The Best No Poo Shampoo Alternatives

What's great for degunking your bathroom sink isn't always the healthiest option for your hair (who knew?).

If you a) have really dry, curly or natural-textured hair, b) aren’t a frequent washer, c) are all about a “greener,” tree-hugging alternative or d) all of the above, you’ve probably already looked for the best no poo shampoo to help reinforce your current regimen. For the uninitiated, “no poo” refers to “no shampoo,” or foregoing traditional shampoo formulas for either a cleansing conditioner or homemade cleansing mixtures such as baking soda with apple cider vinegar.

It’s not all roses: Even the best no poo shampoo concoctions have their drawbacks. While we certainly applaud the intention (it’s hard to talk smack about something that’s both natural and affordable), we feel it’s also time to rein in the hype surrounding this viral trend. The underlying principle is that regular shampoo contains detergents that are said to strip hair of its natural oils, which in turn makes our scalps overcompensate with more oil. For the curly-haired, the “no poo” approach is in part a no-wet approach as well, as their hair type tends to be the driest and can afford more days (and can actually feel more moisturized and look shinier) between washes.

best no poo shampoo for curly hair
Co-washing has been a natural hair care staple for years. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

Co-washing and cleansing conditioners

The “co-washing”—a.k.a. conditioner washing—method has been mainstream advice for some time now, especially in the curly and natural hair communities. It’s recently trended out to include other hair textures, particularly as the news of its gentle, non-stripping benefits spread. So much so that designated cleansing conditioners are now available for all kinds of hair types, from straight to fine to totally curly.

That said, cleansing conditioners can also offer a bit too much hydration and slip for hair that isn’t super dry; it can leave fine or straight hair feeling limp, stringy or oily after several days of continued use. Many say it’s good to keep a regular clarifying shampoo and conditioner on hand, to be used once or twice a week, to rid hair of any buildup that occurs. If this is your jam, we love the moisturzing benefits (and divine smell!) we get from ApotheCARE The Essentials Cleansing Conditioner.

best no poo shampoo vinegar rinse
Baking soda with ACV: great for a detox, not so great for everyday.

Pinterested? Think again

As for those viral D.I.Y. baking soda/apple cider vinegar concoctions, it’s best to take them all with a grain of salt (and not literally!). Baking soda is 100 percent sodium bicarbonate and is an alkali substance popular for its household-, metal- and plaque-cleaning properties (it’s what they used to clean the interior of the Statue of Liberty!). It also has a lot of said health benefits when mixed with apple cider vinegar, including reducing acidity and encouraging weight loss.

But whatever good it does for your digestive tract and water retention issues may not translate to the condition and feel of your hair. Baking soda is a great exfoliant and just like all scrubs—scalp is skin, after all—it can get abrasive and drying for everyday use, especially as it’s more alkaline than hair’s natural pH levels. The mixture also doesn’t offer any conditioning benefits to your strands, so what may seem like a squeaky-clean feel the first few days may eventually feel rough, frizzy and dried out. A vinegar rinse (which provides the acidity meant to neutralize the whole process) also doesn’t contain any conditioners or emollients that help moisturize hair, so even though it may look shiny and smooth at first, it may eventually start feeling dry and even slightly damaged.

The midway

A dry shampoo is one of the handiest hair care products to have, especially for those who want to skip washes but still want their hair to feel clean and fresh. A dry shampoo helps to absorb excess oils on the scalp and offers a water-free cleanse, making it an ideal option for curly girls who want to extend their no-wash stretches. It’s also perfect for naturalistas of the other sort, i.e. the eco-conscious, who can also pick up non-spray formulations of the product and, bonus, save water as well. Win-win!

Our favorite picks for refreshing and revitalizing the hair in between washes include Dove Refresh+Care Detox & Purify Dry Shampoo, Nexxus New York Salon Care Dry Shampoo Refreshing Mist and TRESemmé Fresh Start Basic Care Dry Shampoo.

For an extra boost of body and lift, Dove Refresh+Care Volume & Fullness Dry Shampoo and TRESemmé Fresh Start Volumizing Dry Shampoo can transform oily and limp hair into strands that have that freshly washed bounce. All are clever hair hacks and provide an easy, on-the-go and waterless option, instead of spending time, effort and money for the best no poo shampoo.