Is “no poo” better than shampoo?

Over the past year or two I have heard more and more about the “no poo” movement. Just a few months ago I was at Target buying, among other things, shampoo, and the cashier asked me if I had heard of the no poo phenomenon, I said I had, and she then proceeded to tell me about how much she loved it and how great it was. I found it odd that she bring this up with a me, a stranger, but I listened and nodded my head, and then I went home and thoroughly shampoo’d my hair out of spite, but I digress. This interaction got me thinking about no poo, and I thought it would be an interesting topic to blog about. Basically, this movement is where people stop using shampoo all together.  The exact way to practice no poo is a bit unclear, some people forgo all substances in their hair and “wash” their hair with water alone. Others will use types of natural or organic conditioners on their hair, but the main theme remains clear, no shampoo.

This movement is rooted in the belief that shampoo is unhealthy for your hair and damages it over time. This belief actually does has some merit to it, the way shampoo works is that it traps oils and dirt in your hair and then they are rinsed out of your hair. But your body produces these oils for a reason, it helps to strengthen and moisturize the hair and scalp. And depending on how much oil your body produces, constantly shampooing your hair can leave it dried out and prone to damage. In fact many experts including professional hair stylists and doctors say that the majority of people don’t need to wash their hair everyday.


Ok so too much shampoo can be bad and maybe we shouldn’t use it everyday, but isn’t going full on no poo an overreaction, and isn’t it bad for you? In my opinion yes it is an overreaction, but my opinion isn’t scientifically valid, and I don’t know enough hair and the scalp to know if no poo is actually unhealthy. Because of this I set out to find scientific studies to answer my questions. But unfortunately there seem to be no studies regarding the health of no poo or comparing the results of no poo and shampoo. This is likely because a good study would take around a year to set up and the no poo movement has only become mainstream in the last year or two. Perhaps in the future there will be studies that can answer this question. But for now all there is to rely on to answer this question is anecdotes. Many people have gone no poo and posted their experience on line. And just from searching the internet it seems the vast majority of people who posted there stories online had a positive experience. However, this could be a result of the file drawer problem. If people don’t like no poo they could be less likely to blog about it because its not as fun to talk about. So, sadly this question can not be answered at this time. But, if there were to be a study on this, the way to do it would be to first get a good sample size, maybe about 500 or so participants. Then randomly allocate them to a group, either no poo or shampoo, one group would do no poo and the other group would use shampoo.  The health of their hair would be measured before the study, and then monthly for the duration of the study, preferably a year or longer. Then the health of the hair from the two groups would be compared to determine if one groups hair is healthier than another. This would answer the question scientifically. But until a study like this is conducted, ill stick to shampooing my hair.


Various Anecdotes:


3 thoughts on “Is “no poo” better than shampoo?

  1. Trevor Dennehy

    I had never heard of this movement, but I was very intrigued by your post, as I religiously shampoo my hair every day. I’ve always done it because I can’t stand the feel of my hair when it’s greasy, and I feel much better about clean hair. Additionally, I use a lot of hair gel, so I feel the need to really scrub that out. I hadn’t really ever thought about how it could be damaging to my hair. According to this study I found:, which unfortunately you can only view the abstract of, they used a scanning electron microscope in order to find exactly what damaging effects shampoo had on hair. It would be interesting for a similar study to be done comparing the data from this study to “no-poo” hair viewed under an electron microscope, to see what difference that makes in the damage to one’s hair. I think that could certainly be an effective way of testing this no-poo phenomenon for validity. In the meantime, however, I guess I should maybe cut my shampoo usage down to every-other day at least.

  2. Ryan Gregory Blank

    Like you, I will continue to shampoo my hair as well. I was always under the impression that if you do not shampoo your hair, dreadlocks start to form. Is this true or not? Also, how do these no poo people find ways to make their hair smell good when dirt and oil is so heavily mixed into it. To me, this whole “no poo” thing sounds like just another way for people to get attention and start a trend.

  3. Taylor Rodrigues

    Great Article!! I have heard about this movement so many times about using no shampoo and about the not using shampoo often!! In this article online by Dr. Mercola,
    he explained how in different ways, using less shampoo is letting your hair “relax.” He talked about different chemicals like Parabens, Methylisothiazolinone, etc which are bad for your hair. He even suggested coconut different oils like mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil!

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