The no-poo and low-poo hair washing methods have changed the shampoo and conditioner industry landscape. These methods that promote alternative hair washing methods in lieu of commercial shampoos has actually changed the way shampoo companies market their products. What is no-poo and low-poo, and why are these methods so important for us? Should you consider switching up your washing regimen?
When it comes to determining what you should use if you’re considering the no-poo or low poo hair cleansing methods, it’s important to step back a bit and take a journey into...
Traditional, Commercial Shampoos Hurt Our Hair
Some of us melanin-blessed gods and goddesses grew up in worlds where we were the only kids with hair that looked like ours. In a sea of one hair type, we were the only ones sporting hair that twisted and turned and went up and out and around and seemed to have a life of its own. One hair type? Nah...we frequently had three or four hair types on a single head.
Growing up in worlds like that, some of us were simply out of luck when it came to shampoos. Nearly every shampoo in our local stores was made for people who were trying to get oil out of their hair. The commercials touting those shampoos shouted, “Get rid of all of that oil and everything that weighs down your hair so that your hair is full of body like mine!!”
But...we were trying to keep oil and moisture in! When we bought shampoos made for other hair types, they dried out our hair. Those shampoos were formulated for people who were trying to remove excess oil so that their hair could have body. When we put that shampoo on our tender coils and kinks, we sucked the ever living life out of the little oil and moisture that our hair had managed to hold onto. When we used “black” shampoos that promoted moisture, they would make our hair look good for a while before drying it out.
What some of us discovered, however, was that when we used conditioner on our hair, it seemed to spring back to life. Suddenly, our hair felt lush, rich and exquisitely soft to the touch. The conditioner bottle always had a warning on it, though: “Make sure to fully rinse conditioner out of your hair in order to prevent damage.” And we’d think, “But it feels so nice! I wish we could leave the conditioner in our hair always!” And then we’d sigh, rinse it out and struggle to replace the moisture…!
In the early 2000s, women on sites like blackhairmedia.com, curlynicki.com and naturallycurly.com were swapping info with fellow forum members about how amazing their hair looked when they used conditioners only to cleanse their hair. And...it was ok! Their hair didn’t explode like the warning on the conditioner bottle implied. The advent of Lorraine Massey’s “Curly Girl Method” made it mainstream official: women with kinky, curly or coiled hair needed to wash their hair differently from people with straight hair.
Why Is Traditional, Commercial Shampoo a No-no?
Commercial shampoos contain surfactants and sulphates, and those chemicals are the ingredients that cause the damage.
- Sulfates are put into shampoos because they’re cleansers, getting rid of dead skin cells and dirt deposits. Unfortunately, they also strip away moisture and oils from the strands and scalp, making hair dry, brittle and prone to breakage.
- Surfactants in shampoos like SLS, ALS and SLES remove oils from the hair while washing it. This is great for people with stringy, oily hair and not so great for people with dry, curly hair, especially those with porous curly hair. Surfactants are difficult to rinse out of curly hair, which is why our hair always felt dry and broke easily after we used shampoo, even shampoo that was apparently formulated for “dry” hair. We needed to find a way to clean our hair without these additives.
Note: Um, surfactants can also be good. Before you bring out the pitchforks, they’re only great when they’re the types used in conditioners. The surfactants found in conditioners are Behentrimonium methosulfate, stearamidopropyl and Behentrimonium chloride. These surfactants deposit necessary oils onto the hair while softening the hair and smoothing the cuticle.
What is No-Poo?
The term “no-poo” means washing your hair with “NO shamPOO.” Some people use conditioners to wash their hair instead, while others use natural oils and cleaners like cornstarch and baking soda, and still others just use water. For many women of color with kinky or curly hair, co-washing is the preferred no-poo method. The right conditioners cleanse hair, removing dirt and grime while holding in moisture.
How to Co-Wash
Co-washing simply means that you wash your hair with conditioner - “COnditioner WASH”.
When the co-wash trend started, people only had conditioners as co-wash options. While many still do, there are tons of specially formulated co-wash cleansers that you can purchase. It’s completely up to you.
- To co-wash, simply take a generous amount of conditioner (or your specially-formulated co-wash product), and gently massage it into your scalp and hair like you’re “shampooing” your hair, removing all the dirt, grime and buildup. Rinse it out, and apply more conditioner that you can either rinse out or leave in.
- Look for a conditioner that’s loaded with emollients like rich nut butters and vegetable oils. Emollients are lubricants that give curly hair that all-important slip that smoothes the cuticle and makes detangling easier.
- Make sure the conditioners you choose contain humectants like honey, panthenol and vegetable glycerin, the critical ingredients that keep moisture in the hair by absorbing water.
- Every few washes, use a clarifying rinse every few washes or so to make sure to remove any buildup that can weigh down your hair and eliminate shine. A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (commonly referred to as “ACV” on social media sites and forums) mixed with 4 cups of water is an excellent clarifying rinse that not only removes any conditioner buildup but also seals your hair cuticles so that the moisture is locked in. Win!
What is Low-Poo?
The low-poo method involves using a little sulfate/surfactant-free shampoo to gently cleanse the hair. Some people apply conditioner to their hair before cleansing to provide an extra level of protection. The low-poo method is for people who feel that their hair accumulates oil and other types of buildup quickly.
How to Low-Poo
- Choose a special lo-poo shampoo like Devacurl Low-Poo shampoo and rinse it through your hair, following up with a conditioner.
- If you don’t have access to a specific lo-poo shampoo, choose a sulfate/surfactant-free shampoo. Coat your hair with conditioner before applying the shampoo if you wish. Rinse thoroughly, and follow everything up with your favorite conditioner.
Which Should You Choose?
Choosing between the low-poo and no-poo method is a personal choice. There are times when your hair will need more consistent conditioning, while there are other times when the low-poo method makes more sense. You know your hair best, so try out both methods at different times, You’ll know it’s working when you pass a mirror one day, take a look at your flawless skin and healthy, moisturized hair, and nod appreciatively
Choosing between the low-poo and no-poo method is a personal choice. There are times when your hair will need more consistent conditioning, while there are other times when the low-poo method makes more sense. You know your hair best, so try out both methods at different times, You’ll know it’s working when you pass a mirror one day, take a look at your flawless skin and healthy, moisturized hair, and nod appreciatively .