Conditioner Only Washing (No Shampoo) | Crunchy Beauty Tips

Facebook fans: You spoke and I listened! Here is the first in our series of crunchy (read: natural or low-effort) beauty tips. I don’t pretend to be a beauty expert, but I know what makes me feel good. And if it makes ME feel good, maybe it’ll make some of you feel good, too! If you don’t like this series you should probably become a Facebook fan so you can shout me down when I float these hair-brained (HAIR BRAINED, GET IT?) schemes of mine. xo Rebecca

How I gave up shampoo and made my hair better!

What’s blogging without a giant confession, right? I have one. But first, I have to say, I can’t even believe I’m doing a Beauty Tips post. I’m no Audrey Hepburn or Audrey Tatou or any other Audrey for that matter. I’m a stay-at-home mom of five boys. BOYS. I ask them to brush their hair and they run screaming from me like I’m brandishing a hot poker at them instead of a hairbrush. I grab for a warm washcloth to fix a pudding smeared face and the screams might make you think I’m wiping them down with acid. I suggest that perhaps they might want to change the shirt they’ve been wearing for a week solid and it’s greeted with a befuddled look, shrugged shoulders and a “NothankyoumomI’mcomfy.”

In short? I’m pretty much on my own here. I don’t even have a frame of reference for what is trendy or hip or even socially acceptable any more, so honestly, I don’t know how many people are going to get squeamish over what I’m about to say.

…Which is this…

I haven’t used shampoo in two and a half years. Yes. That is my beauty tip. No shampoo. (I can hear you now, “…And you’re surprised your boys are gross?”)  Obviously there’s a bit more to it or everybody would be doin’ it, right?

Here’s a little history. After I had my youngest son a little over nine years ago, I felt perpetually rumpled. I had just given birth to my fifth child in eight years. Translation: I was lumpy and hormonal. Translation of the translation: out of shape, shedding hair like mad and had spotty skin. The hair that remained attached to my head was scarcely behaving better than the stuff that fell out in handfuls in the shower/on my pillow/standing still. It was cottony looking, dry and my scalp itched like mad. (Boy, do I sound like I was a looker or WHAT?!?)

I embarked on a path that seemed like a good idea to clear up my lumpybumpy body, skin and hair problems. I started buying expensive creams and shampoos from the salon. And that? Well, it didn’t work and it left me with bottles and pots and jars and squeeze tubes of things that were disgustingly expensive and useless. Then I tried all-natural shampoos/conditioners/beauty products. That didn’t work at all either. And the blue aloe mud bug organic herbal tinctures and shampoos and salves and whatnot were even more expensive than the professional products.

About five and a half years ago, my bathroom closet was overflowing with what amounted to more than a car payment’s worth of things I’d never use again. As a last ditch effort, I turned to the internet and googled a string of keywords that sounded like the punchline in a fairy tale:

“Straw, Hair, Pimples, Balding, Magic Shampoo, Smooth, HELP”

Rumpelstiltskin didn’t show up, but I got a list of websites that said, “No Poo”. “But I’m not constipated, my hair just looks like cotton balls!” thought I, until I read a little further. These blogs were all talking about giving up shampoo and solving their hair problems. “Er, okay. Whatever.” But I was desperate enough at that point to keep reading.

Over the next couple of weeks, I tried the baking soda/vinegar solution that many no-poo-ers recommended. That worked for a while, but left my hair feeling sticky. My husband had sniffed my hair when I got out of the shower and told me I smelled like a pickle. (From him, that’s a compliment. Hubby loves pickles.) I, on the other hand, missed the pretty smells of shampoo.

I tried Wen by Chaz Dean because I saw the commercial on television and any guy who can toss his hair like the Breck girl seems like a pretty solid authority on silky hair. The problem there was that it was insanely expensive and I had long hair. I knew it wasn’t a tenable long term solution and I was only feeling so-so about the results so it was tough to justify the cost.

I turned back to the omniscient interwebs for help and discovered yet another no-shampoo group who was less intestinally know as the co-only (short for conditioner only) crowd. The long and short of co-only is that you only wash your hair with conditioner. Again, there’s a little more to it. You can’t just pick any old conditioner; it must be a silicone-free conditioner to keep from weighing your hair down. There’s good news, though. ANYTHING in the Suave Naturals line is silicone free. In other words, one of the cheapest conditioners out there is perfect for the job, and it’s a good thing, too, because co-only washing consists of massaging palms-ful of conditioner in your hair and scalp and letting it stay there (preferably under a shower cap) while you complete the rest of your shower then rinsing it out.

In October of 2010, I tried it. I didn’t really have any great expectations. I figured I’d get out of the shower and find my hair lank and greasy and my scalp itchy. “This is it,” I told myself, “If this doesn’t work, I’ll just cut my hair short and go back to using shampoo.” I was shocked to find it was the opposite. My hair felt as smooth as silk and not weighed down in the least bit. For the first time in almost a decade, my scalp didn’t itch to the point where I felt like clawing it off. And ladies? When I tell you my hair looked good, I mean it looked goooooooooooood. As in it behaved and did what I wanted it to when I wanted it to do it with little effort and almost no product and smelled pretty to boot.

The next time I went to my hairdresser, I screwed my courage to the sticking point and confessed what I was doing. She said, “Wow! Are you kidding? Your hair looks great. I’ll have to tell some of my other clients about this.” I haven’t looked back from that point on and I’ve been conditioner only washing for four and a half years now. IMPORTANT UPDATE: My hairdresser has gone on to recommend this to many of her clients and they have reported back with great results.

How I gave up shampoo and made my hair better!

I wouldn’t yank your leg on this, folks. It truly has been the holy grail for me. When I gave up shampoo, it didn’t just clear up my hair problems, it eliminated my skin problems completely. The pimples and acne that I had been blaming on my poor choice in beauty products and/or hormones went away almost overnight.

What I learned AFTER finding what worked for me was that shampoo was stripping the natural, protective oils from my hair and scalp and face (by virtue of its proximity to my hair- thank heavens). In order to make my skin and hair behave after doing that, I had to replace what I could with conditioner in my hair and lotions on my face. For whatever reasons, my fish-belly pale skin was too sensitive for this routine. Eliminating the shampoo/conditioner cycle did the job for me.

Is this a solution for everyone? Maybe, maybe not. Some people have reported an adjustment period where their hair  and skin acted like a petulant, oily child for a week or a month or so before becoming bouncin’ and behavin’. I had zero funky down time with my hair when I switched to conditioner only. In the interest of full disclosure, I have never in life been a wash-my-hair-every-day kind of girl. The only time I’ve washed my hair two days in a row is after exceptionally sweaty gardening excursions or after a child threw up in it or used my hair as a napkin or -worse- a hanky. Oh, come on… you KNOW it’s bound to happen with five kids, right?

How I gave up shampoo and made my hair better!

Here’s my point. It’s worth a try if you’re frustrated with how your hair is treating you or horrified by the amount of money you have to spend to make your hair do what you want it to do. Let me break down the specifics on how I conditioner only wash my hair.

How to Conditioner-Only Wash Hair:

  1. Wet your hair thoroughly in the shower, massaging your scalp.
  2. Squirt a palmful of silicone-free conditioner into your hand and massage it into your scalp and the hair near it.
  3. Squirt another palmful of silicone-free conditioner into your hand and massage it into the rest of your hair. Repeat this until all of your hair is saturated with the conditioner. If your hair is thick and lower-mid back length like mine, you’ll need about 4 palms-ful to coat your hair and scalp.
  4. Pile your hair on your head to keep it out of the shower stream. If you have one, put a cheap-o shower cap on to keep the conditioner from rinsing away.
  5. Complete whatever else you need to in the shower; wash your bod, shave, whatever.
  6. Add a splash of water to your hair and scrub your scalp again, then rinse your hair fully.
  7. Dry/Style/Whatever your hair as usual. For me, most often this means blow-drying my bangs so they don’t lay funny and letting the rest of my hair do whatever it wants. This is what works best for me!
  8. Do this two to three times a week. Unless you’re working out HARD daily or having someone wipe boogers in your hair, this should be sufficient.


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How I gave up shampoo and made my hair better!

I’m feeling a little sheepish about even bringing this up here, so help a gal out. What do you think? Am I nuts? Would you ever try it? Do you want to sniff my hair to verify I don’t smell like a fryolator before giving it a shot or is this just completely off the table for you? Talk to me!

How I gave up shampoo and made my hair better!

Connect with Foodie with Family

facebook | pinterest | instagram

twitter | G+

Update: This post was originally published February 15th, 2013. Because it has been more than two years since publication and because I am still going co-washing strong, I wanted to bring it back to the front for the benefit of those who may not have seen it yet. The number of people for whom this has made a huge difference -as evidenced by the comments below- is pretty awesome.


  1. Stacie says

    I tried this for the first time last night and my hair looks and feels so great! I too thought my hair would look like an awful greasy mess but it looks better than when I wash with shampoo. Took FOREVER to dry but my hair root to tip looks so healthy and not at all dried out like it used to.

  2. says

    I am soooo excited to try this!! I was wondering what I could do for healthier hair after my stylist telling me I had very dry hair due to daily washing..I do know we are not supposed to wash our hair daily but I just could not imagine not washing it as I have a busy life and four kids which is usually a mess by the next morning, with food or something or another in it just like yourself lol!! And then this morning in the shower I thought “why not only use conditioner and no shampoo?” I decided to google it first and I am so EXCITED to have found your post and positive outcome!! I will stopping at the store today and purchase silicone free shampoo…can’t wait!!!!!!

      • Rachel says

        You are a fantastic writer I giggled at the funny bits and then jumped in the shower only conditioner washed my hair and I don’t like to blow my own trumpet but it looks pretty great x

  3. Jennifer says

    I’m going to give this a shot again. I have thick curly hair, and it hates a lot of shampoos and things. I color treat too, so I knew the baking soda/acid combo would be a no go. Have tried this in brief spurts, but have never gone more than 1 “wash” in a row.

    It makes perfect sense…shampoos strip the oils, then our scalps work overtime to remoisturize, which makes us oily, which makes us say oh yuck, and shampoo again, just making it worse. It ends up the same with face and body washing too. I only have three boys, but I get you with the gross things that happen!

    • Brianna says


      I have thick curly hair too and I haven’t used shampoo on my hair in 5 years! I’ve found d that using a regular silicone-free conditioner doesn’t work for this washing method, but I HIGHLY recommend a product called Renpure cleansing conditioner (I get it at target). I “wash” my hair with it every other day and it has never looked better! For styling I use Shea moisture curling gel soufflé (also at target) and the curl definition & hold is amazing. I hope you don’t find this to be unsolicited information, but as someone who has struggled with thick curly hair for so long, I had to share.

  4. Sue Bunton says

    I would like to suggest co-washing to my hubby who has rosacea and itchy, picky skin. My concern is that he uses a paste (Paul Mitchell Lab) on his hair after showering to slick it back. Do you think he should stop doing that too?

    • says

      Hey Sue-
      I am not personally familiar with that product and I’m not a hairdresser, so keep that in mind as I say that if I were him and having a persistent skin issue, I’d chuck all the products I HAD been using and try from ground zero to clear things up. I say that because that’s pretty much what I did :D

  5. LB says

    My son does this. Actually he probably doesn’t even use conditioner but his hair is curly and he likes it better this way. My hair is very straight and I don’t know what would happen if I tried it. Plus I exercise a lot so I’m always sweaty. Who knows, maybe I’ll give it a shot.

  6. Abby says

    Yep, I’m going to try this… I must say even in the picture your hair just LOOKS clean, there’s no guessing and so shiny too. Really like the curly hair picture to ! Thanks so much for revisiting this post.

  7. says

    What a fun, fun, fun read, and your hair looks beautiful!!! I just love this idea and actually have Sauve conditioner in my shower right now. I’m going to try this tomorrow and am super excited about it! I too have tried Wen but don’t buy it anymore because it’s too darned expensive. I’ll bet this is just as good and is probably what Chaz uses in his bottles too. LOL

  8. says

    Umm, your post is cracking me up! It is all true. I have had similar issues and zero results with all the spendy products. I’ve reduced my hair washing down to once maybe twice per week. I’m going to give this a try and give up shampoo all together! Thanks for sharing your tips :) Pinning, pinning, pinning!

  9. Jan R says

    I have used conditioner only for more than 15 years. When I tell women this I can almost hear a “gasp”. I use all brands of conditioners, so the “silicone” doesn’t matter. I have been looking for the hydration ones lately. I use a dab of argon oil also before blow drying. I wash (co-only) everyday.

  10. says

    I have stopped using shampoo and conditioner for about five years now. My hair is thicker and softer. What I use on my hair is the same bath bar I use on my body.

    I still have build up problems. I washed my hair twice last year with shampoo to try and get rid of the build up, and thought all my hair was falling out for three months after! I am generally very allergic to suave shampoos, but will try the conditioner washing. Who knows! It might be just the answer I am looking for!

    Thank you for sharing, and making it a fun read!

  11. Beth in Iowa says

    I too have become a co-wash only person. I have very thick, very curly hair that hangs about the middle of my back. I have been using conditioner only for about 2 yrs now and have not looked back – I also use the Suave products and have very little need to put much of anything else in my hair to tame and control the crazy curls. I also just let it air dry. The $$ saved is AMAZING!! Give it try, you will not be disappointed!!

  12. Erika says

    I”ve always been scared to try this, but might give it shot. I trust your opinion much more than other posts I’ve seen about this :) And bonus…Suave is such an affordable brand!!

    You have beautiful hair!

  13. says

    Wow, I’ll be trying this – have had problems with my hair and scalp for years and nothing helps – I’ve been attributing my hair loss to my low thyroid, which is probably partially true, but am willing to try most anything at this point

  14. Heather says

    I recently started having nightmarish dry/flaky scalp issues, and decided that the only solution was to just stop shampooing my hair. I had tried the baking soda/vinegar combo, sulfate-free shampoos, witchcraft, etc. Nothing was helping. But conditioner only seems to be working thus far. I have really thick, wavy, reddish hair, so it requires a lot of conditioner. But if it’s working then I’m in! Thanks so much for the article, it’s comforting to know that I’m not alone!

  15. Brenda says

    I rarely use shampoo on my hair during cool weather, but working in a commercial kitchen during the summer, I have to shampoo every now and then. I found that my mature (graying) colored hair responds much better with conditioner only.
    My question to you is….have you ever tried “oil pulling” for your teeth? People think I am crazy, but this is truly wonderful! A spoon of coconut oil swirled in your mouth each morning and my teeth and gums are so much more healthy and all without toothpaste! Just wanted to give you a heads up!

  16. says

    OK! You are awesome. My head, scalp, brain has been itching for 2 years. I’ve been using an (expensive) natural, peppermint-oil infused shampoo to help remedy this.

    It only helps temporarily….. then the itching returns. No, I don’t have lice.

    I am all over this. Sign me up for the co-only crowd!

  17. Erika says

    I’ve tried this for about 3 weeks, and it works! I wouldn’t say my hair is drastically different, but I do think it is softer and a little shinier.
    My favorite part? $1.00 bottle of Juicy Green Apple Suave compared to the $20+/- dollar of Aveda!!! :) :) My pocketbook certainly likes this method.
    My scalp issues aren’t any better or any worse…I imagine I really need to find a truly fragrance free version, but I just love that juicy green apple smell.
    I’m amazed that my hair feels just as clean – it doesn’t even feel like there’s any residue.
    Thanks for sharing your experience; for some reason I trusted you over a lot of the beauty bloggers that talk about this…I always trust a great cook! lol

  18. says

    I have to say that I am going through same feelings as yours. I’ve tried many expensive as well as organic shampoos, I’ve also tried some steam therapy but none of them worked effectively. Thank God, I am reading your article. I am going to try this and will get back to you with results!

    BTW you are looking awesome with your hair in second last image.

  19. Mandi says

    I have been reading a lot about the “no poo” method and was looking into trying the baking soda/ACV routine with my hair, but I may start out with the co-only first.

    My hair is shoulder length and it is dry, brittle, and riddled with split ends because I blow dry it, flat iron it, and curl it. I shampoo/condition 3-4x/week. My hair doesn’t have a lot of volume unless I curl it and tease it. When I flat iron it, it is pretty straight. It doesn’t get greasy until day 2 of not washing. When I blow dry, it gets really frizzy. But I have to blow dry, if I air dry, the top part frizzes and kinks like crazy and the ends curl up like crazy! Do you think the co-only method would work for me? I just worry about it weighing down my hair and making my ends crunchier than they already are :(

    • says

      My best advice is to try it out, Mandi. I’m not a hairdresser, so I have no special claim to knowledge other than that it worked for me!

  20. unop says

    I have hair down to the middle of my back and have cut down to washing every other day. I use the Somaluxe Exotic Conditioner from just below my neckline and down through the ends. It rinses out nicely and I can comb through my hair nicely (I use a wide tooth comb and the “wetbrush”). I love that it has argan oil already in it, so I dont have to spend so much money buying an extra argan oil!

  21. Ashley says

    Hi I have use your co-only idea for the first time and it totally didnt worked for me at all instead my hair are now more dry even the hair on my scalp beause I put the conditioner on my sclap as you said and I have a little dandruff and I have curly hair.So my question is that shold I try it again or leave it.Thank you.


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