5 Expert-Recommended Products For Cleaning Your Hair Without Shampoo

by Ashley Berg
Originally Published: 
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Washing hair can be a pain. Between finding the right shampoo and trying to get your locks dry, it can seriously be a process. I usually put off shampooing my hair as long as possible just because I don't want to deal with drying and styling it all the time. Besides that aftermath, just trying to find a shampoo and conditioner that suits my hair type can be an even bigger dilemma. So when shampoo just isn't cutting it, it’s time to turn to some alternatives. Below are a few hacks to get clean hair without using shampoo.

Most experts agree that there’s no universal “right” amount of days to go in between washing your hair with your regular, foamy shampoo. “Just like everyone has a unique skin type and composition, everyone has a unique combination of oil glands on their scalp,” Dr. Nava Greenfield of Schweiger Dermatology Group in Brooklyn, NY tells Bustle. This is most often related to your hormone levels, which change as you get older. “In our teens and 20s, our sebaceous glands are very active,” board certified dermatologist Nicole Rogers, MD FAAD, Assistant Clinical Professor at Tulane Department of Dermatology and in private practice at Hair Restoration of the South, explains. “As we age into our 50s and 60s, this sebaceous gland activity is less and we don’t need to wash as often.” Both doctors also note that your ethnicity, hair type, and hair color can affect how often your hair needs washing.

While the internet is full of theories that claim you can wash your hair without shampoo by swapping some household cleaning and food items into your routine, none of the experts Bustle contacted for this piece recommend them. “I have heard of many other at home remedies — rice water, various oils — but they have not been validated by studies,” Greenfield explains. “Do not use apple cider vinegar. I have seen burns and other adverse reactions from thinking that this is a safe and acceptable method for cleaning parts of the body.”

If you want to keep your hair clean without shampoo between your regular washes, here are some products the experts do recommend trying.

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1. Dry Shampoo

Dry shampoo was the top recommendation of every expert who was interviewed for this piece. The amount of days you can rely on dry shampoo will depend on the same factors that determine how often you should do a full wash. To use it, just spray dry shampoo at the roots and wait for it to dry before you brush out the powder. The powder should soak up any excess oil at the roots as well as give you extra volume and texture.

2. Baby Powder

If you’re out of dry shampoo, “baby powder is an inexpensive way to soak up the oils,” Rogers says. It can get a little messy, so I’d advise shaking it into your roots before you get fully dressed for the day.

3. Skin Care Products With Glycolic Acid

“I like to use skin care products in my hair,” Larry Paul, Fellow Director of Product Innovation says. “Cleansing needs for hair and scalp are similar to skin.” Greenfield agrees, explaining that “glycolic acid products in the form of drops can also be used which can degrease and exfoliate.” This seems particularly useful for traveling, since your favorite nighttime serum or face wash could double as a cleanser in a pinch.

4. Skin Care Products With Salicylic Acid

Another skin care ingredient that’s great for cleaning your scalp? Salicylic acid, which can “remove the appearance of oil and sebum,” according to Greenfield.

5. A Between-Wash Tonic

This type of product is a similar concept to dry shampoo except it’s not, well, dry. “It’s alcohol-free and removes styling product, dirt and surface residue without drying you out,” Paul explains, so it might be a better option for people who experience some scalp dryness.

Additional reporting by Kara McGrath.

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