How to Wash Hair Without Shampoo: 3 Options for Lather-Free Cleaning

BY Jana Russick
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Disclaimer: The information provided is not intended as medical advice. For any medical concerns, always contact your doctor.

Chances are you’ve been given plenty of advice when it comes to taking care of your hair. Chief among those pieces of advice is that you shouldn’t shampoo your hair every day. Some say shampooing so frequently can dry out your locks while others say that regular shampoo ingredients like sulfates aren’t ideal for your hair. It’s no wonder that many people have jumped onto the no-poo method (aka the “no-shampoo method”) that favors DIY treatments and alternative hair washing products over a daily lather.

Depending on the type of hair you have and how oily your scalp is, cutting back on shampoo can benefit the look and feel of your locks. When you get creative, it can also save you time and money⁠ — and who’s not down for that? Let’s explore three different methods for how to wash hair without shampoo.

3 Ideas for How to Wash Hair Without Shampoo

There could be many reasons why you’re looking for ways to cleanse your mane without shampoo, but dry hair is likely at the root of it. If your tresses are prone to dryness, shampooing every day might cause annoying issues like itchy scalp, dry scalp, or flakiness. Overwashing can also rob your hair of its natural sebum supply, an oil that’s necessary for maintaining the homeostasis (balance) of your skin.

But before we get into how to wash hair without shampoo, it’s worth mentioning that hard water could be a culprit behind your less-than-stellar strands. 

When water is “hard,” it means there’s a buildup of minerals that can affect how your hair looks and feels — that can translate to frizzy locks, dull color, and even breakage. To combat these issues, consider adding a filter to your showerhead to get rid of unwanted minerals like calcium sulfide, zinc, copper, and chlorine. 

So now, without further ado, here are three ways to cleanse your strands without using any shampoo.

Just Water Method

How to wash hair without shampoo: woman washing her hair in the shower

If you want to go shampoo-free without giving up daily showers, this may be one of the best no-poo solutions. By wetting your hair you’re still technically washing it, but you’re avoiding exposure to potentially dehydrating ingredients like sulfates.

A good time to use the “just water” method is when it’s the end of the day and your hair is looking like a bit of a mess. Maybe it’s because you used a bunch of butterfly clips and your hair looks funky once you undo them. Or maybe it was a windy day and half your hair is going one way while the other half is puffed up above your head. Either way, wetting your tresses is a good way of erasing a bad hair day.

As it turns out, “washing” your hair with just water helps to get rid of dirt and grime without eliminating your hair’s beneficial supply of sebum. Here’s how to wash hair without shampoo using just water:

  • Wet hair with warm water. Hot water might be your preferred shower temperature but it can damage your tresses. Using a warm temperature will help open up the hair cuticles and get rid of surface residue.
  • Part your scalp and work the water through the roots of your hair to make sure that the water truly cleanses your hair. Keep parting your hair in different places to make sure you get every area of your scalp clean.
  • Gently work your fingertips and nails into your scalp to help uproot debris. Putting your showerhead on a more forceful setting can also help the water remove excess oil and dirt.
  • Once you’re done showering, dry hair with a soft microfiber towel to absorb moisture and prevent frizz. Make sure to pat, not rub. Feel free to add a hair serum to further prevent frizz and flyaways.

Pro Tip: Learn more about how often you should wash your hair

Co-Washing

The co-washing method was developed to help cleanse the scalp without taking away its natural oils. It’s especially helpful for those with curly hair whose coils tend to have a significant difference in the amount of oil at the root versus the ends of the hair. (The curly Q shape of the spirals makes it hard for oils to transfer to the ends.) Although the feeling of freshly shampooed roots is always nice, it’s important to avoid the havoc of overwashing coily and curly hair.

Co-wash is a cleansing yet conditioning haircare product used in place of traditional shampoo. It’s made with nonionic surfactants that are much lighter than the cleansing agents used in regular shampoos. These surfactants can help remove product buildup without drying out locks or taking away natural hair oils. The conditioning-like formula of co-washes can leave hair feeling softer and tangle-free

For instance, Function of Beauty’s custom co-wash is made with ingredients like shea butter, Jamaican black castor seed oil, and aloe juice. Here’s how to use a co-wash the next time you’re in the shower:

  • Apply enough product to coat your hair and rub it onto your scalp. 
  • Spread the co-wash throughout the length of your hair to detangle.
  • Leave the co-wash on for five minutes then rinse out.

Pro Tip: Here’s everything you need to know about our custom co-wash

Baking Soda

If you’ve got a knack for baking or have spent a lot of time sifting through cleaning hacks on Pinterest, you probably know that baking soda is one of the most versatile household products. But did you know that some people use it as a shampoo alternative?

Like many shampoos, baking soda has a higher pH level than your scalp naturally has. Healthy hair pH levels average around 4.5 to 5.5, lying on the acidic side of the 1-14 pH scale. However, shampoos and baking soda have a higher pH level and lie on the alkaline side of the pH scale. When you increase the pH level of your scalp, you increase friction between hair fibers. This washes away residue and dissolves impurities, making hair look cleaner and less oily.

Wondering how to wash hair without shampoo using this powdery product? Here’s how to DIY your no-poo practice:

  • Mix one cup of warm water with one to two tablespoons of baking soda.
  • Pour the mixture over your head and carefully knead it into your roots.
  • Keep the mix in your hair for about four minutes then rinse off with water.

While many people use baking soda as a cost-effective alternative to dry shampoo, it’s not safe for everyone. You should be careful using baking soda to wash your hair without shampoo, especially if oily hair isn’t a major problem for you.

With a pH level of 9, baking soda can cause serious dryness and even skin irritation if overused. Only consider this method if you have severely greasy hair. To balance out your increased pH levels, you may want to follow up this treatment with an apple cider vinegar rinse of two tablespoons mixed with a cup of water. Simply pour it over your scalp, massage it into your roots, and rinse. To be safe, check with your hairstylist or a dermatologist before using either of these treatments.

Pro Tip: Check out these DIY hair masks you can make with just four ingredients

Goodbye to Daily Shampooing, Hello to Happier Hair

Why would you wash your hair every day when you have so many shampoo alternatives that are potentially better for your locks? Whether you use the just water method, a co-wash, or opt for a home remedy like baking soda, there are many solutions for washing your locks without shampoo. Experiment to find which works best for you and determine the right balance between wash days and skip days.

Using shampoo is still an important part of anyone’s haircare routine. So whether you use it once or four times a week, investing in a custom shampoo and conditioner can be the best way to maximize the look of your locks. Take our hair quiz to create a custom formula for your specific hair type and beauty goals.

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