I have an acquaintance who stopped using shampoos to wash her hair. I was curious to find out why someone would wash hair without shampoo, just water.
Honestly, for most people, just the thought of washing your hair and not using shampoo might be strange. Maybe it’s even cringy and uncomfortable. And it’s understandable! I mean, how else are you supposed to wash away the sweat and dirt from the day and get your hair squeaky clean again?
But for some people, washing their hair sans shampoo is a way of life. It’s been a technique used for decades, and there’s even a name for it – the water-only or “WO” method. It’s also referred to as the “no-poo” method, meaning “no shampoo”.
Sounds weird, but don’t knock it till you try it! Washing your hair with water only and no shampoo or conditioner has tons of benefits for your hair’s overall health, hydration, and shine. So no, people who do the WO method aren’t crazy.
In recent years, the no-poo movement has gotten more and more popular.
Today, we’ll be talking about the ins and outs of washing your hair with no shampoo and just water, and how it will benefit your tresses.
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Why Do Some People Wash Hair Without Shampoo, Just Water?
More and more people have been getting interested in the idea of washing their hair without shampoo and only water.
This method uses warm water instead of shampoos and cleansers to wash the hair, allowing the moisturizing natural oils to stay in the scalp and strands to nourish them.
See, the scalp emits something called sebum – the oil our skin produces naturally to keep our hair from getting dehydrated.
It lubricates our strands, starting from the root and traveling down to the ends of the hair.
But when you shampoo your hair too much, you wash that sebum away.
Don’t get me wrong – shampoo is good for everyone.
It’s designed to wash away stubborn gunk, like oils and minerals stuck in your hair.
But it’s still formulated with harsh ingredients.
For example, one of the most popular ingredients for shampoos is sulfates.
These cleansing agents are what make your fave shampoo lather up into bubbles.
While they’re awesome for cleaning extremely dirty hair, they also strip your locks of essential hydration and moisture.
Shampoos are, more often than not, very drying.
That’s why it’s always recommended to follow up with conditioner after washing your hair.
Related Post: Should You Use Conditioner Everyday?
Shampooing with harsh sulfates can leave your hair feely dry, rough, frizzy, and incredibly hard to detangle.
Shampoo can also leave a build-up of chemicals on your hair, which you’ll be tempted to wash out with what?
You’ve got it – shampoo.
It’s a vicious cycle that may leave your hair dry and yet very dependent on a harsh shampoo.
People are also getting more conscious about clean and green beauty, so they try to avoid products laden with harsh, toxic chemicals.
And the WO method seems like a good natural approach to hair care.
I guess you can say that the water-only method is kind of like a movement against shampoo – especially the notion that you have to shampoo your hair every single day.
Many people might think that shampoo is the only way to clean their hair, but that’s not the case.
Water is also very effective at rinsing away dirt and debris from your locks.
The best part is that it never strips your hair of healthy moisture.
And so, the water-only method was born.
Water-Only Hair Washing Results
Choosing to wash your hair with water only has its advantages and disadvantages.
Let’s start by looking at the longer list – the advantages.
Advantages Of Washing Your Hair With Water Only
Believe it or not, washing hair with water only makes the hair healthier and, in turn, appears shinier.
Stay Free From Chemicals
Well, one of the benefits of washing your hair with water only is the fact that you won’t have to worry about damaging your hair with some of the harsh chemicals contained in shampoos.
You won’t have to expose your hair and skin to the toxic chemicals found in most shampoos, like sulfates, parabens, formaldehyde, and more.
The sulfates present in most of the shampoos in the market strip your hair of its natural oils, leaving it dry and dull.
The water-only method is good for sensitive scalps or those trying to be more eco-friendly with their purchases.
Washing your hair with water only ensures that your hair stays healthy.
Moisturizes The Hair
The biggest advantage of doing the water-only method is that it moisturizes the hair properly.
But instead of replenishing it with nourishing oils and humectants, it simply leaves your scalp to do what it naturally does for your hair – lubricate it with sebum.
If you don’t wash away that sebum with shampoo, it gives it a better chance of being distributed throughout your hair.
This leaves it shinier, tamer, and less frizzy.
Plus, water is many times more hydrating than shampoo.
Hair can sometimes feel rough and brittle to the touch after shampooing, especially if you don’t follow up with conditioner.
This won’t happen if you use water only.
Without shampoo, you’ll step out of your shower with hair that feels smooth and hydrated.
Hair Maintains Its Natural Shine
Everyone admires glossy-looking hair.
You may have wondered how you can get to achieve this kind of look without using products.
Well, washing your hair with water only enables it to maintain its natural shine.
As mentioned above, when using water alone to cleanse your hair, the scalp produces natural oils – sebum.
Moreover, it normalizes the right amount of oil to be produced.
This helps the hair to maintain its natural shine.
Makes Hair Softer
Do you have incredibly thick or curly hair that tends to get dry?
Well, if you wash hair without shampoo (just water), you’ll escape the drying effect of the harsh sulfates discussed above.
The natural oils present in your scalp and hair take full charge, leaving your hair softer and smoother.
Hair Is Easy To Detangle
Detangling your hair is often a difficult task, especially when your locks are naturally thick and curly.
When you start to wash your hair with water only, you will begin to notice that the tangles you usually experience after you wash your hair will either be very few or completely gone.
This makes your wash day routine much easier since detangling is usually a time-consuming process.
Cuts Down On Costs
If you have a tight budget, you will dread having to go to the drugstore to buy new shampoo.
One significant advantage of using water only to wash your hair is that it saves you money.
Using water only to wash your hair is cost-effective.
Having a hair cleansing regime that saves you money is good news, and everyone would like to have that.
Learn What Works For Your Hair
When you wash hair without shampoo, just water, you get to learn what works for your hair.
Washing the hair with water only gives you the much-needed time for you to determine what product works for your hair and what doesn’t.
You will notice some changes in your hair the moment you stop using shampoos.
Traveling becomes more comfortable when you start washing your hair with water only.
Taking care of your hair without having to carry bags full of hair products is a dream come true, especially if you like traveling light.
You can get to monitor your hair’s health during travel, and assess if going without shampoo – in different weather for instance – is great for better for your hair.
Take Care Of The Environment
Finally, the WO method will help you contribute less to plastic pollution.
Since you won’t have to use shampoo, you won’t be throwing out bottles that often – bottles that usually just end up polluting the oceans and landfills.
Disadvantages Of Washing Your Hair With Water Only
As much as washing your hair with water only has its benefits, there are some disadvantages as well.
Sometimes, just washing your hair with water might not be enough to get rid of all the sebum your scalp produces.
So, when you wash your hair with water, it might help to get rid of some dirt and sweat, but it doesn’t always do a great job of removing all the excess sebum.
May Not Always Work As Expected
Another disadvantage of the water-only (WO) method is that you can’t begin this regimen when you have, for instance, just taken down a protective hairstyle, such as braids, as it will not work as expected.
When you are taking down a protective style, there’s probably a lot of product build-up that needs to be removed using a good shampoo.
Washing your hair with water only works on hair that is reasonably clean and hence proceeding with the regimen over time becomes manageable.
Dealing With Mineral Build-Up
You may experience mineral build-up in your hair, especially if you are using hard water to wash your hair.
There are several signs of hard water on hair that you may want to look out for.
The mineral build-up may eventually make the sebum in your hair feel waxy.
One of the reasons for washing your hair with water only is to make it healthier and softer.
Having magnesium and calcium deposits stuck in your hair will achieve the exact opposite.
Well, there are two options to help you out in case you use hard water to clean your hair.
First, you could revert to shampoos that are sulfate-free that specialize in removing hard water minerals.
Second, you can purchase a shower filter.
Shower filters are useful because they remove the minerals and chlorine present in the water.
Does Washing Your Hair With Just Water Make It Greasy?
Getting the perfect sebum balance for your hair can be a difficult task for you.
Washing your hair with water only means that your hair will eventually have some sebum build-up.
It is natural for your hair to get a little greasy during the transition to washing with water only.
Your hair will be oily during the first six weeks of your transition.
During this period, your hair has not yet mastered the sebum production rate in your scalp, and therefore your hair tends to be a little oily.
The scalp will eventually normalize sebum production, and your hair will have just the right amount of natural oil.
Even after the scalp normalizes, your hair will not feel as it would have felt after it has been washed with shampoo.
You might have to get used to how your hair feels after washing it with water only.
Greasiness From Products
If you use other products infused with nourishing oils (like, say, a cocoa butter-infused leave-in or pure argan oil to moisturize your hair), they might get left behind in your hair, adding greasiness.
So, it’s important to cleanse your hair with warm water to break down and wash those oils away.
So yes, it’s very likely that your scalp will feel extra greasy for a bit when you start doing the water-only method.
If you’re bothered by the greasy feeling, here are some natural alternatives to help you cleanse and clarify your hair:
- Baking soda: Massage this gentle exfoliant to your scalp to help clean out the dirt and product build-up in your hair. It helps neutralize acid and balance the scalp, making it less likely to produce a huge amount of sebum.
- Apple cider vinegar: ACV is great at cleansing the hair, which is why it’s touted as a natural alternative to shampoo. But while it clarifies the hair, it doesn’t strip it of natural oils.
Related Post: Why Do I Need An ACV Rinse For 4C Natural Hair?
- Hot and cold water: If you want to stick to purely water, you can switch between hot and cold water as you rinse your hair. The temperature change will help break up the oil and sebum that’s making your hair feel greasy.
Water-Only Hair Washing: Does The Hair Smell?
Washing your hair with water only has its benefits – such as having healthy and shiny hair.
With time your hair will start smelling different, but this does not necessarily mean that your hair stinks.
It may have a more natural and earthy smell.
This is because the naturally occurring bacteria in your scalp change, thus changing the scalp’s odor.
However, the gunk of sebum that may accumulate in your hair over time may make it have a non-pleasant odor.
This is worse if you have naturally oily hair.
This mainly happens when you do not take the time to brush through your scalp and massage it thoroughly.
When you have excessively oily hair, you can try to add two to three drops of tea tree oil after washing your hair as it helps with the odor your hair produces.
Hair Types That Benefit From Water-Only Washing?
Some hair types will benefit more from water-only washing than others.
Dry And Damaged Hair
The water-only method is beneficial for anyone with dry, damaged hair.
If you’ve overprocessed your hair with bleach or dyes, it’s probably very porous.
That means it’s difficult for your hair to retain moisture for a long time.
This leaves it dehydrated, brittle, and prone to breakage and split ends.
This hair type needs extra help staying moisturized.
Shampooing regularly will be a nightmare for that.
So, water-only washing for weeks at a time will be a huge help in retaining natural oils to help it stay hydrated.
Curly And Thick Hair
Another group that can reap the benefits of the WO method is those that have curly, thick hair.
It’s more difficult for sebum to traverse down the strands of curly hair because of the zig-zaggy curl pattern and coarse texture.
And when you shampoo off the sebum in your roots, your mid-lengths and ends won’t ever be moisturized with those natural oils.
So, curly-haired ladies might want to consider skipping shampoo and rinsing with water only.
This allows the sebum to stay longer in the scalp and roots, giving it a chance to travel down the rest of the hair later on.
Not For Everybody
Of course, the WO method isn’t for everyone either.
Anyone with fine hair and a naturally oily scalp might not enjoy this method because of how greasy and weighed down their hair might be.
If anything, that is precisely the hair type that shouldn’t go too long without shampooing.
As mentioned earlier, water-only washing might not be the best method if you live in a city with hard water running in your pipes.
In short, the water-only method is for people who need help keeping their strands moisturized, not those that need to wash out grease and build-up.
Transitioning To Water-Only Washing
If you want to transition from shampooing your hair every day to doing the water-only method, know now that it’s not going to be easy.
To be honest, it’s probably going to be frustrating, as you’ll be dealing with hair that looks and feels greasier than what you’re used to.
Do know though that it will settle down and get better once your hair is used to your new way of hair-washing.
It will understand that it no longer needs to produce so much oil as it used to when it was being shampooed often.
The best way to transition to the water-only method is by gradually decreasing the number of days you shampoo.
Don’t abruptly stop shampooing – this will cause even more greasiness and discomfort.
Instead, build it up slowly.
Go two days between shampooing. Then three. Then four.
Finally, stop using shampoo altogether.
This makes it easier for your scalp and hair to adjust to your new hair regimen.
How To Properly Wash Your Hair With Just Water
Ready to try the water-only method for yourself?
Here’s a step-by-step guide you can follow so you know you’re doing it right:
Wait It Out
Wait until your hair is oily enough before you step into the shower for a water-only wash.
The longer you go without rinsing your hair, the healthier the amount of sebum will be in it.
That way, it will be easier to moisturize and nourish the hair.
Distribute the natural oil in your scalp throughout the length of your hair.
You can do this in various ways.
One popular way is scritching, which is using your fingertips to rub your scalp the same way you would when you massage it.
This helps loosen up the oils and dirt to make them easier to spread and wash away later.
Preen Your Hair
Another way to distribute oils is to preen your hair.
To do this, grab a small section of hair at the root with two fingers.
Slide your fingers down the lock of hair.
This will help the sebum travel down your locks if it’s been stuck near your scalp for a few days.
You can also use a boar bristle brush and run it down your hair.
This is the easiest way to distribute the oils to make sure they moisturize your locks properly before the water-only cleanse.
Run Water Through Your Hair
Get your water ready.
Make sure the water is warm – not scalding hot because that can burn your scalp.
Jump into the shower and get your hair wet.
As the water runs through your hair, do the scritching method again.
This is to make sure you’re getting all the dirt and debris out of your scalp and hair.
Condition Your Hair
If you have extremely dry hair, this is when you can use a conditioner.
Run it through your hair and detangle.
Don’t do this every single time you do a water-only wash though.
Remember, your hair will be prone to build-up without shampoo.
Rinse And Dry
Do a cold water rinse when you’re done.
This will help seal the cuticles, boosting shine and moisture retention.
Get out of the shower and pat your hair dry with a microfiber towel or old cotton T-shirt.
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This helps reduce frizz.
Comb And Hydrate
Run a wide-tooth comb through your hair to get any tangles out.
Be gentle though – hair is prone to breakage when wet.
Add a bit of extra hydration with a silicone-free leave-in or a lightweight oil, like argan or grapeseed oil.
Air-dry and style as desired.
If you decide to wash hair without shampoo, just water, you can reap some benefits such as avoiding exposure to harsh chemicals.
This results in your hair growing in a healthy environment and maintaining its natural shine.
Washing your hair with water only also helps by saving you money, which is a bonus since you get to have healthier hair and spend less money.
Your hair also eventually gets to balance the amount of sebum your scalp produces, and you avoid having excessively oily hair.
However, transitioning from using shampoos to strictly water-only hair washing may be a challenge.
If you tend to use a lot of products on your hair, you may want to avoid this method of hair washing though.
Giving up shampoo and washing your hair solely with water isn’t an easy life decision to make.
And even when you do bite the bullet and try your luck with the WO method, it can still get challenging.
Your hair might get greasier and flatter, and the temptation to grab your favorite bottle of shampoo to wash your scalp will always be there.
But if you stick with the water-only method, you’ll reap amazing benefits for your hair.
You can transform dry, damaged, dull hair into tresses that are healthily hydrated and have a lustrous shine.
It’s not an easy road to take, but the rewards are plentiful where your hair is concerned.
Once you get the method down and your scalp adjusts properly, it will be way easier to stay away from those harsh, harmful shampoos.
The best part? You’ll have effortlessly moisturized, glossy hair that will be the envy of everyone around you.