Before and After Part 2: Alexandra’s Hair Story

My childhood was marked by nightly, teary-eyed  hair brushings. I’d sit as my mother tried her best—bless her soul—to unknot my matted curls, often catching my ears and cheeks with the rough bristles. It was time-consuming and it hurt and I wondered somewhere in my child brain why I was being punished.

Over the years I sort of grew to appreciate my unruly hair—that is by leaving handfuls of product in it. The worst kind. Every day. I just thought that coating it in a ton of crap was the only way to deal with coarse, curly hair. Of course that made for unpleasant build-up every few days, at which point I would lather up dutifully with shampoo (which made my hair look awful) and start the whole ritual over again. I spent an inordinate amount of money on a ridiculous array of products, many of which ended sitting half-finished in my shower.

Then one day I tried an experiment. Those who have read the book know about this: I stopped washing my hair entirely. For several months I actually didn’t use a thing. You’ll have to read the book for the whole story, but suffice to say it’s been over a year and a half since I’ve gone near shampoo. I have some other tricks up my sleeve, like amazing natural conditioners that I rinse through my hair, a baking soda “wash” that works like a charm, and a hair treatment that I do every few days. But no foaming, folks.

The result? Healthier, happier, soft—soft!—hair. No leave-ins, except a for few naturals when I’m feeling fancy. Dare I say… liberation? How often do you shampoo? And do you think I’m totally gross? Be honest.

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46 Responses to “Before and After Part 2: Alexandra’s Hair Story”
  1. ruth says:

    i shampoo once every other day because it gets real sweaty here. :( and i think you’re brave. maybe slightly gross, but mostly brave.

  2. Virginia says:

    I am so excited to hear this! I’m working through a shampoo break-up right now, and it’s starting off rough. My hair is greasy-feeling at the roots. I. Want. To. Lather. But I’m determined to stick it out for a few weeks and see how it goes…

  3. Alexandra says:

    Hang in there Virginia! Also, I hope you’ll share your experience with going dirty (as I like to call it, as opposed to “no poo” – ew). What type of hair do you have? Thick/thin? Straight/curly?

  4. Martha says:

    Do you have any suggestions for kids’ hair care? My daughter is almost 5 and half-Chinese, with very thick hair. We use a Jason kids’ shampoo, because it doesn’t sting her eyes… but i know it’s not as clean as other alternatives. Right now we swim a lot and she sweats a lot (we are in Texas) so I feel we need to shampoo at least once a week. In between we rinse with water and condition with Griffin Naturals stuff. But still, the tangles. Oy.

  5. Karen says:

    Thank you soooo much for your book (and blog)! I just bought the book, and it has already been saving my hair (and skin and wallet and time getting ready and…). The past week I’ve been using the baking soda wash and apple cider vinegar rinse, and it works surprisingly well. I have thin, curly tangly hair that goes down past my elbows, and I’m horribly allergic to all sulfur products and coconuts. This means it’s insane trying to find a product I can use, natural or otherwise. I’ve been using this, and my hair looks great! I even tried going without any leave-ins yesterday and today and amazingly the frizz (even in the humid South) has not been too bad. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  6. I recently read that conditioner was basically invented because shampoo was invented (was that in your book? I can’t remember where I read it), so I don’t think you’re crazy at all. Something had to be done to combat the stripping of the shampoo, which people only picked up after creative advertising told them they weren’t clean.

  7. Shannon says:

    I wash my hair everyday but I’m using this awesome shampoo from Bubble and Bee and vinegar rinse. I thin I’m going to start washing it every other soon in the next couple of week.

  8. Alexandra says:

    Any of the shampoos that are in the book are definitely kid friendly—though we would love to do something more focused on children’s products down the road. :) We really love John Masters, though it’s on the pricier side. However, if you’re only using it once a week it will last for a long time. Also, I talk about this baking soda and water rinse that I still like to use from time to time. It really works! Makes the hair feel clean, gets out excess grease and dirt and would be super gentle for your daughter if you want to swap that in sometimes for shampoo. She won’t be put off by it either because when you dissolve a tsp of baking soda into a glass of water, it just looks like water…

  9. Alexandra says:

    Stories like yours make us so very happy.

  10. Brook says:

    I don’t think its gross at all. I just broke up with my shampoo and conditioner about two weeks ago and my hair has been amazing just using a baking soda wash and apple cider vinegar rinse, with some sunflower oil on my ends. I have thin straight hair that’s usually very tangled, but since I quit using shampoo no detangler is required and my hair brushes out perfectly when its wet.

  11. kim says:

    Not gross at all! I have thick, long, stick straight, “asian” hair, if you will and I only wash every fourth, sometimes fifth day. Well, when I saw wash, I mean shampoo. I co-wash my hair every night though. Not shampooing my hair often at first was SOOO GROSS. Oily mess and I spent quite a bit testing out dry shampoos. Now, my scalp has adjusted to my hair routine and for the past year, it doesn’t get oily until the fourth, sometimes fifth day. And using less of shampoo has made my hair super duper shiny and i’m pretty sure healthier and because i have long hair, my ends aren’t so dry! I’ve also done the whole baking soda and ACV rinse. The baking soda, after a while, irritated my scalp so I went back to my old clarifying shampoo but I do an ACV rinse once in a while and my hair shines like woah.

  12. Alexandra says:

    I’m loving all of these stories ladies. I’ve been looking for more girls with straight hair to test out the dirty theory and here you all are!

  13. Andrea says:

    I broke up with my shampoo and conditioner after reading your book. (I also broke up with my keratin treatments, but at the time that was a bit more abut the expense). I have naturally curly (well some of it is straight now at the ends because of all the treatments), and a horribly short, ill-advised haircut. The only way it looks anywhere near decent is blown out. (When I let it dry naturally, it’s 1) huge and 2) curly in some places and straight in others. I’ve been wearing it in a ponytail since reading the book, but that won’t be an option once I go back to working a day job in a few weeks.

    How is blowing out sans shampoo?

  14. Alexandra says:

    I mean look, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, right? Of course the heat can do some damage, but if you’re foregoing the chemicals and the surfactants it’s a total lesser of evils I’d say. I’ve done a handful of blowouts since quitting shampoo and in general I’ve found my (very) curly hair more responsive to heat than it used to be. Also, because I’m used to not washing it and my scalp doesn’t get itchy I can keep the blowout longer without wetting my hair…

  15. Jessica says:

    As much as I’ve wanted to try this, my main concern is that I have a ton of grey hair and as I’m just 30 it makes me look older than I want to. So I color it, and with the monthly dye job comes the inevitable shampooing.

    So my issues are that I have wavy/curly, fine, thick hair that tangles easily. It does best if I wash it once a week, and rinse and condition every other day or so. In certain dry weather I get horrible itchy dry scalp, just really insanely itchy and flaky and it’s so awful, as I want to scrub it with shampoo but I know that’ll make it worse.

    What do you think? Honestly, not coloring it is not an option right now. Not only do I dislike the gray, but I’m rather fond of the current shade of deep pink that I’m sporting.

  16. Alexandra says:

    I say keep coloring it obviously, because happiness is still king here. But I have two questions: 1) do you use a natural shampoo and conditioner? 2) are you able to spend a little more on these products, if you’re using them less? From there I may have some advice…

  17. Stephanie says:

    I have been washing my hair with a masson jar full of hot water and 2 tbsp of baking soda for a year now and my hait has never been so managable and beautiful! I always had a very itchy scalp (especilly 2 days after washing my hair) but the itchyness alsmot never happens anymore since i have kicked shampoo.
    Ouce you get over the non-lather, your hair and scalp will thank you!

  18. Amy Rose says:

    I live in MS (humidity galore). My hair is very thick and very straight. I’ve been washing it only once a week with a natural shampoo for a few years now. After reading these stories, though, I’m looking to extend the time between shampoos. I’ve been trying to convince all my friends for years, though, that the less they wash the better it’ll look.

  19. tamara says:

    I’ve been using baking soda and apple cider vinegar rinse on my wavy/curly, yet oddly straight too hair for two months now. My hair didn’t seem to go through any kind of a transition period…I use the bs and acv about once a week (every 4 to 5 days). I just rinse it w/ water when it starts to get all smushed in the wrong places looking in between. It doesn’t seem to ever be greasy and it’s quite soft. A lot of times, I only use the baking soda because I think I should not because I really seem to need it. I also only use a cut up lemon as deodorant and it works swimmingly.

  20. Dirty Dee says:

    I stopped washing my hair 2 years ago, and haven’t looked back. I think its been 2 or 3 months now since I’ve used any sort of cleaning product on my thick wavy brown locks. I think that most of the folks here wash their hair often enough to combat the dandruff but after a couple of months it kind of becomes a problem. Any suggestions? I love to see that so many people are giving up on cosmetics. Way to go everyone!

  21. mimi says:

    i don’t think you’re gross, alexandra, i think you’re RAD. after discovering that even my so-called natural & organic shampoo & conditioner were riddled with big no-nos, i tried the baking soda wash and *insert angels singing here* i am a total convert. after a lifetime of battling fine hair that is obstinately both greasy, limp and dry, i have smooth, shiny, manageable hair, and it probably only costs a penny a wash. if that.
    i bow down to you clean girls, thanks for everything that you do.

  22. Claudia says:

    My hair’s thick, heavy and straight (like Kim’s above) and when my roots aren’t clean it really, really shows. I’ve been washing it every day for as long as I can remember just because it tends to gets so weighed down when dirty.

    I’ve always realized this is just my scalp’s way of compensating for the continual washings, but you guys have helped convince me of what I need to do. I think I’m finally ready to take the leap! It starts now.

  23. arscharfen21 says:

    I did the no poo method last year for a good 6 months. I stuck with it through all the stages that hair apparently goes through (the love it, the dull, the waxy, the super waxy, the want to cry ect.) washing up every 3rd or 4th day or so with baking soda and apple cider vinegar. Finally, I just couldn’t do it anymore. It looked like I had dreadlocks my hair was so waxy/ sticky/ gross. It was very disappointing, but finding natural products that don’t make my body freak out makes me feel better that I gave it a try.

  24. Lindsey says:

    I am SO GLAD to see so many other like-minded people out there! I gave up shampoo and conditioner about 6 months ago and will never go back. Instead, I wash my hair once or twice a week with baking soda, and rinse on occasion with vinegar. My regularly flat hair has more body and feels so much healthier! And I love that there are no fake perfumy smells either! I also use baking soda as deodorant and it’s brilliant. Good work, ladies!

  25. rachel says:

    Not gross at all! I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time now but I’m a lifeguard and I spend a lot of time in chlorinated water but I also swim in rivers and lakes. I also bike so my hair gets a greasy from sweat. Do you think this could be doable even with the chlorine and whatnot?

  26. Brianna says:

    I think it’s wonderful. I haven’t used anything in my hair but baking soda (to wash) and apple cider vinegar (to condition) for 11 months, and it’s the best thing *ever*! I only have to do it twice a week (more in the summer) and it leaves my hair soft and natural. I swear by it, and I’ve been trying to get people to come over to my side for a while now, but apparently some people are just too in love with their nasty hair products. :-(

    DO IT DO IT DO IT!!!

  27. I’ve talked several people into trying this. It does work. It’s awesome! I have super long thick hair all the way down to my bottom. I was afraid that I’d never be able to get the snarls out. It wasn’t a problem. The part I love the best is not paying corporations for damaging chemicals to slather all over my head.

  28. Lauren says:

    I am totally behind you. Not gross at all. My hair is thick, but very light and wispy, and it is so much easier to manipulate with its natural oils in it.

  29. Kristen says:

    I haven’t shampooed more than 1-2 times a year in about 6 years, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for my hair! I’ve got long, dark, curly hair, and I got on the no-poo bandwagon after a friend of a friend recommended Curly Girl by Lorraine Massey. Those 1-2 times a year are usually preceded by either a ton of product for a special occasion, or a misguided attempt at trying a “better” shampoo — but I usually regret it as soon as I rinse my hair and that old dry straw feeling comes back. Even Giovanni does this. Baking soda rinses were no good for me, either, even when followed by an ACV rinse — they were just too drying. So most of the time, I alternate between Suave Naturals Tropical Coconut and Giovanni Triple Tea Tree Treat conditioners. Slather, comb, partial rinse, done. I don’t even need to use hair gel anymore, something I never could have imagined when I was in high school and college!

    However, last week I did use ACV instead of commercial conditioner for several days. I liked it as a detox, and it made my scalp feel great after how sweaty it had been due to the recent humidity in DC. But after the 4th or 5th day, my hair started getting cranky again. Still, it’s good to know I’ve got an option that makes my hair feel clean and soft, and cleans my scalp without stripping the crap out of it.

  30. Caitlin says:

    I stopped using shampoo in March this year and will never look back. I do a baking soda rinse (1 tbsp baking soda to a cup of water), scrub it, rinse it – feels like you’re doing nothing but it is a miracle cure for hair. Then I do an apple cider vinegar rinse – 1:20 ratio ACV to water – infused with hair loving naturals such as cinnamon, chamomile, essential oils, etc – try making different flavours! This leaves your hair soft and beautiful. If you’re concerned about the greasy feeling – it takes your hair/scalp time to recover from the long-term shampoo damage. Give it from 3 weeks to 2 months for your hair to “fully” adjust to no shampoo – it’s worth the patience!!!

  31. Shnell says:

    What about sweat though? I just moved to hot hot Utah and like to go on jogs, by the end of each day I am sticky all over and feel moisture on my head, through my hair! Giving the no shampoo thing a try seems nice, but unrealistic for the time being.

  32. CoconutCrazy says:

    I went no product a month and half ago after suffering from flaky, itchy scalp that would get infected and bleed. Nothing helped and I had tried medicated shampoos and even a facial exfoliant. I thought it was my hard water and tried vinegar rinses as well. Vinegar helped soften the hair a bit but my scalp problems persisted.

    I ended up trying coconut oil to wash my scalp and hair after a friend said her hair grew much quicker using it as deep conditioner. My other friend was oil washing her face.

    So I gave it a try. I rubbed about a tablespoon of oil into my scalp and spread the rest in my hair. I went under the showerhead and let most of the oil wash out after an hour. I did a quick vinegar rinse and took another tablespoon of oil and rubbed it into my hair like it was shampoo. I let warm water run over my head and washed the oil out. I got a fine tooth comb and combed my hair while the water was running to get the oil out.

    My hair has never been softer, shinier, or stronger! It is growing quickly and no more scalp problems! I can get away with washing every other day or every two days. My hair was greasy the first few times I washed with oil. I was using too much. You can also use coconut oil instead of body wash. It is antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal. You will not get lather nor have a scent. I added essential lavender oil to mine. My skin and hair have never been so healthy! It is also great for lady parts since coconut oil kills yeast infections. It is safe to eat so definitely safe enough for use on the body!

  33. Idahodimple says:

    I just tried the baking soda rinse for the first time, and followed it with a vinegar rinse. I cannot use any shampoo, the residuals on my hair make my eyes swell and itch. It got so even castile soap was a problem. I have hopes that this will be the solution!

  34. karina says:

    Alex, my hair is very much like yours and while I’ve been shampoo free for a few years, I can’t get off the conditioner, treatment, etc… bandwagon because I have yet to find something that just leaves my hair clean and just healthy curly. I visited Evolue here in LA and spoke with Jean, who actually mentioned you and said you had some product(s) you really like. Anything in particular? Also, are there any places in LA that actually take good care of curly hair (cut/color)? I’m still looking for someone who doesn’t immediately approach me with a large paddle brush to straighten my hair in order to do something with it.

  35. Vanessa says:

    So for the new year I have shaved my head, and I’m starting new. I have always had fine thin hair. I have been faking long hair for 7 years!! Everything from clip on extensions to glue. This has left my hair even more brittle, and dry. So I decided it was time to start new!! I shaved my hair 11 days ago, and ditched the shampoo as well. So far so good, I just hope it grows out ok. I’m worrying about styling when It get’s a little longer. I don’t want to use products but I’m afraid it will flat anxd dry. Wish me luck!! I’ll keep u posted, and thx for the coconut idea!!

  36. mInnow says:

    hey gals,

    alexandra, thank you and siobhan so much for the book and the blog. i’ve learned so much from you and am very inspired!

    wanted to address karina’s search for a good curly hair stylist in LA–i’m curly and i’ve been going to leo freeman for years. here’s her website: you can read reviews for her on yelp and too. her cuts are RAD. the products she uses are a mixed bunch in terms of cleanliness, but when it comes to cuts she is unequaled! hope that helps…


  37. Nicole says:

    I hate washing my hair it is totally frizzy and refuses to work with me. I wash it once a week usally after I work. Would love to go completely without but I heard it doesn’t do well with straight hair. :(

  38. Kimmy says:

    I can’t wrap my head around not washing one’s hair, except for the occasional baking soda wash. Maybe it’s because I have very fine, slightly wavy, OILYOILYOILY hair. If I don’t wash my hair every day it looks terrible because of all the oils (mind you I don’t wash my hair every day because I’m lazy). But I have recently started using an apple cider vinegar rinse instead of conditioner because I have a super flaky scalp (my Doctor says it’s seborrhiac dermatitis) and I’ve read via this this blog that it makes hair look really healthy. I want to try the baking soda wash though; does it get your hair truly clean like you’ve washed with shampoo or does it leave any kind of residue behind?

  39. Seea says:

    Live free guys. shampoo sucks.

  40. Gregory says:

    I gave washing my hair in 2010 along with any form of product, drying & styling.
    I have found on it’s own my hair can style itself naturally following its natural parting & wave. If it does smell from time to time, mostly after being caught in a summer rain, I rinse it through with lemon juice or camomile & it’s back to being refreshed & cleansed.

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