no-‘poo troubleshooting & common questions


UPDATE 3/20/2019 – This 6 year old post is getting a ton of traffic lately, so it’s important I disclose that I DO NOT RECOMMEND BAKING SODA & VINEGAR as a haircare routine anymore. If you’re looking for a “cleaner” shampoo, you can choose anything on the “green” scale from Shea Moisture to Josh Rosebrook, to my personal favorite – CALIA! Find me on IG @alexraye_ae if you have any questions!

welcome back to NO-‘POO WEEK! today is the last day already. can you believe it?! and sorry it’s so late. i literally just back to my hotel room from orientation for my new job 🙂 woohoo! long day!

well, by the volume of questions i get from y’all, this post is WAY overdue. THIS POST IS VERY LONG, but hopefully this will be a holy grail for no-‘poo problems & questions! i already have a post for things you need to know before you go no-‘poo that you should check out, if you haven’t already!

the ultimate no-'poo troubleshooting guide (& with common questions)

no-‘poo can be pretty tricky. it’s not a one-size fits all type deal. there are different things different people experience. so what happens when something goes wrong?

i’ve come up with a list of the most common no-‘poo problems (& other common questions below).

common problems

A LOT of problems can be avoided by clarifying before your switch, avoiding typical styling products (heavy cream, gels, hairspray, etc) while no-poo, and avoiding heat (even hot showers. heat damage is heat damage,  even if it’s just water).
also,  like I’ve stressed before, make sure you’re deep conditioning.

– if you’re in the transition period, stick with it! your scalp will calm down.
– invest in a natural bristle brush (like boar). it’ll help pull the oils from your scalp down the length of your hair. keep it clean!
– use a safe dry shampoo sparingly
– try different hair styles to minimize the greaseball look (scarves, braids, etc)

– have you clarified? (#6)
– if you’re using castile soap with hard water- the castile soap WILL react to the minerals in hard water and leave a soap scum film on your hair. that’s the waxy/heavy/gunky/wet-ish feeling you have. double rinse with your acv mix. don’t up the ratio. put it where the waxy feeling is (or all over), let it sit a few mins, rinse & repeat. castile soap NEEDS to be mixed with (and sometimes rinsed out with) DISTILLED water
– if you’re in the transition period- it might be product buildup, especially if you used a lot of product before your switch (or if you still are). try reclarifying & using a natural bristle brush (like boar) to help slough it off
– invest in a natural bristle brush to help get the gunk off while you’re transitioning. and be sure to clean it!
– invest in a shower head filter
– if you’re not using castile soap and you’re thru the transition period, it could be a buildup of sebum. whip 1 large egg yolk into a cup of cool water. use that mix on wet hair from root to tip of hair in the shower. let sit for a few minutes, and rinse out with cool water. voila! (don’t use hot water unless you wanna pick scrambled eggs out of your hair, haha)
– switch to another no-‘poo alternative (more coming soon!) or go low-‘poo

clarify (#6)
– invest in a natural bristle brush to help get the gunk off. and be sure to clean it!
– try rinsing your scalp with diluted lemon juice (1/4 cup lemon juice to 1 cup water) and/or add lemon juice to your acv rinse
– you can also whip 1 large egg yolk into a cup of cool water. use that mix on wet hair from root to tip of hair in the shower. let sit for a few minutes, and rinse out with cool water
– rub your scalp gently with warm water only in between wash days

– lessen the amount of baking soda/castile soap in your mix OR stop using bs/castile soap completely.
– wash less often
– add a moisturizing oil (argan, sunflower, sweet almond, avocado, etc.), raw honey, or organic aloe vera to your shampoo mix
– deep condition often . this could mean every time you wash, or every 4 times you wash. listen to your hair. if it’s dry, condition it! if it’s okay, don’t worry about it!
– switch to a new method like low-‘poo, a no-‘poo alternative (like this awesome clay shampoo!), or use water only
– use a pinky nail’s worth or less of pure, unrefined coconut oil on your air-dried hair (can be used every day)
– combo wash/condition your hair with plain egg yolks (however many you need to cover your hair). let it sit for 15-20 minutes and thoroughly rinse out with cool water

– lessen the amount of baking soda/castile soap in your mix OR choose to stop using BS/castile soap completely (and switch to a low-poo or clay shampoo).
– add moisturizing oils to your shampoo mix, like argan, sunflower, sweet almond, avocado, etc.
– add a few drops of tea tree oil to your shampoo mix
– use the acv rinse on your scalp
– moisturize your scalp with pure, organic aloe vera juice/gel (washes out with just water)

– your mixes are likely too strong. dilute them.
– make sure your scalp is moisturized.
– use pure, organic aloe vera directly on your scalp. apply to dry  hair, leave on for 15-20 minutes and rinse out with cool water. it’ll keep it moisturize and cut down on the itch! yay!
– try rinsing with water periodically between wash days. it’ll help move the sebum and cut down the itch.

– make sure it’s not product buildup trying to slough off. be sure to clarify before your switch.
– an egg yolk mask, left on for 15-20 mins, then rinsed out well in cool water, and followed by an all-over acv rinse will boost shine.
– use a pinky nails worth or less (I use a pinky nail’s worth and I have longer hair) of organic, unrefined coconut oil on your hair daily or every few days. *a little goes a LONG, long way!!* it’ll not only add shine, but moisturize your hair better than any other oil.
– use a pump or less (I use a pump for my longer hair) of argan oil (or another lighter, moisturizing oil) on your hair every few days. again, a little goes a LONG way. for no-‘poo-ers, less is more when dealing with oils! you can always put more on the next day, rather than struggle with trying to get too much oil back out.
– pure, organic aloe vera gel/juice can be used plain as a hair mask. it’ll add shine and deep condition

– make sure you’re not thinking you’re losing more hair since you’re washing and brushing less often. it’s normal to lose about 100 hairs a day… so if you wash every week, plan to lose 700.
– if you’re losing hair, STOP what you’re doing. please stop. either your hair isn’t healthy enough or something in your routine isn’t correct. ask for help 🙂

– if you didn’t have tangly hair before, it’s most likely a ph balance problem….(excluding bed head, etc)
– make sure the tangles aren’t from your hair shaft sticking out like shingles and getting tangled. that’s caused by too much baking soda or not using an acidic rinse after the baking soda. the ph of baking soda is very different from hairs and causes the follicles to stand on end. the acv rinse will close them back up and smooth them out.
– brush with a natural bristle brush (like boar). it’ll help smooth your hair and create less tangles
– remember to get tangles out with your fingers first. only use a wide tooth comb when absolutely necessary. and never use a paddle hair brush with plastic or metal bristles.
– pull your hair up/back/in a braid at night. this will drastically cut down tangles and bed head

– this isn’t going to be what you want to hear…. you gotta cut ’em off. that’s it. i’m sorry! i know it SUCKS. there is NO magical split end remedy for natural hair. and if you don’t cut them off, they’ll continue to split up the length of your hair. you don’t want that!

common no-'poo questions

how long does it take to transition?

ok friends. I’m not going to sugar coat this. it completely depends on what else you’re doing with your hair, how often you were washing before, etc. if you were an everyday washer, your transition will take weeks…like 2 to 6 weeks. maybe more if you’re still using heat and other products. if you already wash every few days or every week, your transition should be relatively smooth once you clarify. maybe a couple weeks, tops.
the transition can be long and ugly. but the payoff is outstanding. try to keep chugging along and don’t give up. look to others for motivation/inspiration, ask questions, check the no-poo motivation series (once it’s posted), etc. remember you’re not the only one that’s gonna have dreadfully awful  hair days. but you’re doing something amazing for your hair and body. AND when people start complimenting you on your hair and asking what shampoo you use, you can proudly say “this is my natural hair!” it’s a great feeling!

should i use the baking soda/acv method, castile soap, no-‘poo alternative or low-‘poo?

i get asked this all.the.time! honestly guys, it’s up to you, and how much damage your hair has suffered. if your hair is breaking and splitting with regular shampoos and conditioners, you should go low-poo, or use a no-poo alternative like honey, aloe vera, and/or coconut milk. all are very gentle and will help restore your hair.
if your hair is healthier, a castile soap or baking soda (both always with acv) will work.
check out THIS post for a guide on which method to use 🙂
no matter which method, remember your end goal is to go as long as possible without washing. once they learn how to take care of themselves, your scalp & hair will thank you by being beautiful, healthy, & strong!

can i no-‘poo with dyed/permed hair?

can you switch to no-poo? of course! my hair used to be dyed about every 6 weeks or something horrid like that when i first switched. it takes some time for your hair get some moisture and strength back, but it’s very doable! if you choose no-poo, keep in mind it will drain the dye from your hair faster than normal. if you opt for a no-poo alternative or going water-only, your hair (and the color) will be perfectly fine.
as far as dying/perming while no-poo… i will tell you very honestly, the damage you’ll do from those processes will be very apparent since your hair will no longer be coated in silicones.  there are more natural ways to dye hair (like this) you can try instead 🙂 as always, it’s up to you! it’s your hair!

how often should i wash?

when you first start, you should try to go absolutely as long as possibly between washes. go until you feel like your scalp is dripping oil (gross, but great!). some people start at every other day and slowly let their hair adjust. that’s all fine as long as you taper off. baking soda is drying to hair, so the goal is to wash every week or less. I now wash every 2+ weeks. it’s really not gross. your hair WILL learn to take care of itself.
if you’re going low-‘poo, the transition won’t be as greasy, but you still need to wait as LONG as possible between washes.

can i get my hair wet between wash days?

water won’t hurt a thing! it might not be best to get it wet every time you shower (because water makes hair swell and it’s unnecessary stress), but the occasional water rinse really won’t hurt anything.  go for it!

what do i keep my mixes in?

when I was no-poo, I kept my mixes in little plastic squeezy bottles. since the mixes are so watery, it allowed me to put a little at a time on certain parts of my scalp, rub rub rub, and move to the next small sectin of scalp. you can also see when you’re getting low. some people mix in a cup right before the shower. you can do whatever your heart desires! well…I wouldn’t suggest a glass bottle. no one wants cut up feet.

how often should i deep condition?

that depends on your hair. if your hair is healthy, at least every two weeks (at least!). if your hair is damaged, do so more often. some people find they need to deep condition every time they wash till their hair gets healthier. just pay attention to what your hair needs. if it needs to be deep conditioned every time, then do it. if it needs it every 4 times, then do that!

how often can i use dry shampoo?

depending on what  type of hair you have, I’d say don’t use the dry shampoo more than 2 times between washes. one, because that recipe is pretty darn awesome and keeps my hair in tip top shape for about 4-7 days after I use it, but also because you’re going to have a lot of buildup when you wash again. things can get kindy funky and cakey… and your natural  bristle brush is gonna be dirty (read: duuurrrr-tayyy). just watch for buildup and use as little as possible to keep your hair lookin fresh!

can i style my hair?

of course!! with heat? not so much. i mean, you CAN… but the damage done will be more noticeable. try a no heat route (like heatless curls). if you choose to use heat, use it VERY sparingly & protect your hair.

can i use hair products? caaaaannnn…buuuut. the products will most likely contain some sort of silicone or toxic ingredient.. and the buildup will be way harder to get out. just use them sparingly IF you HAVE to. and try to make your own hair gel. if you’re completely no-‘poo, stay away from oils and silicones in treatments and products.

can i do the coconut oil mask or (insert oil name) treatment/mask?

if you’re no-‘poo, NO. if you’re low-‘poo, Yes. no-‘poo won’t be able to get the oil back out of your hair. but low-‘poo shampoos should be able to. experiment with a very small section of hair first, please!

how can i go no-‘poo if i’m an avid exerciser?

not washing your hair does NOT mean not washing your body. i still don’t understand why i get asked if i shower…haha! really guys? 😉
you can check out this post on how to control the sweaty head without stripping the natural oils on your scalp.

can kids use no-‘poo methods?

i wouldn’t suggest using the baking soda/acv routine with kids. there’s too much risk of the mixes getting in their eyes and burning like a mo-fo. please try an alternative no-‘po (like aloe vera & coconut milk or honey), or go low-‘poo with a completely organic shampoo. you can also make them water-only washers. it’s the best IMHO.
& honestly- the beauty of starting no-‘poo with kids is that their hair most likely isn’t damaged from heat tools, product overuse, and shampoo/conditioner abuse. kids will adjust very well and rather quickly. some kids will honestly only need a shampoo to get ketchup and paint out of their hair. they won’t need it for oily scalps. save them while you can! haha. my kids will definitely be water-only babies (minus the occasional wash for goopy things).

what do i do when i go get my hair cut?

such a great question!! check out this post.

how can i protect my hair from chlorine/salt water?

great question! check out this post. 

how can i make my hair not smell bad?

yet another great question!! check out this post!

some final thoughts for everyone-

you’ll learn what your hair needs as time goes on. your no-poo/low-poo routine WILL change as time goes on. but remember that YOU know your hair better than anyone else. and don’t ever hesitate to ask for advice. I know I’m extremely protective of my hair and I wouldn’t wait a second to ask for help if I thought something was wrong.

no-poo is a commitment. it’s not always easy & not it’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all type deal. it can be overwhelming. it’s okay!

ask me and others for help. you’re NOT bothering me at all. I love helping you guys! feel free to email me or message me on fb if you don’t want your questions posted.

AND lastly, if you would like to share your no-poo/low-poo journey so others may benefit, PLEASE shoot me an email . we’ll get ya all set up to guest post asap!

good luck to you all! you’ll be fine! I’m already proud of you for deciding to make the switch to less chemicals!

lemme know if there’s anything else I need to address and add to this post!! let’s make this the ultimate no-poo troubleshooting guide!!

& did i miss something? let me know below!!


and there’s always the no-‘poo resource page! 🙂


280 thoughts on “no-‘poo troubleshooting & common questions

  1. Help! I went no ‘poo on November 26th (that date is stuck in my brain) and my hair is beautifully thick and a little bit wavy, buuuut it is still greasy! I went cold turkey, reduced washing, brushed it out to spread the grease and thought I was looking after it well, apparently not. I’ve read that it can take between 6 – 9 weeks to transition but I really feel like I’m getting nowhere – should I keep going? Or should I call it quits if it hasn’t improved by the 3 month mark?

  2. I just permanently smoothen my hair few weeks ago and I really love my hair now, but when I came across your post I really want to try going no-poo.
    if i use this method will it stripped down the keratin and make my hair going back to the way it was?

  3. Help! I have thin, oily hair, and I started no-poo about 8 months ago when I realized that no matter what I did, my hair looked limp and greasy IMMEDIATELY after shampooing. I read testimonies of no-poo helping with oiliness and boosting volume, so I decided to try it, since I had nothing to lose. My hair literally could not be any worse.
    So since then I’ve been using a aloe-honey-lemon juice “shampoo”, with lavender, rosemary, and lemon essential oils (added a bit of baking soda to clarify at the beginning, but generally try to stay away from it). I got through the transition period, and everything was great! My hair felt healthy, and wouldn’t start to get oily until day 5 or 6, and then I’d do a water wash to extend a few more days. I’ve also been using a boar bristle brush, which I wash weekly.
    But lately (past month or two), my hair starts to look oily at day 2, and when I wear it down, it looks limp and flat within hours… even with dry shampoo (cornstarch). Also I have dandruff! It’s like I’m back to where I started. I don’t know what to do! I moved recently, so maybe it’s a hard water problem? I can’t think of anything else I’ve changed. I’ll get a shower head filter if I have to, but that’s my last resort.
    Also recently my hair has been smelling like campfire smoke??? Not sure if anyone’s ever had this problem before but I don’t smoke, haven’t been camping, and don’t even have a fireplace, so I don’t know what’s causing this. The only heat I use is warm water, and I’ve washed pillowcases, hats, scarves…
    Sorry for the novel, I just have a lot of problems lol
    Any suggestions greatly appreciated! ❤

    1. I’ve figured out the problem, and I think it’s my water. My parents use well water, and when I shower at their place, I don’t need anything to get my hair clean, just the water! BUT where I live, my hair NEVER gets clean no matter what I do. I’ve bought a shower head filter, I’ve tried applesauce masks, egg washes, essential oils… But my hair ALWAYS looks oily.
      So now I just need a solution. It’s really frustrating, because I know my hair has the potential to be clean, but it never is. Please help!

  4. I have been trying no poo on and off for awhile, I detoxed my hair with beno clay about a week ago and waited about 5 days before “washing” my hair. I have hard water and have tried so many different types of no poos and low poos and right now I am trying uncle harrys soap less shampoo. no matter what kind of method I use, right when I get out of the shower after my wash, my hair is already super oily. I know I’m in the transition period and all but I feel like my hair should feel somewhat clean? it did this with baking soda, Castile, the holy grail of shampoos, everything. the only time my hair felt truly clean was after the detox with the beno clay, is there any suggestions you could give me? anyone??

    1. Hey Molly,

      I feel your pain as I have super hard water myself. The two things I finally figured out which made a huge difference are: 1) increasing the proportion of ACV I rinse with – I have to use almost a 1:1 ratio of ACV to water, and 2) I don’t rinse with water after the ACV rinse (it just puts all the hard water residue back in my hair).

      Even with doing that, I still can’t use Castile soap because it just feels gunky. I finally compromised and went with really diluted Desert Essence shampoo and can comfortably wait a week before washing. I tried and tried baking soda, but my hair just always looked and felt a little (okay a lot) wild.

      Good luck!

  5. Hey 🙂 Anybody have tips on making the olieness appear less oily during the transition to no-poo , but nothing with chemicals. Just to make the transition a bit easier 🙂 anybody, please, i need advise .

  6. Hi im doing the baking soda method, and I’m wondering how much baking soda mix to actually put on the scalp. I’ve been putting it all over the scalp, but I’m not sure if that’s too much. (I’m scared I might get dry hair or hair loss). Also, I used coconut oil as a conditioner before I read your posts not to, so is it possible to ever get it out? Or do I have to do clarifying shampoo again and start over? Thanks!

  7. I’ve read that the baking soda goes on the roots and the acv goes only on the ends. I got to wondering if that makes sense once I realized the acv is used for its acidity to counter the alkaline property of baking soda. So, do you put acv on the roots where the baking soda was? Or do you just put the acv on the ends?

  8. I apologize for the long post in advance. I have been no poo for about 3 months now and I had yet to have that ‘Hallelujah’ moment. My hair was terrible! It was heavy gunky/waxy I didn’t have the smooth shiny beautiful hair everyone was talking about after the transition period. Now I know I was done with the transition period bc my hair was different from the greasy mess it was in the beginning. I was looking around to figure out what the heck was wrong before I gave up on no poo I didn’t really want to go back I wanted to stick it out. I didn’t really keep good track of what I did to my hair but was trying all kinds of stuff from just water, to increasing my BS, to switching between WV and ACVand increasing and decreasing the amts of vinegar. UGH! I FINALLY found what was wrong, HARD WATER! My husband said that our area is a 10 out of 10 for hard water (used to work for our city water dept) Through all my research I had found that if you have hard water the BS doesn’t dissolve in the water and therefore doesn’t clean your hair the way it should. So Friday night I boiled my amount of water that fits in my bottle( plus a little more bc you will lose some the evaporation. You also want to use a pan that is bigger bc when you add the BS it will fizzle and you don’t want a big mess) for about 10 mins. I then added a few tablespoons of BS and watched it fizzle. Once the water has cooled you can pour it into your bottle and voila! Use it like you have been using your BS mix and follow with vinegar. I finally noticed the slight lather everyone was talking about and when my hair was dry HALLELUJAH I had beautiful, smooth, shiny, awesome hair!!!! It is now Monday, usually I have to try some cute braid or some other type of up hair, but I have my hair half up and it is still gunk/wax free and beautiful. 

    1. Amber, so you used boiled water to mix with your bs and then did you rinse it out with the regular hard water out of the shower?

    2. I live in FL and our water is really hard. It wasn’t till I gave up ROM for egg washes did I find that hallelujah moment. My hair is wonderful and no longer waxy just soft, clean and so easy to brush. Right now I wash with one egg yolk every week followed by an ACV rinse.

  9. Guys, I need help! SO, I’ve just started on this no ‘poo thing, and I have a major problem. I just clarified, and I “conditioned” with ACV, because she doesn’t say anything about being able to use conditioner after the shampoo so I didn’t want to undo what I just did… (I hope that made sense). ANYWAY, when I did the ACV rinse, I didn’t wash it out because I figured it’d condition better if I left it in and let it air dry. Well, now my hair feels so soft and I think it’s doing good… until I try and brush it. And then little pieces of my hair are flying everywhere from the breakage. HEEEELLLP. I don’t know what I did wrong and I’m trying to grow my hair out and if it’s breaking off, it won’t grow. My hair has no split ends, so that’s why I’m so confused. Oh, and it’s gotten SUPER tangly. Please, someone help me. I want to stay on the no ‘poo route as much as possible but if my hair keeps this up I may have to go to low ‘poo. 😦 THANK YOU IN ADVANCE!

  10. helllo
    so i ve been using this method for 3 months. But last time i decided
    to make a hot oil treatement (coconut oil,argan oil and so on).Then
    i washed normally but i m at the third wash and it s so hard to get rid of the
    oils.I normally wash with banana and honey,i tried the baking powder to.Do you have any ideas? thanks,hugs

    ps:i hate dry shampoos

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