Plastic-Free Hair Care: The Saga Continues

It's been two and a half years since I went "less-plastic," and I still can't figure out how to wash my hair. It really annoys me.

Because I know you're incredibly interested, here's a timeline that explains a bit of what I've been going through.

Really Important Hair Care Timeline
  • After three months of being no 'poo, it was suddenly not alright. I got horrible dandruff and had to start using Head and Shoulders so that my flaky scalp didn't take over my life and turn me into a social recluse.
  • My dandruff disappeared.
  • After my bottle of Head and Shoulders was gone, I washed my hair with some seriously yummy-smelling mango bar soap from Abbey Brown, an artisan soap maker based in Chicago. It worked okay, but it left my hair feeling flat.
  • Then, the dreaded dandruff returned.
  • I started using Head and Shoulders, and the dandruff went away. But then Head and Shoulders started GIVING me dandruff! "How is this possible?," I wanted to know.
  • I bought a bottle of Pantene out of desperation (please don't judge me!).
  • My dandruff disappeared, again.
I'm finishing off this bottle of Pantene right now and my hair is dandruff-free, feels fantastic, and looks pretty good (I think). Alas, everything has a price. On top of coming in a plastic bottle, the shampoo I'm using is listed as a "moderate hazard" on the Skin Deep Database.

For me, this means that using Pantene isn't a viable long-term solution to my hair care problem, so I've started looking for new options through the internetz and on, a fantastic online marketplace dedicated to handmade products.

Here's what I've tried so far.

Conditioner Bar by Nourish Bath and Body
I used a Rosemary Mint Solid Conditioner Bar made by Nourish Bath and Body, which I actually received free from the producer. The conditioner left my hair smelling really nice and feeling good. It didn't provide that deep condition that commercial conditioners give you, but it came close. All in all, I'd give this bar a grade of "B." I would have given the product an "A", but it does have a few ingredients listed in the Skin Deep database as moderate hazards. Note: the bar comes in a vellum wrapper that's made of 10% plastic. Christine said she would be glad to send soap without the wrapper. You just have to mention that you don't want the wrapper in the purchase notes.

Syndet Shampoo Bar from Arcadia Aromatics
I've also tried the Syndet Coconut Solid Shampoo Bar from Arcadia Aromatics, which I purchased on Etsy. This product works exactly like regular shampoo and smells absolutely fanstastic. If you're a coconut person like me, you'll love it. That said, I'm giving this shampoo a "B" because it also has ingredients listed as moderate hazards in the Skin Deep database. Note: I didn't ask the seller about the packaging before I purchased this (you know what they say about assuming), and I was unhappy to discover that it comes in a plastic container. I haven't checked with the seller yet, but I'm hoping they'd be willing to send the soap sans the plastic. I'll provide an update once I know.

The Saga Continues
And that's where I am now—I'm using up my Pantene and using my new shampoo and conditioners bars. The stuff I have now should last me a long time, but I'll be sure to try new products and provide more reviews once I run out. As probably the only person ever featured in Time Magazine because of their hunt for a perfect shampoo, I guess it's kind of my duty.

Heck, maybe at the end of all my these trials, I'll actually figure out how to wash my hair. It's doubtful, but I'll never, never stop hoping.


Laura said…
I use Liggett's shampoo bar. It comes in a paper wrapper.
It lasts a long time and I haven't needed conditioner.
Unknown said…
I don't know if this would work for you, but I buy shampoo bars from Etsy also, from a shop called DressGreen. I used to have to wash my hair every day; it is really thick and a little wavy. Now, I wash it once or twice a week, and it looks the same/better as/than it did when I was using Pantene.
Kate said…
Hi Jeannne! This is Katy Lacio (now Zachary)- I used to work in EM. Glad you are back on the blog! I have been using the Gear Head shampoo bar made by Ethically Engineered and I enjoy it. You can find it at Whole Foods Market, or you can go directly to the maker, as they are a Chicago company!
Jeanne said…
Laura, thanks so much for your suggestion! I'll definitely look into it!
Jeanne said…
Yay Katy! Good to hear from you!

I'll definitely have to check out that Gear Head shampoo.I think I've heard of it before, actually. Anyways, it's great that it's locally-made.

Thanks for the recommendation. I'll let you know once I've tried it!
Rebecca said…
I've been doing the "no poo" thing for nearly 2 years now and my hair has never looked better. But for a while I thought I was having really dry hair & dandruff. It turned out that it was actually a buildup of soap scum (from the baking soda) and sebum. I upped the amount of vinegar I was using and the problem went away.

Here's a link with more details if you're curious:

The only thing about no poo is that I haven't found an affordable source of vinegar that doesn't come in plastic bottles. I tried making it myself but it was a TOTAL failure. I guess I'll just have to keep working on that one!

Loving your blog!
Anonymous said…
PLEASE keep blogging about this. I have a few bottles of shampoo left but once their more plastic shampoo bottles for me (hopefully)!
Hello! I'm not sure if you've abandoned baking soda entirely, but I've read that using burdock, goosegrass, southernwood or stinging nettle in your vinegar rinse can get rid of dandruff.

Good luck!
CC said…
I have been using shampoo bars from Chagrin Valley Soaps with a lot of success. I also like that the bars are packaged in paper.
mindbodymaths said…
Hair cleaning has been a saga for me too. I'm in South Africa, not many shampoo bars available here. I used the baking soda method and it felt much healthier but after a while my hair got really sticky - any advice from no-poo-ers out there?

Also, how hard would it be to make a shampoo bar. Anyone have a recipe?

Finally, about vinegar and plastic, it's true that you'll still be buying plastic but less if you buy bulk; also it's usually packaged in PET, the easiest-to-recycle kind of plastic.
Marino said…
I would've thought the cider vinegar rinse would help prevent dandruff since its meant to be good for skin - i've heard of it used as a face wash/toner too.
I use that every second day, then again, I'm not too prone to dandruff.
Unknown said…
Why not just try the shampoo bars from Lush? The shampoo and conditioner I used were fantastic, and I never had dandruff in the year or more that we used them. Neither did my wife or son. They don't carry my favorite shampoo, which smelled like licorice, but they still have the conditioner bar I favored... the Jungle Conditioner. My wife used the Forever In Bloom, which comes in a bottle, but it lasted a long time because even she didn't have to use much of it with her longer hair (shoulder length). Another option for washing your hair would be the Alkmaar solid soap bar. I used it on my hair and it always did a great job, and smelled really nice to boot.
Corbie said…
Maybe your scalp just wants a change of routine?

What would happen if you did the no-poo thing for a while, then switched to a shampoo bar for a while, establishing a sort of rotation?
Marino said…
I'm pretty sure Deanna Duke aka the crunchy chicken has a recipe for solid shampoo bars on her blog at
Mari said…
you should check out for natural hair tips.
also check out henna and cassia
AppleMurr said…
Well, I know you may have heard of this before, but I use shampoo bars from this company.
They have several different shampoo bars to choose from, and all I have tried work wonderfully. There is even a dandruff control one with neem oil.
Organic Mom said…
Great information. The safety of health and beauty products are so difficult to determine sometimes. I started using organic washable pads instead of chemical-laden disposable pads and tampons and the experience has been great.
Jeanne said…
Thanks everybody for the tips.

Dale, I actually tried a few Lush shampoo bars at one point (can't remember where exactly that fits into the timeline), and I found that they dried my hair out too much.

I'll consider giving them a try again at some point, though.

Mari said…
just remembered that there's no mention here about using egg yolk for washing your hair. if it doesn't clash with your ethical points of view and stuff i totally recommend it! just rember to rinse with cooler water, or you will cook the yolk and it will be tough to get out. some hair expert don't recommend to use it more often than once a week as it might give a protein overload to your hair. the leftover egg white you can eat or use as a facial.
also check out naturoli soap berry products. they have both liquid and bar shaped shampoos, also natural detergents for laundry.
Greenbeauty said…
Have you tried extra virgin coconut oil as a treatment for dandruff? It's supposed to work pretty well :)

Also - as others have mentioned, shampoo bars are pretty good. I like to get my soap from the small shops on Etsy as well.
Karen said…
If you're okay with buying liquid shampoo in general, another option is to refill your previous shampoo bottle from the bulk bins at your local Whole Foods. Look in the bath and beauty section.
Jeanne said…
Karen, Thanks for the suggestion. It's kind of frustrating but the Whole Foods stores in Chicago don't carry any types of soap or cleaning products in bulk. I know many of them do in California, though.

Alas, things would definitely be easier for me if I was in California :)
Unknown said…
Have you tried baking soda and vinegar (aka No Poo)? Been doing that for weeks and so far so good!
Unknown said…
Oh, just read the post again and realized you did try No Poo. Sorry it didn't work for you.
Anonymous said…
I have been shamppp free for months, and I know you've tried baking soda and vinegar. Every time I have used a shampoo out of curiosity (organic tea tree, for example) my hair looks horrible and my scalp breaks out. I go back to baking soda and vinegar and it works every time to restore my hair's pH.

Could you try the following for at least a week or two and report the effects? Note it's not necessary to wash every day--try a rinse of water between days even.

1) Use about a T maximum of baking soda--less preferably if it dries your hair. I mix mine in a jar in the shower just before shampooing. Try 1 tsp of baking soda, about 1 to 2 cups warm water from the shower and simple pour on hair. Massage scalp, let it sit for a couple minutes and rinse.

2)In same cup pour about an inch of apple cider vinegar and add warm water to equal one to two cups. Rinse hair with ACV mix. Proceed with shower (I often use baking soda instead of soap, which dries). ACV can also be used to wash underarms,
etc. DO NOT RINSE ACV. I let dry normally (air) and of course, you know no discernable odor of ACV will remain.

This should restore normalcy to your scalp and hair, especially if you are consistent with it for a couple without introducing your commercial shampoos or other items.

Let us know how this works!
Coccinjel;l; said…
I just want to mention that if your only problem is plastic, you can use Nurture My Body shampoo. They come in glass bottles!

Sure, the pump is in plastic but expecially because they come with a pump, you can reutilize them once it's empty.

I put one beside all my sinks for handwashing (plus they are pretty!) and now I don't buy them anymore because my city got a new bulk store... so I know it's not perfect in the long run.
Mira said…
When I decided to ditch shampoo I read about all the methods I could find. One thing I noticed was that many people said that baking soda didn't work for them, but using water only did!

I figured that I would try the simplest method (water only) and see how that went.

Well, it's been almost a year now and my routine is still water only. ^_^ Two important things:

1. When changing to a 'pooless routine there is a transition period. For most people it takes 2-8 weeks. During this time the scalp is extra oily. (Basically your body is having to relearn how much sebum to produce.) My transition lasted 4 weeks, and at the very end I got the WORST dandruff imaginable. >_< It was terrible. I didn't know if I could stick with 'pooless.

About 2 days later everything balanced and the dandruff-of-doom went away! @_@

A friend of mine decided to try the water only method too, and she also had horrific dandruff at the end of transition. So don't feel like a freak. ^_^

2. After about 8 months of using water only, my hair suddenly felt abnormally oily. I have no idea what caused it, but I used baking soda to remove the extra buildup. (I think it was 1 tsp in 1 cup of water. I didn't use the entire cup!)

That little bit of baking soda removed ALL of the natural oil from my hair! My hair frizzed out and was insanely dry. :( It took a good month for the sebum to get all the way down my hair again.

Since then I purchased a natural bristle brush to help balance the oil. It seems to be working. ^_^

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me!
Sarah L. said…
I bought Meghan Telpner's Natural Body Care tutorial from her blog, Making Love in the Kitchen, and it has some fantastic recipes for at-home hair rinses, shampoos and conditioners.
Anonymous said…
You might want to try a shampoo bar with neem oil as an ingredient. It's a natural conditioner and softener. Using shampoo with this ingredient gives my hair the same fluffy body without the dryness of commercial liquid shampoos.

Right now Im using Doctor Bronner's which is a great shampoo and Burts Bees conditioner(until it runs out and I can get something with Neem Oil).

Anything with a good dose of hemp oil should do the trick as well.
Angel said…
Please never buy Pantene again!

they animal test

=, (

horrible.. I found out when I had 2 large pantene conditioners.

I hope you are against animal testing too?

Try Nexxus, they dont animal test : ) i really love their hyradtion shampoo and it smells like coconut!!
Jessica said…
I tried the salty dawg creme shampoo
from Gudonya on etsy
and, along with her conditioner it did a pretty good job of cleaning hair and didn't lead to split ends.
I'm not sure what she uses for her packaging however :(
I believe she also makes bar shampoos but I'm not sure about that
Adair said…
It's possible your dandruff is not dandruff, but dry scalp (I'm not sure what it looks like). I thought I had dandruff for the longest time, but a hair stylist looked at it and told me it was a actually dry scalp. Dandruff is normally yellowish or orangish and vaguely greasy. Dry scalp is the flaky dry stuff. Most people think they have dandruff when they actually have dry scalp...thought I'd share!

Here is an article:

May this will help on you on your quest. :)

Popular Posts