Facebook fans: You spoke and I listened! Here is the first in our series of crunchy (read: natural or low-effort) beauty tips. It may sound crazy to recommend Conditioner Only Washing (No Shampoo) and 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.
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.
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?
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:
- Wet your hair thoroughly in the shower, massaging your scalp.
- Squirt a palmful of silicone-free conditioner into your hand and massage it into your scalp and the hair near it.
- 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.
- 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.
- Complete whatever else you need to in the shower; wash your bod, shave, whatever.
- Add a splash of water to your hair and scrub your scalp again, then rinse your hair fully.
- 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!
- 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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Use this for Conditioner Only Washing (No Shampoo):
- Suave Naturals Coconut Conditioner (This 6 pack is a “Subscribe and Save” option on Amazon, meaning they automatically ship to you every month, two months, three months, or however often you specify!)
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!
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.
I have naturally curly dry frizzy hair and when i started this method it was worse than straw! I will never use shampoo again. Its just not necessary. Your hair doesnt get that dirty that we have to use soap on it anyways! This method saved my hair. 360 degree turn around. Dont doubt it, it works like a charm. If you have dry frizzy unmanageable hair? You cant go wrong with this method. Want the most beautiful hair youve ever had? This will do it for you.
Hey Rachel! I’m so glad you let me know that it worked out well for you!! I still use the method, too!
does this work for curly hair as well?
Hi Kayden- I don’t have curly hair, so unfortunately, I’m not going to be much help as the voice of experience. If you scroll through the comments, there may be some curly haired commenters!
Mindy Kelly says
Love to try it.
Dr. Mark E Thompson says
Thank you for sharing. As I guy I appreciate the validation for no conditioner. This one change is what has led me to FINALLY do some more than a buzz cut – and I’m 48!
I know its been a while since this was posted *longerthanawhile* but i feel like you were speaking to me personally. My hair has been suffering for the past few years, i have PCOS and it causes my hair to fall out, and 4 kids, the last 2 were boys, which utterly distroyed me… so i totally get the nothanksmomimcomfy…on top of that i have some psoriasis on my scalp, and the itch can be UNBEARABLE. i bought a bottle of suave naturals conditioner today, and wil be going poo-less for a while…. wish me luck!
<3 your newest fangirl
Hi Sherry!!! I’m so hopeful this will work for you like it did for me! Thanks for getting in touch!
Kathy Harris says
I don’t understand how your hair or scalp could possibly be clean by “washing ” with conditioner only
It doesn’t make sense until you try it, but it really does work when done with the right conditioner. A deep conditioner would not be appropriate and would weigh your hair down, but a silicone-free, lighter conditioner seems to dissolve any grease on your hair/scalp and carry away any dirt. It’s made to rinse cleanly. It wouldn’t hurt anything to try. 🙂
I use a lot of hairspray, a lot.
Will conditioner remove all the week’s amount of hairspray?
Hi Janice- I don’t honestly know because I only use hairspray about 6 times a year. 🙂 Give it a go and please let me know how it works for you!
I thought I was the only one who knew this secret about Suave. I tell everyone and few believe me. I too went the Wen Way but it was too expensive. I hit on the Suave after three different tries with conditioners, and have been doing this for 3 years now. My very fine blonde hair, which never grew before, is now down to my waistline. I love my hair. Before this I hated it all my life, always chopping it off. It is silky and shiny and smells great! I do a vinegar rinse after the last of the conditioner is out – 1 tablespoon in a quart of water. As well, I added 100 strokes with a board hair brush before washing. My scalp gets plenty of massaging now, and my hair is actually a proud accessory now instead of a curse.
So don’t be afraid to try this if you have fine or oily hair – mine is the oiliest hair ever. This works. You will love your hair, maybe for the first time in your life.
I actually did a similar experiment several years ago, except I also went to only using hot water to bathe- no soap. I found that soaps dried out my skin no matter what I did or tried (hence getting off shampoo as well), and it seemed like the more I used soap, the more deodorant I had to use in the long run. After about two weeks, I was confident. I stopped using deodorant, soap, and shampoo. I’d never felt better. I had no need for any of them. I did this for almost a year before starting nursing school, and only went back to using shampoo and soaps because I missed the pretty smells that I couldn’t get with lotion or perfume anymore because of our “no scent product” standards. But I sure miss it!
I hear ya, Kaiti!
Thank you for writing this! My skin is exceptionally dry. I have to wash my face with oil or I break out, and I smother my skin in lotion several times an hour. I have long hair, so I can’t exactly smother my scalp with lotion. Over the past decade or so I have been highly tempted to shave it all off, it has been irritating me so much. I tried washing with baking soda and vinegar. My hair became like straw, and it didn’t help my scalp. At times I have alternated between washing with shampoo and conditioner once a week, and just conditioner the second time. Even expensive moisturizing shampoos irritate my scalp. Your post has encouraged me to try only using conditioner for every hair wash. Hope it helps.
Wonderful post! I started co-washing my fine, curly hair three weeks ago. I was skeptical on the second day because every little fly away was straight in the air! After the fourth day, everything laid flat and felt soft from the inside out. I brush the conditioner through with a comb then add leave-in but that’s due to the stress of dying my hair. Never would have thought to skip the shampoo!
Louise Anderson says
You are right, my hair is frizzy near the sea and i use conditioner most of the time.
I think as soon as my shampoo is finish I’m not going to buy again.
I also use conditioner as stasoft and my pillows and towels and washing so much softer
I like using Silk 18 conditioner from Maple Holistics.
Anne Reilly says
I will definitely be trying this! After years of trying everything, expensive, inexpensive, leave-ins and anything in between so I could use something simple, I have color treated, damaged, thick, wavy hair and I’m a sauve user already so this will be easy. I just want my hair to look shiny and healthy again! Thank you for sharing this and keeping it going for so long so I could find it.
Awesome, Anne! I hope it works great for you!
MaryAnn V Wik says
I have tried the DevaCurl No-poo… but I did not know about this and very happy to read this article. I will try the conditioner… I know when i was using the Deva Curl I liked it, recommened by a beautician I used before we moved. It cannot hurt to try it and yes, like you , I have purchased many products trying to find the right product to make my hair feel good… I have naturally wavy, dry hair and long so it needs alot of moisture. The funny thing is , when i feel best is when I flat iron it… and add all the products … I do have a question… do you need to wash it two to three times a week? I usually do wash it 2 x a week…hope that does not sound gross but I’m a senior (oh gads) … at 59 yrs old… I used to do daycare, I raised my children but I do raise my dogs and do dog showing…so it is nice to know this will help me look nice in photos… Thanks you so much…love your photos and picture of your family .. Thank you MaryAnn of Playful Papillons 🙂
You definitely do not need to wash three times a week if your hair is dry! Try it with twice and see how you like it. I think it’s all about finding what works best for your own hair. 🙂 Thanks for being so sweet, MaryAnn.
I’ll give it a try the itching thing has always been a problem so I’m willing to do so thank you for your post Robert. PS I’m a real man
I have just started doing this so I searched online to see if anyone else was doing it and found this blog. I’ve only been doing it for first a month but what a difference in my hair! I’ll never go back to shampoo!! Great blog story!
Rebecca, not even sure if you are still doing this, but worth a shot! So I have been Co-only for about 4 yrs and have loved it!! I got help from your post, but sadly they do not make Sauve Naturals anymore? and went back to shampoo/cons and I am not liking it. But I am having a hard time finding g something different or even what other conditioners work? I hope you can help!!!
Nancy Ena Randall says
I am definitely going to give it a shot. Actually makes great common sense. This from a retired RN will a
Bachelor of Science in Nursing. So feel secure that a very educated woman agrees with you.
Thanks, Nancy! I hope it works as well for you as it has for me!
Thank you for this! It was exactly what I needed to hear to give me to confidence to go ahead with my cowashing experiment.
Excellent! Best of luck, Julie!