no 'poo shampoo method

I Washed My Hair With Conditioner for a Week: Here’s What Happened…

So, the No ‘Poo Method: I guess the first thing I should probably say about this is that it’s not what it sounds like.

(Oh, COME ON: I can’t be the only one who assumed it was something to do with constipation, the first time I heard about it? Can I?)

Actually, No ‘poo stands for ‘no SHAMPOO’ – and, now that we’re using the entire word, it actually IS exactly what it sounds like: a method of cleaning your hair without using shampoo. Instead, you wash your hair with conditioner only THO?

Well, the theory is simple: although conditioner contains ingredients which will clean your hair and scalp, it’s much less harsh than shampoo, so the idea is that by using conditioner on its on, your hair will end up softer, smoother and in all-round better condition. All of which sounds pretty good to me: which is why I decided to try the No ‘Poo method for myself (Well, that and the fact that I’m pretty lazy, really, and the thought of being able to skip a step in my hair-washing routine was pretty appealing too, to be honest.)

First, though, here’s a quick Q&A about the No ‘Poo method, and how it works:

No 'Poo conditioner only washing: does it work?

Who can use the No ‘Poo Method?

Well, that’s what I’m about to find out. In theory, anyone can try conditioner-only washing. I have, however, read that it works better on curly or waxy hair, and as mine is poker straight, I might not get the best results. We shall see!

How do you do it?

Just wash your hair as normal, but don’t use shampoo. The method I’m going to be trying involves simply switching the shampoo for conditioner, but some people prefer to use baking soda, or to skip products altogether, and just rinse their hair with water. With the conditioner-only method, my instructions are to massage the conditioner into the scalp, as you would shampoo, then apply to the length. This method works better if you leave the conditioner to soak into the hair for five minutes or so, before rinsing thoroughly. Some people also wash with shampoo once or twice a week, if they feel they need to.

Can you use any kind of conditioner?

No. This is one of the most important points to note of you want to try conditioner-only washing for yourself. Use conditioner which doesn’t contain silicones. Silicones coat the hair, forming a kind of “tube” around each strand. It’ll take washing with shampoo to get rid of this, so if you try CO-washing using a silicone-based conditioner, the silicones will just build up and turn into a sticky mess. Luckily, silicones are easy to spot on the ingredients of your conditioner bottle – they’re the ingredients ending in “-one”.

You’ll tend to find that cheaper brands of conditioner, such as supermarket’s own brands, will be the least likely to contain silicones, and therefore the best to use for conditioner-only washing. This is good news for your wallet too – most of the cheaper brands costs less than £1 per bottle! You may find that you need to buy a few different brands and use them in rotation, however, to stop build-up of one particular type.

So, that’s the theory – but will it work? I decided to try the No ‘Poo Method for a week, to find out…

No 'poo  method (conditioner only) hair washing: does it actually work?

NO ‘POO: Day 1

OK, so the first thing I’ll note here is that it feels REALLY weird to “wash” my hair without shampoo: i n fact, given that the conditioner doesn’t lather, it doesn’t actually feel like I’m washing it at all. My hair is that particularly awesome combination of dry at the ends, but with a tendency to feel greasy at the roots, and I’m 100% sure that conditioner alone isn’t going to make it feel clean, so I’m super-surprised when I finish drying it and realise that not only does my hair feels clean, it smells great, and it’s softer than it would be if I’d washed with shampoo. I’m impressed. But still skeptical.

NO ‘POO: Day 2

By the time I went to bed last night my hair had started to feel a little more greasy than it would have done ordinarily, so I was slightly worried that CO-washing just wouldn’t be enough for it today. I was pleasantly surprised, then, when the conditioner did manage to get the grease out: the problem I seem to be having at the moment is that my hair just doesn’t seem to feel as “fresh” as it would after washing with shampoo.

This could just be a psychological thing, of course: it’s not nearly as greasy as it would be if it hadn’t been washed at all, and I’m not sure anyone other than me would notice any difference. It does still feel thicker, softer and less flyaway, so I’m going to be continuing with the experiment to see how it goes.

NO ‘POO: Day 3

One thing that’s important to note if you’re thinking of trying co-washing is that most proponents of the method say that your hair goes through a ‘transition period’ before the benefits kick in, and, during which, you hair might look/feel worse, before it gets better. Some people say this transition period can last for months: I’m on day three and my scalp’s already starting to feel itchy (Purely psychological, I hasten to add: no, I don’t have nits, and yes, my hair still looks clean…), so I’m reall starting to doubt I’m going to be able to stick this out.

All the same, I dutifully step into the shower, and reach for the conditioner rather than the shampoo, then spend what feels like forever rinsing it out, just to make sure the product doesn’t build up, and my hair is as clean as I can make it. Once dried, my hair doesn’t look terrible, but it IS quite limp, and I’m starting to suspect that the “thicker” look I’ve noticed is actually just from the buildup of grease.

NO ‘POO: Day 4

Yeah, my scalp feels straight-up gross now. Thank God I work from home, because while I don’t think people would exactly recoil in horror at the sight of my scalp, I just don’t feel good about myself: my hair now feels like a solid mass attached to my head, and while it doesn’t actually LOOK as bad as it feels, it’s not exactly a confidence booster, let’s put it that way.

NO ‘POO: Day 5

I had planned to go to the gym today. Then I remembered that I sweat on my scalp, and realised there was no way in hell I was willing to do a workout, and then try to clean that sweaty scalp with conditioner. HOW do people stick this out for weeks or even months? HOW?

NO ‘POO: Day 6

I’m out, guys: I can take it no longer. I know people who swear by conditioner only washing would roll their eyes and tell me I just need to give it a while longer, but I just can’t do it. In fairness, my hair doesn’t look nearly as a bad as I’d thought it would by this point, which makes me wonder if sticking it out would, in fact, allow me to get past the greasy feeling and achieve the luscious, locks I’ve been hoping for, but… well, unfortunately for me, it looks like I’m never going to find out. I just can’t seem to get past the need to wash my hair, and I really miss that squeaky clean feeling I get after shampooing it.

In retrospect, if I was going to try this, I should probably have gone for the baking soda method, or found some other alternative to shampoo, rather than just skipping it altogether, because, while I don’t doubt that it could have worked for me if I’d been willing to wait out the transition period, it turned out to be too big a hurdle for me to overcome… so back to shampoo I go!

DAY 6:

Best shampoo of my life. SERIOUSLY.

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  • Sara


    Your hair sounds the same as mine, except mine’s ( naturally ) light blonde. I might try this experement aswell! It sound great!

    August 5, 2007
  • Ahh, I’ve been meaning to give this a go also, but never got round to it, you’ve inspired me to try!

    August 6, 2007
  • mar


    i just did my first co wash today after reading so much about it online…
    even the most scalp friendly, sulphate free shampoo’s leave my scalp itchy and sometimes even with a burning sensation which is why i tried co wash… so far so good.. my hair suprisingly is clean and full of volume.. only thing is that my ends r really dry.. i probably shud have followed the rinse with a heavier conditioner/detangler for the ends.. anyhow im going to continue with this mthod of cleansing every other day and sometime next week i’ll do a shampoo wash to get clarify… shall see how it goes.. i heard about an adjustment period for ur scalp to adapt to just co wash.. but my scalp is just loving extra moisture.. soaks it right up! woohoo.. no stinging scalp for the first time in…. about 1 year?!?!!! super. one question how often are u supposed to used shampoo to clarify?

    April 15, 2009