Apple Cider Vinegar & Baking Soda DIY No-Poo

Apple Cider Vinegar & Baking Soda DIY No-Poo

There has been an ever growing amount of confusion surrounding the differences between many of the terms thrown about surrounding cleaning hair. Are curly haired individuals supposed to shampoo or lo-poo or no-poo? And in particular, what is the difference between lo-poo and no-poo?

The main point of confusion surrounding shampooing  is determining the best method for cleaning hair. The answer turns out is  based upon the curling pattern of the hair. The shape of curly hair is different than that of straight hair. The structure of the curly hair prevents sebum, the nutrient rich oil produced by the hair for protection, from moving down the hair shaft giving the natural protection hair needs to maintain health. This is why curly hair is known to be more dry than straight hair.

All shampoos, whether or not they contain sulfates, contain compounds and detergents that will remove all oil and debris from the hair. Lo-poo products reduce the amount detergents introduced to the hair. The goal of these products is to remove most of the oils and dirt within the hair. This type of product is intended to be used infrequently if the hair is prone to dryness or is significantly damaged. However if the hair is prone to oiliness then this type of product should be used in conjunction with a moisturizing treatment.

You might be wondering: what’s so bad about regular shampoos? Well, they can contain a lot of harmful ingredients. Some of the worst chemical-offenders are:

  • Sodium Sodium Lauryl
  • Laureth Sulfate
  • DEA/Diethanolamine
  • Parabens
  • Fragrance

Let’s talk about he most popular no-poo.
No-poo, in general, consists of a DIY mixture of baking soda and apple cider vinegar that is massaged on the scalp with vigorous scrubbing of the hair. However, this method may not be beneficial for a long term replacement of shampoo. Apple cider vinegar and baking soda each have different pH levels which can have an impact to the overall health of the scalp.

Apple cider vinegar derived from fermented fruit is an acid and baking soda is an alkaline starch that is basic in nature. When combined under water, the two products neutralize one another bringing the pH levels to nearly neutral, but caution should be taken when applying these products. Apple cider vinegar can worsen any damage present in the hair and scrubbing too hard with the baking soda can cause scalp irritation, friction alopecia, and build-up on the scalp.

What does this popular DIY pre-poo mixture do?
The combo can help strengthen the immune system, creates a healthy alkaline metabolic environment, and improves the appearance of the hair and skin. Many people even swear it helps with weight loss, too.

As a more acidic product, apple cider vinegar balances out the alkalizing effect of the baking soda to restore your hair’s natural pH levels. It also helps kill bacteria (great if you have dandruff issues!) and is a natural humectant, which means that it helps hold in moisture.

How much of each you use will vary from person to person. The baking soda is what cleans your hair and the apple cider vinegar is what conditions your hair. If your hair is dry, increase the amount of vinegar. If your hair is oily, increase the amount of baking soda.

This mixture helps to remove any buildup of oils, soaps, and other ingredients in typical hair care products. By stripping away this buildup, this no-poo can leave hair squeaky-clean, shiny, and soft.

Since shampoos strip our scalps of natural oils, this tend to increase oil production so as you stop using shampoo you might find that you hair seems oiler than normal for the first few weeks until your scalp adjusts. Using the baking soda and vinegar method every 2 – 3 days is cheap, effective, simple and chemical-free.


1. Shampoo your hair with a good quality baking soda (1-2 tablespoons per wash – depending on length of your hair). Rub the baking soda on your wet scalp, then rinse.
2. Follow it up by conditioning with apple cider vinegar (raw & unfiltered). Dilute about 50/50 apple cider vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray a handful of times on your hair (root to end) and let it sit for a couple minutes, then rinse.

Too much baking soda will damage your hair. If your hair becomes dry or damaged from using this method, then you are using too much baking soda, too often. It’s also very important that you use an acidic rinse after washing with baking soda to balance the PH levels of your scalp.

Alternative hair cleansing products feature clays or even the Brazilian soap nut. Dry shampoo is a simple product that consist of mainly alcohol or starch, or a combination, used to absorb the oil in the hair giving it a cleaner, fresher appearance. Traditionally, shaking corn starch into hair has achieved the same effect, but most current products deliver the drying agents via an aerosol spray. Dry shampoo products can also leave a residue on the scalp as scales or scalp rash leading to inflammation that reduces hair growth.

Another point of confusion is clarifying shampoo. Clarifying shampoos have been designed to remove all build-up from your strands, including chlorine, hard water minerals, and styling residue. These products strip the hair of everything. Many of these products use harsh alcohols and sulfates which are known to dry the hair. The goal is to maintain healthy environments for the hair. Moderate shampooing and moisturizing the hair are the best methods for keeping hair healthy and promoting growth. Taking a glance at the ingredients can clue individuals as to the stripping strength of the product and depending on the state of the hair whether or not it is appropriate to use without causing unintended results.

Sources: ROBBINS, CLARENCE R. Chemical and Physical Behavior of Human Hair. 5th ed., SPRINGER, 2016. Yahagi K, Silicones as conditioning agents in shampoos, J Soc Cosmet Chem 1992, 43,