Since the beginning of the No Poo movement, advocates of No Poo haircare are often asked can No Poo cause hair loss? This has been an ongoing query in this controversial natural approach to hair care.
The idea of forgoing the traditional methods of hair care was, in all honesty, a crazy idea to me when I first heard about it! Why would anyone not want to have squeaky clean hair?… but then I started thinking about it, and investigating the number of chemicals contained within commercial shampoos.
In every other area, I try to limit mine and my family’s exposure to chemicals – safer for us, and safer for the planet. So why not hair care?
I was horrified to see that there are hundreds of chemicals in the stylishly marketed commercial shampoo bottles living in my bathroom?! This moment was quite transformational for me as I was intrigued to learn more about how to keep my hair as naturally clean as possible.
No Poo is a natural hair care method that is unlikely to cause damage to an individual’s hair. Hair loss might occur however if harsh No Poo methods such as the Baking Soda wash are used. This method in particular may cause hair damage if not used correctly or on the wrong hair type.
In the following article, I look at the different methods of No Poo, and whether No Poo causes hair loss as those benefiting from the highly profitable shampoo market often suggest.
Can No Poo Cause Hair Loss?
Many fans of the No Poo approach suggest that rather than causing hair loss, their No Poo methods have actually increased their hair growth!
There is sadly no scientific evidence to back up these assertions. However, it is possible that the more intense scritching, scrubbing, and massaging of the scalp actually increases the number of dead cells being lifted from the individual’s scalp.
In reality, your hair is simply not being stunted, as shampooing may have done if allowed to build up.
Moreover, the preening, brushing, and drying of your hair with a cotton material helps to pull more of your body’s natural oils down to the ends of your hair. This is important since it reduces hair breakage which helps hair to appear healthier, and as if it is growing more actively.
Natural No Poo hair washes, such as apple cider vinegar washes can effectively clean hair leaving it more manageable and with more volume. It is not thought that these methods cause hair loss, though baking soda washes are considered to increase to likelihood of hair loss since this wash method can dry your hair out if used too often.
In order to determine whether No Poo can cause hair loss, it is important to have a basic grasp of how our skin and hair are constructed. We also need to understand the pH balance and how different commercial/non-commercial products affect our skin and hair health.
Did you know that to deter bacteria and fungal infections our bodies naturally produce chemicals within our skin, which makes it mildly acidic and therefore an inhospitable environment? (source 1). Therefore, using products with a high pH (alkaline pH >7) or with too high acidity (pH <7) will lead to damage to both skin and hair.
As you can appreciate, some No Poo hair methods are not without their risks and could cause hair loss if the user does not take their own hair type into consideration prior to choosing an alternative to shampoo.
What Is Hair Loss?
Hair loss can be defined and quantified in a number of ways and is generally subjective. A clinically diagnosed alopecia event is usually far more severe than simply losing a few more hairs than normal.
Hair loss can be either through natural shedding or through breakage.
Hair sheds naturally on a random cycle. There are 3 stages of growth; Anagen, Catagen, and Telogen.
Usually the Anagen stage lasts for years and the hair will continue growing until the resting, or Catagen stage is reached. At this point, the hair follicle slows production and gradually shrinks. In the final, Telogen stage, hair is no longer produced and eventually falls out. When this is not caused by a new hair pushing through, and affects a significant proportion of the overall number of follicles, hair loss can be seen (source 1).
Simplistically, hair loss occurs when fewer new hairs are being produced than those falling out.
Why Is Shampoo Bad For Your Hair?
Traditional shampoos contain sulfates and silicones used to create foam and leave hair clean and glossy. However, these chemicals are potentially responsible for drying out the hair.
Silicone also coats the hair and is difficult to remove. The sheer number of ‘clarifying’ shampoos on the market, targeted at those people wanting to rid their hair of the build-up created by regular shampoos is a testament to how damaging our ‘normal’ techniques are.
Concerns about parabens (other harmful chemicals) are also a reason for looking for a more natural way to clean our hair.
Traditional shampoo methods may, over the long term, cause the very issues they purport to relieve!
What Is The No Poo Method?
Washing our hair using shampoo has been ingrained in us all for decades, normally from the moment, our bottoms hit the baby bath! However, in recent years the controversial and much-talked-about No Poo trend has gained popularity, with interesting results.
No Poo methods are basically the different methods that exist to wash your hair without using traditional shampoo. These natural hair care options are a stark contrast to using shampoos containing harsh chemicals.
Many No Poo’ers claim that these chemicals are actually harmful to your hair since they strip the hair shaft clean and then attempt to replenish the lost nutrients by dousing the hair in environmentally unfriendly silicone conditioners.
The ultimate aim of all No Poo recipes is to allow the scalp to self-regulate its oil production. When your scalp is finally able to self-regulate your body’s natural oils (also known as sebum), you will discover that your hair stays clean and healthy with minimal help from you!
The No Poo concept, therefore, promotes not only healthier hair, but a healthier environment, with the by-product of a far healthier wallet…….but does it work? And, more importantly, can No Poo cause hair loss?
Is No Poo Bad For Your Hair?
As a concept there is nothing wrong with the No Poo approach. Where most people fall down, however, is in their preparation and not managing their expectations short-term.
Before embarking upon the No Poo journey you must first determine your hair type and needs. You wouldn’t just buy any old shampoo for your hair. The same goes for the No Poo method.
If your hair is porous then heavier treatments such as egg and coconut work well for revitalization. Low porous hair by contrast finds lighter oils beneficial. However, as with anything, what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another (source 1).
When transitioning to a No Poo approach several weeks are required before the results will start to become apparent, it is no good to stop shampooing on Monday and expecting full, lustrous, and healthy hair by Wednesday!
To begin with, it may appear that the No Poo method is having negative results on your hair. This is not necessarily because No Poo is not the right approach for you, but instead that your scalp is adjusting to having to self-regulate its production of sebum.
Alternatively, you may be over-doing the products that you are using; there is such a thing as too much of a good thing…
No Poo Methods That Can Cause Hair Loss
Even if the product you are using is ‘natural’ you could be using too much at a time, or using it too frequently, which may lead to increased hair loss.
Always check the pH of a product if you suspect your No Poo haircare routine is causing hair loss. For example, Apple Cider Vinegar has many uses and is often used as a rinse by those embracing the No Poo movement. However, with a pH of 2-3 (highly acidic), it should always be diluted before use, as if used in too strong a formulation, or too often, your scalp may become inflamed and/or irritated, leading to unwanted breakage and hair loss (source 1).
Baking soda washes are often used before an Apple Cider rinse. Baking Soda is a very harsh product which, although great for achieving very clean hair, can, for some people leads to hair breakage and loss. Baking Soda has a pH of 9 and can strip hair of it’s natural oils, especially if used too frequently.
No Poo Wash Methods
First and foremost, if you are keen to follow a more natural hair care route then please make sure you remain alert to your hair’s needs at all times, especially in the beginning.
This is important as your own personal hair type (low or high porosity) and the alternative hair wash products you have chosen to use might actually result in the No Poo method either promoting hair loss or encouraging greater hair health.
Here are some No Poo product examples, often used to keep hair clean and healthy:
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Water Only
Make sure you read my articles on exactly how to use these products, before jumping straight in.
What Causes Hair Loss In Women?
There is no one answer to why women suffer from hair loss. For some, it can be linked to a medical issue or exacerbated by limitations within a diet. For example, women lacking in the following may experience an increase in hair loss (source 1):
- Vitamin A/C/D and or E
- B vitamins
- Protein and essential fatty acids
However, simply pulling one’s hair too tightly into a style may antagonise the hair follicles and lead excess hair to fall out.
Excessive brushing, and also using too many heated styling products can also impact the level of hair loss individuals experience. The latter is more likely to be responsible for hair breakage rather than an inherent problem.
Unfortunately our genetic make up also plays a part in who suffers most, so look at your older female relatives, if they have thinning hair then it may be that your chromosomes are simply working to the family blueprint!
No Poo Hair Shedding
Shedding and hair loss effectively boil down to the same thing; loss of hair quantity and possibly volume.
When using the No Poo method people have described increased hair shedding and loss. Is this really true?
Those starting a No Poo regime will invariably start to wash their hair less frequently. It logically follows therefore that they will see an increased amount of hair loss when they actually DO wash their hair. Thus, No Poo’ing in this example does not necessarily lead to increased shedding, just the appearance of such.
On the other hand, if a recent convert to the No Poo approach is heavy-handed using the baking powder approach their hair may be damaged and more shedding and breakage will be noticeable (source 1).
Does No Poo Help Hair Loss?
No Poo may help reduce hair loss, but only if you take into account your hair type and porosity. You also then need to use a No Poo wash that effectively balances the hair’s natural pH.
Baking soda is a controversial wash method that can lead to hair loss since it is highly alkaline and coarse. Even still, some No Poo’ers like to use this substance to scrub the dirt and grease out of their hair. To combat the high alkaline levels, apple cider vinegar is often used as a rinse afterward to give hair shine. The acidic composition of apple cider vinegar helps balance out the hair and scalp pH level (source 1.)
Everyone’s hair has different needs, and by learning about what your hair is lacking you will be well on the way to living a No Poo life.
An added bonus is that No Poo washes will also reduce your environmental impact (no more plastic shampoo and product bottles clogging up the bathroom cupboards and landfill). You might also a few pennies at the same time!
No Poo Hair Breakage
Egg washes are a wonderful tonic for strengthening the cuticles of the hair, especially high porosity hair. Breakage may occur if over-used though as too much protein can be as harmful as too little (source 1).
As with all the No Poo methods, balance is the key.
Can Changing Shampoo Cause Hair Loss?
Changing to the wrong shampoo for your hair type can potentially lead to hair loss.
If you read the ingredient list on the shampoo bottle label you may be surprised to see what harsh chemicals lurk inside.
One market leading shampoo in my bathroom lists the following ingredients:
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate
- Cocamidopropyl Betaine
- Sodium Chloride
- Sodium Benzoate
- Citric Acid
- Gylcol Distearate
If you are like me you only recognize a small number of these chemicals, and can pronounce even fewer!
My research on these chemicals found that Sodium Laureth Sulfate is a surfactant which in layman’s terms is responsible for creating the lovely foaming action that ‘good’ shampoos create. However, these sulfates create the foaming action by allowing the cleansing agent to have better access to the hair shaft. Continual use can eventually result in damaged hair because it strips too much of your body’s essential oils and proteins needed to keep hair healthy (source 1).
Cocamidopropyl Betaine is another surfactant, although this is derived from coconut oil. It is commonly found in many household cleaners (source 1).
Knowing that two of the top three ingredients are potentially so damaging to hair it is surprising that so many people continue to use traditional shampoos without a thought.
As you would expect, I’ve ditched this particular shampoo from our lives.
Washing Hair With Water Only Hair Loss
During my research, I have found no indicators to suggest that water only washing increases the normal hair loss process.
The ‘Scritch’, ‘Preen’, and ‘Brush‘ method has few detractors, but it takes time and patience to succeed. Indeed, if you are prepared to wait for up to 6 weeks for your scalp to readjust its sebum production levels, then the water-only method is perhaps the ideal No Poo method for you (source 1).
As with the use of traditional shampoos, there are pros and cons of the No Poo hair care method.
No Poo methods are environmentally more sustainable due to fewer chemicals entering us, and the environment.
The No Poo method uses fewer shampoo and conditioner bottles, which is beneficial for the environment as fewer plastic bottles need recycling. Additionally, fewer end up on landfill sites. Not using shampoo also reduces the heavy toll on your pockets!
If the wrong method or over-enthusiastic use of certain natural products is used, then there is potential that hair loss is increased. It is important to point out at this point though that the same is also true for traditional hair care products.
The No Poo process is more time-consuming and finickity than the traditional shampooing and conditioning in my opinion, but the fact that washing only has to be undertaken a couple of times a week at most should in theory level out the extra exertion over time. As time goes on, the process also definitely becomes quicker and easier in my experience.
In conclusion, there are many benefits to individuals of using the No Poo method, and once the ideal process is settled upon the long-term outlook is good, with healthier hair and less likelihood of hair loss over traditional shampooing.
Does No Poo Help Hair Growth?
No Poo can help hair growth, combined with reduced heat treatments. Natural oils penetrate way down the hair shaft and No Poo means that chemicals are not stunting hair growth.
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