What Years of Baking Soda “No ‘Poo” Did to My Long, Healthy Hair {Or, When a Natural Living Experiment Fails}

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while.

If you’re one of my long-time readers and friends, you very well may remember my enthusiastic posts about “no ‘poo” natural hair care.

I raved about it. I loved it. I had fantastic results. I had to tweak my system a couple of times, but I was convinced that I’d never want to care for my hair any other way.

What Years of Baking Soda No 'Poo Did to My Long, Healthy Hair {Or, When a Natural Living Experiment Fails} from smithspirations.com

However, as time went on, I started to wonder if no ‘poo wasn’t such a great option after all. And then I became totally convinced of it because of what it did to my long, healthy hair.

Ugh. Friends, it ain’t pretty. 

Disclosure time: This post contains a couple of affiliate links. If you choose to purchase anything by clicking on these links, it helps support this site with a small commission without costing you a thing. Thanks for your support!

Wait, What Is “No ‘Poo”?

If you aren’t familiar with no ‘poo haircare, allow me to back the train up and explain.

No ‘poo means no shampoo. If you have young children in the house, it’s probably hard to get past the term ‘poo and apply it to haircare, I know.

Typically with no ‘poo haircare, you wash your hair with baking soda and water and then condition it with a vinegar rinse (usually apple cider is used, but some people use white distilled).

I first read about the routine here and was instantly intrigued. It took me a while to try it, but once I did and once my hair adjusted, I was hooked.

Why I Loved No ‘Poo

I like simple. I like natural. I like frugal. You really can’t get much simpler, more natural, and more frugal than washing your hair with baking soda. Unless you just do water, which suits some ladies just fine.

The ingredients list on typical bottles of shampoo and conditioner is scary. Plus, while using standard shampoo and conditioner, I had to wash my hair daily. There was no way around it, no matter how many times I tried to go every other day between washes. Once I started out on a natural living journey, I just wasn’t thrilled with putting so many chemicals on my head and in my hair so often.

With no ‘poo, there were no funny ingredients. I started going every other day between washes, then every three days, and finally every four days. My hair wasn’t flat, limp, and weighed down anymore, and it felt really clean and free. It was easy to style, it looked healthy, and it felt great.

Milkmaid braids with bobby pins

I cringe when I see this picture now. There was so much breakage happening here!

When Others Jumped Off the Bandwagon

After some time, maybe two years or so into no ‘poo-ing, I started reading a few things here and there about baking soda being rather hard on the hair. Ladies were saying they tried it and felt that it dried their hair out and made it brittle.

I’d love to say that I took their words to heart and began researching the effects of baking soda on hair more extensively. But I didn’t.

I thought that these ladies just weren’t doing no ‘poo the right way, like using too much baking soda, washing too frequently, and not doing occasional oil treatments like I did. Or maybe their hair tended to by dry anyhow and so they just weren’t a good fit for that kind of hair washing routine.

So I continued on with no ‘poo, but I didn’t forget the experiences that these ladies shared.

And Then The Breakage Began

I started to notice severe breakage in my hair a little over two years ago, which would have been a little over two years into my no ‘poo ways. I started finding sections of hair that were only about 3-4 inches long on the top of my head along my part.

At first, I thought it was all due to a bad experience involving a vacuum cleaner and my hair. I still feel that the vacuum cleaner fiasco had a lot to do with the sudden breakage that started. I mean, you’re not doing your hair any favors by letting it get sucked into a vacuum and tightly coiled around the spinning brush while frantically yelling and trying to get the thing turned off.

I realized, however, that it wasn’t just the vacuum cleaner accident that was causing the breakage when sections that didn’t get caught in the vacuum started breaking off just as short as the others. Months later I read this article from my friend Kristen of Taming Rapunzel and I recognized that what happened to her client was exactly what happened to me.

The change in my hair’s texture was gradual. So gradual, in fact, that I didn’t really noticed how brittle my once soft and silky hair had become until it was breaking all over. And then, it was too late.

Long-term results of no-poo

Assessing the Damage

When I stopped using baking soda to wash my hair, I actually did it before I fully realized how damaged it had become. It just felt a little dry, and I was curious to try the new shampoo bars that Tropical Traditions was carrying.

Once I started washing with the shampoo bar, my hair started to feel like it did before no ‘poo came along. It became soft and silky again and didn’t have the coarse, straw-like feel that had developed with baking soda. It also didn’t knot and tangle so easily.

However, though the texture of my hair started to improve greatly, the breakage continued. Even today, almost a year since the last time I used baking soda to wash my hair, I still have breakage. Too much damage has been done.

To help you understand, before my hair started breaking, it was down to my knees at its longest. (In case you’re wondering how it got to be so long, I actually don’t cut my hair at all. No, not even trimming.)

Now my hair reaches my hips at it’s longest section, but that section is very thin and continues to break. My guess is that after all of damaged sections have broken off, my hair will be mid-back. I realize that’s still long to most people, but compared to where it was, that’s a tremendous amount of damage.

And it’s quite disheartening.

Could No ‘Poo Work for Some?

I hesitate to give a blanket suggestion like “Never ever ever ever ever ever wash your hair with baking soda! Ever!”, but it’s tempting after my experience.

Is it possible that occasionally washing with baking soda could work for long-term haircare? Sure, it’s possible I suppose. Maybe using baking soda every few months would work for cleaning and clarifying without doing much damage.

I don’t know. And because I don’t know, I won’t recommend it or suggest it.

One thing I’ve really come to believe through my studies with Vintage Remedies is that we should never use our families (or ourselves, for that matter) as guinea pigs for home remedies and natural living adventures. We ought to know what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and what to expect.

Healthier hair growth

Sadly, my no ‘poo experience was really a natural living experiment that yielded devastating results. I hate seeing how damaged, broken, and uneven my hair is, knowing that it will be months before all of the damaged sections break off. Yes, it will regrow, but the interim isn’t exactly fun.

Even more than that, I really cringe to think that someone may have followed the suggestions I gave here or in person and ended up with hair damaged from baking soda no ‘poo. It truly saddens me to know that I gave such bad advice!

I wish I could undo all the damage that baking soda did to my hair, but I can’t. I can, however, share with you in the next post what I’m now using on my hair, and also give you some other ideas of gentle ways to naturally care for your hair.

Before you check out my suggestions for other natural haircare options, be sure to read the follow-up to this post, Yes, I’m Sure It Was the Baking Soda. It has an FAQ on my experience, as well as some really important info on baking soda’s chemistry and how that can effect hair.

Did you ever try baking soda no ‘poo? Have you thought of trying it? Do any of you use it now?

 

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for your honesty!

    I tried the baking soda/ACV and other natural methods but they all left my hair feeling flat and blah. I was told it could have been our water which is naturally hard and salt softened.

    I’m stickin’ with shampoo though I don’t wash it as often as I used to.

    • says

      I am a hairstylist, I just wanted to share with you, unless you trim the part if your has the breakage , what happens us that it will actually continue to break up the shaft of your hair even into the healthy parts. You will end up losing less legth by just getting your hair lightly trimmed regularly until the breakage problem us resolved. Just make sure you find a hairstylist that loves long hair! Some just want to over do it with the cutting, lol! I also stopped the no poo method after about 1 week of trying! Thankfully I found very affordable and clean products by looking at this website that does testing on skin care to check the toxicity levels. http://Www.cosmeticdatabase.com. They have done resting on over 65,000 products. I found the dessert essence fragrance free shampoo has a great rating and we love it! My husband and I both use it and 1 bottle has lasted 2 months! Also you can get it on amazon prime $7.63 :) and we found a body bar soap we love that has a very clean rating as well, pure fragrance free olive oil bar by kiss my face. 1 bar lasted my husband and I 2 months as well! Amazon has it in an 8 pack for $24.11!! That will last at least a year so great value. I hope this info helps you:) God bless !

      • Kristen says

        Thanks so much for sharing your insight and the Cosmetic Database link! I have heard others recommend the Dessert Essence brand for shampoo but I haven’t looked at it myself. I think I’ll have to do that since you mentioned it, too. :)
        I do realize that trimming off the damaged part is a pretty well-respected recommendation. For me, though, not cutting my hair at all has to do with our personal convictions and understanding of the Bible. I suppose I’ll just be praying and seeking the Lord for grace for my hair!
        Thanks again, Chelsea!

        • MaryLisa Doucette says

          I applaud you in telling all of us that you dont cut your hair at all. I, as well, do not cut my hair. People think that I am crazy. I just tell them that I need my long hair to wipe my tears from Jesus feet when I see him for the first time. God bless!

          • RayAnne says

            I do not cut my hair either, or ever will! Same convictions and understanding of scripture! I live on an island that has hard water, I miss stateside soft water. My hair just doesn’t seem to be the same, no breakage tho, I just miss that soft silky feel. Just wanted to say love the comment on using our long hair at Jesus feet! Beautiful!

    • Kristen says

      That’s a great point about the water type you have, Danielle! I’ve also always heard that can make such a difference in how different methods and products work in your hair.
      Thanks for chiming in with your experience!

  2. Kimberly J. says

    Thanks for sharing this with us. I’m sorry your experience wasn’t a good one and that you feel you lead people astray with your suggestions. I do think though that this method is still good for a lot of people. Our bodies are all chemically different and what works for some will not work for others, so there are many people out there who will always enjoy the “no poo” method. I want to encourage you, though, if the “no poo” system is NOT for you, to at least stick with the natural methods and not go back to using the chemically-laced store versions. I love using a bar of the natural soaps I buy at Earth Fare in my hair. I also like to make my own shampoo with the Dr. Bronner’s castile soap bars. Keep experimenting with recipes that other people have tried until you find the one for you. Have a wonderful day and thanks again for all of your wonderful posts. You certainly are a “Smithspiration”!

    • Kristen says

      Hi Kim! Thanks for taking the time to comment! :)
      Like I said in the post, it’s definitely possible that this could still work for some people. I have *zero* research on it outside of some of the posts I linked to and my personal experience. I just know I won’t recommend it after what happened to me.
      And for sure on the standard shampoos! I like the shampoo bar I’m using (I’ll be sharing more on that later this week) but might try some other brands. Do you know the name of the soap you sometimes use from Earth Fare? I’d love to check it out.

      • Sarah says

        Hey, I want to try an alternative for my hair. It is incredibly frizzy after I use shampoo and gets really oily the next day! This is really horrendous for me since I have front bangs that get stringy and weird. I didn’t have this problem until about two years age. I was thinking of trying the “no poo” method, but am worried now since I already have really thin hair. Do you have any recommendations?

        • Kristen Smith says

          Hi Sarah,
          Yes, I definitely don’t recommend baking soda no ‘poo to anyone as an alternative to shampoo! In this follow-up post I share a few other options. It may be that your scalp is over reacting to frequent washing, so it gets extra oily the next day. Mine used to do that. I had to retrain my scalp by spacing out washes more and more. I went every other day, then it adjusted. Then every three days, and finally now I wash about every 4 days with shampoo. Does that help?

  3. Tina says

    I tried no ‘poo’ too. I was so very disappointed with the results. When using conventional shampoo, I never had greasy hair; it was long and soft, but thinning. After about a year of no ‘poo’ my hair was an embarrassment. I even remember sitting in town one day watching ladies walk by with their hair blowing in the gently breeze. My hair was greasy, weighed down, and oh so brittle. I constantly had bits of hair all over my cloths, and brushing was a nightmare.

    I got a hair cut, switched to a natural shampoo, and started regular oil treatments. It took a while, but my hair has recovered, and is growing fast (about an inch a month), and thicker then before. I also have a tone of new postpartum hair growth.

    I just recently started oiling my scalp again to tame the poof of new growth. I also generally wait 2 weeks between washings. I probably could go longer too, but Im not sure I want too.

    I am due to deliver another baby in 2 months, so I know I will be loosing quite a bit of hair in the coming months, but i’m ok with that. My hair is thick, and shinny again, no thanks to no ‘poo’!

    • Kristen says

      So glad you shared your experience, Tina! What do you use when you oil your scalp? And two weeks between washings is awesome! I think I was washing once a week for a while but I just couldn’t keep it up. Every five days is my max right now, but I’d love to figure out a way to go longer.

      • Tina says

        I went to my local healthfood store to see what they had in stock. Then I reasearched the products I found. We use Andalou Naturals shampoo and conditioner.

        For oiling, I use just plain high quality coconut oil. I let it sit on my scalp for at least an hour, then brush it through to the ends before washing my hair.

        • Kristen says

          Thanks for sharing the details, Tina! I also like to use coconut oil in my hair. I’ll have to look into Andalou, too!

      • Tina says

        I oil with cocnut oil, and wash with Andalou Naturals shampoo, and conditioner. I don’t think I would need the conditioner after oiling, but it’s a habit I keep for the sake of my hair tips. I don’t put conditioner on my scalp at all.

  4. says

    I also forgot to mention my conditioner which I also found by researching on the cosmetic database.
    Alba Botanica Leave-In Conditioner, amazon sells this for $8.28 a bottle. I have loved this conditioner! It’s hard to find conditioner with a good rating that works well!! I don’t leave this in my hair but use a small amount on my ends in the shower and rinse very well. I’m the only one who uses this so it’s looking like this will last at least 3-4 months for 1 bottle:)

  5. says

    Oh, my! I am always tempted to try this when another of my children enters that pre-teen/teen stage and has to deal with oily greasy hair and skin. Although I had very oily skin and hair in my younger years, it’s now very dry and I know I won’t be trying the no’poo method.
    Thank you for the shampoo bar recommendation, though – I’ll be looking into that!

    • Kristen says

      Hi Linda! Thanks for reading and commenting! If you try the shampoo bar I’m interested to hear what you think and how it works for you. :)

  6. says

    I had the same experience with baking soda. Breakage was horrendous!! I did no poo for nearly 2 years.
    I have not had baking soda on my hair for over 2 years now. Switching back to a natural castile bar soap ended the dryness. Then I started regular trimmings [ KEY to slowing down and eventually stopping the breakage is to give your hair a good trimming].
    If you don’t trim all the breakage areas will continue to split upward and break.

    • Kristen says

      Sounds like we had very similar experiences, Pamela! While I’m not happy to know that you had so much damage, too, it is helpful to have others share that the same thing happened to them. Glad yours is on the mend!
      And yes, I do know that one of the top recommendations after damage is to cut or trim all of the damaged sections off. I have some personal convictions based on our understanding of Scripture about cutting my hair (even trimming), so for me, that’s one step I’ll be skipping. I will just have to trust the Lord for help!
      Thank you again for sharing!

        • Kristen says

          Sure, Pamela! The main reference comes from 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. If you’d like, I can email you more details. :)

          • Candace says

            Are you referring to the part that says, “For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.”?

            We were reading this past year on whether this is referring to hair or head coverings.

            There were women prostitutes that would shave their heads, which is how they were identified. I have read this passage many times and not once thought it referred to having a haircut or trim.

            Our hair is a glory, but if it’s broken and damaged, could we not say it’s a dishonor? I don’t want to argue against your convictions, I just am not sure that you’re interpreting that portion of Scripture correctly. A trim is definitely different than shaving your entire head!

            The only time the Bible refers to a blade not to touch hair is in the case of the Nazarenes – such Samson. Which to me seems that everyone else cut their hair.

          • Kristen says

            Hi Candace,

            I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. I’m certainly aware of the viewpoint you shared and that was something I considered years ago when I was praying about this.

            I came to these convictions after many, many months of Bible study and serious prayer. I completely understand and respect the fact that I’m in the minority of Christian women who believe this way, and I’m okay with that. However, I’m not sure it’s quite fair to suggest that I’m misinterpreting Scripture when I’ve never even explained how I view this passage or others relating to hair.

            The point of this post isn’t really to argue or debate the meaning behind 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, nor is my blog a place where I try to teach doctrine and Scripture. I’d like to keep it that way. :) Thanks for understanding and for taking the time to read and comment.

  7. says

    I’m a licensed cosmetologist and when I first got diagnosed with Lyme, I tried no poo…It was an epic failure for my hair. I have fine-textured wavy hair and it was limp and tangly. Now I use Acure shampoo and conditioner and LOVE it. I only shampoo a couple times a week and use dry shampoo in between :) I can live with that!

    • Kristen says

      Thanks for chiming in, Sherry! I haven’t heard of Acure (though that shouldn’t be surprising, seeing as I haven’t looked through the shampoo aisle in over 4 years…). Do you get it at a salon?

  8. Samantha says

    THANK YOU for being honest! I tried no-poo for 11 months and my hair ended up super dry and brittle. I had to quit and go back to using shampoo. I felt guilty, really guilty. Like I was some sort of anti-Christ of the natural movement. Every time I read about no-poo people I felt shunned by people claiming that I didn’t give it long enough or that I was doing it wrong. No. Just no. I wasn’t doing it wrong, this just isn’t all it’s hyped up to be.

    • Kristen says

      Hey Samantha! Glad you joined in with your experience, and I’m so glad that you stopped at 11 months and didn’t go longer with the baking soda! No fun about feeling shunned, though. I’m sorry to hear that you felt that way! This has certainly been a humbling experience and taught me that I need to be careful how I approach natural living and also very receptive to the experiences of others.

  9. Hannah says

    I also tried the no ‘poo. My hair is thick and curly, so I don’t know if that was part of the problem, but I had to stop after a few weeks. It was just a mess! However, my usual method of washing is using a sulfate-free shampoo and only washing it every few days (the thickness helps it not get greasy too often) so I’m back to that for now. I had tried a shampoo bar before but it didn’t work well; I may try some others as they become more popular and there are more options! Thx for coming clean about this method! :)

    • Kristen says

      Hi Hannah! I’ve heard from other ladies with curly hair that no ‘poo was a total disaster from them. It’s probably a really good thing that you stopped when you did. My guess is that you spared your hair from a lot of damage!

      I definitely want to be careful and truthful with everything I recommend here. This experience has certainly made me feel extra careful!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. :)

  10. says

    Maybe argan oil can help your hair get back to normal. I’m using it in a beard oil I’m developing since beard hair tends to gets brittle and break.

    I did try the bs and acv for a while but ended up using a shampoo bar that I liked MUCH better.

    • Kristen says

      Carina, we must be on the same wave-length. After writing this post, I got to thinking about argan oil and have been meaning to get online and order some to try! I’ve heard such wonderful things about it and I am hopeful that it can help the new hair growth I have stay healthy. Thank you for sharing that suggestion!

    • Kristen says

      You’re welcome, Kristy! Yes, I don’t imagine baking soda no ‘poo would have treated your hair very kindly. Do you use anything now that you love?

  11. Robin says

    I tried washing with baking soda all of one time. Prior to that, I was increasing the amount of time between washings, my hair was looking good, it didn’t feel greasy, things were going well. One time, I washed with baking soda, and my hair turned into straw. It was awful! It took months to undo the damage that one time did to my hair. And, that was the end of my no poo experience. Now, I just use a sulfate-free shampoo. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always make my hair feel super clean, no matter how much I scrub or how much shampoo I use. Then, I have to break down and use a chemical-laden shampoo because I cannot stand it when my hair feels gross and dirty.

    • Kristen says

      No fun, Robin! I’m kind of in the same boat now. I do like what I’m using on my hair (I’ll be sharing specifics in a couple of days), but I wonder if I need to do something different in order to help restore it. I’ve gotten some great recommendations, though, so I’m going to try to compile them all for Friday’s post!

  12. Gudrun B says

    I really appreciate your honest update – at the same time it saddens me, that is messed your hair up so badly.
    For me it is working very well! Some one in the comments wrote about different body chemistry, on a hunch that may have to do a lot! I also agree with the type of water; the chemicals and hardness in city water could on its own do some damage.
    I never followed any particular recipe, but mixed my BS either with distilled or rain water and added some Dr Bronner lavender castille; may be i use less BS, may be it is because my hair is short, or may be my body agrees with it…. ? I only wash once a week, with few hot summer garden work sweat days exceptions :) or even every 10 – 14 days; if it feels too dry ( i always had oily hair!) i run my coconut oiled hands through. so far my natural waviness is actually better than with shampoos, it grows fast too.
    BUT i will watch closely now! I think I am into my second year and still love it! No, i did not read it from you either and tried it, so rest assured the “bad advice” is not all your fault.
    I have been wondering over the years though, if using other plants that are in the saponin family might work …. more food for thought
    God bless you!

    • Kristen says

      Gudrun, your comments are always so thoughtful and kind! I always like hearing from you. :)

      I’ve heard about soap nuts being somehow used for hair washing (and laundry, and other things!). I’ve also wondered if that would be something worth trying. I’m not sure. I think I’ve even heard of shampoos being made from soap nuts. So yes, I agree, saponin plants would be something to look into. Let me know if you find anything!

      • Gudrun B says

        after my comment i looked up a few plants – have not reached a conclusion yet; there seems to be a fern, but i have no idea where it actually grows…. need to do more research.
        the issue i have with soap nuts is that they are imported and from what i have read previously is that the people who use them in their native country now have a harder time getting them, because they try to export so much and it raised the price for the locals.
        for the past 2 years i have been trying to locate a horse chestnut tree and give those a try, they are supposedly making a fabulous laundry detergent as well as hand soap – if i had only known when i was a kid and we used to collect tons of them every fall… wait, i was not concerned about laundry back then :)

        thank you, for your kind words! love reading your posts!

        • Kristen says

          I hadn’t heard that about soap nuts, but that does make a lot of sense! Definitely something to keep in mind. I haven’t used them yet for anything.

          Ah yes… for the good old days of no laundry… 😉

  13. beingjennifer says

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I did try the no-poo for a few months three years ago and my hair stylist suggested that the BS and ACV were drying my hair too much, so I stopped. He’s the one who said I “shouldn’t” wash my hair every day, so he’s part of the reason I tried the no-poo. About 18 months ago my hair started coming out in clumps. The thinning was frightening. I was concerned that it was a medical issue, but nothing else was wrong. Now I can gather that it was from my no-poo experiment and rest a bit easier. I still don’t wash my hair every day and use baby powder as a “dry” shampoo to keep the oil down. I do want to try the Dr. Bronner’s castile unscented baby soap to see if that will work instead of regular shampoo. Thank you again for your honesty and I pray that your hair heals quickly.

    • Kristen says

      Thanks for sharing your experience. What a blessing that someone noticed your hair drying out before it went on too long! And thank you for your kind well wishes. :)

  14. says

    Wow. I am so glad to find I’m not the only one with no ‘poo problems. I used baking soda and vinegar for almost four years and just recently stopped when my hair began to go haywire! It would fluctuate from being super nasty greasy on the top to horribly dry and brittle. I partly attribute it to a change in water (due to moving from MT to SC), humidity, and post-pregnancy hormones, but since leaving off the baking soda it’s been so much better. I’ve just been using a tiny little bit of really watered down liquid castile soap for about a month now, and my hair is so much better, though it’s still healing.

    Anyway, thanks for the post!

    • Kristen says

      My hair never did the super greasy then dry thing, but I’ve heard that from numerous people who did no ‘poo for years. I wonder if that’s the scalp trying to get enough oil back into the hair? Just a guess, of course!

  15. Gudrun B says

    just opened my next email and Vitacost has Avalon organics thickening shampoo on sale!
    the regular price there is 7.39 for the 14 ounce bottle now on sale for 5.47 for any one interested :)

    • Kristen says

      Maria, I try to buy a couple at a time to get more out of the shipping cost. I can’t actually remember the exact shipping cost, though! I’m sorry! I doubt that helped much.

  16. Jane says

    It’s interesting reading this. I had exactly the same experience a number of years ago. At first it felt wonderful, but gradually over time it started to not work so well. After two years of no pooing I had to call it quits. My hair was brittle like straw, as well as being greasy – it never felt clean – and my scalp would itch from the BS. I have very thick hair, and no matter how much I rinsed I would always have an itchy scalp. I really hated wasting all that water trying to rinse it out.
    I quit no-poo about three years ago and it’s taken this long for my hair to recover. I’m still dabbling in various shampoos, but havent found anything I love. Just this week I started washing with my own homemade soap (20% coconut oil & 80% olive oil). I’ll just have to see how it goes. The vinegar rinse would be OK if my hair didn’t continue to smell like vinegar for the next 2 days. Any way around this?

    • Kristen says

      How diluted is your vinegar rinse, Jane? I’ve heard that if the vinegar isn’t diluted enough the scent can remain.

      • Jane says

        From memory I think it was around 2 tablespoons ACV to 1 cup water. How does that ratio stack up with what you do?

        • Kristen says

          Hmm… That seems about right. I don’t know that I have any suggestions for you! I assume you’re rinsing well after?

  17. Jane says

    I would love to try Tropical Traditions, but I’m in Australia and shipping is crazy expensive! If I buy anything from overseas i have to stick to iherb as their shipping is reasonable.

  18. karenl says

    How sad! I’ve been using baking soda as shampoo for nigh on 5 yrs. I was also using the acv rinse but stopped that in short order when my hair started feeling like straw. My hair is down to my shoulder blades and I get the length trimmed about twice a year.
    my initial response was to suggest that hair is a place the body releases toxins (or diet related) but when many of you had good outcome by changing back to shampoo, I am baffled.

    • Kristen says

      Hi Karen! I certainly don’t have all the answers, especially as to why some people are able to use baking soda for years without seeing the extensive damage that I (and lots of the commenters) have. Did you see the follow-up post I wrote with some links to helpful articles and a video? I found some of that information really insightful to at least understand how baking soda works on the hair.

      I do hope that you continue to have good results with your baking soda routine if you choose to stick with it! :)

  19. says

    I’m so glad I read this today! I’ve been doing the baking soda/vinegar routine for 4-5 months. It looked and felt amazing at first, but not so much anymore. In fact, I used to receive all sorts of compliments on my hair from friends and hair stylists alike – but haven’t had ANY since the 2nd month of doing the soda/vinegar method. So to read this post today just validated what I’ve been thinking about “maybe it’s not the BEST thing after all.” Disappointing for sure, but I’m so glad to be aware of it now, and not a year from now!

    I know there are some good natural shampoos on the market, but they’re a bit out of our budget. And I don’t want to do just water. Can you recommend anything else that’s cheaper than $10 but still nourishing for long hair?

    • Kristen says

      Yes, Elizabeth! My whole goal behind these posts was sparing other ladies from what happened to my hair.

      For an affordable option, shampoo bars might be something to look into. I wrote about the Tropical Traditions bar that I’ve been using since in this follow-up post. I do still use the diluted vinegar rinse and like to put coconut oil through the ends when it feels a little dry. But, that’s kind of all the time now, so I use coconut oil in my hair a lot. 😉 You probably wouldn’t need to do that as often.

  20. Jennifer Bennett says

    I have been searching for some decent, natural haircare products. I met a sweet and knowledgeable couple at a Farmer’s Market in Waldport, Oregon. They have developed a line of products. They are a bit more expensive than some on the market, but I have been purchasing cheap/generic conventional shampoo/conditioner products. They seem to be priced similar to other salon grade products. They created the formula’s and also grow many of the herbs organically themselves. Very neat and so far I have been impressed with the results of the products. The shampoo doesn’t foam up like traditional products, but it is very effective at cleaning and restoring my long hair. I believe the website is: truessential.com They are from Waldport, Oregon.

    • Kristen says

      That sounds fantastic, Jennifer! I grow lots of my own herbs, and anytime I find someone doing that and making their own products from them, I’m so intrigued! I’ll definitely see if I can find them online. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Pamela Gammill says

    I’m so sorry that happened to your hair. I never tried the baking soda wash, but to wean myself off shampoo, I went to washing with watered down conditioner (a safe, healthy conditioner). I liked my shampoo and conditioner, but they were really expensive and I was looking to save some money and be more natural. For the past year, I have only washed my hair with water and I rinse with diluted vinegar, about 1/4 cup to two cups of water. My hair is very curly and tangly, otherwise I probably wouldn’t use anything to rinse it with. I wash it once a week, so it doesn’t get exposed to the diluted vinegar that often. It’s soft, and never greasy. Maybe I have just been lucky so far.

    • Kristen says

      I think that curly hair does really well with a method like that, Pamela! I don’t know that the diluted vinegar can harm the hair. I think it is more an issue with the baking soda because of the pH of it.

      I love the idea of washing with just water and am so glad that works for you!

      Thanks for reading and commenting today.

  22. S.Ware says

    I use Dr. Bronner’s castle soap and an ACV/Water rinse and my hair is fab…..Baking Soda is drying; however it is great for drying out fever blisters and cold sores. :)

    • Kristen says

      I wish I would have noticed how baking soda made my hands feel after cleaning with it and made the connection with my hair years ago! It is drying, but certainly has lots of other great uses!

  23. Anna says

    There are other methods of no poo than just baking soda and vinegar. There are some really good resources online including facebook groups that can shed some light on more no poo and low poo options.

  24. AisLynn says

    Have you tried using talcum between washing to control the oil? My husband brings home whole talcum rocks that we ground down to fine powder with a mortar and pestle. I love it for baby bottoms and you really can’t get more natural. Just make sure you either use a boars style brush or you brush it out really well because it can feel like you have “stuff” in your hair if you don’t. I have naturally curly red hair and only need to wash once a week now but when I was younger I couldn’t go more than a day and if I had an evening appointment I would really need to wash my hair a second time. That is when I discovered the talc trick from my grandma.

    • Kristen says

      Hi AisLynn!
      No, I haven’t used talcum between washing. I’ve seen lots of recipes online for different dry shampoos to use between washes, but I’ve never taken the time to make them. I keep thinking I should though, especially on day 4 or 5 post-wash! 😉

  25. says

    I’m doing no poo but also no ACV/baking soda. Really happy withthe results. ALmost a year now. I actually had to have my hair thinned out because it was getting too full to handle

  26. Janely says

    Wow–lots of comments on this issue…I find the same results as you and am struggling to find an alternative because if I use any shampoo with wheat, my head itches so bad I’d rather go without ever washing my hair with anything–the same is true if I use any products that have anything–and I really mean anything–associated with the ocean–I’m highly allergic and the results are horrible. With all the crazy names of ingredients it makes it difficult to “KNOW” what is inside the shampoo/conditioner as I’m standing in the store looking at the various bottles. I see the breakage in my hair, too and it doesn’t matter if I have soft or hard water–the baking soda/acv kills my hair–I wish it was as simple as the water for me. We went chemical free in our house because my husband had cancer, so that was why the big push for us and we are enjoying the chemical free life–other than the shampoo issue. Any help, thoughts, ideas would be relished at this point. Thanks for sharing!

    • Kristen says

      Maybe a good shampoo bar would work for you, Janely? As far as I know, wheat and ocean products typically aren’t in them. I like with the shampoo bars that I typically know exactly what’s in them. You can also find more ideas in this follow-up post I did. Good luck!

    • Kristen says

      A few other commenters wrote about soap nut shampoo. Glad it works well for you! Thanks for sharing the source for yours in case someone wants to try it. :)

  27. says

    So helpful! I’ve debated on whether or not to take the leap. I don’t think I will now. :) I do just wash the triplets’ hair with water – about 1x a week I use homemade soap. But I think they’re young enough that they may be able to get away with it -not having used conventional shampoo/chemicals and all. We shall see! I’ll be keeping a close eye out for subtle changes with all our hair now!!

    • Kristen says

      I’d recommend steering clear, Jennifer! 😉
      With my children’s hair, we do very little soap still, and my oldest is nine. I think we do shampoo bar and ACV rinse every 2-3 weeks on her, and even less on my younger girls. We water wash in between the shampoo bars. I would love for them to grow up with a scalp that’s used to having it’s own natural oils there!
      Thanks for reading today!

  28. Mousie says

    I tried the no ‘poo ONCE. And holy creepers, it was a complete disaster. Even doing everything by the book, my hair was greasy, lank, and disgusting after that first go with baking soda. My scalp has been healthy since I stopped using shampoos with certain ingredients, but the baking soda made the sebum production go haywire. Once I washed with my regular go-to shampoo (I use Nature’s Gate’s Herbal formula) my hair was no longer greasier than a frying pan of bacon, though it was oilier than it should have been and exceptionally dry.

    Since then, I have perfected a routine that works for me, and recommended Nature’s Gate shampoos and conditioners to people who have all had really good results with their own combinations of the brand’s available formulas. I wash my hair 2 or 3 times a week with about a nickel sized dollop of shampoo, and rotate conditioning agents each wash. (The rotation goes: ACV diluted with rosemary/sage tea and rose water; raw, unfiltered honey; Nature’s Gate Herbal Conditioner.) Once a month I use coconut oil as a deep conditioner, and once every three months I use this hair growth mask: http://youtu.be/4JSaMmPMmy8 and with a few drops of sage and yarrow essential oils added.

    My hair has always been picky, so I have to pamper it accordingly if I want it to be healthy– and I do want it to be healthy! I don’t dye/highlight/chemically process my hair at all, and I chop off all the growth about once every year and a half so that I can donate it to foundations which make wigs for cancer patients. If those 12 to 20 inches aren’t healthy, they can’t use it, and the hair is wasted. Keeping my hair healthy, chemical- and damage-free isn’t just something I do for my own vanity, if it were just for me I would personally feel the effort isn’t worth it. Since it’s something I do in memory of my friends who lost the battle with cancer in the hopes that my hair can give some person the hope they need to keep fighting, it feels like the work means something.

    • Kristen says

      That hair mask looks great! I might give something like that a try. I’ve used straight castor oil on my hair a few times, but it was so thick and sticky that I only did it a handful of times. I like the idea of mixing it with other oils. Thanks for sharing that!

      I’ve been considering infusing ACV with hair-helping herbs like rosemary, sage, and nettles. Your routine reminded me to put more thought into that!

      Thanks for reading and taking a few moments to comment.

    • Kristen says

      Hi Therese!

      Yes, I have heard some people say that deep conditioning while doing baking soda no ‘poo will eliminate the problems. I did not use any argan oil while I did baking soda for my washing, but I don’t even know if I was familiar with it at the time. Perhaps it would have made a difference.

      I would definitely encourage someone who still wanted to use baking soda to do some very frequent argan or jojoba oil treatments. I just have to question, though, if a washing routine requires frequent oil conditioning treatments, if it really is the best way to clean the hair? I’m just not sure that it’s worth the potential risk. For me, I know it isn’t, but others might feel differently.

      I also noticed that she mentioned the pH of baking soda, and how liquid castile soap has a similar pH, which is true. But that would lead me to believe that both baking soda and liquid castile soap could be problematic as a hair washing product, not that both can be used so long as certain precautions are taken.

      Those are my thoughts on the link! She seems really happy with her haircare routine and I hope it continues to work well for her. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  29. claudia says

    I don’t want to be rude, but you haven’t post any scientific research on what exactly baking soda does on the hair besides what did do to your hair. But it’s like any other treatment, or when someone tries keratine but doesn’t work on her hair, like in my case keratine was never good for me but everyone says “it’s soooo good for your hair”. not everything works for everyone.

    • Kristen says

      Claudia, if you would continue reading the two follow-up posts linked in the last paragraph, you’ll find links to additional resources and information. My situation is not very unique among those that used baking soda for an extended period of time, as well. I also agree that different hair types will respond differently to various treatments, and I don’t think I wrote anything to the contrary.

  30. Samantha says

    I realize this post is a few months old and I may not get a reply, but it’s worth a shot! I’ve been doing no ‘poo for 8-9 months and while I haven’t noticed any significant damage/thinning, things don’t seem quite right and I’ve been contemplating moving on from it. My hair is about 6 inches past my shoulders. I have personally felt convicted in the past to donate my hair for others, and probably will again. At this point, maybe my hair is shot and it wouldn’t be useful, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that I do plan to cut it again eventually (last donation was July 2013.)

    Anyway, I am looking for advice on alternative methods that would give me the benefits I currently enjoy with baking soda/ACV – I only wash every 3-4 days, and it styles beautifully and holds without any products. As I’m sure you and others can relate, when it is very long you just don’t want to mess with washing and drying every single day. Most everything I’ve read from people that loved this method is that it eventually destroyed their hair, and I feel like I should make the switch before it happens. Just tonight I braided my hair into two braids for a walk outside with my winter hat on, and the pigtail-braids look a little thin. Hopefully I can still stop this!

    Any other methods or products that folks recommend?

    • Kristen says

      I can definitely relate to what you’re saying, Samantha! My hair held styles so well a few months into baking soda no ‘poo. I never would have imagined what it would do long-term.

      If you click through to the two follow up posts linked at the bottom of this one, you’ll read about some other options (side note… I tried the bentonite clay wash and it was a disaster! So drying. Really bad.). I was using a shampoo bar from Tropical Traditions, but recently switched to something a little more reparative since I had so much damage. I do think shampoo bars are an awesome alternative, though! A vinegar rinse works really well with them, too.

      This is the shampoo and conditioner I’m using now. It seems to be working well and my hair has stopped breaking. I don’t know how much of that has to do with the products or just the amount of time that has gone by since I stopped using baking soda. I still only wash it every 4 days or so, and it doesn’t feel weighted down from the products either.

      Hope that helps!

  31. Stardust says

    I bought 2 bottle of apple cider vineger and baking soda today. then I was looking for how to use it and I came across this page. I don’t think I am gonna use those anymore. It cost me much but at least my hair got spared.

    • Kristen says

      Good thing there are so many other uses for baking soda and apple cider vinegar! I do still like to use a diluted vinegar rinse from time to time, and when I used a shampoo bar, I always used it after washing. It’s the baking soda that can be so damaging. But it sure is great for cleaning the bathroom or making a deodorizing carpet powder! :)

  32. Maggie says

    Thanks for this post! I’ve been no poo/low poo for almost 2 years and noticed my hair is so uneven in the back! I’m not sure if it’s breakage because it’s not dry at all… My hair was beautiful before no poo and I’m just wondering what would happen if I go back to ‘normal’ shampoo after 2 years? Low poo weighs my hair down a bit. Thanks!

    • Kristen says

      Hi Maggie!

      I never really noticed mine feeling dry either. I just became so weak and brittle.

      Switching to a shampoo bar and still using the vinegar rinse made a big difference for me, but I have started using a bottled shampoo and conditioner now since my hair was so damaged. It doesn’t weigh down my hair, which I love, and I still only wash every 4-5 days or so. I was concerned that I might have to wash it more frequently, but I haven’t! I use this brand (affiliate link) right now.

  33. Colleen says

    I don’t mean to be rude….but I’m a hairdresser. Your hair was destroyed because you didn’t cut it. When you have breakage it will continue to split and force its way up the shaft. Your only way of stopping it is by cutting it off. Also if your hair is down to your lower back its too long to begin with. If a typical persons hair grows 6″ a year, let’s say that’s 3-4′ of hair. That’s been on your head for 8 years, it will always be fine on the bottom because it’s been there the longest. This method didn’t work for you because you didn’t take care of your hair. I have many hairdresser friends who have been using this method and have had absolutely no problems.

    • Kristen says

      Hi Colleen,

      I think you need more information about how I treat my hair than what I’ve shared here to make the judgement call that I didn’t take care of it. You never saw the condition of my hair before I used baking soda and after. You never saw the breakage patterns. You also haven’t seen how drastically my hair improved after I stopped using baking soda. You got a limited view of it here in this post and I think that’s important to keep in mind.

      The number of women that I know who do not cut their hair is quite large, and the majority of them have beautiful, well-kept hair, though uncut. No one suddenly had sections break off to only 4″ long, but I have heard from multiple ladies who used baking soda for months or years and had that problem.

      Similarly, everyone who has commenting on this post and others saying that the same thing happened to them after using baking soda longterm cut their hair. Before you assume that my hair breakage had to do with me not cutting my hair, I’d really appreciate it if you’d read this follow up post on no ‘poo and why I’m certain that’s what led to the severe, sudden, and drastic breakage that I experienced. You’ll hear from a hairdresser there, too.

      I fully realize that the standard suggestion in cases like mine is to cut the hair. I also understand why that is. But just because that’s not something I am going to do doesn’t mean that I don’t take care of my hair.

  34. Shantell says

    I tried baking soda and apple cider vinegar to wash my hair for a little while, worked for a bit, but I didn’t like the texture and eventually it seemed to affect my hair color. I realized I preferred to try another method to clean rather than go back to chemicals and sulfates. I tend to only ‘clean’ my hair about 2 to maybe 3 times a week. I tend to use the conditioner wash method (use a very cheap, watery conditioner like suave or V05), wet my hair completely, use a gob (like full handful) of conditioner spread through my roots and nape of neck and scrub very well for a few minutes with my fingertips. I then use a slightly deeper conditioner through the midshaft and ends of my hair to conditioner, leave for a few minutes while washing my body, then rinse thoroughly (like use a wide toothed comb while rinsing. This has really helped with keeping my hair healthier. I couldn’t abandon my hair products with ‘cones’ in them, so I do have to use a sulfate free shampoo occasionally to remove product buildup. I then use a very small amount (like a pump or two) for my roots and nape of neck only and scrub with my fingertips. I then condition the same way. See link above for the sulfate free shampoo and conditioner I use. (Ed. Product seen here) My hairstylist has even mentioned that my hair is very healthy (whatever I am doing, she told me to continue), I have very little dry/breakage and very few to no split ends. Hope this helps!

    • Kristen Smith says

      Hi Shantell! I’ve heard some people really love washing their hair with conditioner. In fact, I considered trying it again in the near future just to see how my hair would handle it. I’ll be sure to take a look at the shampoo and conditioner you like. Thanks for sharing!

  35. says

    I “washed” my hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar for over a year and share your experience. I kick myself for not researching more and just believing what I read on the internet. Thank you for posting this and sharing your thoughts!

    • Kristen Smith says

      Oh April, I totally relate to that regret! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I had taken more time to read about no ‘poo before I had used it. I hope your hair is recovering! What are you using now?

  36. sierra says

    I have been “no poo” for about 4 years…. I am noticing some major breakage on the top of my head! I noticed it a while ago, but wanted this idea to work so bad that I told myself maybe I was using too much baking soda. Today I just couldn’t ignore it so I got online to do some research and I stumbled upon your blog. Your experience was pretty much word for word what I’m currently going through. Thank you for sharing!!!!

    • Kristen Smith says

      Oh Sierra… yep, that sounds just like me when I first seeing such short pieces on the top of my head. I couldn’t believe it would be caused from baking soda when it was working so well at the beginning! I’m so sorry that you’re experiencing the same kind of breakage I did. I hope that you are able to find a washing solution that’s gentle and effective for you!

  37. Kate says

    Perhaps the way I do things is different based on the fact that I have naturally curly hair, but I use a conditioner without sulfates like you would shampoo every time I wash my hair (which really depends on how dirty/sweaty I’ve been). When I feel like there’s been a lot of product build up I use a vinegar rinse (I use white vinegar, and I’m not sure how much of a difference that makes from ACV on my hair, but it’s what I’ve always done) usually ever other week or so (more often in the summer). If my scalp starts looking oily I use dry shampoo (which there are a lot of DIY natural recipes for) on my roots.

    I know vinegar is supposed to condition, but it also cleanses pretty well on it’s own and reduces product/sweat/dirt/other gross buildup.

    Cutting shampoo out (or using a cleansing shampoo that doesn’t lather) is great for your hair, but I can see how baking soda and vinegar might not be a great idea.

    There are plenty of other viable no-poo ways!

    • Kristen Smith says

      Hi Kate, Thanks for sharing what works well for your curly hair. I’ve done conditioner washing a few times, but I can only do it irregularly on my fine, straight hair. Right now I’m doing a little bit of conditioner washing in between shampoos, and it’s allowing me to go longer between regular washing. I also shared some other no-poo options that don’t use baking soda in this follow-up post that I wrote last year, in case you missed it. :)

    • Kristen Smith says

      Hi Brian. I have heard of some people who are able to wash only with water and have great results. I haven’t been able to make that happen, though. My hair type seems to do best with some wash every four or five days. I love the idea of water only washing, but it just doesn’t seem to work for me.

  38. Jettum says

    Soap is alkaline. Period. Most shampoos sit at about 8. Conditioners at 3.5.
    There goes your “science theory”.
    Here’s the bottom line.
    – if you don’t produce as much sebum your hair will get drier.
    -if your hair is dry it will be weak and break off.
    If you produce less sebum you have to use a sable hair brush to get what oil you do produce to the ends of your hair. (Coconut oil is another option.) But if you don’t produce any oil, your hair doesn’t get any oil. IT HAS TO BE REPLACED REGULARLY.
    So no, it wasn’t the baking soda directly. It was a cause of not producing the oil that your hair needs to stay healthy, which happened to happen because you used baking soda.

    • Kristen Smith says

      Hello Jettum,

      I wouldn’t really call this my science theory. What I shared here and in the follow-up posts are my best understanding of why baking soda can be so damaging to the hair. I referenced some other articles that I found helpful that you can read if you’re interested in knowing how I came to my current conclusions.

      If you feel that you have a better understanding of why baking soda damages hair, I’m more than happy to hear it. In fact, I’d be glad to have that information so that it can be shared here with other readers. However, there’s no reason that you can’t be polite when sharing.

      Regarding your comment, I’m not convinced that’s really the bottom line. When using baking soda, I used a boar bristle brush regularly, as well as coconut oil. Typically, I used a little coconut oil after every wash, which was every 4-5 days. My hair was quite oily by the time I would wash it, so it doesn’t seem like I ever experienced a lack of sebum as you mentioned. I don’t doubt that baking soda was too harsh and stripping, but to say that I wasn’t producing enough sebum, that never seemed to be the case.

      My best understanding is that the highly alkaline nature of baking soda opens the hair shaft, allowing it to eventually become porous, brittle, and then break. If you have sources that support your explanation regarding sebum production, I’d be glad to look at them over as I have nothing to lose by learning more.

      Please be sure to leave a polite reply, though, or I won’t publish it. I don’t mind differing views, but I do appreciate manners and respect. Thanks.

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