My No-(Sham)Poo Perm Experiment

I first heard of the no-shampoo method of haircare (dubbed the “no-poo” method) when I read the book “Curly Girl” by Lorraine Massey in 2004. My hair has always had a bit of curl, and I bought the book out of curiosity to see if it could help me get more out my hair’s natural wave. The book is sub-titled a curly hair “manifesto,” and it really does read like one. It’s fun and inspiring, but ultimately the methods described in the book just did not work on my baby-fine, fairly limp hair. I tried all the products and strategies, including going “no-poo” for about four months. But eventually I concluded that while the Curly Girl method probably worked great for women with very curly hair, for someone like me with just a touch of wave it was less successful. I abandoned it, but always kept in mind the styling tips for times when I wanted to use get more out of my hair’s natural wave, and I still believed Massey made some great suggestions for curly-haired persons.

Fast forward to getting my perm in July of 2014, and spending many weeks figuring out how to manage it. I liked it right away, and expected to need some time to adjust to having an all-new head of hair. One of the things I decided to try again was the no-poo method. I found that after the perm calmed down I had less spring in my curls than I would have liked, and of course my hair was particularly dry after all the chemical processing. Another reason (besides just being in an all-around hair-experimenting mood) was how awkward it felt to use shampoo on my hair after the perm – lathering up felt downright unpleasant, because my hair would immediately foam into a mass of tangles, and my fingers would snag into all these snarls of hair, and it was a pretty awful experience. So one night while in the shower, I remembered the no-poo method and decided to try using conditioner instead, like I did way back in the day.This time, I’m experiencing terrific results with it.

There’s lots of information out there about how to go ‘no-poo,’ but on a basic level it requires using nothing but conditioner to wash your hair. The theory is that shampoos are drying and damaging as well as unnecessary, because you can use your conditioner to cleanse your hair as effectively as you can a shampoo. Once again, when trying this before I had a perm and my hair was just a bit wavy, I did not care for the results at all and got no extra bounce or curl out of my hair. But with the perm- WOW. The difference has been striking.

The secret, at least for me, is to use a TON of conditioner as a cleansing agent. I put a load of it in my hair and scrub vigorously at the scalp to loosen any dirt or product residue, then only lightly scrub the rest of it. I use so much conditioner that it almost lathers. With the perm, this is much easier to do than use shampoo, because my hair doesn’t tangle, so it feels like it gets cleaner – but I do scrub at it for quite a while. And did I mention I use a ton of conditioner? Then I rinse that out, continuing to scrub my scalp for cleansing purposes. Then, I actually put more conditioner on it to use as, well, a conditioner, and leave that on my hair while I finish showering up. Then I rinse that out and follow up with my DevaCurl No-Comb Detangling Spray.

Now being me, I’ve got before and after photographs to share, because ever since I got the perm I’ve been taking tons of pictures of it. So yay for photographic evidence. Here is a photo taken before going no-poo. I’d just re-wet my hair, added spray gel, and diffused it after washing it with shampoo and adding mousse the night before:


And here’s a photo taken using the exact same styling process (washed and moussed the night before, then wet down , spray-gelled, and diffused the next morning) but washing only with conditioner and forgoing the shampoo:


Even though my fill flash was bit more harsh in the ‘before’ photo, that’s the only difference between the two shots. The amazing thing to me is how after washing without shampoo (the second photo), my hair didn’t get all crunchy when adding product. It stayed soft, as if my hair absorbed the styling products better than in the before photo, when they appear to have stayed more on the surface (not very technical descriptions here, since I know nothing about how hair products actually work) and gotten crispy. Again, I promise I did absolutely nothing different styling-wise between the two photos except for wash one night before with shampoo and the other night without it.

Here’s another example that’s even more dramatic.  The photos are iPhone ones and are pretty horrible; in the “before” shot I was at LensCrafters trying on new frames so the picture is particularly bad (no, I did not end up getting those glasses, and I’m frowning because I had on fake glasses instead of real ones and literally could not at all see what I was doing when I took the shot) and once again I’d washed my hair with shampoo the night before, then done my usual styling routine as previously described (I’m sure by now you’re tired of reading how it works so I’ll stop describing it). In the after shot, once again, the only thing I’d done differently was wash my hair with conditioner only:


I mean, WOW, right? That’s a huge difference! Even though Massey claims in her book that it can take weeks to see positive results from this method, I’m seeing a pretty dramatic change right away. Perhaps this is because it’s a perm? I don’t know what it is, but so far I am loving it. It’s not even been a week yet, so we’ll see if it continues, but for now? No shampoo for me!