to sit for 15 minutes, then it is added to the hair, left on for 15 min-1 hour then rinsed out. more information on this here: Ayurvedic Cleansing Hair Kit (click the "More Info" tab), How to Wash Hair With Shikakai Powder?How to Wash Hair with ShikakaiShikakai + Amla powder = great hairReetha, Amla & Shikakai Home Made Shampoo.

Egg washes
Mix the eggs as if you're going to scramble it (some use just the yolk for this), pour it over your hair, massage it in, then rinse it out (use cold/warm water, you don't want it to harden). There are variations of this, with added ingredients like Apple Cider Vinegar, oil, and other stuff. I guess you just have to experiment and find out what works for you. The key is not to use hot water, you don't want the egg to boil/fry/harden because it will be a nightmare to rinse out. If your hair is sensitive to protein be very careful, egg has protein. More information here: Naturally Frugal: Egg Yolk Hair WashToday I washed my hair with egg...General consensus of using eggs to wash/ condition withNo Poo - Egg wash methodFun Recipe of the Week: Egg Hair WashEggs & Mayonnaise treatment for hair.

Mud (Rhassoul )
From what I have read any mud can be used to clean hair, so if you live next to a river or lake you can use that mud on your hair (I wouldn't because I'm a germaphobe), however Rhassoul is sold specifically for cleansing skin and/or hair. To use it you just mix the powder with water until it is smooth enough to apply with ease, then you apply it to your hair, let it sit there for 5-15 minutes then rinse it out. Here is more information on this: Can you really wash your hair with bentonite or rhassoul clay: A science experimentOrganic Rhassoul Clay (click the "More Info" tab for instructions), Rhassoul clay as shampoo??What's this about rhassoul clayExperiences with Rhassoul ClayRhassoul clay for shampooMoroccan Rhassoul ClayRhassoul Clay incredible Hair and Skincare benefits.

Shampoo bars
Some consider certain shampoo bars as natural and I do as well. I like Chagrin Valley personally. ALWAYS follow this up with an Apple Cider Vinegar rinse (one tea spoon of vinegar to one cup of water, white vinegar also works).  I wrote about this before here: Alternative ways to wash hair. Today: Shampoo Bars and Turn shampoo bar into liquid shampoo.

Some talk about honey and aloe vera gel washing but many say they have the same effects as with water only washing (so not much difference between using them or just using water), so I'm not going to talk much about this. Mostly these two can be used as conditioner, either prewash (aloe vera gel is suppose to diminish shedding when massaged into the scalp 1 hour or more before washing), as a rinse out (added after washing as conditioner), or as a leave in (microwave/warm honey until it bubbles up or it may lighten your hair).

Also see: Natural alternatives to conditioner.
More interesting reads: Is 100% natural hair possible?Western Herbs and Techniques for Hair CareIndian Herbs for Hair Care.


  1. as you wash your hair with eggs, you may add a little baking soda (for the hp) for washing better and a little vinegar in the rinse water (for the conditionning)
    a no poo way is also eggs yellow added with vinegar
    while the eggs yellow is an amphotenic tensioactive matter

    1. Thank you for this!
      I know there are many variations and recipes, I just tried to cover the basics. So I am glad to see some specific recipes. :)

  2. Very interesting!! I have been no poo for a few weeks now and looking forward to trying the shikaki and aritha method. I tried the baking soda and ACV, but I don't think I could last that nasty of a transition period. I have been making different teas that seem to work good, for instance, chamomile, rosemary, spearmint, and green tea. I have a problem, I want to apply castor oil to my scalp but I'm not sure how to get rid of the oil not using shampoo or castile soap because their ph level is too high. Do you think soap nuts would remove the oil. I think their ph level is around 4-6 so that makes me happy. Thanks!!

    1. I'm not sure, I guess you would have to try it out. From what I heard herbs are made to be used with pre-wash oils.

  3. Hi <3 I've been using baking soda & vinegar for years now, after a while I started seeing some problems due to my hard water and found a great solution.

    First I found a tip I found to boil the water before mixing in the baking soda, then I decided to split the vinegar rinse into two portions. The first is used to kind of "wash" the hair again after I've quickly washed it with baking soda, ideally this would be WARM vinegar water, and I let it set for a minute or more before washing it out, then I do the final vinegar rinse (which could then be cool-cold water, my hair HAS to be fully clean before I really seal it). This is my failsafe, favorite, yaycheap method.

    I attempted water only twice but I have trichotillomania and will probably have high sebum problems until I've quit touching my hair for a LONG time. The first time I did WO though, it felt fascinating after just 2 weeks, so soft, but it looked awful the whole time :D

    1. Thank you for the tips! I will leave them up here for others to see.

  4. My hair is so thick and curly that it looks so puffy and big when I tie my hair. It looks like a valcano eruption. So I usually braid it or put it in a bun. Sometimes I wish my hair was tinner so I can have greater control over my hair


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