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Water-Only Hair Washing: Benefits, Drawbacks, and Alternatives

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Are you tired of searching for the right hair care products? Is your bathroom vanity filled with half-used, expensive shampoos, conditioners, and hair masks? If you are incredibly bored with this game, you must have considered joining the 'no-poo' movement. The people who use this method, also know as water-only hair washing, typically stop using shampoo, conditioner, gels, hair masks and other hair care products. Although, there is more than one way to join the club, and we’ll talk about that in a sec.

Basically, a water-only hair washing routine means quitting shampoo and conditioner and only using water to clean your scalp on a regular basis. But is this a good option for everyone? Let's find out the benefits, drawbacks, and alternatives to water-only hair washing. 

Table of Contents

  1. What is the water-only hair washing method?
  2. How does water-only hair washing work? 
  3. Which types of hair benefits the most from the no-poo trend?
  4. How does renouncing shampoo affect your hair?
  5. Drawbacks of water-only washing routine 
  6. Chemical-free alternatives to water-only washing

1. What is the water-only hair washing method?

In the water-only (WO) hair washing method, you only use lukewarm water to cleanse your scalp and hair. Typically, water-only hair washing is the final stop for people who start moving away from shampoos and conditioners and towards a more natural approach to hair care. Using DIY hair cleansers or using just water is believed to allow the natural oils to nourish and moisturize the hair, ultimately making it healthier. 

2. How does water-only hair washing work? 

The scalp produces sebum, a natural oil that lubricates and strengthens your hair, while soothing and protecting your scalp. However, regular shampoos and hair products strip these natural oils, and your hair becomes dull, dry, and brittle. You might use a hair mask or conditioner to hydrate and add moisture, but it can fall short of the benefits of sebum. People who went for water-only hair washing, or at least some of them, swore by the benefits of this method and by the transformative effect it had on their hair.  

Now, it is true that when we use a shampoo packed with chemicals such as sulfates and parabens, we’re disturbing the pH of our scalp and hair and may cause imbalances in sebum production. What happens next is that the scalp goes into a continuous cycle of over-producing sebum, making your hair feel and look greasy. The water-only method is supposed to remove dirt and other water-soluble impurities from your scalp, without stripping the hair of sebum. However, a good portion of oils and styling products buildup will be left behind. And with them, some argue, pollutants and toxins that may harm your scalp and hair. 

3. Which types of hair benefits the most from the no-poo trend?

Coily, curly, thick, and coarse hair may benefit the most from this method, as they are prone to dryness, but also because these hair types typically have high porosity and require extra moisturization, hydration, and natural oils. 

4. How does renouncing shampoo affect your hair?

If you live in an area with hard water, this may not be the best method for you, because you cannot possibly dissolve and wash off the mineral deposits, which means that they can create buildup on your hair and scalp. But even if you find a way to convert hard water to soft water, plain water can't make your scalp 100% dirt-free or chemical-free which can be unpleasant, to say the least, particularly if you work in a polluted or smelly environment. 

This method is also typically not suited for people with very oily scalp because water can only dissolve water-based pollutants and not oils. It also doesn’t help if you have dandruff, although there are certain natural remedies you can try, such as tea tree essential oil. 

If you want to avoid harsh chemicals, converting to water-only hair washing isn't the only way. Alternatively, you can look for chemical-free hair care products. 

5. Drawbacks of water-only washing routine

Dry hair

If you have dry hair or combination hair (oily scalp, dry ends) and you stop using conditioner or other hair products (such as hair masks) that can nourish and hydrate your hair shaft, you might end up with dry, brittle, prone to damage hair. 

Oily scalp / Flat hair

The advocates of this method say that, if you have the patience to wait for a few weeks, the sebum production will regulate and you’ll start enjoying beautiful, healthy, balanced hair. In the meanwhile, though, nobody denies that you’ll have to deal with an oily scalp and limp, greasy hair. 

6. Chemical-free alternatives to water-only washing

Fortunately, if you want to avoid harsh chemicals, there are plenty of options out there of products that are gentle on your hair and scalp and packed with the goodness of the natural ingredients you would normally include yourself in your DIY hair care recipes. 

Sulfate and Paraben Free Shampoos

WOW Skin Science has a wide range of sulfates and parabens-free shampoos and conditioners powered by natural botanicals. You can use WOW Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo to regulate your scalp’s pH and sebum production, Activated Charcoal and Keratin Shampoo to detox your scalp and hair or the Coconut Milk Shampoo to rejuvenate, hydrate and soothe the scalp, while reducing frizz and boosting shine. WOW Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo will reduce hair breakage and provide moisture to your dry hair strands. 

WOW Hair Revitalizer Spray

WOW Hair Revitalizer Spray


If you still plan on (at least) reducing the number of times you shampoo your hair, look for natural products to help revitalize your hair between washes. WOW Hair Revitalizer is packed with super ingredients like Sweet Almond Oil, Moroccan Argan Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Jojoba Oil, Vitamin E, Grapeseed Oil, Safflower Oil, Bhringraj Extract, Rosemary, and Tea Tree Essential Oil that help tame frizz, strengthen the roots and reduce split ends. 

Osheen Jain

Osheen is a freelance content writer passionate about digital marketing and everything related to curating amazing content. She believes in minimalistic living and keeps making lists for unnecessary tasks. Aside from writing, Osheen is interested in Cognitive Science, has a Master's degree in Philosophy, loves reading, and enjoys exploring new places. You can find more about her at osheenjain.com.

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