My Bathroom Looks Like a Bakery

Several months ago I decided I was going to be more natural with my hair products. Since then I have tried several different approaches, some of which failed miserably, and some which actually worked. I thought I’d share for those who are hopefully/fearfully venturing away from traditional shampoo with sodium lauryl (or laureth) sulfate.

My vanity and Southern sense of desiring my hair to look “fixed” makes me think twice about posting pictures, but I’ll do it so you can have a point of reference about my hair type. It’s wavy with some texture and average thickness. I like how it looks when it dries curly, but by mid-afternoon it starts to look crazy, so I usually brush it out straight. I took this picture eight months ago when I first stopped using shampoo and started trying “natural hair”.

Ingredients in my bathroom:

Apple cider vinegar – Some people rave of the results when they use an apple cider vinegar rinse, but I am not one of those people. It leaves my wavy hair feeling dry and not soft at all. Perhaps it depends on hair texture. To try it, you dilute a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar with a couple of cups of warm water, and pour it over your hair as a rinse.

Baking soda – Best ever. I can’t believe the many talents of baking soda. When I went completely shampoo-free, I mixed a tablespoon of baking soda with a cup of warm water in a water bottle, and massaged it over the scalp. It did work, but it also left a residue after a couple of weeks. I have better success when I mix baking soda with a mild baby shampoo or conditioner, so that it rinses out.

Jojoba oil – great for a hot oil treatment.

Apricot kernel oil – I use this daily as a leave-in conditioner. I put two or three drops on the ends of my damp hair and leave it in. This dropper vial from The Container Store helps to dispense the right amount. Bonus! Apricot kernel oil can also be used as a salad dressing.

Aloe vera – use as a hair gel, and apply on damp hair. It does have pretty good hold, but I am not very partial to hair gel in general.

Cornstarch – can absorb extra oil on your scalp if you sprinkle on a little bit and brush it through your hair. I never feel satisfied after trying this — I always want to go back and wash my hair.

Olive oil – It seemed like a good idea at the time to spritz olive oil on my hair, but it was way too oily.

Honey – I heard that a tablespoon of honey mixed with a few cups of warm water would soften and condition hair when poured over as a final rinse, but I couldn’t really tell if it worked. It was no match for the drying effects of the apple cider vinegar.

Mayo – really hard to rinse out. Not sure it’s worth it.

Brown sugar – mix one or two tablespoons of real brown sugar with some conditioner and rub it on your scalp to exfoliate and invigorate. It feels great! I learned this from Crystal, and if you know her, she’s probably convinced you to try this too.

Rosemary essential oil – When I used regular shampoo, my hair was oily. The more shampoo I used, the more oily and flaky my hair became, because it was overproducing to compensate for all of the detergents in the shampoo. I decided to try something different, so I mixed 2 drops of rosemary essential oil with 10 drops of apricot kernel oil, and rubbed it directly on my scalp. I left it on overnight and shampooed it out the next day. I know it sounds nuts, but it actually worked, and my hair hasn’t been that oily since then.

What I haven’t tried:

Avocado – I can’t bring myself to spend one on my hair. I have to eat it.

Lemon – too many junior high memories of Sun-in streaks on my brown hair.

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. THANK YOU for posting this!!!! Awesome. SO helpful to know. I’ve heard a few people now say that the ACV wasn’t what they hoped it would be.

    You are so gorgeous, by the way!

    Hi, Doug!

  2. Okay, I am back with a question. I am starting the shampoo-free journey (last shampoo was on Saturday) and I am already anticipating issues with greasy scalp. I am interested in the rosemary EO – when you say your scalp hasn’t been greasy since then, are you saying since that only application of it, or do you use it as needed for greasy scalp?

  3. smallnotebook says:

    Good for you Megan for giving shampoo-free a try! Ok, when I tried the rosemary essential oil (with apricot kernel oil), it cured the oily and flakiness with just one use. I tried it again three days later, but didn’t see any additional benefit, and I haven’t needed it again.

    I wish I knew exactly how rosemary oil works, but it is one of those herbal remedies that is “traditionally known to” relieve oily scalp and dandruff. Like any essential oil, it should not be used directly on skin without diluting it an another oil. So if you are shampoo-free, I’m not sure how you would wash all the oil out the next day. When I tried it, it was right before I quit using the shampoo, so I used it more like a transition aid to becoming shampoo-free.

  4. I’ve recently heard about this shampoo-free idea, but I’ve been a bit nervous to try it. I’ll have to look into the Rosemary EO. If I miss one day of shampooing, my scalp is itchy and flakey and my hair is oily. I’ll have to print this post out and try some of your ideas. :)

  5. Your hair looks fabulous!

    I went ‘poo free a couple of weeks ago and am loving it! My stylist is even on board with it, which is a refreshing change from stylists who try and push all their expensive products on you.

  6. Ok – back with questions. What type of baby shampoo do you use and did you have a greasy transition period?

  7. smallnotebook says:

    Thanks Heather, I was almost nervous to tell my hair stylist about it, but when I did she was completely encouraging. That made me feel better. I’m glad you’re having a good experience with no-poo! Sometimes it takes a few tries and experimenting to see what works, but it sounds like you had a pretty easy transition.

  8. smallnotebook says:

    Hi Audra Marie, right now I’m using just plain Johnson’s baby shampoo. I put a little in the palm of my hand and then mix in about a teaspoon of baking soda before I use it. It’s not all-natural ingredients, but the ingredients are much more mild than regular shampoos. There are some natural baby shampoos (like California Baby) that I’d like to try after I use up this bottle.

    My hair was a little bit oily during the transition period, because the first time I tried to go shampoo-free I just quit cold turkey. My hair had always needed daily washing before, so that was a big switch. I was also learning how to balance out the baking soda and apple cider vinegar, so it was hard to figure out how to clean the hair without drying it out. I think I was using too much, so it made my hair feel dry.

    After that experience, I stepped back and tried again gradually. Instead of washing my hair every day, I just used regular shampoo every other day. Then when that seemed ok, I used baby shampoo every other day. Then I started using less of that. At one point I used conditioner in place of shampoo, because if you leave it on for a minute or two it will be cleansing.

    Something that helps is having a natural bristle brush to distribute the oils in your hair. It finally made sense to brush your hair every night. Hope that helps! Don’t be afraid to do some experimenting of you own. I certainly don’t feel like I’m an expert, but I do know that my hair is a lot softer and healthier just by not using the regular shampoo. Perhaps if I start to use less baby shampoo, it could be even healthier, but there’s no rush. -Rachel

  9. I have really dry, curly hair. I’ve been shampoo-free for a few years. I mix white sugar (because I’ve found brown leaves questionable-looking stains on my tub) with cheap conditioner. It creates a super-hydrating, thick cream when it’s all dissolved. I use dry sugar to exfoliate my scalp occasionally. Eventually I will make the switch to all-natural conditioner, but one step at a time. :)

  10. thanks for the tips AW! I love ideas that use common ingredients.

  11. I was def. skeptical of the ACV. However, I bought the unfilted raw, organic kind and diluted 1/4 acv with half of water in cup. After shampooing and conditioning with regular shampoo (I haven’t sworn off yet) I rinsed my hair with the acv/water mixture. I let it air dry and went to bed slightly damp, but not uncomfortable. In the morning, my wavy hair was even wavier (almost curly) and very soft, with body. I found it, to my surprise, almost perfect. I didn’t even use any product or brush my hair in the morning (kind of an amazing thing for me).