oily transitional phase
I can’t believe it’s already been 4 months since I started “no poo,” and 3.5 months since I went water-only! I am definitely out of the oily transitional phase and still going strong on water-only, so figured it was time to post an update to my Ultimate Water-Only Hair Washing Routine.
These pictures were all taken in the same lighting, room, and with the same camera as they were in the Ultimate Water-Only Hair Washing Routine post for a more accurate assessment of progress. Note that in the Day 4 pictures, I had just slathered shea butter on the lower part of my hair so I could flat iron it straight and assess how much it grew for this post. (: The shea butter soaked up in a few hours and dried very soft, which you can see in the Day 8 pictures (blue shirt).
How often do I wash my hair now? Once every 7-10 days with just water.
How many days can I go without washing before my hair gets oily now? My hair actually doesn’t get oily anymore, not even after 10 days of not washing it! :D
How long did the oily transitional phase last? / How did I get out of it? It took me approximately 2 weeks to stop looking excessively oily and about 2 months to get completely out of the initial oily phase to the point where my hair just doesn’t get oily anymore. I followed these tips from my other post to get through the oily transition as quickly as possible.
What does it feel like? My hair feels different… definitely healthier, soft and hydrated, slightly heavier, and it’s a little harder to run my fingers through my roots than if I used shampoo. But I really don’t mind the new texture! It gives my hair more body, thickness, and volume at the roots!
Do I still get split ends? I got my hair trimmed 4 months ago, right before going no poo. With shampoo, my ends would definitely be split, dry, brittle, rough, scraggly, and in need of another trim at this point, but with water-only, they are just as healthy as the rest of my hair. They are soft, shiny (I’ve never had shiny ends), and I have very few split ends.
Growth? It has definitely grown ~2 inches over the past 4 months. This is a good rate of growth, but I also eat a lot of fruits/veggies/nuts and a multi-vitamin so this much growth is normal for me. :) The difference here is that my ends are healthy so I can keep growing it without having to trim off the new progress.
Does it smell? Okay so I’ve been doing routine smell checks since I started no poo (for science), :) because I’m paranoid about smelling bad. So for the first 5-7 days after a water-wash without any fragrances added, my hair doesn’t smell like anything. That’s a decently long time! After that, I’ll sometimes notice my scalp (not my hair) smells like… well hair. It’s not like I can smell it wafting off of me or anything, but I can smell it if I rub my fingers on my scalp and sniff (oh god this is TMI). It doesn’t really smell bad, but it doesn’t smell like flowers and dandelions or what I’m used to. So if it doesn’t smell that nice, then I’ll add the tiniest drop of a blend of really fragrant shea butter/coconut butter (that smells like french vanilla mixed with chocolate… mmm) to my scalp and hair and it completely refreshes the scent. No more scalp smell. Dry shampoo also deodorizes it very well, and this DIY recipe makes my scalp & hair smell like chocolate. Boar-bristle brushing also helps keep any scalp smells from building up at the roots. There are actually loads of ways to make your hair smell like flowers and dandelions or whatever you want while on No Poo / water-only, so I’ll have to make a separate post for that soon.
How is my scalp acting? Great! No issues here.
Do I still have to boar-bristle brush it in sections every day? Nope! Spending time each day to section my hair and brush the natural oils through it was the one time-consuming, downside to water-only, but I really don’t have to do it anymore! Right before I wash my hair, I’ll still scritch & brush it to make washing easier, and I’ll probably scritch/brush once more during the 7-10 days between washes. But I don’t have to do it daily anymore since my hair no longer gets oily. I do brush my hair every day for a minute just to soften the look and style it for the day. Most importantly, I keep my brush really clean between uses as to not add last week’s oils back onto this week’s hair.
How has my hair dye lasted? I got my hair dyed a semi-permanent dark color the day I switched to no-poo (4 months ago). With shampoo, the color would typically last me ~6 weeks and then start to fade. However, this time the color was strong for ~3 months, and only during this past month has it faded a bit. Pictured above on the left is what my hair color looks like when my camera isn’t beefing up the contrast to solar flare status. You can see my blondeish-brownish roots coming in. Pretty good for 4 months after a semi-permanent dye! Pictured right is a contrast-y shot so you can see if my hair looks oily. Spoiler: it doesn’t. :)
Manageability? Styling? My hair is very manageable now. My natural hair oils act like a styling product. I can make my hair super voluminous with the flick of my hand fluffing it up, or flat to my head if I wanted. It’s like there’s a natural hairspray in it. I really don’t need to do anything to my hair anymore. It’s weird standing in front of the mirror expecting to have to do something to my hair, but there’s just nothing to do. Hallelujah.
Do I use any styling products? Nope. The only things I put on my hair now are shea butter (for added hydration on the ends of my hair or for heat protection) and the rare usage of homemade dry shampoo (like once per month maybe) just to make my style fluffier.
Do I use heat to style my hair? I don’t have to! And that’s certainly an improvement since going no poo. With shampoo, I had to use heat to tame my dry/damaged hair every time I styled it, but now I can let my hair air dry which used to be out of the question before. Now around 1-2 times per month I’ll use a flat iron, and I use shea butter as a natural heat protectant during those times. I’ll write more on natural heat protects another day. :)
Do I still use coconut oil to hydrate the ends of my hair? I actually switched from straight coconut oil to using this shea butter/cocoa butter blend that has some coconut oil in it. I prefer using the shea butter blend as it dries less greasy and works excellently to hydrate the ends of my hair in winter. I literally just slathered the shea butter all over the bottom 2/3 of my hair right before taking the Day 4 pictures so I could flat iron it a little bit to assess the length. It definitely dries much less greasy than straight coconut oil, and completely absorbs into my “low porosity” hair within a few hours.
Will I continue to use only water to wash my hair? YES. I am very happy with my hair!
Would I recommend others try water-only? YES.
How is water-only going for you? Post your update in the comments!
How to Transition to No-Poo Without Looking Oily / How to Train your Scalp’s Overactive Oil Production [Initial Oily Transitional Phase FIXES]
So you’re convinced you want to stop using shampoo and reap the benefits of natural hair care– great! But maybe you haven’t started yet because you’re dreading the daunting “initial oily transitional phase,” or maybe you’re already there but struggling through it. Maybe you have a day job or classes to look presentable for each day, and the whole point of over-washing your hair in the first place was to avoid looking oily. And maybe having a greasy-looking head for a month or two is out of the question… ain’t nobody got time for that.
Normalizing your scalp’s oil production is crucial for a successful shampoo-free routine. The benefits are well worth it: your hair will look cleaner for longer so you won’t have to wash as often, as a result you’ll spend less time and money on hair care, and you’ll have to damage your hair with heat less often (if you use a hair dryer every time it’s wet). And I promise you, anyone can do it, including you, and it doesn’t have to be as difficult as you’d think. I went from needing to wash my hair once per day to only once per week, many others have as well, and you can too!
Here are some tips I highly recommend you follow to get through the oily transitional phase as quickly, seamlessly, and as oil-free as possible– to get you closer to beautiful, truly healthy (and clean!) hair.
Two rules to follow
I have found that the two most important rules to follow to successfully normalize your scalp’s oil production are:
- Stop stripping the natural oils off your head with harsh, overly-cleansing shampoos and
- Wash your hair less often to allow your hair’s natural oils to sit on your scalp.
Obviously #1 is covered if you’ve switched to a no-poo method, but I really can’t stress #2 enough. You really want your hair’s natural oils to sit on your scalp as much as possible during the transitional phase so your scalp can take the hint sooner than later that it’s adequately nourished and can stop over-producing oils. The best way to do this is to avoid washing your hair every day, and wait longer and longer between each wash. Even a method as gentle as washing your hair with only warm water certainly won’t strip your hair of its natural oils, but it will wash away a lot of the excess oils off your scalp. So avoid washing your hair, practice the tips below between washes to keep your hair from looking oily, and then wash your hair only when it gets to the point where it still looks oily even after practicing the following methods. Then try to go at least that same amount of time or longer before the next wash. Repeat.
Your goal here is to be able to go 7 days before your hair starts to look oily again, and then at some point your scalp will get used to this routine and cease to look oily anymore. (I went from oily roots on day 2, to not looking oily even on day 10. It is an obtainable goal!) Once you reach this point, your scalp has normalized– woohoo! From that point going forward, I recommend you do a thorough no-poo hair wash once every 7-10 days. I just use warm water and scrub really well once every 7 days, and that is thorough enough for me and many other people. If you exercise or get sweaty during the week, you can rinse your hair with cool water with little to no scrubbing, just to rinse away dirt and sweat (but not oils) between your weekly no poo washes.
Here are my tips for not looking oily between washes:
Tip #1: Distribute oils away from your roots
I’ve talked about this in previous posts (here and here), but I will also include this here because it is so important. One of the most essential tips for managing the oils on your head is to make your primary hair brush either a boar-bristle-brush or a wooden hair brush (100% boar bristles or wooden bristles, no nylon bristles). These natural bristles are porous and will soak up hair oils, allowing you to pull the oils away from your roots and down to the ends of your hair with each brush stroke. Using one of these brushes will make your roots look softer and less oily, and will utilize your hair’s natural, hydrating oils to nourish the ends of your hair which are further from your scalp and susceptible to dryness. Your hair’s natural oils are the BEST at conditioning your hair, so your ends will thank you for the hydration, especially since you won’t be getting it wet and slathering conditioner on it every day anymore. This is your new conditioner, and trust me it works better than anything else!
To properly brush away oils: Section your hair into about 1-inch sections and brush from root to tip. Sectioning your hair will help get the brush really close to the base of your roots and reach all areas of your scalp. After you finish each section, brush through the ends of your hair to get all the oils off the brush and on to the tips where it’s needed most. Brushing this way may take a little bit longer than you’re used to, but it helps avoid an oily buildup near the roots so much during the transitional phase. I love doing this right before bed since it’s calming, tires me out a bit, and when I wake up the next morning, my hair had time to soak up the oils overnight so it looks even less oily in the morning (8-12 hours later). A natural brush will ultimately help you go longer and longer between washes and will keep your ends hydrated and your roots from looking oily. You can brush every day or every other day during the transitional phase. Just make sure your boar bristle brush is clean before every use, especially during the transitional phase, otherwise you’re not really soaking up oils, just moving around last week’s hair oils with the ones currently on your head.
Curly hair? You probably hate me right now if you rock natural curls, since brushing most likely unravels your curls & gives you a crazy lion’s mane. But don’t worry, you can skip daily brushing this since it’s a bit harder to see oily roots on curly hair! Instead, you can wait to brush until right before you wash your hair, so you can hop right in the shower and reset your curls. (You can also brush and then just wet your hair with cool water without scrubbing, as this won’t really wash away hair oils, but can help you reset your curls.) But please still use a natural brush! Brushing oils through your hair really does help move the oils away from your roots so you can get a more effective hair wash. You can also try out a wide-toothed wooden comb or a wooden brush since these bristles are generally further apart, and wood is supposed to work just as well as boar-bristles. More info via Step 2 from this post.
Tip #2: Switch to a Silk Pillow Case
Another way to distribute the oils on your hair– effortlessly– is to use a 100% silk/satin pillowcase. Unlike cotton, silk pillowcases help distribute the oils through your hair while you toss in your sleep. Bonus: Silk pillow cases can help keep your hair from frizzing and looking like a hot mess in the morning.
Tip #3: Dry Shampoo?
Dry Shampoo is a powder that you can rub into your hair to soak up excess oils and refresh the scent of your hair. It’s literally magical, and the perfect solution to a morning time crunch when you just don’t have enough time to wash and dry your hair or properly brush all the oils away from your roots. Dry shampoo is used without having to get your hair wet, the oil-free effects last all day, and it can help you wait another day before having to wash your hair. I recommend using as little dry shampoo as possible since the powder does soak up the oils on your head, and you really do want those oils to sit on your scalp as much as you can so your scalp doesn’t compensate by producing more oils. I recommend just using it along the hairline for up-dos, or just along the part line and on fringe for hair that’s styled down. This way, only the parts seen by everyone else looks clean, but the underneath sections of hair can stay oily but hidden.
Dry shampoo doesn’t actually remove excess oils, it really just adds a powder to your hair that soaks it up. The powder does stay on your head until the next time you wash/rinse it out, so aim for a gentle, non-irritating and non-drying formula. I definitely prefer and highly recommend using a natural DIY dry shampoo, but you can use a store-bought dry shampoo if necessary. Just watch out for and avoid silicones and drying alcohols in the ingredients.
For a simple, cheap, and natural dry shampoo, consider using arrowroot powder (found in health food stores) or cornstarch to soak up excess oils on your scalp. These powders are white like most dry shampoos, and blend excellently into blonde hair. For dark hair, mix together a ratio of 1/2 arrowroot powder (or cornstarch) and 1/2 unsweetened cocoa powder. This is the mixture I use. The cocoa powder helps the mixture blend into dark hair much easier and smells amazing. For red hair, you can add cinnamon. These are all natural (edible) ingredients that shouldn’t irritate your scalp, and with this method you don’t have to worry about putting chemicals, preservatives, drying agents, or silicones into you hair that aren’t easily washed out. I really love this DIY alternative for dry shampoo. It makes my hair look and feel so soft and works extremely well for me.
Tip #4: Utilize hairstyles to hide oily hair
Right after you wash your hair (with a shampoo-free washing method of course), your hair will probably look decent to style down for a couple of days (or longer, depending on how far into the transition you are). But after that, your hair might be too oily for your tastes to style it down. I urge you to use hair styles and accessories to your advantage on these days!
For long hair: wear buns, top knots, pony tails, braids, a combination of these, or any of your favorite ways to tie your hair up. Accessorize to hide your hairline with bandanas, wide head bands, or scarf head bands. Try to have fun with it! Up-dos are great because you can avoid part lines and most of the roots are hidden away. Your hair will be up and away having its own little spa day being nourished by its natural oils, and you’ll avoid touching it for the rest of the day which keeps it from looking even oilier via your hand’s oils. If it’s the fall/winter months, you can totally get away with a cute beanie to hide the oils, for men or women!
For short hair: If you already have short hair, and this is something you’re comfortable with and/or you do it frequently anyway, consider cutting your hair “short-short” for the transitional phase. I think it’s harder to see excess oil on “short-short” hair than it is on “longer-short” hair. What do you think? If cutting your hair super short is NOT something you want to do, then please don’t do it! There are still ways of getting away with “longer-short” oily hair! Accessorize to hide your hairline with bandanas or headbands. If it’s the fall/winter months, you can totally get away with a cute beanie to hide the oils, for men or women! Try to have fun with it!
Dark hair, thick hair, and curly hair have an easier time masking oils. If this is you, woop woop!
If none of these categories apply to you, don’t worry! The rest of my tips can still work for you!!
Tip #5: If all else fails, use a Low-Poo to ease into the transition
If you’ve tried all of the above, but you’re still having a hard time switching from straight shampoo to a no-poo method, consider using a sulfate-free shampoo (aka low-poo) in the meantime as training wheels (paired with a silicone-free conditioner). Sulfates are the really harsh cleansers found in commerical shampoos that create the soapy lathering effect and strip your hair of its natural oils. Sulfate-free shampoos still clean your hair like shampoo, but they aren’t as harsh as regular shampoo and act as the medium between shampoo and no-poo. You won’t be able to completely normalize your scalp’s oil production with a low-poo, but you could get at least half-way there. I used one for years prior to hearing about no-poo, and it really helped me train my hair from being oily on day 2 to not oily until day 4-5.
You don’t need to use a low-poo for years like I did to achieve the same results; you could probably do it over the span of one month or less than one bottle of low-poo. You still need to actively push your hair to go longer and longer between washes, and you should still utilize the above tips to do so without looking oily. Note that low-poos don’t lather as well as shampoos since the harsh lathering agent (sulfates) are not present, but they should give you clean results like shampoo.
- Calia Shampoos & Conditioners (~ $11 CAD/bottle) – VERY natural / organic, basically as natural as you can get! Canadian company, but they will ship internationally via their online store.
- Nature’s Gate Shampoos & Conditioners (< $9 USD/bottle) – Many people have great experiences with these.
- Deva Curl Low Poo & Deva Curl One Conditioner (~$20 USD/bottle) – Recommended for curly hair
- Shea Moisture Shampoos & Conditioners (< $11 USD/bottle) – Easily found in many US stores
Refer to this list of ingredients to know what to look for or avoid when choosing a sulfate-free shampoo and silicone-free conditioner.
Wherever you are in your no-poo journey, I hope this post was helpful for you. Please feel free to leave a comment with any questions, and let me know what worked or didn’t work for you.
I got fed up with the damaging effects of shampooing (aka stripping hair of its natural oils with harsh chemicals) and decided I wanted to take my hair to the next level by going shampoo-free. It was the greatest decision I ever made for my hair! If you’re curious as to why I would make such a crazy decision, check out my other post about it. After deciding to stop using shampoo, I did a lot of research on which “no-poo” methods I should try. I tried honey-washing and co-washing with great results, and later transitioned into water-only. I’ve been water-only for over a month now and love it!! (Update: It’s been 3 months, and I’m still going strong!)
When I first heard about using just water to wash hair, I assumed it’d be a pretty grungy ordeal, but it’s actually an incredibly effective, simple, and rewarding method if done right. There are a few essential techniques to follow that will help enormously in managing the oils on your head, getting the most out of your hair washes, and keeping your roots looking oil-free & your ends hydrated. I’ve included some easy & effective techniques below. Practicing these techniques will give you the ultimate water-only hair– People won’t even know you don’t use shampoo! And your hair will thank you heaps for it. :)
How does it work?
The Water-Only (WO) hair washing method simply uses warm water (in place of shampoo) to cleanse dirt and excess oils from our heads, while utilizing our hair’s natural oils (like a conditioner) to protect and nourish our hair, making it soft, silky, and hydrated. And there’s a way to do this without having oily-looking hair! (Follow tips below.)
The best part about this method compared to other “no poo” or “shampoo-free” methods is that absolutely nothing about this method can cause damage, dry out your hair, or create lasting buildup. Nothing is messing with the pH of your scalp, so it can stay balanced, healthy, and calm. And the only product necessary is chemical-free, natural, free, and created by our bodies specifically to nourish and protect our hair– our hair’s natural oils.
In my opinion, going water-only is the final step you can take in a shampoo-free journey. It’s self-sustaining, your scalp’s oil production will finally be completely under control, and it is a viable long-term method (unlike baking soda & apple cider vinegar which can be damaging over time). In my humble opinion, when you achieve a successful, water-only routine, your hair has reached its final form.
This isn’t to say that other “no poo” methods are wrong. Many people have found other methods that work well for them, and that’s totally okay! But I do think that giving up all external products and achieving a successful water-only hair care routine is a gutsy thing to do– and the benefits are well worth it:
My hair has never been more hydrated, voluminous, soft, silky, bouncy (elasticity through the roof!), manageable, fast-drying, or breakage-free as it is now. It looks just as clean as if I used shampoo, without any of the negative shampoo side effects, and it smells fine. I can wash it way less often, because it doesn’t start to look oily until day 7, it no longer requires a boat load of products to look nice, and air-drying is a real life thing for my previously unmanageable hair.
***If this is your first time stopping shampoo & switching to a no-shampoo method, I highly recommend checking out my other post on “How to transition to no poo without looking oily.” There can be an initial oily phase when you first switch over from shampoo to any “no poo” method, and there are a few things you can do to make the transition manageable and get through it faster in that post.
The Ultimate Water-Only Hair Washing Routine
Let’s be honest, anyone can just stop using hair products and stand under a shower head and call that “water-only hair.” But let’s be real, you want hair that looks and feels great– not an oily mess sitting on top of your head! This tutorial will help you distribute & utilize the natural oils on your head to give you the look & feel of squeaky clean roots & delightfully hydrated ends.
What you’ll need:
- a boar bristle brush (BBB)
- wide-toothed comb
- very warm water
- cold water
- coconut oil, or any nourishing hair oil (completely optional — helpful if you’re just getting started!)
Step 1: Start with dirty hair!
It’s important that you allow your hair to get oily (even just a little bit) before washing it. It doesn’t have to get as ridiculous as mine looks if you don’t want it to, but if your hair doesn’t look or feel like it needs to be washed, don’t wash it! The longer you wait between washes, the longer the natural oils will sit on your scalp & hair which results in two awesome things:
- Your scalp will take the hint that it’s not missing all its oils anymore, so it can slow oil production down & normalize faster. :)
- If you have distributed your natural hair oils down to the ends of your hair, the nourishing oils are coating your hair shafts keeping them conditioned and hydrated between washes. (Like a free hair mask, woohoo!).
BEFORE PICS– Six days since last wash! (I haven’t brushed it yet today, because I want to you see how well Step 2 works):
Obviously, my before pics look really oily. But I promise it doesn’t look this bad in real life– My camera is over-compensating because my hair is actually really dark, so it’s beefing up the contrast, making my hair look like it shines harder than it really does, and making my skin glow like I’m an astral being or something. Thanks, camera. But don’t worry, I took every picture you see in this post on the same day, in the same lighting, with the same camera, to keep consistency throughout this tutorial. I just wanted to clear that up so you don’t think anyone has to look this oily when they use the water-only method!
***Also, I was still in the “oily transitional phase” when I made this post, which is great because now you can compare these pictures to the end result to see how well water-only works, even if you still get routinely oily. I’m actually out of the oily phase now, so my hair never gets oily anymore… even on day 10! Check out my 3-Month Update post for more info!
Step 2: Pre-Shower -Distribute your natural oils!
The following are three very important techniques that you should do right before you wash your hair. These three techniques will help loosen up the natural oils on your scalp and will distribute them to the rest of your hair. The result will be less oily roots and added hydration for the length of your hair— and they’ll make cleaning your head in the shower with just water a whole lot easier!
You can also follow these three techniques on the night before you plan to wash your hair (like 8-12 hours or so). Sometimes you may think your hair looks oily and needs to be washed, but if you follow these techniques to pull the oils through your hair and then go to bed, you may find that your hair absorbs the oils overnight and doesn’t look as oily when you wake up. This can help you squeeze in another day or so before having to wash again! Or at least save you some time in the mornings if you do end up having to wash your hair.
On dry, detangled hair, rub your fingertips (not nails) in relatively quick, yet gentle motions all over your scalp. It’s similar to scrubbing your head in the shower, but without water. This creates friction to warm & loosen up scalp oils and dead skin cells. (Added bonuses: Scritching also increases blood flow to your scalp which can promote hair growth, and it feels soo good!) Section or part your hair if necessary to reach all areas of your scalp.
Once you’ve loosened up the oils on your scalp, you might notice that all the oils are sitting at your roots. The next two steps will help distribute the oils down your hair shafts to nourish the rest of your hair.
On dry, detangled hair, take small sections of hair (I like to take wide, yet thin sections), and place two fingers on either side of the section. Starting at the base of the roots, gently pull the oils down the section of hair to the ends. If your hair is longer than 6 inches (mine is more than double that), it might be hard to get the oils all the way down to the very ends, so just focus on getting the oils away from your roots and at least 6 inches down the length of your hair.
If you have long hair, this is the only time-consuming step to water-washing, but it works well for many people. Sometimes I’m naughty and skip this step and go straight from scritching to brushing, but I recommend you try it.
C. Brush – DON’T skip this!
A boar-bristle brush (BBB) is an essential tool for healthy hair, and it is absolutely essential if you practice water-only washing. From my experience, a BBB is the BEST at pulling the natural oils down from your roots to the ends of your hair, and it’s great to do after preening to pull the oils from the mid-shaft all the way down to the very ends of your hair.
After scritching and preening, brush a clean BBB through your hair to reduce tangles and distribute the oils down to the very ends of your hair before you shower. You should section or part your hair so your boar-bristle brush can reach all areas of your roots and hair. When you’re done with each section, brush the ends for a while to get all the oils off the BBB and onto the ends. Ends need lovin’, too. ;) And make sure your brush is clean before you use it, otherwise it isn’t soaking up oils, just moving last week’s oils around on your head with this week’s oils. (How to clean a boar-bristle brush tutorial.)
In addition, you can use a BBB every day or two between washes! I recommend you replace your regular, daily hair brush with your boar-bristle brush. Brushing the oils through your hair is really the only upkeep you need to do between water-washes to keep your hair looking clean and oil-free. If you just do a little bit every day or every other day, it can really keep the oils from building up into a greasy mess at your roots. After your scalp’s oil production slows down / normalizes, you should notice that you don’t have to brush the oils through your hair as often anymore.
***If you have curly hair & want to rock your natural curls, brushing will probably un-define your curls, so here are your options:
- Curly hair has an advantage since curls hide oily roots a bit better than straight hair. If you are not having an issue with oily-looking roots, you may be able to skip daily brushing, and just wait to brush your hair right before you wash it. Note that if you aren’t pulling your natural oils down to the ends of your hair, your ends are at risk of getting dry. So be sure to follow Step 6 (below) for a while, which is to add a small amount of a natural oil (like coconut oil or shea butter) to your ends to give them some hydration throughout the week.
- However, if you do want to use a BBB to distribute your natural hair oils throughout the week, you could use a BBB and then dampen your hair with a spray bottle filled with water so you can squish, style & redefine your curls (without having to actually wash your hair). This might be a great thing to do until your scalp produces oils less frequently.
- Or, you can try a 100% wooden-bristled brush instead, since the bristles are typically much further apart, and wood is supposed to distribute your natural oils through your hair just as well as a BBB (though I’ve never tried it personally).
Okay, ready to shower!
You can see that just by scritching, preening, and brushing, my hair already is starting to look a bit better. Usually on Day 3 or 4, I’ll think I need to wash my hair again, but after a brush/scritch/preen session, I realize I can wait a few more days. But it’s been SIX days since I last washed my hair, and let’s be real, it still looks oily… that’s why today is a washing day! The most important thing is that we distributed our natural oils down to the ends which conditions our hair, and we loosened up oils from our scalp to make washing with only water a lot easier.
Step 3: Washing – Scrub & Rinse with warm water
Time to shower. The temperature of the water that hits your hair is very important. Too hot can damage hair, and too cool won’t break up the excess oils on your head. While you’re scrubbing the oils off your head, you want the water to be very warm… a comfortable temperature between hot and lukewarm.
Wet your hair, then use your fingertips (not nails) to gently scritch your scalp in relatively quick motions. Be sure to focus the water stream directly on the area you’re scrubbing so it can wash away dirt and oils as you scritch. If you have long or thick hair, part it in sections while washing to easily access all areas of your scalp. I don’t really scrub the length of my hair, just the roots/scalp, as the water seems to rinse through the length of my hair well enough by itself.
Take your time!! Make sure you get all areas of your scalp. I honestly spend quite a bit of time doing this, but I also only have to do it about once per week, so it’s worth it for me. If you notice your hair still looks oily after your shower (and you really won’t know until you get out and dry your hair, because it’s not going to feel as clean as shampoo while it’s wet) you may just need to tweak your method a bit. The next time you wash, try using slightly warmer water, or spend more time rubbing your fingertips on your scalp and rinsing the water really well through all of your hair.
Hard Water? I have moderately hard water and find water-only is successful for me. Some people have issues getting their hair to feel clean with very hard water. You can test your water hardness or look it up on your city’s website. There are ways to soften your water at home. Many people have much better results after installing a shower head filter (which is also much cheaper than an entire water-softening system). I’ve actually even heard people say that their hair looks too clean and poofy with soft water so they prefer harder water– You’ll never know how it works for you until you try it!
Step 4: Rinse with cold water
This is my least favorite step, but rinsing with cold water helps your hair cuticles lay flat (after the warm water lifted them up), which helps your hair look shinier and retain moisture.
Need a Pro Tip? As you fling the temperature handle to cold, take a giant step back out of the water stream. Bend over forward, flipping all of your hair over your head, and stick only your head & hair under the cold water. Try not to think about every tiny molecule of freezing water hitting the shower floor and jumping back up onto your legs. In fact, practice mentally checking out for a moment while the shock of 7 seconds of cold water attempts to ruin your perfectly zen shower moment. Just pretend you are an island native standing under a beautiful, crisp, cool waterfall, overlooking the greatest scenery ever… I do.
Step 5: T-Shirt Dry & Detangle
After you shower, pat your hair dry with a cotton t-shirt (instead of a bath towel) to reduce frizz and flyaways. The t-shirt actually does reduce frizz for me (unlike a bath towel), and I wish I knew about this tip forever ago.
Comb through damp hair with a wide-toothed comb, starting at the ends and working your way up. Be gentle with your hair! It’s fragile while wet. If you’re new to water-washing & notice your hair is tangley at the ends, follow Step 6 before continuing to detangle.
Step 6: Hydrate Ends (Optional)
If you’re new to water-only washing & have long hair, your hair’s natural oils probably haven’t been distributed down far enough to condition your ends yet. Until you’ve been doing this for a couple of weeks and the oils have been distributed down far enough, I highly recommend using coconut oil, shea butter, or any natural, hydrating oil on the ends of your hair. Especially if you have damaged ends.
Natural oils (like coconut oil or shea butter) can work as a good temporary substitute for your scalp’s natural oils. They can help smooth out your ends so they don’t look frizzy and so your combs/brushes don’t get snagged in them while detangling… plus it gives your hair some added hydration. You can stop using these oils after a while, as it eventually becomes unnecessary. :)
Coconut oil works great for me, (and the unrefined, cold-pressed version of coconut oil makes a world of a difference), but you can use any deeply hydrating, natural oil of your choice including shea butter, almond oil, argan oil, etc.
Be careful with how much oil you use and where you use it! If you slather a bunch of oil near your roots, you’ll have excessively oily hair and no way to shampoo it out. I just dab a few drops on the very ends of my hair while damp. My hair can look a bit oily if I apply coconut oil to dry hair, but using it on damp hair seems to fix that for me. Then I wash my hands thoroughly before touching any other part of my hair so I don’t spread extra oil to my roots.
Step 7: Air dry! or style as usual
My hair actually air dries SO fast now (and many others report the same with water-only). It’s literally ridiculous how fast it dries, but it’s so wonderful. I just gently twist it to the side like this until I’m ready to style it.
Products? I actually stopped needing to use any styling products. With shampoo, I HAD to use styling creams, waxes, smoothing serums, volumizers, hair spray… Now my hair just does whatever I want it to without any product. Manageability through the roof. Thanks, natural hair oils.
Heat? When I used shampoo, I had to use heat on it every day to get it to look presentable. But now I only use heat on it twice per month and just let it air dry the rest of the time. It’s incredibly low maintenance. I definitely do use a heat protectant on my hair before applying heat tools. I feel like it would be incredibly stupid to skip using one. If you do use heat/heat protectant on your hair, or any additional styling products for that matter, be sure to only use silicone-free products or ones containing water-soluable silicones to avoid silicones building up in your hair!! More on the importance of avoiding silicones here.
I didn’t use anything else in my hair for this tutorial. I just let it air dry & then lightly used a flat iron on it (without heat protectant). And that’s what you see in the pictures below.
This is actually about 14 hours after I washed it :) Same lighting & angle as all of the above pics. So much volume! — NO styling products necessary. There is NOTHING in my hair except water, my hair’s natural oils, and a couple of drops of coconut oil on the very tips of my hair.
NATURAL LIGHT – These pics were taken on the same day:
Have you tried this method? Did it work for you? Leave a comment below! :)
Also, check out my 3-Month Water-Only Update to see what the future holds with water-only!