no-‘poo troubleshooting & common questions

welcome back to NO-‘POO WEEK! today is the last day already. can you believe it?! and sorry it’s so late. i literally just back to my hotel room from orientation for my new job :) woohoo! long day!

well, by the volume of questions i get from y’all, this post is WAY overdue. THIS POST IS VERY LONG, but hopefully this will be a holy grail for no-‘poo problems & questions! i already have a post for things you need to know before you go no-‘poo that you should check out, if you haven’t already!

the ultimate no-'poo troubleshooting guide (& with common questions)

no-‘poo can be pretty tricky. it’s not a one-size fits all type deal. there are different things different people experience. so what happens when something goes wrong?

i’ve come up with a list of the most common no-‘poo problems (& other common questions below).

common problems

A LOT of problems can be avoided by clarifying before your switch, avoiding typical styling products (heavy cream, gels, hairspray, etc) while no-poo, and avoiding heat (even hot showers. heat damage is heat damage,  even if it’s just water).
also,  like I’ve stressed before, make sure you’re deep conditioning.

OILY/GREASY HAIR
– if you’re in the transition period, stick with it! your scalp will calm down.
– invest in a natural bristle brush (like boar). it’ll help pull the oils from your scalp down the length of your hair. keep it clean!
– use a safe dry shampoo sparingly
– try different hair styles to minimize the greaseball look (scarves, braids, etc)

WAXY/GUNKY HAIR
– have you clarified? (#6)
– if you’re using castile soap with hard water- the castile soap WILL react to the minerals in hard water and leave a soap scum film on your hair. that’s the waxy/heavy/gunky/wet-ish feeling you have. double rinse with your acv mix. don’t up the ratio. put it where the waxy feeling is (or all over), let it sit a few mins, rinse & repeat. castile soap NEEDS to be mixed with (and sometimes rinsed out with) DISTILLED water
– if you’re in the transition period- it might be product buildup, especially if you used a lot of product before your switch (or if you still are). try reclarifying & using a natural bristle brush (like boar) to help slough it off
– invest in a natural bristle brush to help get the gunk off while you’re transitioning. and be sure to clean it!
– invest in a shower head filter
– if you’re not using castile soap and you’re thru the transition period, it could be a buildup of sebum. whip 1 large egg yolk into a cup of cool water. use that mix on wet hair from root to tip of hair in the shower. let sit for a few minutes, and rinse out with cool water. voila! (don’t use hot water unless you wanna pick scrambled eggs out of your hair, haha)
– switch to another no-‘poo alternative (more coming soon!) or go low-‘poo

BUILD-UP
clarify (#6)
– invest in a natural bristle brush to help get the gunk off. and be sure to clean it!
– try rinsing your scalp with diluted lemon juice (1/4 cup lemon juice to 1 cup water) and/or add lemon juice to your acv rinse
– you can also whip 1 large egg yolk into a cup of cool water. use that mix on wet hair from root to tip of hair in the shower. let sit for a few minutes, and rinse out with cool water
– rub your scalp gently with warm water only in between wash days

DRY/BRITTLE HAIR/BREAKING HAIR
– lessen the amount of baking soda/castile soap in your mix OR stop using bs/castile soap completely.
– wash less often
– add a moisturizing oil (argan, sunflower, sweet almond, avocado, etc.), raw honey, or organic aloe vera to your shampoo mix
– deep condition often . this could mean every time you wash, or every 4 times you wash. listen to your hair. if it’s dry, condition it! if it’s okay, don’t worry about it!
– switch to a new method like low-‘poo, a no-‘poo alternative (like this awesome clay shampoo!), or use water only
- use a pinky nail’s worth or less of pure, unrefined coconut oil on your air-dried hair (can be used every day)
- combo wash/condition your hair with plain egg yolks (however many you need to cover your hair). let it sit for 15-20 minutes and thoroughly rinse out with cool water

DANDRUFF
– lessen the amount of baking soda/castile soap in your mix OR choose to stop using BS/castile soap completely (and switch to a low-poo or clay shampoo).
– add moisturizing oils to your shampoo mix, like argan, sunflower, sweet almond, avocado, etc.
– add a few drops of tea tree oil to your shampoo mix
– use the acv rinse on your scalp
– moisturize your scalp with pure, organic aloe vera juice/gel (washes out with just water)

ITCHY SCALP
– your mixes are likely too strong. dilute them.
– make sure your scalp is moisturized.
– use pure, organic aloe vera directly on your scalp. apply to dry  hair, leave on for 15-20 minutes and rinse out with cool water. it’ll keep it moisturize and cut down on the itch! yay!
– try rinsing with water periodically between wash days. it’ll help move the sebum and cut down the itch.

DULL HAIR
- make sure it’s not product buildup trying to slough off. be sure to clarify before your switch.
– an egg yolk mask, left on for 15-20 mins, then rinsed out well in cool water, and followed by an all-over acv rinse will boost shine.
– use a pinky nails worth or less (I use a pinky nail’s worth and I have longer hair) of organic, unrefined coconut oil on your hair daily or every few days. *a little goes a LONG, long way!!* it’ll not only add shine, but moisturize your hair better than any other oil.
– use a pump or less (I use a pump for my longer hair) of argan oil (or another lighter, moisturizing oil) on your hair every few days. again, a little goes a LONG way. for no-‘poo-ers, less is more when dealing with oils! you can always put more on the next day, rather than struggle with trying to get too much oil back out.
– pure, organic aloe vera gel/juice can be used plain as a hair mask. it’ll add shine and deep condition

HAIR LOSS
– make sure you’re not thinking you’re losing more hair since you’re washing and brushing less often. it’s normal to lose about 100 hairs a day… so if you wash every week, plan to lose 700.
– if you’re losing hair, STOP what you’re doing. please stop. either your hair isn’t healthy enough or something in your routine isn’t correct. ask for help :)

TANGLY HAIR
- if you didn’t have tangly hair before, it’s most likely a ph balance problem….(excluding bed head, etc)
– make sure the tangles aren’t from your hair shaft sticking out like shingles and getting tangled. that’s caused by too much baking soda or not using an acidic rinse after the baking soda. the ph of baking soda is very different from hairs and causes the follicles to stand on end. the acv rinse will close them back up and smooth them out.
– brush with a natural bristle brush (like boar). it’ll help smooth your hair and create less tangles
– remember to get tangles out with your fingers first. only use a wide tooth comb when absolutely necessary. and never use a paddle hair brush with plastic or metal bristles.
– pull your hair up/back/in a braid at night. this will drastically cut down tangles and bed head

SPLIT ENDS
– this isn’t going to be what you want to hear…. you gotta cut ‘em off. that’s it. i’m sorry! i know it SUCKS. there is NO magical split end remedy for natural hair. and if you don’t cut them off, they’ll continue to split up the length of your hair. you don’t want that!

common no-'poo questions

how long does it take to transition?

ok friends. I’m not going to sugar coat this. it completely depends on what else you’re doing with your hair, how often you were washing before, etc. if you were an everyday washer, your transition will take weeks…like 2 to 6 weeks. maybe more if you’re still using heat and other products. if you already wash every few days or every week, your transition should be relatively smooth once you clarify. maybe a couple weeks, tops.
the transition can be long and ugly. but the payoff is outstanding. try to keep chugging along and don’t give up. look to others for motivation/inspiration, ask questions, check the no-poo motivation series (once it’s posted), etc. remember you’re not the only one that’s gonna have dreadfully awful  hair days. but you’re doing something amazing for your hair and body. AND when people start complimenting you on your hair and asking what shampoo you use, you can proudly say “this is my natural hair!” it’s a great feeling!

should i use the baking soda/acv method, castile soap, no-‘poo alternative or low-‘poo?

i get asked this all.the.time! honestly guys, it’s up to you, and how much damage your hair has suffered. if your hair is breaking and splitting with regular shampoos and conditioners, you should go low-poo, or use a no-poo alternative like honey, aloe vera, and/or coconut milk. all are very gentle and will help restore your hair.
if your hair is healthier, a castile soap or baking soda (both always with acv) will work.
check out THIS post for a guide on which method to use :)
no matter which method, remember your end goal is to go as long as possible without washing. once they learn how to take care of themselves, your scalp & hair will thank you by being beautiful, healthy, & strong!

can i no-‘poo with dyed/permed hair?

can you switch to no-poo? of course! my hair used to be dyed about every 6 weeks or something horrid like that when i first switched. it takes some time for your hair get some moisture and strength back, but it’s very doable! if you choose no-poo, keep in mind it will drain the dye from your hair faster than normal. if you opt for a no-poo alternative or going water-only, your hair (and the color) will be perfectly fine.
as far as dying/perming while no-poo… i will tell you very honestly, the damage you’ll do from those processes will be very apparent since your hair will no longer be coated in silicones.  there are more natural ways to dye hair (like this) you can try instead :) as always, it’s up to you! it’s your hair!

how often should i wash?

when you first start, you should try to go absolutely as long as possibly between washes. go until you feel like your scalp is dripping oil (gross, but great!). some people start at every other day and slowly let their hair adjust. that’s all fine as long as you taper off. baking soda is drying to hair, so the goal is to wash every week or less. I now wash every 2+ weeks. it’s really not gross. your hair WILL learn to take care of itself.
if you’re going low-‘poo, the transition won’t be as greasy, but you still need to wait as LONG as possible between washes.

can i get my hair wet between wash days?

water won’t hurt a thing! it might not be best to get it wet every time you shower (because water makes hair swell and it’s unnecessary stress), but the occasional water rinse really won’t hurt anything.  go for it!

what do i keep my mixes in?

when I was no-poo, I kept my mixes in little plastic squeezy bottles. since the mixes are so watery, it allowed me to put a little at a time on certain parts of my scalp, rub rub rub, and move to the next small sectin of scalp. you can also see when you’re getting low. some people mix in a cup right before the shower. you can do whatever your heart desires! well…I wouldn’t suggest a glass bottle. no one wants cut up feet.

how often should i deep condition?

that depends on your hair. if your hair is healthy, at least every two weeks (at least!). if your hair is damaged, do so more often. some people find they need to deep condition every time they wash till their hair gets healthier. just pay attention to what your hair needs. if it needs to be deep conditioned every time, then do it. if it needs it every 4 times, then do that!

how often can i use dry shampoo?

depending on what  type of hair you have, I’d say don’t use the dry shampoo more than 2 times between washes. one, because that recipe is pretty darn awesome and keeps my hair in tip top shape for about 4-7 days after I use it, but also because you’re going to have a lot of buildup when you wash again. things can get kindy funky and cakey… and your natural  bristle brush is gonna be dirty (read: duuurrrr-tayyy). just watch for buildup and use as little as possible to keep your hair lookin fresh!

can i style my hair?

of course!! with heat? not so much. i mean, you CAN… but the damage done will be more noticeable. try a no heat route (like heatless curls). if you choose to use heat, use it VERY sparingly & protect your hair.

can i use hair products?

again..you caaaaannnn…buuuut. the products will most likely contain some sort of silicone or toxic ingredient.. and the buildup will be way harder to get out. just use them sparingly IF you HAVE to. and try to make your own hair gel. if you’re completely no-‘poo, stay away from oils and silicones in treatments and products.

can i do the coconut oil mask or (insert oil name) treatment/mask?

if you’re no-‘poo, NO. if you’re low-‘poo, Yes. no-‘poo won’t be able to get the oil back out of your hair. but low-‘poo shampoos should be able to. experiment with a very small section of hair first, please!

how can i go no-‘poo if i’m an avid exerciser?

not washing your hair does NOT mean not washing your body. i still don’t understand why i get asked if i shower…haha! really guys? ;)
you can check out this post on how to control the sweaty head without stripping the natural oils on your scalp.

can kids use no-‘poo methods?

i wouldn’t suggest using the baking soda/acv routine with kids. there’s too much risk of the mixes getting in their eyes and burning like a mo-fo. please try an alternative no-‘po (like aloe vera & coconut milk or honey), or go low-‘poo with a completely organic shampoo. you can also make them water-only washers. it’s the best IMHO.
& honestly- the beauty of starting no-‘poo with kids is that their hair most likely isn’t damaged from heat tools, product overuse, and shampoo/conditioner abuse. kids will adjust very well and rather quickly. some kids will honestly only need a shampoo to get ketchup and paint out of their hair. they won’t need it for oily scalps. save them while you can! haha. my kids will definitely be water-only babies (minus the occasional wash for goopy things).

what do i do when i go get my hair cut?

such a great question!! check out this post.

how can i protect my hair from chlorine/salt water?

great question! check out this post. 

how can i make my hair not smell bad?

yet another great question!! check out this post!

some final thoughts for everyone-

you’ll learn what your hair needs as time goes on. your no-poo/low-poo routine WILL change as time goes on. but remember that YOU know your hair better than anyone else. and don’t ever hesitate to ask for advice. I know I’m extremely protective of my hair and I wouldn’t wait a second to ask for help if I thought something was wrong.

no-poo is a commitment. it’s not always easy & not it’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all type deal. it can be overwhelming. it’s okay!

ask me and others for help. you’re NOT bothering me at all. I love helping you guys! feel free to email me or message me on fb if you don’t want your questions posted.

AND lastly, if you would like to share your no-poo/low-poo journey so others may benefit, PLEASE shoot me an email . we’ll get ya all set up to guest post asap!

good luck to you all! you’ll be fine! I’m already proud of you for deciding to make the switch to less chemicals!

lemme know if there’s anything else I need to address and add to this post!! let’s make this the ultimate no-poo troubleshooting guide!!

& did i miss something? let me know below!!

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE ROUTINE? see this post

and there’s always the no-‘poo resource page! :)

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201 comments

  1. I’ve been following your blog since I started WO washing about 10 months ago, love it! After about 6 months my ever skeptical hubby switched as well (apparently he thought I would have a head full of dreadlocks…) The main reason I’m finally commenting, though, is because I wanted to mention that I’ve been doing WO with my almost 2 year old since she was born, only washing her hair every 2-3 weeks and she’s never had a single day of greasy hair! Occasionally I will add a little oil to the ends to condition, but that’s about it.

    So THANK YOU for your awesome blog posts that are so full of information!

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  2. Hey. I’ve been No Poo for over a month now. However, sadly a few days ago I was forced into going back to regular shampoo. My problem was the greasiness of my hair. Day 2 (sometimes even day 1) after using the baking soda/apple cider vinegar combo, my hair would start sticking together in greasiness. The back of my hair by my neck and my bangs were always the worst. I tried the boar bristle hair brush, but it just slicked my hair back, uniting all the strands in the greasiness. I try to avoid dry shampoo since I hate what it does to my hair. Baby powder is my go-to “dry shampoo”, but that couldn’t even help my hair from the grease. I also tried using more baking soda to fight against the grease, but that didn’t help either. I have fine wavy/curly hair that goes down a little past my shoulders. Do you have any suggestions? I’d love to continue No Poo, but I just can’t stand the grease!

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  3. Thanks for writing this section…I had a waxy build up in my hair for almost 5 weeks since starting no poo. I tried washing with 2 egg yolks as suggested and it worked like a charm :)

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  4. Ok, so I’m at week 4 of no shampoo. At first I tried the baking power/vinegar, the classic, style. That didn’t too much (or anything for me). Then I tried that deep conditioner of yours (yoghurt + egg) and thats amazing! So for now my hair is perfectly fine using only that, and no baking powder whatsoever. The conditioner gets rid of the grease and makes it soft. It’s a bit dry at the ends, but it’s always been that way before aswell so…so far so good.
    The only disappointment so far is that I would still need to wash every 1-2 days. Because it’s still getting greasy very fast. I wash once a week now, and wear a do-up for the rest of the week but it doenst seem to be improving. I was really hoping I could achieve a once a week wash. Any thoughts on that?
    thank you!

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  5. I’ve been no-poo for 48 days, and while it was greasy at first, around 20 days it was pretty good. The BS and ACV seemed to be alright, but then I noticed my scalp was dry, and seemed be getting more dry. I cut down to 2 tsp BS diluted in a cup of water, and have been using that once a week followed by an ACV rinse (usually about 3 tbsp/cup water and with a few drops of essential lavender oil). I also have been doing extra ACV rinses in between, because it was supposed to help with a dry scalp. I’ve also tried doing masks with egg yolks, lots of raw honey, yogurt, but nothing seems to be helping. I looked to find pure aloe, but couldn’t find it in any of my health food stores, and so I decided that maybe I should start over. Before I went no-poo, I didn’t clarify because I had clarified earlier in the week and then used a tea tree oil shampoo, just once before dropping shampoo altogether. I am wondering if that is why my (natural boar bristle) hair brush gets super duper gunky after one brush…Anyways, so I decided that I was going to call it after 48 days, so I’ve slathered my head in coconut oil in the hopes that my scalp will improve, and I’ve decided to use a clarifying shampoo to rinse it out and start the process all over again. I’m wondering if there are any hints other than the trouble-shooting ones in order to help with my scalp? I’m not using excessive amounts of baking soda, and I’m using lots of ACV, I’m not brushing my hair overly much, and yet my hair is still super greasy at the roots but my scalp is super dry and itchy – and it was never like this before I went no-poo! I’m so confused since I thought all of these things would help my scalp, but it does not seem to be working. I would really appreciate any tips or advice!! Thank you so much! Also, I would like to say thank you for your website – it is incredibly helpful!

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  6. Hi there!

    I just started reading your blog — I haven’t used anything but water in my hair for about a month. This morning I got my hair wet and noticed a lot of buildup on my scalp (gross!), and after reading your blog realized I didn’t “clarify” before starting the no shampoo routine. I tried using baking soda once, but it made my thick hair even thicker and it didn’t really feel clean. Maybe I did it wrong!

    My question is: I’ve already gone almost a month without shampooing, so I’d hate to shampoo again and have to start all over! But if I do need to clarify I will do it. Is there anything I can do to remove the buildup without shampooing? Maybe try the egg? Or would you recommend that I shampoo/clarify and begin again?

    Thank you!
    Caroline

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  7. I have tried no poo once before with baking soda and acv. It was awful. This is my second attempt, used clarifying shampoo three days ago, and nothing but water to get rid of some excess oil, is this ok? Can i use corn starch to absorb some of the Oil and then wash it out? I would like to have nice smelling hair, not just neutral hair, what can i use?

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  8. I would read all of these comments and try to find answers, but you have a LOT of fans! And I think my big question is, why does no-poo and water only feel like more work than shampoo? I REALLY just want low maintenance hair care. I travel and camp a lot. I want to run out the door and let my hair be my hair. It doesn’t have to be beautiful luscious locks, but I’d like it to be soft enough that my husband will touch it again.
    It’s been about 6 weeks since I started doing the BS paste and ACV rinse. I hadn’t heard about clarifiers until after I’d already started and I have a bbb, but it must just suck, cause I do not have the same relationship with it as you do yours lol. Moral of the story, I REALLY want to get to water-only, but I have hard water, little money, and little time. I know this is all supposed to be more budget savvy, but I was never a big hair care person in the first place. I shampooed and conditioned and argan oiled and that was it. No-poo and water-only is sounding more time consuming and expensive the more I read. Am I missing a link in the chain? Am I just gonna have to get in the tub with my brita pitcher? lol

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    1. OMG! STOP USING BAKING SODA PASTE!!! hahahah your comment caught my attention and that is one of the things Alex has warned us about! http://almostexactlyblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/extra-thoughts-on-going-no-poo/
      See number five!
      I am still trouble-shooting myself but my suggestion to you is to take another look at this:
      http://almostexactlyblog.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/no-poolow-poo-routines/
      Maybe try low poo? Castile soap+distilled water.

      Like

  9. I’ve been doing no-poo for about 3 weeks, and my hair actually did great at first. It wasn’t a rough transition because I already only washed my hair ever 3-5 days and I don’t use products. All of the sudden my hair has exploded in sticky, waxy grease out of nowhere! I’m not sure if I’ve been doing something wrong, or if I should do the egg-yolk wash, or if I should just wait it out and let it happen and accept the greasy head for a week or two.

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  10. I’ve just started going the no-poo route and have just been using a mix of tea tree oil and water. But I have very short hair so there’s no hiding how disgusting it looks when the oils are building up! Is there anything like a natural shampoo or something that I can use maybe once a week so it looks acceptable for my Saturday job, just until I’m through the transition period? :-)

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  11. Hey! I’m really confused at how to make the baking soda mixture. I know you said not to use the paste but aren’t I just mixing BS and water?….which makes a paste? So confused! Help!!!

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  12. Hey Marta! Completely not an expert no poo-er here but if you add a tablespoon of baking soda to a cup of water (like it says on one of her pages here) it will dissolve and be more watery than pasty. Theres not enough baking soda to make it a paste! Hope that helps!

    And Alex, I’ve been doing no poo for about six weeks and I’ve tried troubleshooting a little bit on my own, but I think its time for your advice. I have long hair and it has been dyed twice but I clarified and did all that good stuff in the beginning and I am no longer dying it! I currently use a baking soda mixture of a little less than 1 tablespoon per cup and a ACV rinse of a little bit more than 1 tablespoon per cup. I am trying to go about 5 days in between washes but my hair still gets super oily and I don’t know if I’m out of the transition phase or not yet. My problem though is my hair recently started breaking off like four inches or so from my roots. I don’t know what to do! I thought backing down the baking soda would help but I’m still noticing it and my hair doesn’t feel as thoroughly clean. I really don’t want to go back to shampoo. What am I doing wrong??

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  13. I just started no poo and I like to dye my hair different colors. I don’t bleach my hair beforehand because I don’t like bleaching my hair and the color is sooo pretty with my natural hair color. I use Splat mostly and Manic Panic. Since Manic Panic is vegan, would it be okay for me since I’m going no poo?

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  14. Hi. I’ve been doing the no-poo thing for over two months. I dont use any products in my hair and I only blow dry/straighten it every other wknd (again with no products). I use 1-2tbsp of baking powder mixed with tea tree and water for my shampoo and ACV for my conditioner. I usually wash my hair twice a week. Id like to go even longer in between washing but my scalp gets really itchy/irritated as soon as it gets “dirty”. My hair feels heavy, greasy and unclean after no-pooing for almost 2 months. What am I doing wrong? Please help. I decided to go no poo bc again my scalp itches if I dont wash it frequently.

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  15. Hey I just had a question. It’s been almost two months now and my scalp still hasn’t Recalibrated. I have no idea what I’m doing wrong as I’ve been following the rountine quite well. It’s really getting to the point where it’s upsetting me! Help!

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  16. Hello! I’ve been doing the no poo method for over two months now with no results. If anything my hair is looking progressively worse. I’ve been following the routine to a tee so
    I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong! Please help!

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  17. Hi! I’m just curious, is the baking soda and ACV mixture able to actually clean your hair as well as traditional shampoo? I’m asking because I think with commercial shampoo you get use to the lather and equate that with the cleaning factor so I’m hoping the alternative method cleans your hair just as well but without all the chemicals!

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