Washing Hair With Water Only is seen as an ultimate goal within the No Poo world. I did it happily for over a year and felt rather brilliant about it all. Today I am going to explain how it works, how to do it effectively but also, importantly, why Water Only Hair Washing isn’t for everyone. I know. Controversial, but I hope you’ll trust me on it!
Why start Washing Hair With Water Only?
Washing hair with water only has to be one of the cheapest methods of hair care. Surely it is THE cheapest? Possibly, rivalled by one other thing. More on that later. Water only hair washing is also a beautiful minimalist act – you can travel with absolutely no hair care products on you. Festivals: no problem, impromptu sleepovers: no biggie. You are good to go. Washing hair with water only is also almost entirely chemical free for most people. But not COMPLETELY. Read on for more on that. (How I keep you hanging!)
In short Washing Hair with Water Only could be an amazing, non toxic, healthy and cheap option for you!
How does washing hair with water only work?
In my post How to Wash Hair Without Shampoo I discuss a bit of the background of shampoo. In short, using shampoo, and even some natural shampoo alternatives, strips the oil from our hair causing it to produce far more. We get locked in cycle of greasy hair, wash grease off, more grease produced, wash hair again.
When we switch to water, or another kind, gentle shampoo alternative, our hair begins to calibrate and only produced the right about of oils for our hair.
In short, ditching shampoo and using something like water, can make our hair incredibly healthy and strong, as well as shiny and clean!
For many people, using water is enough to help clean pollutants from the hair shaft, and to redistribute the hair’s beautiful oils. We begin to learn that sebum is our friend, not our enemy!
Washing hair with water only – the method
1 – Firstly you do need to invest in a good boar bristle brush. If you are serious about No Poo then get on this straight away. My favourite brush is a trusty Kent – they’ve been making brushes since 1777 . I love the KENT Airheadz paddle brush (Affiliate links but recommended in total integrity as they are far more ethical than using Amazon and have free shipping.) amongst a few others – see my full list of best boar bristle brush in 2017.
2- You need to figure out how to best shift sebum from your roots to the ends of your hair. Massage your scalp and use the pads of your fingers to bring the oils down to the tips of your hair. This is called scritching. Scritch and preen for 5-10 minutes a day.
3- Use your boar bristle brush to also help shift those oils. Do it section by section. ALWAYS BRUS., SCRITCH AND PREEN AT NIGHT OR JUST BEFORE HOPPING IN THE SHOWER.
4- Whenever your hair feels to laden with sebum hop in the shower with warm to hot water. (Not boiling.) Use the same massaging and scritching technique as the hot water cascades onto your hair.
5- Rinse with COLD WATER. Sorry, but it’s gotta happen. Cold water closes the hair shaft, which serves the purposes of keeping your hair healthy but also smoother and less likely to tangle.
6- Let hair dry naturally or use a tee shirt to soak up extra water. A rough towel raises the shingle like layers on your hair shaft making it far more tangly.
7- It can take between two weeks and 16 weeks for your hair to fully adjust to this method. Some people argue that you should keep stretching out the days between alternative washes, but this water washes never fully strips your hair of sebum, so I think continuing to use a Water Only Wash every 3 days is perfectly acceptable!
Why Washing Hair With Water Only Isn’t the Holy Grail
The most important thing people attempting to do No Poo can realise is that there is NO HOLY GRAIL. Not one, anyway. Each person will have their own Holy Grail.
Every single head of hair is different, every single person has different access to resources (personally, I love Rye Flour as an alternative wash- it is an amazing natural remedy for dandruff however Rye Flour is immensely hard to get hold of in some countries- so it isn’t going to be the best thing for them, is it?) and every person has a different source of water.
And this final one is, to me, the main reason Water Only Washing isn’t the be all and end all of No Poo.
You Shouldn’t Do Water Only Washing If your water source sucks!
If you have good access to good water – rain water, spring water, untreated water, then Water Only Washing is a no brainer. I struggled to achieve washing hair with water only until the very week i moved onto some land where stream water came right out of the tap. Suddenly it was SO EASY!
I wondered why I had fought so hard for this ultimate goal when everything was against me.
The No Poo world should abandon the idea of washing hair with water only being the end goal of No Poo. If people only have access to water that is filled with limescale and treated with chlorine (amongst other chemicals) then the water will be actually damaging their hair! Hard water is far, far too harsh on hair – don’t surrender your hair to such bad treatment.
If you are desperate to be water only, but live in a city or a place with hard, treated water do consider the Showerstick. This is the only water filter recommended by No Pooers as it is the only filter that not only filters out the baddies, but actually softens the water. Others do not do this. Buy on Ebay with my affiliate link for a great deal.
Washing Hair With Water only – Hard Water method
Some people living in hard water areas have attained a system of washing hair with water only by either boiling and letting cool some water or using filtered water. This is a bit of a faff BUT you only have to do it for the final rinse, usually.
However, it is my humble opinion that you shouldn’t fight too hard against your environment. Simply accept that you live in a hard water area and that your No Poo ultimate goal is therefore different!
If you live in a hard water area Water Only Washing is complicated, and isn’t half the reason we are going No Poo to do with simplifying our beauty regime?
Alternatives to Washing Hair With Water Only
Here I am going to suggest that you consider something with an open mind. it might sound extreme, but hey, you are already considering No Poo, so EMBRACE YOUR NEW EXTREME LIFESTYLE. Ha.
There. I’ve said it. Consider avoiding the water coming out of your taps where possible. If you get the lovely chance of having a water wash in rainfall or at a lake out of town, do it. But try and avoid getting your tap water on your hair. If you live in a city with hard water, it is almost certainly making your hair nasty.
Instead do all of the above, the massaging and brushing and scritching and preening. And occasionally, when you feel like you need it, brush through a little cinnamon powder or cornflour. Read more on how to go about using dry wash options here. (It doesn’t stay on your head- you brush it out but it takes a little bit of the sebum with it.)
Final Acidic Rinse
Instead of aiming for Washing Hair With Water Only do Washing Hair With Water Only AND A Cheeky Little Acidic Rinse! Something about using an apple cider rinse neutralises the effects of your hard water.
Last year I stayed in London for a couple of months. Now, I had been doing No Poo for three and a half years I was UTTERLY happy with my water only hair care. Then I turn up in London with its chlorinated, limescale packed water and my hair FREAKED OUT! No matter what alternative wash i used, my beloved Rye Flour, traditional Baking Soda, all my faves, my hair became waxy and heavy the very second I rinsed with the tap water.
I experimented and found that the only way back to soft, shiny hair was to always finish my shower with a Apple Cider Vinegar rinse that I left on. So I would put two tablespoons of ACV into half a cup of water and slosh it on the mid to bottom bits of my hair, squeeze the excess out and step immediately out of the shower, with no passing go. It smelt vinegary until it dried and then it smelt fine.
If you decide water only isn’t for you, check out all these alternative shampoos and all these homemade conditioner recipes from your kitchen!
If the water that comes out of your tap is good, untreated water then washing your hair with water only is an attainable goal and using the tips above will see you with healthy, clean No Poo locks in no time. If your tap water is hard or treated, find yourself another Holy Grail! It might be Sebum Only or ACV Rinse only or using a kind alternative once a week only. These are all incredible, chemical free hair care achievements! Remind yourself that another person No Poo goal is not your goal.
Here’s to happy healthy shampoo free hair! Whooop whoop! *Virtual high fives all round*
Pop over to Instagram and tell me what your No Poo goal is! And, just in case you missed it, I wrote a book about giving up shampoo and have helped thousands of people find their natural, healthy, clean, happy hair. You can buy my bestselling book right here Happy Hair– it is the ultimate guide to giving up shampoo! Also available in Spanish and Portugese.
““This book is your one stop shop for everything NO Poo related, I can’t recommend it highly enough. There is a wealth of info on the internet for those wishing to explore giving up shampoo but a concise, inspiring guide to taking the plunge has been missing and this book is the business! I had already given up shampoo about 3 weeks before reading the book and was committed to giving it a go but now I feel I have the definitive guide to fall back on whenever I need it. Now I know I was using too much bicarb, not brushing enough, and I have an arsenal of conditioning treatments I am planning to try out. Best of all, Lucy explains the science behind how our hair is naturally equipped to clean itself in a way that I ca