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A Sceptical Mum Goes No Poo | And You Can Too!

I am a proud advocate of No Poo living. Let’s be clear here, I am not a crunchy granola mum. I eat red meat, often from supermarkets. I love a good cup of coffee (several times a day) and I’ve even been known to take great pleasure in the occasional cigarette. I understand the risks but celebrate the little things. I don’t subscribe to junk science and am painfully aware of my unscientific approach to this article. I don’t see a naturopath or get my chakras aligned, in fact my opinion on alternative medicine can be summed up like this:

Do you know what they call alternative medicine that’s proven to work? Medicine. (And yes, I understand the politics of science and how that impacts research etc – but let’s just stick to the topic of pretty hair for now).

I have also suffered from psoriasis of the scalp since I was 22 and let me tell you, it’s annoying! The itch, oh, the insufferable itch. A dear friend has been trying to sell me on “No Poo” – that is swapping out shampoo and conditioner for a cup of bicarbonate of soda – for months. As the itch flared up again, I decided to put my hard held scepticism aside and try this crazy “poo free” thing for myself.

The bizarre no poo hair experience

I put a box of bicarbonate of soda in my bathroom. I ignored it the first few hair washes – who has time for this nonsense? As the psoriasis flare up got worse, I decided to bite the bullet. As per instructions, I left my hair a week without its usual Pantene and Coal Tar cocktail. It was a horrid greasy mess. Ick. I poured myself a cup of bicarb and stirred water through until it resembled a not very well blended paste. Even as I stood there in the shower pouring a cup of goop into my hair, I was cursing myself that I’d have to do a rewash in a few hours. I rubbed that goop into my scalp. It felt revolting. I rinsed it. Then I rinsed it again. And again – note this stuff is hard to get out and looks EXACTLY like dandruff if you don’t get it all.

No conditioner, no shampoo, straight up under a towel. First thing I noticed was the knots. This wouldn’t work with longer hair, it would just create that oh-so-chic dreadlock look in minutes. With my recently-cut-short locks though, I was good to whack an Alice band on and head out into the world with wet hair.

What happened the next morning….oh dear me, the volume

I woke up with the thick, energetic, enthusiastic hair. It was full of motivation and keen to press on with our busy day ahead. I don’t have thin hair but if I did, no poo would have been a Christmas miracle. The volume appeared to have quadrupled overnight. It was a gigantic, shiny halo with all the spirit and energy of a toddler on a sugar high. Oh dear. It was also clean. Despite not soaping up the oils in my hair, my hair was clean. More than that, it didn’t start to oil up the next day either. It remained… clean. The bicarb… worked.

Why stop at the hair?

Ok so let’s get a little gross here, actually brace yourself for a gross theme for the rest of the blog. You know that tooth tartar that you pay a small fortune to have a dentist painfully remove? Turns out a little bicarb on a toothbrush gets that right off – immediately. I’m not sure if it’s psychological or not but after a few days of gentle brushing with a mix of bicarb and toothpaste, my smile appear a little whiter and brighter too.

Acne at 39 – kill me now

Despite being a mature, successful and competent woman, my skin is still under the impression it’s 14 (where zits are concerned anyway, no help on the crow’s feet thanks very much). On day 4 of my investigation into bicarb, I was visited by the acne fairy who gave me a world class blind zit right on the tip of my nose. This happens just about every month and usually blossoms in a conspicuous great red lump. So, first sign, I thought why not whack on a little bicarb before bed. I awoke zit free. Seriously, it was gone. Might be a co-incidence. Who knows but HOORAY none the less.

The glass

While the bicarb was sitting on the bathroom vanity, I thought, why not try it on glass. I did our glass sink with a dab of bicarb on a cloth. Shiny like new. Shower screens, sparkling. Holy moly this stuff is some kind of miracle substance! It’s pretty well known as an odour absorber too – just what the husband needs! Our grandparents used bicarb and vinegar for just about every household task, it’s only in these crass commercialist times that there’s a miracle chemical for every little job. Perhaps this old wive’s tale is a testament to the wisdom of old wives?

What the world has to say about bicarb

There is remarkably little scientific information available on the topic of bicarb shampoo substitution (learn more about Calcium Bicarbonate here and sodium bicarbonate here) It’s in nobody’s best interest to research it – there’s far more important sciency things to get done and shampoo companies are probably kneecapping hippies in dark alley ways to keep this quiet. There is science around bicarb as toothpaste and the general consensus is, don’t do it all the time as it will damage your enamel. It’s an occasional “maintenance” solution rather than a daily practice as its crystals are mildly abrasive. It’s mildly alkaline. Alkaline skin care products are also marketed for the treatment of acne.

20 proven uses for bicarbonate of soda

While no poo science isn’t top of the list (only one study really exists), bicarb is used in a whole host of scientific and commercial ways.
• Fire extinguishers
• Antacid medications
• Treating drug overdose
• As a deodorant
• To enhance sports performance
• To clean infections from baby’s eyes
• To clean aluminium products
• To soften clothes
• As an agricultural fungicide
• To prevent sickness in farm animals
• To remove odours from refrigerators
• Ro remove odours from laundry items
• To remove oil and grease from garage floors
• To clean batteries
• As a bin deodorant
• To clean and unblock drains (with vinegar)
• To create cool science projects (with vinegar)
• As a “carpet freshener” prior to vacuuming
• To adjust PH levels in septic tanks
• To remove residue from fruit and vegetables

We also love this article: 50+ Amazing Uses of Baking Soda. 

As for my anecdotal evidence (my scientist father will be so disappointed) my hair is full and lustrous, my skin is clear, my teeth are tarter free and for now, my head is not itchy. While I am quite sure that bicarbonate of soda is NOT a cure for psoriasis, I am also open to the long held, passionately-articulated granola-mum idea that supermarket shampoos are irritants that increase the symptoms of psoriasis. So, going no poo for a week was just an idea to start with, but now it seems I’ll be keeping a box of bicarb right there in the bathroom.

Photo of author

Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

2 thoughts on “A Sceptical Mum Goes No Poo | And You Can Too!”

  1. I did bicarbonate and corn flour as a deodorant and it was fantastic, it really worked. I tried doing the no poo but it didn’t work for me, I have thick to frizzy hair and I need the goop to tame it. But I had to stop when I spoke to my husband (who is a chemical engineer) about using bicarbonate, he told me it was a derivative of salt and I have blood pressure so this is a no-go-zone so be aware.

  2. Good on you!

    I have also used bi-carb as a natural shampoo.

    I also found that white vinegar acts as a brilliant natural conditioner. Particularly on course hair. It really helps to smooth it out. Just pour half a cup over the hair focusing on roots (minimize contact with scalp if sensitive) sit for a minute or two and rinse thoroughly. If well rinsed it shouldn’t smell too much of vinegar and once dry it won’t smell of vinegar at all.


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