No Poo, the Africa-friendly version!

Picture 2Today’s guest post comes all the way from Atlanta. Three things you should know about the writer: 1) Holly has amazing curly hair, 2) She has been to Senegal twice, 3) She’s sends amazing care packages that will knock your gazelle-print socks off.

So you want to lose the poo…

What? Oh, No-poo? It means not using commercial shampoo on your hair. Like, ever. I haven’t used shampoo on my hair in over three years now. And I don’t ever plan to again. Here’s a little known secret: You don’t need it.

(Shyeah! I do!)

No you don’t. And if you can get past the idea that you need a head-full of sudsy bubbles to make your hair clean, you can live perfectly happily without shampoo.


See, here’s the thing. Shampoo completely strips your hair of its natural oils. (Side note: It’s called ‘sebum’). So there is your hair without its oils, and it needs to produce more to compensate, until at last you have trained your scalp to over-produce it.


The “No Poo” movement started with curly girls, however it has become popular with women who have all types of tresses. I admittedly come at this from the view point of a curly girl, however I will try to temper my preaching about healthy curls to a minimum!

Keeping in mind that most of you in Senegal don’t have access to the fancy shampoos and conditioners that I can get, and that you and your lovely tresses endure crazy temperatures and constant sun exposure, I will attempt to make this an “African Friendly” version of the “No Poo” lifestyle.

Picture 1

Most shampoos contain harsh, drying sulfates that are extremely damaging for hair, curly hair especially. These common detergents found in shampoos make hair frizzy and uncooperative. Conditioner can be used sufficiently to clean the hair. I love this analogy…

You’d never dream of washing a good sweater (insert your favorite hot season clothing item here) with detergent. Yet most shampoos contain harsh detergents (sodium lauryl sulfate or laureth sulfate) that one also finds in dish washing liquid. They’re great for pots and pans because they cut grease so effectively. Your hair, on the other hand, needs to retain some natural oils, which protect your hair and scalp. Stripping them away deprives the hair of necessary moisture and amino acids and makes it look dry and dull.

If you want to go truly “No Poo” then you will want to learn the art of conditioner washing. Begin your routine by wetting your hair in the shower. Distribute conditioner on your entire scalp and massage your scalp with the tips of your fingers (not your fingernails). This rubbing action and the resulting friction will loosen dirt, product residue, and dandruff which can then be rinsed away.

Thoroughly rinse your scalp afterwards, still massaging with your fingertips as you do so. You truly can leave your hair hydrated with natural oils and clean your scalps quite well by rinsing only with conditioner. Rubbing the scalp firmly with fingers is enough to loosen dirt.

While it is very simple to do, it can be puzzling and take lot of trial and error to get right for your particular needs, preferences, and hair-type. And speaking of a trial, there is a very…um, gross trial period. But it’s fun! It’s like an initiation you must pass to be a “no-pooer.” It only lasts about two weeks (that’s two weeks of pony tails, braids, hats, and head scarves), and it might be lessened if you cut down on shampoo before you cut it completely out – but I didn’t. Still, it wasn’t too bad.

You may want to review the fantastic post on head scarves from Jenn for your two week “training period”!

Homemade Curly Hair Cleanse Recipe
1 quart of boiling water + 1/4 cup baking soda
Stir and let cool.

Apply to hair in shower, run fingers through to loosen tangles and rinse.

Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse
1 part apple cider vinegar (available at CityDia)
1 part water

To revive your hair to its days of smoothness, mix the apple cider vinegar and water together. Pour the mixture into your hair. If you have a spray bottle, that works even better. That way you can spritz your hair with the mixture and massage it into your scalp. Let the apple cider vinegar concoction sit for a few minutes before rinsing fully with water. The apple cider vinegar will leave hair feeling smooth and soft.
If you feel like you have super dry hair from all the dust, heat and sun… This is my favorite recipe for a little extra TLC.

Banana Peach Shampoothie
1 banana (great use for old bananas)
1 mango
1/4 c buttermilk
 or lait caillé
1 tsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. honey

Mix in blender until there are no clumps. Apply to dry hair, cover with a bag or towel, let sit 20 minutes, rinse well.

So are you willing to try? 


4 thoughts on “No Poo, the Africa-friendly version!

  1. I’m going to try it. I have curly thick frizzy hair and I’ve been using argon oil on my ends which has helped a lot. I also read that you shouldnt useterry cloth towels on your hair but rather a tshirt! But if there was any place to start the no poo method it would be here 🙂 I do have a question though. Are the baking soda and vinegar recipes what you use for conditioner? Or do you use a commercial conditioner?

  2. I go to Ghana every 6 months. I stay in a poor part of town that usually has little to no electricity let a lone household appliances. Any suggestions for zero-prep options with ingredients readily available in rural areas of Africa?

  3. I’m on board. 10 days in and I’m starting to see a difference. I think I wasn’t using enough baking soda. I’m not sure on the conditioning front, as I haven’t used conditioner for 2 years (I have curly hair, too). I thought it was the conditioner that was causing the heaviness in my hair, but, alas, it seems it was everything- shampoo and the hard water. Mostly the water is my guess, as this problem started for me when we lived in France (in an area with crazy hard water). Stick with it, I’d say, if you want to try. Just plan on ponytails and head wraps. I’m now going to try it with my daughter, as I think she has the same issues.

  4. Oh, and part of my hesitation in trying this was that I thought I’d have to give up mousse- which I’m not willing to do at this point- but apparently you don’t have to and maybe eventually I’ll even need to use less and less because my hair will be cleaner.

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