Does No Poo Hair Stink?

Although the No Poo movement has been around for many years the same questions still crop up on a regular basis. One of the main concerns that people have is does No Poo hair stink?

This question makes sense as well, as no one wants to have a glorious head of hair if people can smell you coming!

No Poo means no chemicals. With the correct cleaning program, there is no reason for No Poo hair to stink. Your hair may smell different as no chemical scents are used, but your hair should still smell clean and fresh. Use tea tree oil or Aloe Vera in your wash to add a pleasant smell to your hair.

I’ve looked into all different types of No Poo hair care, from Water Only washing to Co-Washing and Low Poo shampoos, but the question that I keep coming across most often relates to whether or not No Poo hair smells!

Most of us not only want to have clean and healthy, manageable hair but for it to look and smell good too.

With this in mind, I, therefore, wanted to find out if it’s possible to achieve all of these aims.

Does No Poo Hair Stink?

We’ve all been brought up with traditional shampoos and the idea that they are the only way to cleanse our hair.

Therefore, it stands to reason that if we swap from traditional shampoos to a No Poo method our hair will smell as it won’t be totally clean. Doesn’t it?

I looked a bit further into things to find out.

Traditional shampoos have only really been around since the 1930s. So really, we’ve managed to keep our hair clean and healthy for hundreds of years before it was introduced.

The No Poo method is simply relearning what we once knew and accepted.

There is no reason that a No Poo washing regime should make your hair smell bad or stink, as long as you are cleaning your hair properly.

Clean hair with a No Poo approach should still smell fresh, it just won’t smell the same as traditional shampoos as your hair is now no longer filled with chemicals.

These are the same chemicals that can damage your hair and the reason why most people have chosen to move away from traditional shampoos in the first place.

Just as with traditional shampoos, there are lots of No Poo methods to choose from and each will give your hair a slightly different smell.

All you have to do is choose which scent you like best.

Reasons Your No Poo Hair Smells

Although your hair will smell differently from when you used traditional shampoos, it shouldn’t smell bad, there shouldn’t be a No Poo odor.

Instead, your hair will literally just smell like hair!

If you are unhappy with the way that your hair is smelling there are a few things that you can check before making any changes;

  • Transition period: if you’re still in the transition period and your scalp is still producing more sebum than you would like this may lead to a No Poo odour, not awful, but not ideal. You should find that once your sebum production settles down, the smell disappears.
  • Sebum Build-Up: this is like the transition period where too much sebum is left on the scalp and in the hair. Try making sure that you rinse in cold water and scritch (massage) your scalp regularly to make sure all oil and dead skin cells are loosened before you clean and rinse them out.
  • Rinsing: have you rinsed out the conditioning agent correctly? Apple Cider Vinegar used as a rinse works well, but if not rinsed out with cold water effectively can lead to a No Poo odor. ACV can also simply leave a smell, although this should disappear once the hair has dried.
  • Leave-In Conditioner: If none of the above fit your problem, try a leave-in conditioner such as Aloe Vera or rinse last with Tea Tree oil. Some No Poo’ers do not consider the use of essential oils in line with No Poo ethics, but it is a personal choice. Both of these will leave your hair in beautiful condition and smell amazing!

How To Make No Poo Hair Smell Good

If even after the transition phase you’re not entirely convinced that you like how your hair is smelling then there are ways to make hair smell good naturally.

How to make hair smell good naturally:

  • Lemon juice: Use this as a rinse for a wonderful citrus burst.
  • Honey: This can be used on its own or combined with other products such as banana in a mask to leave your hair moisturized and smelling beautiful.
  • Cinnamon: Smells great and has been noted as being helpful in reducing hair loss and removing dandruff.
  • Rosewater: Use as a spray when needed. Learn more here.
  • Talc: Talc can reduce oiliness and will also soak up any scents in your hair for a healthy nongreasy look

There are many natural substances that can be used to make your hair smell amazing.

No Poo Essential Oils

Essential oils are hailed by some as a great aid to hair care, especially when following a No Poo regime.

Others consider their use to be against the principles of No Poo. This is a personal choice.

No Poo odor can be successfully remedied by using essential oils. They also have many other properties that are beneficial to those using a No Poo method;

  • Lavender: Fabulous for leaving a clean and fresh scent.
  • Tea Tree: Antibacterial properties to leave your hair and scalp squeaky clean.
  • Cedarwood oil: Anti-inflammatory with moisturizing properties. Has been said to thicken hair and reduce hair loss (source 1,2).
  • Sandalwood: This essential oil is it all, it has a wonderful scent to remove any No Poo odor, and it’s anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and moisturizes too! (source 1).

There are lots of recipes available that use essential oils only, for hair problems such as dandruff, hair loss, and dry and oily scalps.

With no chemicals, only naturally available products, essential oils are surely worth a try, especially with their anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that can only benefit your scalp and leave your hair smelling sweet and fragrant.

Smelly Hair Syndrome

This is actually a real thing! Smelly Hair Syndrome is the name given to a problem scalp when the odor is still a problem even after multiple washes.

Smelly Hair Syndrome is the smell that results from excess sebum and too much dead skin left on the scalp for too long. At least, that is one explanation.

Others believe it is caused by bacteria on the scalp being able to multiply rapidly, either on too dry skin or too greasy skin.

The pH of your scalp is broadly neutral (5).

No Poo methods can alter the pH if not used carefully which may lead to increased bacteria or fungus that can smell unpleasant.

Baking soda is highly alkaline and coarse – used to scrub the dirt and grease out of the hair.

Therefore, the apple cider vinegar rinses afterward are used to give shine and, being acidic, balance out the hair and scalp pH level (source 1).

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.

Balance is the key to a healthy scalp and trouble-free tresses.

Water Only Hair Washing Smell

With the water-only approach proper scritching, preening, and brushing are the key to healthy hair with no odor.

Scritching, or massaging the scalp, loosens the dead skin cells and encourages the natural oils so that any excess can be rinsed out after the preening stage.

Water Only hair washing may reduce scalp problems because the pH of water is closer to that of the scalp and no chemicals are stripping the natural oils (source 1).

If scritching, preening, and brushing are completed thoroughly there should be no excess skin on the scalp, and no excess oils for unwanted bacteria to multiply on.

Cleaning your brush after every use is of great importance so that old oil and skin are not reintroduced back to the hair on the next use.


So does No Poo hair stink?

As you will appreciate this frequently asked question is an important one since none of us wants to walk around with smelly hair.

How embarrassing would that be?!

There should be no No Poo Odour if a few basic rules are followed:

  • Always clean your brush after every use.
  • Always rinse with cool or cold water (hot can damage hair and increase sebum production).
  • Use an alternative rinse of lemon juice or a rosewater spray to give your hair extra shine and leave a refreshing scent.
  • Remember that not all hair is the same and that trial and error will lead you to the best combination for your hair and lifestyle needs.

Related Questions

No Poo Tangled Hair

Tangled hair can be caused by undernourished hair or hair that is missing protein. For undernourished hair adding an oil such as Argan oil will leave your hair easier to manage. Hair lacking protein can be improved by using an egg mask regularly.

Katrina Stewardson

Hello! My name is Katrina Stewardson, and I've been obsessed for almost ever with discovering the best natural hair methods for my own hair. For years I longed for one website to tell me everything I needed to know about the amazing No Poo Method movement. I just couldn't find one though, so I decided to create it myself! I dearly hope this website will save all you lovely ladies (and gents!) from wasting hours scrolling the internet looking for natural hair-related information like I did.

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