How to Go No Poo in India (for Indian hair)

Want to throw away those ghastly shampoos and conditioners? Tired of dry and lifeless hair? Then welcome to the no (sham)poo movement.

I’ve been a wannabe no-poo-er for several years now. (I can’t say I’m a full convert yet because I find that I keep succumbing to shampoo every couple of months.) However, over the years, I’ve come up with several tips that may be useful to other Indian no-poo-ers.

Living in India, with all the dust, sweat and hard water makes the no-poo challenge a much harder. But anyway, here are some thoughts:

What is the no poo movement?

No artificial shampoos or conditioners in your hair. Ever. The idea is that your scalp naturally produces the right amount of oil for your hair to look luxurious on its own. When you shampoo your hair often, these natural oils get washed off and your scalp starts over-producing oils to compensate. Which makes you shampoo your hair more often. And its a vicious cycle after that.

No poo restores the natural balance of your hair and scalp.

So how do you clean your hair?

Four options:

  1. Baking soda to wash and apple cider vinegar to rinse:
    1. Mix is one tablespoon baking soda to 1 cup soft water. (You can get baking soda packets from the market for Rs 15 — just ask for meetha soda ya khaane waala soda.
    2. Apply onto your scalp (when dry). Then scrub and rub your scalp very thoroughly with your fingertips.
    3. If you have longer/thicker hair, you may need more baking soda + water.
    4. Focus on the scalp, not on the length of your hair.
    5. Then rinse with soft water.
    6. If you’ve done this properly, the moment you rinse your hair it will feel squeaky clean. If it doesn’t, something didn’t work out.
    7. Then apply one tablespoon apple cider vinegar + 1 cup soft water to your hair. Rub in briefly. And rinse. The ACV acts as a conditioner and balances everything out.
    8. Which Apple Cider Vinegar should you buy? I recommend Dr.Patkar’s Natural Apple Cider Vinegar (500 ML). Remember you don’t need ACV with ‘the mother’. You only need that when you’re drinking it. Heinz and American Garden also sell ACV, however, I think an organic brand like Dr Patkar’s will be better.
    9. Once your hair is towel dry, rub Argan oil or coconut oil to the tips.
  2. Water only washing: I don’t know how people do this, but apparently they do! No shampoo, no baking soda, just water. Apply to scalp, scrub with fingertips. And voila, done! Never done it. Never well.
  3. Use organic non-shampoo soap bars: Soulflower shampoos are good for this. (Soulflower Sandalwood Geranium Shampoo Bar) However, you NEED soft water for these to work. Hard water = bad! See below.
  4. Use sulfate free shampoos (and paraben free) – yes, technically this makes you a poo-er. But whatever. Paul Mitchell’s Awapuhi series is good but expensive (Org Awapuhi Ginger Shampoo). Himalaya’s also has a great (cheaper) shampoo for Rs 210 – Himalaya Herbals Anti Hair Fall Shampoo 400ml


Tips for going no poo: Hard Water

  1. NO HARD WATER. I think most parts of India have hard water. I’ve lived in Delhi, Bangalore, Goa and Mumbai — and the water has been hard everywhere.
  2. What is hard water? Water that comes out of your taps with a lot of minerals and salts.
  3. Why is hard water bad for no poo-ers? Well, hard water sticks on to the baking soda which you use to cleanse your hair. Which makes it impossible to clean your hair. If you use shampoo, the chemicals in the shampoo get rid of these salts and minerals (as well as most of your natural oils).
  4. How to tell if you have hard water? You’ll see your taps and faucets are covered with ‘kai’ — that white, gunky stuff.
  5. So then what? I don’t think it’s feasible for most of us to install softeners into our showers. There have been 2 solutions that have worked for me.
    1. The first is to boil your water. When you boil it, you’ll see a layer of salts at the bottom of the pan. Make sure you use the water on top and throw away the salts from the bottom. This option, while effective, is tedious.
    2. The second option is better: simply use drinking water from your Aquaguard or filter of Bisleri. Whatever water you drink is usually treated to remove the salts.

Tips for going no poo: Brushing your hair

  1. You need to brush your hair to move the oils from your scalp down to the tips of your hair
  2. Most brushes are bad (The Rs 200 types that you get at the chemist — throw them away!)
  3. Get a boar-bristle hairbrush. I’ve just got a Spornette boar-bristle brush. It’s too new for me to review, but I like it so far.

extra virgin coconut oil

Tips for going no poo: Oil the tips of your hair (not scalp)

  1. A little extra virgin coconut oil (I recommend –Merit Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (Pack of 3) (500 ML)
    — the kind you can eat! But I’m sure Parachute Hair Oils will be great as well )
  2. Argan oil is great, but expensive. It’s non-greasy and just wonderful! Soulflower Coldpressed Argan Carrier Oil, 30ml for Rs 800 is a must-have!

Tips for going no poo: Condition your hair (naturally)

  1. My favourite conditioner is dahi. Just the ghar-ka type plain dahi. Plonk it on your head (it’ll be cold!) and leave it for half an hour. Then wash off.
  2. Honey is also a great conditioner. Again, apply for 30 minutes and then wash off. I recommend Dabur Honey – 1 kg for Rs 355.
  3. There are thousand other options — google it!

Tips for going no poo: Oiling your hair

  1. We Indians love oiling our hair. However, oil + noo poo isn’t a great combination. It’s hard to get oil out of your hair without shampoo. Hence, if you put oil in your hair, I recommend using an organic shampoo soap bar or sulfate-free shampoo.

Tips for going no poo: How to tell if you are using a bad shampoo?

  1. Look at the back label. If you see anything with ‘sulfate’ — it’s bad! SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) or SLES, all terrible.
  2. Most likely you are using a sulfate shampoo with parabens. Even Johnson’s Baby Shampoo has sulfates in it! Stop it!

Tips for going no poo: How to tell if it’s working?

  1. When it works it works. You’ll know.
  2. If your hair is sticky, grimy, etc, it’s not working. Sorry 🙁

Tips for going no poo: The transition period

  1. Apparently when you wean yourself off shampoos, your scalp overcompensates and produces a lot of oil. This goes on for a couple of weeks and is known as the ‘transition period.’ Beyond the transition period is a rainbow of no-poo glory. I don’t know. I don’t think I ever went through a transition period to comment on it.

A little about my no poo journey

I have really thick hair, wavy black hair (Indian type). It is REALLY thick. Amazonian jungle kind of thick hair! However, my hair has always looked dry. And then over the last few months, I was losing a lot of hair and my scalp just felt irritated.

I decided to stop using shampoos completely. However, no poo is a fickle beast to crack. It worked beautifully for a month then stopped working at all the next month. I conditioned it and washed it with an organic soap bar and then it worked again for a month. And now again it has stopped working. However, I can assuredly say that my hair looks healthier and is definitely not as irritated as before. The hair fall has also reduced dramatically.

Phew. Okay. All the best! Let me know how your no poo journey goes!

User Reviews and Comments

  1. Apoorva says

    really informative and useful..clears a lot of doubts regarding no poo movement.:-):-)wanted to know how many days do you wash your hair??

  2. Saksham says

    I’ve been going no poo for about one and a half years now. And I’ve lived in Mumbai, Delhi, and Ahmedabad during this time with hard water. I’m happy to say I use nothing but water!
    You just need to wash your hair with lukewarm water to let all the grime flow out with the superficial layer of oil on the hair, and then some cold water to close the pores.

    For me, the transition period lasted about 2-3 months because I went only water from the start. I didn’t try any of the home remedies because, for me, it had been about just one less thing to worry about. So, I didn’t put any effort into using baking soda and such. Water works just fine.

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