How to use less shampoo | Queen of Green | David Suzuki Foundation
Photo: How to use less shampoo

Let you scalp do its natural balancing act. (Credit: Charity Briere)

My dream: to wash my hair weekly.

I switched to toxic-free, fish-friendly and cruelty-free shampoo and conditioner long ago. (Sometimes I use only baking soda.) Still I prefer to wash my hair daily — though I know it's wrong.

It's a vicious cycle: Stripping your scalp of oils (sebum) and moisture stimulates the skin to produce more. To avoid that oily look and feel, you wash again and again. (Don't buy the no/less "poo" rationale? Ask hairdressers how often they wash their hair!)

Why quit shampoo:

Healthier environment. No matter how "green" the shampoo, manufacturing, packaging and transportation use energy and resources.

Fatter wallet. Certified organic and cruelty-free shampoos cost more. You save money using them less.

Healthier hair and skin. Let your scalp do its natural balancing act.

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I hear it's possible to get off shampoo — though it's tough, like quitting coffee or TV. But they say if you can get past day four, you're laughing! (Warning: It can take up to a month of oily itchiness before your scalp and hair feel balanced.)

How to kick your daily shampoo habit

Method one: Gradually

Skip one shampoo day this week, two next week, and so on until you're only shampooing once or twice per week. Try diluting your shampoo with water to help the weaning process.

Method two: Cold turkey

Condition with one tablespoon apple cider vinegar mixed into three cups water. Rinse. Do this once every two weeks. Some people have success with baking soda for shampoo. Mix one tablespoon of baking soda with one cup of water and apply to scalp and hair. Do this monthly.

Method three: Dry shampoo

When oil is out of control, sprinkle my baby powder recipe, plain arrowroot powder or cornstarch (even cocoa powder for brunettes!) onto your hair. Massage into your scalp and brush it through.

More tips to wash hair less

  • Brush often to work scalp oils through hair shafts
  • Add essential oils like lavender or tea tree to your baking soda or apple cider vinegar mix
  • Style with a simple DIY spritz solution: one teaspoon salt to two cups of water and three to five drops of lavender essential oil

Have you gone "no-poo" — trusting that your body can do a better job than a cosmetics company? How'd you do it? (I'll add your tips to the list above.)

Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green

June 22, 2014

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Jun 26, 2015
6:34 PM

Tried the no-poo method of baking soda and cider vinegar rinse — caused my scalp to peel and took months to heal up fully. Grief only shampooing once a week, decreasing frequency gradually — after 4 months my hair was still super greasy by day 4. Nothing had worked — i can only manage to go 3 days without shampoo. I do use vegan/organic stuff so at least Better — most shampoo gives me chemical burn on my scalp anyways so i have to be careful :(

Jun 26, 2015
2:53 PM

I did the baking soda and ACV for a few years but found it was drying out my hair and making it too brittle. I did some research and found that was a common complaint, but it takes a while (years) to get to that point in some people. I’ve since switched to rye flour instead and it works! I tbsp rye flour mixed with water, use as you would the baking soda, and sometimes rinse with ACV still. Won’t go back to conventional shampoos :)

May 22, 2015
7:53 AM

As someone who gave up shampoo a year ago, I can answer some of the questions below!

Denise: I know some people take their own non-toxic shampoo to the hairdresser to use, or request that the hairdresser have it on hand if you prefer.

Male non-shampoo-er: I gave up cleansers and use coconut oil in a hot press to clean my face. Method is basically to smear some coconut oil all over your face. Get a washcloth as hot as you can handle holding in your hands and then lay it over your face and gently press in with your hands. The steam from the cloth draws out all the dirt and muck (use a white washcloth the first time you do this and you’ll see what I mean!). I usually do a second press as a rinse.

Hope that helps!

May 21, 2015
8:40 AM


What do you do when you go to the hair dressers? I don’t colour my hair, but I do get some cuts throughout the year.

They usually wash my hair in whatever products they have (she switches it up).

Sep 19, 2014
12:27 PM

I haven’t seen any male’s sharing about this. I wonder if I’m the only one trying this.

Anyway, It’s always bothered me how much is left out, and I guess just assumed, when instructions are given. I prefer the “for dummies” method.

My question is, how does washing your face (or the rest of your body for that matter) with soap or body wash effect this process? I imagine no matter how careful I am, when I wash my forehead, some of that is going to get on my hair or scalp. Do all of you use some kind of cleanser on your face and body or have you quit all cleansers completely.

I obviously don’t have the time to read all the comments on all the posts about this subject, but after skimming several and doing keyword searches, I’ve found zip regarding this.

Aug 28, 2014
6:02 PM

I actually went cold turkey about two years ago

Aug 28, 2014
2:41 PM

I started only washing (having a shower) every second or third day. It was always kinda greasy. I was using rocky mountain soap company shampoo. I then decided to try the no shampoo. I have found that I use 1-2 tbsp of baking soda just over a week a part. I then use a small cup with 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar andfill with water and dunk the ends of my long hair in it . I leave it in for a while. I do not dump over my roots because it makes it much to greasy. I also now shower more frequently to wet my hair and distribute the oils. Its now working for me and I am about 1.5 months in. Good luck!

Jul 29, 2014
8:03 AM

Do you rinse with the apple cider vinegar or do you rinse out the baking soda first? Thanks! Bonnie

Jul 30, 2014
12:55 PM

Wet hair. Wash with baking soda. Rinse. Then pour diluted apple cider vinegar on hair. Rinse.

Jul 06, 2014
7:18 PM

I wash my hair every other day, sometimes 2 days without washing. However, most of the time, I just wash with water. I use shampoo and conditioner once a week.

Jul 06, 2014
5:09 PM

I haven’t used shampoo in over 9 years and my hair and scalp are in the best condition since I was a child. I only use pure olive oil soap in my hair, the cheap blocks you can buy at Italian or middle eastern markets, with no glycerin. And I only wash my hair once a week. This has worked for me anyways, I used to have a bad scalp condition for decades until I switched. shampoo did nothing for me.

Jul 04, 2014
10:40 PM

I started out with 1 tbsp bs diluted in 1 cup of water and it was too drying so reduced the bs and it’s great now. I made the mistake of using white vinegar instead of acv for rinse, which made my scalp flaky. Minimal flakes with acv now. Took about 2 weeks for my hair to stop freaking out over the change.

I recently read about using raw honey to wash hair which is less drying and no conditioner is needed but haven’t tried it yet.

Jul 04, 2014
5:44 PM

Shikakai is a natural astringent which will clear dandruff and clean dirt from the scalp. It cools the scalp while providing bounce and silkiness to the hair. Shikakai strengthens hair roots and promotes growth

Amla is a conditioning herb which will leave hair soft, silky, and shiny. It has astringent properties which will clean and exfoliate the scalp naturally. High in Vitamin C it stimulates hair roots and promotes hair growth. It has been used to prevent scalp infections, slow hair loss, increase thickness, and slow graying.

Jul 03, 2014
12:54 PM

I have gone no-poo, Baking soda and ACV only for the last 3 years. My hair has never felt better.

I went cold turkey. but used BS every other day (as i couldn’t go weeks without washing). I am now down to BS once a week, twice if we are swimming lots. I have very curly hair, and the curls are so much more lively without the product.

i like the idea of the spritz and will be adding it the tool kit.

Jul 03, 2014
9:43 AM

If you are washing with baking soda and conditioning with apple cider vinegar, my hairdresser recommended massaging in some coconut oil every couple of weeks. It keeps your hair from drying out. Leave it in for a while, then wash out with regular shampoo.

Jul 03, 2014
9:16 AM

Hi, thanks for this great article. I’ve been wanting to go “no poo” but my one concern is that I exercise almost daily and I sweat a lot on my head. Any tips for dealing with a sweat-drenched hair and the “no poo” method? Would it be okay to use baking soda daily? Not washing out the sweat wouldn’t be an option of course! Can you speak to this issue? Thanks.

Jul 03, 2014
8:10 AM

I presently have psoarisis in my hair and my scalp tends towards dryness and I have fine, thin hair. Are there any further suggestions for these hair conditions with the “no-poo” recipe? Thank you.

Jul 03, 2014
6:38 AM

Cold turkey! I just stopped using shampoo, went straight to baking soda and couldn’t believe how squeaky-clean and soft my hair was. It just feels right and natural

Jul 02, 2014
7:21 PM

I have been washing my hair only weekly for years (more or less, I don’t count the days). I use a completely biodegradable animal-free all-natural paraben-free “clean 15”-friendly shampoo called ‘Kiss My Face’. I use the same brand conditioner, occasionally without even shampooing (so maybe twice per week). My hair is long and wavy, manageable, not too thick, never oily, I’ve never had dandruff to date. For styling product I apply 98% Aloe Gel in wet hair after towel-drying post-shower (which btw is also functional as shaving gel). You can find a litre of this aloe gel for about $6 in Loblaw stores (store-brand). I think the weaning suggestions make a lot of sense. I have a friend who tried the soda/vinegar system with good success. Personally I just cut down slowly over time. It’s so true that the less you use it the less you need it, and it really does save $$.

Jul 02, 2014
3:51 PM

I stopped using shampoo and conditioner 2 1/2 months ago. I did it after using an apple cider vinegar rinse after washing a few times. I mix 1/2 c baking soda and 5-10 drops of lavender essential oil in a squirt bottle with 1 c water. I also have added rose geranium and rosemary or tea tree oil. I love the smell if the lavender and rose geranium together! I was rinsing with an an apple cider vinegar rinse with rosemary essential oil in the beginning but now I put lavender in there too ! I occasionally have used a small amount of conditioner on my ends though especially in the summer humidity … I have naturally curly and greying hair that I stopped dyeing 8 years ago but it’s out of control on the summer so organic hair lotion is still a must after washing. I mix my shampoo once a week for 2 uses. It’s easy and inexpensive … And I’m contributing towards saving the planet one plastic bottle at a time !

Jul 02, 2014
2:41 PM

I’ve been experimenting with natural shampoo bars for the last 8 months. I wrote a 3-part post about it. If you are interested you can check out the first part following the link below. No more plastic bottles for me. It’s been a couple months since writing that post and I the texture and condition of my hair is improving. www(dot)youasacook(dot)com look up solid shampoo bars.

Jul 02, 2014
2:39 PM

I’ve been experimenting with natural shampoo bars for the last 8 months. I wrote a 3-part post about it. If you are interested you can check out the first part following the link below. No more plastic bottles for me. It’s been a couple months since writing that post and I the texture and condition of my hair is improving.

Jul 02, 2014
1:56 PM

I tried the baking soda and apple cider vinegar combo for about 3 months. My hair didn’t like it. I gave up and bought a bottle of organic shampoo and conditioner. BUT I use much less than I had before. My hair is lovely.

I’ll try another one of your DIY strategies when they are gone but at a tsp of each every 3 or 4 days, it will take months to finish them.


Jul 02, 2014
1:53 PM

I tried the baking soda and apple cider vinegar combo for about 3 months. My hair didn’t like it. I gave up and bought a bottle of organic shampoo and conditioner. BUT I use much less than I had before. My hair is lovely.

I’ll try another one of your DIY strategies when they are gone but at a tsp of each every 3 or 4 days, it will take months to finish them.


Jul 02, 2014
1:40 PM

I quit about one year ago and absolutely love it. Even if I had one million dollars in my pocket, I’ll never buy shampoo again. I use 1 heaping teaspoon in 1 cup warm water, dump it on, rub it in and rinse it off. Follow baking soda by whatever vinegar I have around. I use about 3 tablespoons in one cup of warm water. Same process — dump it on, rub it in and rinse it off. Let air dry. Love my hair.

Jul 02, 2014
1:34 PM

I tried going “no-poo” about two years ago, but couldn’t handle the oily scalp! My second attempt worked for good: I bought a bottle of shampoo about a year and a half ago and topped off the bottle with water after every use. I’ve now got a bottle of water with a few suds in it, but I rarely touch the thing anymore. Just a rinse with water in the shower every couple of days. My hair is healthy, easy to style, and I spend less time in the shower, using less product. Love it!

Jul 02, 2014
1:30 PM

When I was growing up — we washed our hair — only once a week -sometimes even longer . never had shampoo then — only used a mild bar soap — for everything . We always had beautiful, healthy hair. rinsed with lemon, vinegar — or leftover tea. Later — brushed with a nylon stocking over the bristles — takes out any dust etc — and made use of worn out stockings We have been led to believe — by companies who profit — that we need to shampoo daily — or even more often if active in sports / gyms etc not good for the environment — or our pocketbooks

Jul 02, 2014
1:20 PM

Grow and use soapwort. Works beautifully. Lots of instructions online, e.g.

Jun 26, 2014
4:39 AM

It’s taken 3 years, but I am now at the point where I only need to wash my hair every 3-4 days. I started by washing every day and a half, alternating morning and evening showers. I felt pretty gross in the beginning, but it got better. Then I switched to washing my hair every other day for what felt like a very long time. And just recently I noticed that I could go a 3rd day without, usually on the weekends when I didn’t need to be at work. Now I’m comfortable washing my hair twice a week, though I often need to wear my hair up on the day before a wash or help it along with a cornstarch and cocoa combination to take away the oiliness. Before adding the cocoa, the cornstarch alone made it look like I was much greyer than I really am!

Jun 24, 2014
10:35 AM

Woot! I’m a hair model! lol

I’ve been poo-free for 6 years and will never go back. My fine, curly hair in the dry Alberta climate has never been healthier, shinier or softer.

My suggestions: Start in the fall or the winter. Summer makes us hotter and sweatier and out-doors-dirtier so dealing with the not-so-pleasant period while our scalp adjusts is much more difficult and I think makes us less likely to wait it out. (I actually DID transition in the summer and it was horrible, let me be an example and learn from my mistake lol).

The first instructions I followed said to mix 1 T of baking soda with a little water and massage it into the scalp. I found this to be a pain in the neck, it’s hard to get the paste everywhere on the scalp and I wound up using up to 3 T by the time I felt I had spread it evenly AND it was quite drying. I have switched to mixing 2 T with 2 c of water and using a squeeze bottle to apply it in the shower. Not only does the squeeze bottle make it easier to get it where I need it (and touch up areas that need a bit more), I use WAY less. I can get 4 washes out of those 2 cups of mixture (1/2 T each time!)

I hope that helps!

Jun 24, 2014
9:54 AM

I’ve now successfully moved my shampoo from day four to day six by using a natural dry shampoo and that old standby, the ponytail. Working to get it once a week. Thanks for the inspiration, Linz!

Jun 24, 2014
7:08 AM

Using only baking soda to wash my hair has been an amazing change. I am so happy I took the chance to do this. It is all because of the book (Sleeping Naked is Green) by Vanessa Farquharson and an open mind. Many people thought it was grose, but it has been three years now and I am very happy with my decision.

Sincerely Jennifer Royea

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