7 Ways To Wash Your Hair: Which One Works Best?

by beautifulwithbrains
ways to wash your hair

Did you know that shampoos isn’t the only way to wash your hair?

Now the natural movement is on the rise, more and more women are looking for alternatives to clean their hair without using harsh chemicals every day.

The problem? Most of these alternatives DON’T work well. They’re either too gentle, require a transition period or leave build up on your hair.

Should you switch? It depends. Here are 7 ways to wash your hair so you can figure out which one is right for you:

1. Shampoo

Duh! Tell me something I don’t know, Gio. Shampoo is the most common way to wash hair. There’s a reason why we all do it. It works. Shampoo uses cleansing agents called surfactants to help water mix with oil, dandruff, buildup and dirt so they can rinsed away down the drain. The catch? If these surfactants are too strong, they’ll also remove the natural oils that moisturise your hair and protect it from damage. Cue dryness, brittleness and lack of shine. Instead of looking for a gentler shampoo, some people prefer to look for an alternative to shampoos altogether. If that’s you, keep reading.

2. Dry shampoo

The BFF of every oily-haired girl out there, dry shampoos work without water. They use powders like cornstarch or talc to absorb excess sebum from hair. Here’s how it works: you spray the shampoo on your hair and then you brush it out. It’s not as effective as regular shampoos because it can’t clean hair completely. But it’ll make it look good enough you can skip washing for the day.

Related: Is Talc In Skincare Dangerous?

3. Conditioner

Ever thought of using conditioner alone? Like shampoos, conditioners contain surfactants (the cleansing agents, remember?) but in much smaller amounts. In other words, they have some cleansing mojo but it’s very weak. Plus, conditioners coat hair to add moisture, which means they’ll leave a residue behind. Overtime, this can become a problem. If you want to give it a go anyway, here’s how you do it: you rub a small dollop thoroughly into the scalp, rinse after about 10 minutes and then apply another dose of conditioner to condition hair as normal. For best results, use a conditioners without silicones to avoid excessive buildup. FYI, your hair may look worse and greasy the first few times you wash it this way. You need to stick to it for a while to see results.

Related: Are Silicones Good Or Bad For Skin?

4. Body wash

Did you know that shampoos and body washes have very similar formulas? They both use surfactants as cleaning agents with some conditioning ingredients thrown in the mix. The difference? Body washes use less harsh detergents – they’re designed to clean skin, which is more sensitive than hair. They work for hair, too, but they won’t provide the deep cleanse oily or heavy build-up hair needs.

5. Water only

It works like this: using your fingernails, wash hair vigorously under water to remove dirt. Then, with a wash cloth or a boar bristle brush, brush your hair to evenly distribute oil from the scalp along the hair shaft and down the ends to moisturise it. This method has a transition period. It takes about six weeks for your hair to learn to produce less sebum . During that time, it’ll look super greasy. Wear a hat or a bandana.

6. No-Rinse shampoo

These shampoos work without using water. You don’t need to wet your hair before application and you don’t need to rinse out. Because their formula is a lot more runnier than your normal shampoos, there is no need to use water to make it foam. All you have to do is apply the shampoo on your dry hair until it becomes wet. Massage the scalp to make it lather. Wipe out the foam with a towel. They are a great way to clean your hair on-the-go, but they don’t work as well as regular shampoos.

7. Homemade recipes

There are lots of recipes to make your own shampoo. Here’s one:

Eggs and olive oil:
Mix a couple of eggs and a few tablespoons of standard olive oil lightly to make them combine correctly. Apply the mixture on your hair and wait about five minutes, then rinse off.

EDIT 03/08/2014: a lot of people swap shampoo for baking soda or vinegar, but these homemade treatments are a lot harsher! Stay away from them.

Have you ever tried any alternative method to wash your hair or are you sticking to your favourite shampoo? Share your experience in the comments below.

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43 comments

sab February 3, 2009 - 3:21 pm

ooohh! interesting! what do you think eggs and olive oil can do to your hair? 🙂

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GHD February 3, 2009 - 6:34 pm

I am of two mindsets with shampoo alternatives. I think there is a place for them (such if you’re in a hurry or you don’t have water nearby) but I still believe there are no substitutes for a quality shampoo.

Brand names sometimes get a bad rap for their cost, they also have the R&D budgets available to get the perfect mix for a variety of hair types, something that can really make a difference if you’ve got problem hair.

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Nikki February 4, 2009 - 12:56 am

wonderful post, i love anything that tackles about taking care of hair 🙂

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kittenpaws February 4, 2009 - 4:51 am

Comprehensive and definitely helpful 🙂 Good job!

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charlene February 4, 2009 - 4:53 am

i dunno how true this is but i once read that olive oil can be really hard to wash out so it might not be wise to use it often!…:) great post!

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just me July 2, 2013 - 5:39 pm

I use olive oil in my hair often…I also use coconut oil! Its really not that difficult to wash out

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beautifulwithbrains February 4, 2009 - 2:28 pm

Sab: olive oil is one of the best oils to use on hair as it actually penetrates deep into the hair shafts providing conditioning as well as cleaning hair. Eggs contains proteins and nutrients that strehghten the hair follicles, add volume, shine and texture. You have to rinse the mixture out with cold water though as hot water can make egg harden and make it harder to remove.

GHD: I agree with you on shampoo alternatives. I use dry shampoos because I have very oily hair that get dirt pretty soon, but they don’t clean as well as regular shampoos and sometimes my hair still feels dirty. But every now and then it’s good to give your hair a break and opt for an alternative method.

Nikki: glad you enjoyed it. I like reading hair care articles too.

kittenpaws: thank you, I’m glad you find it useful.

charlene: thanks. well, oil and water don’t really mix so yeah, it might be a bit tricky to rinse off. Same with eggs, if you use hot water you can harden them, making then harder to remove. You would need to use cold or lukewarm water instead. I thnk this is a great recipe to wash your hair every once in a while, but I wouldn’t use it too often either.

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Tierra March 18, 2009 - 3:27 am

Very interesting. I wonder what other homemade shampoo recipes are out there. Does anyone else know of some?

Other helpful hair info and products:
http://www.salonhive.com/videos/search/?search_id=hair+scissors&search_type=search_videos&submit=+

http://www.salonhive.com/videos/search/?search_id=hair+shears&search_type=search_videos&submit=+

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beautifulwithbrains March 20, 2009 - 9:18 am

There are lots of other homemade shampoos out there. For example, you can mix 1/2 teaspoon sunflower oil, 1/4 cup of water and 1/4 cup of liquid castile soap and shampoo your hair with the mixture.

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Lexie April 17, 2009 - 5:01 am

IME, hair does not need shampoo or conditioner. The majority of people I know of have switched to ‘water only’ or ‘baking soda only’ with a diluted apple cider/white vinegar rinse.

Not everyone switching to WO has a transition period where their hair is greasy. It all depends on what your scalp is used to. If you wash frequently and what you’re using is harsh, you will have this period to deal with. Your scalp is accustomed to replenishing the sebum you keep stripping off of it. If you use a gentle cleaner every 2 weeks, you may not have this period at all.

And even though baking soda may not be for everyone, the wording in this article makes it sound absolutely horrid for anyone. I, along with others I know, used it for years and our hair was lovely. No damage, no breakage, no problems. But you have to know how much your hair will tolerate. It’s not that it’s abrasive but that it does a great job of stripping all the sebum. The average shampoo doesn’t touch baking soda for its ability to clarify. You have to follow up baking soda washes with a vinegar rinse to restore the pH balance of the scalp and hair. And you should oil your hair to protect it after by replacing some of the lost sebum.

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beautifulwithbrains April 17, 2009 - 5:44 pm

Hi Lexie, thanks for sharing this useful information. I didn’t mean to make baking soda, or any other method of washing hair, sound horrible and I’m sorry if that’s the impression you got.
I only wanted to point out that shampooing isn’t the only way to wash your hair, there are other effective methods out there. And also, that, if you chose these alternative methods, you can’t expect great results straight away. For most people, it will take time for hair to get used to the new regimen. In the long run, water only or home made recipes can probably be a healthier and cheaper method, but you have to know about the possible side effects. That doesn’t mean, for example, that baking soda will cause breakage, but that for some people, esp if this method is used every day, it could. It’s important to knowing both the pros and cons to make an important decision and find what works best for you.

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gggirlgeek December 16, 2010 - 11:53 pm

Olive oil and eggs are really not a good idea as a shampoo, especially regularly. First of all, egg stinks. I have actually used this combination as a hair mask, and unless you shampoo it out twice your hair smells to high heavens. Second, protein (eggs) dries out your hair. It is good if used rarely on chemically starved hair but more than once a month and the hair starts getting dry and brittle, despite the olive oil. Third, unless you’re going for the greasy look olive oil has to be washed out. Fourth, if you color your hair, olive oil and eggs are both great ways to strip the color. You can actually see the color going down the drain. Personally I do like it has a protein/moisture re-building mask a week before touching up my color.

The other methods: what actually gets dirt out is the rinsing. If you don’t rinse the dirt is still there. Yuck! Would you use hand sanitizer on your body for 2 weeks without showering?

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beautifulwithbrains December 17, 2010 - 12:44 pm

gggirlgeek, thank you for your comment and sharing your experience. I wasn’t suggesting that all these methods are good alternatives to shampoos and should be used regularly, I just thought it’d be nice to share with everyone that there are more ways than we usually think to wash our hair. Of course, some of these methods are nice to use just once in a while or, like the no-rinse shampoo, quick fixes. I’m sorry if that didn’t come across well.

Yes, oil and egg need to be rinsed off very well after us if you don’t want greasy and smelly hair but it is a DIY way to wash hair and I know people that tried it do it every now and then (not on a regular basis) and works well for them.

Nothing is as effective as a good shampoo though and thanks for the reminders that some of these methods aren’t alternative to it but just something to do once in a while. 🙂

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Naz December 26, 2010 - 3:45 am

Great article, you clearly are beautiful with brains. 😉
Im currenty trying not to use shampoo as it doesnt do ANYTHING for my hair 🙁
and use oils (olive, coconut and maybe rosemary later on).

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beautifulwithbrains December 27, 2010 - 5:41 pm

Naz, thank you! 🙂

That’s too bad shampoo didn’t work for you, but coconut oil is great for hair. It’s one of the few oils that can actually penetrate hair and is so beneficial for it. 🙂

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Courtney Belyea May 31, 2011 - 12:39 am

WOW that is so interesting i didnt know you could wash your hair with just water. You can also get shampoo in bar form like from Lush, I like it because it saves me money, it lasts forever and it’s worth 3 bottles of shampoo for the one 10 dollar bar.

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beautifulwithbrains May 31, 2011 - 1:59 pm

Courtney, using shampoos works better but you can wash it with water alone too. That Lush bar shampoo sounds like a great deal, I’m glad it works well for you.

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Denise June 4, 2011 - 7:11 pm

I’ve been “No Poo” since New Years 2011, and it has been a treat. Not only am I spending wayyyyy less on shampoos (since I am a treehuggingdirtworshipper I felt I could only buy biodegradable “organic” shampoo without guilt and that is expensive), but my hair does not have the split ends or dry spells. The first six weeks on the baking soda and vinegar regimen left me with frequently greasy hair, but after my hair settled down my hair looked great. Now I am transitioning to water-only… and it’s looking like it’s going to be the same sort of transitioning period (my hair feels very greasy, though does not look terrible). I’m sticking with it, though every now and again I do long for the smell of shampoo…

but another great thing about it is that I have been plagued with sebaceous cysts (a buildup of sebum) on my scalp since mid-high school… and now that I am not forcing my scalp to produce excess sebum the cysts have stopped growing! (and some are even shrinking!)

So if anyone is thinking of committing to the “no-poo” lifestyle, I’d certainly vouch for it! 🙂

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beautifulwithbrains June 4, 2011 - 8:11 pm

Denise, thank you for sharing your experience. The transition period must be awful (i have oily hair that gets greasy so quickly which is what is still putting me off from going no poo yet) and it’s hard not to reach for the shampoo when your hair is greasy but I’m glad that, once that was over, it left your hair in a much better condition. 🙂

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Leah July 9, 2011 - 11:29 pm

If I go a day without washing my hair, I sometimes put a small amount of baby powder on my fingers and kind of toussel it into any greasy spots(like around my face). Just make sure you toussel it enough, or you’ll have some white in you’re hair! Also, be sure to wash you’re hair the next day, as the powder will weigh hair down if used very frequently.

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beautifulwithbrains July 10, 2011 - 6:11 am

Leah, thanks for your comment. I agree with everything you said. Powder can absorb oil and make hair look clean but it really needs to be washed away the next day. 🙂

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Maggie March 5, 2012 - 4:11 am

Beer! I use a bottle of beer every once in awhile as a rinse. I shampoo and condition then pour a beer slowly and work into the hair. I half rinse it out but keep some of it in the hair because it gives a great shiny seaside texture.

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beautifulwithbrains March 5, 2012 - 7:11 am

Maggie, I’ve heard of using beer like that before and I’m glad it works so well for you. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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Adam March 27, 2012 - 9:52 am

I’ve got some questions about the water only method. Do you use the wash cloth during the shower or after. If you use it during the shower wouldn’t the oils from your scalp just wash off. Also, would a comb work in place of a wash cloth or brush.

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beautifulwithbrains March 28, 2012 - 10:30 am

Adam, to be honest I never tried to wash my hair with water only as mine is very oily and I’m not sure this method would work well for me. But I know people who tried it with good results. The wash cloth should be used after the shower, but you’d have to be gentle or you could do more damage than good as wet hair is very fragile. A comb could be used instead but the general consensus seems to be that brushes work best. Hope this helps.

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Melissa May 5, 2012 - 6:37 pm

Hi! Not only did I like your post, but from reading all of your replies to the comments, it sounds like you have the patience of a saint! Anyway, just wanted to say I admire your non-defensiveness…you sound like a really great person. BTW, I have been using baking soda for shampoo and apple cider vinegar for conditioner for about 2 weeks now (mainly due to poverty) and I do notice a bit more dryness/breakage. I think I am going to try adding some coconut oil somewhere in the mix to help with that. I’d really love to find alternatives to wash/condition that I can grow in my garden. That sounds most economical. Any suggestions would be great! Thanks 🙂

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beautifulwithbrains May 6, 2012 - 7:46 pm

Melissa, aww thank you. You’re making me blush 😳

Coconut Oil is one of the best ingredients for hair. Adding it to your conditioner (or using it on its own) will definitely make a difference in how your hair looks and feels. For shampoo, you can try using equal parts of distilled water and castile soap, with a tablespoon of jojoba oil, tea tree oil or any other oil you prefer. Castile soap is better than baking soda as it is less harsh and won’t cause dryness and breakage. You can also try using water only, but this method has a transition period, which means that your hair will look worse for a few weeks before its gets better.

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Traci June 5, 2012 - 9:00 pm

I just started the no poo method in April & I’m getting frustrated. Baking soda & vinegar dried my hair out so bad it was breaking. So I tried just water & the ends would start drying out. So I bought some castile soap… Still dry ends. Now the water here isn’t hard & seems like no matter what I do the ends dry out… I don’t know what to do. Can someone help?

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beautifulwithbrains June 6, 2012 - 7:57 pm

Traci, I’m sorry to hear that. Have you tried washing hair with conditioner only? Conditioners contain moisturizing ingredients so they shouldn’t dry your ends out. Hope this helps.

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Traci July 3, 2013 - 6:18 pm

So it’s been a year since I left my last comment… I ended up chopping my hair and starting from scratch, so to speak. And now I have completely quit using shampoo & conditioner. I now use the baking soda/AVC rinse. And I will never go back. You really have to get use to the way your hair feels when you do quit using shampoo. The other key is, you really need to find what works for your hair. My shampoo -1tbs bs in 1c water with 1tbs of castile soap; my conditioner- 1tbs AVC (organic) in 1c water with a few drops of lavender EO. It took a year to get here but it was worth it.

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beautifulwithbrains July 3, 2013 - 8:50 pm

Traci, thank you for sharing your experience. The first few months are awful, aren’t they? It gets better after your hair has become used to it and you have figured out a routine that works well for you. I’m glad you’ve now found a way to wash your hair that you really like.

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Anna August 29, 2012 - 5:59 pm

Any tips for coloured blonde hair? I’ve heard conflicting reports that baking soda will strip the colour, or not.. Don’t now what to believe. Have been tryng b/s and ACV for 2 weeks and my hair is also very dry. Not sure what to do next. Advice appreciated!

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beautifulwithbrains August 29, 2012 - 8:07 pm

Anna, I know that some people use baking soda to lighten colour that comes out too dark, so I think it strips colour to an extent. Also, baking soda is pretty abrasive and while it cleanses hair well, it can also dry it out if used too often. You should apply some conditioner on it to replenish the moisture baking soda has stripped away, and use this method of washing less often. Hope this helps.

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brysons babe December 1, 2012 - 1:13 am

NEVER use egg in your hair it will make it stink

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beautifulwithbrains December 2, 2012 - 10:58 pm

Bryson Babe, I agree about the smell, which is why I personally rarely use egg in my duy haircare recipes. But you can use it to wash your hair with. 🙂

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So last night I washed my hair with an egg… | the olive and a rose December 20, 2012 - 1:00 am

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rwright September 11, 2014 - 6:48 am

I’d love to stop using shampoo. It really just irritates my scalp and makes it horribly itchy and get the worst dandruff. I’m not sure what method to go with since this does happen to me and my hair is very thin. Any suggestions? thank you so much!

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Gio September 12, 2014 - 3:34 pm

Rwight, it seems to me that you are using a shampoo that is way too harsh for your scalp and hair. Try using a cleansing conditioner or a regular conditioner and see how that goes. They have some cleansing properties too, but also provide conditioning, making it a gentler option. Hope this helps.

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man123 October 19, 2014 - 4:17 pm

Hey

I am 25 years old male. My hair started falling 3 years back.I tried all sorts of oils and medicine and nothing has helped ao far. I switched to no poo method and I’ve been using only water to wash my hair. It’s been 2 months and there is very little improvement. Please suggest.Should I continue with water only, or should I again start using shampoo.

Thanks

p.s. there is hard water where I live.

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Gio October 20, 2014 - 8:43 pm

Man123, hi. I’m sorry to hear about your problem. As you didn’t see an improvement while using only water, I’d say to use whatever works best for you. If you prefer to use shampoos, you can safely go back to it. If you prefer water only, keep doing that.

For hair loss, I’d suggest you try either Minoxidil or Propecia. They’re the only two treaments proven to work, although there’s only so much they can do, You can find more information about them here: http://thebeautybrains.com/2006/05/12/hair-loss-products-what-really-works/

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kterbo October 23, 2016 - 7:30 pm

I know everyone has an opinion, but unless you try it… and know… then don’t comment. Baking soda is effective once a month! Very good for hair, not daily. I have used it with beer for good shinny squeaky clean hair. Also I recommend apple cider vinegar every other week. It really makes my hair softer as a final rinse by restoring the ph. I always use, now, sodium laurel sulfate free shampoo. It takes three days or 5 days for hair to get use to this but I do not wash it every day, and I leave in a quarter size of coconut oil.
My hair is fine but a lot of it . I also use some body washes to wash my hair. They are milder than shampoo.

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Gio November 19, 2016 - 5:11 pm

Kterbo, thanks for sharing your experience. this blog is all about the science of beauty and the science says that both baking soda and apple cider vinegar are too harsh for hair. You say you don’t use them too often and I’m guessing you’re conditioning your hair in some way afterwards? That may be why you’re not experiencing any bad side effects.

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