My Hair Regimen (Washing with Vinegar)

Experiment: 30 days without using shampoo or conditioner in my hair.

I have always struggled with scalp sensitivity, dryness, and dandruff. Ever since I can remember my scalp was either too dry or too oily. There was never an in-between or a balance and both were extremely uncomfortable and took a toll on my confidence.

The variables: White vinegar, baking soda and Hillery’s scalp.

I have tried everything from prescribed steroid creams and foams, to oil treatments with no success. Even with the regular use of hypoallergenic and organic products, though luxurious, I still had problems. I even changed my diet and to no avail.

Hypothesis: Vinegar when used as an astringent, cleanses without stripping the hair of it’s natural oils and minerals and can be used as a shampoo replacement.

I can not remember exactly were I had heard it first, but back in 2010 when I was living and working at the Omega Holistic Learning Center in Rhinebeck, New York. I met a participant who swore by vinegar. She too struggled with with the same issues I did and had been going without shampoo for nearly 4 years. At that point in time I stored the information away into my mental notebook and forgot all about it. Living in the woods in a tent can amplify the need to use soap.

When January this year rolled around with New Years Resolutions and winter dryness in full swing, I had hit my limit. All of my winter clothes were lovely dark browns, grays, and blacks. Yet everyday was like a snow storm hit my shoulders and the dryness was terribly uncomfortable. That’s when it hit me: the conversation I had with that participant on the smoking bench at Omega came flooding back to me. I had vinegar, I had baking soda. This was going to be awesome. I started right away and made a 30 day commitment.

The Data: 

At first, I used baking soda every day and rinsed my hair with straight vinegar. The first day my hair looked great, but after a week it was incredibly frizzy and my scalp seemed really dry. So I thought: I must be doing things backwards. I simply switched over to just using vinegar, which worked like magic. Though after about two weeks, I did notice my hair seemed a little oily near the roots. That night I massaged baking soda into my scalp and roots and rinsed with warm water. It worked like a charm.

After 30 days I was amazed. My hair looked fantastic. It was the softest it has ever been, with little to no frizz, and I had no problems with extreme dryness or oiliness. The icing on the cake: no scalp irritation or dandruff.

With this method I didn’t even need to use other products to define my curls, they naturally got bouncier, more defined, and even…curlier! However, I did start keeping a spray bottle of plain water around for mornings after sleeping on my hair. A quick spritz and I was ready to go.

Conclusion: I haven’t looked back and I don’t think I ever will. It is now going on three full months since I stopped using shampoo. I am reformed. 

It definitely took some time to get used to no suds, but after a while it became second nature and to me it is more luxurious than even the sudsiest of shampoos or the creamiest of conditioners because I know how awesome my hair is going to look and feel.

My tips for going no poo:

  1. Get yourself a refillable plastic bottle for your vinegar. An old shampoo bottle with a pop-top is great; you just need something you can squeeze.
  2. I dilute 2 parts vinegar to 1 part water and it’s still just as effective as straight vinegar; saves me money and cuts down on the smell.
  3. When using the baking soda, mix about 1 tablespoon into a plastic cup with warm water and swirl around with your finger to mix.
  4. For applying both the baking soda and vinegar rinses, I always lean over and start pouring from the base of my head towards the front of my scalp so’s not to waste any and ensure total coverage.
  5. Make sure you massage into your scalp and rinse really well; having baking soda residue in your hair can be really uncomfortable.
  6. If you have trouble with the smell, eat an orange and roll up the skin and add it to the vinegar. It will cut the initial smell with a refreshing, orange-y zestiness, making it much more bearable. I find the orange scent also makes the cold temperature of the vinegar seem more normal. I guess because orange juice is cold and I make that mental connection. You do get used to the coldness eventually and I really enjoy it now.
  7. Stick with it, and find your method. What works for me may not work for you as we all have different hair types and skin sensitivities. Try, try again, and if you are adamant you will find what works best for you!
Feel free to ask me any questions! Also, if you do try or are currently trying or have heard of something like this let me know in the comments below. I want to hear what you’ve heard, as well as your progress, and how it turns out for you!

Have a beautiful spring day,

Hillery

12 Responses to My Hair Regimen (Washing with Vinegar)

  1. I am blown away by this – how amazing! I am not sure I could try this myself but I am soooo impressed by you Hillery!

  2. Lauren Elizabeth

    I'm definitely going to try this! YAY! Thank you!

  3. wow, that's great to hear! I've been contemplating no poo but haven't dared taking the step yet. I have no major issues with my hair, I just want to use as sustainable a method as possible! I'm inspired! :)

    • It's great as a sustainable method of washing! I am almost using no products at all in the bath room. Even cleaning the tub with baking soda, salt, and vinegar. The hubby still uses shampoo and bar soaps, but I'm working on him!

  4. This Sydney Life

    Fab' post! Your hair looks GORGEOUS in the pics. :-)

    • Why thank you Sydney! The photos aren't the greatest of quality since I am down to using my computer camera, but I did what I could with the tools I have!

  5. Lauren Elizabeth

    How often do you wash your hair using this method? Every day or do you skip a few days?

    • It really depends, but currently I go every other day. I do let my head guide me a little bit in this. So if it's oily or uncomfortable, I just jump in and give it a quick rinse and that usually does the trick.
      I haven't had the chance to test this method with warmer weather yet and lots of out door activity so we'll see what happens as time progresses. I plan on doing another update as the weather warms up.

  6. Lauren Elizabeth

    Also, what did you do with the baking soda the first couple of weeks? How did you incorporate both baking soda and vinegar in your routine? Do you just put dry baking soda in your hair and then rinse it? So many questions!

    • To use the baking soda, I mix about one table spoon with warm water in a plastic cup. Then focusing on my scalp and the roots I lean my head over and pour from the base of my head towards the front making sure I cover everything. I then rub the solution into my scalp and roots using my fingers, similar to lathering shampoo, but really focusing on massaging the scalp. From what I've read, the baking soda is effective because it helps exfoliate as well as cleanse. After the baking soda I always rinse my hair with warm water before applying the vinegar.
      The first couple of weeks when I was attempting to use the baking soda everyday, I rinsed with baking soda as mentioned above,then with warm water, then vinegar, and finally with warm water again. I found this to be too drying for my scalp.
      Are you facing any particular problems? Too oily? Too dry? Itchiness? I can tell you what I do specifically for these instances. And I can also tell you that there isn't a magic 'number'. When my hair seems too oily, I wash it with baking soda. Otherwise, I don't use the baking soda often because it seems to dry my scalp and is incredibly uncomfortable without the vinegar wash. The vinegar leaves some of the natural oils in place, whereas the baking soda tends to strip. I simply use the baking soda, where others would use a sulfate-free shampoo every once in a while to help with oil build up around the roots that vinegar doesn't take care of. I found the trick to be balancing the natural oils in my scalp and hair – too much oil or too little seems to cause the same symptoms – discomfortable itchiness. I hardly use the baking soda now as I have seemed to find my balance and wash my hair using my scalp as my guide, which seemed to be about ever other day and I wouldn't push longer so's not to upset the balance. I would try a non-diluted vinegar solution every other day and no baking soda for at least a few weeks and follow the rule that as soon as it feels uncomfortable it's time to rinse. I hope this isn't too blabbery. Let me know if you have any more questions Lauren, truly.