How to Get Self-Cleaning Hair: the Survival Guide (Health & Hygiene)

About: Hi! My name is Thomas Scott Osborne II. I am a Sophomore Film and Digital Media/Psychology Major at the University of California, Santa Cruz and I have a strong belief in reviving old traditions/customs...

Disclaimer: Much of my work is an elaboration and compilation of other sources material as such I will post my resource links at the end of the Instructable.

(Health & Hygiene)
A Short History of Hair
Human Hair is naturally self-sustaining and will clean itself without use of shampoo or hair care products (same thing applies for toothpaste, though it whitens them) if taken care of correctly. The hair on our heads is called Terminal Hair because of both its definitive coarseness and maturity. This Instructable is in reference to Human Terminal hair on the head. Hair can and will clean itself after it has been weened off shampoo and conditioner...How else did people keep their hair clean in ancient societies?

A. You + Willpower
B. Hot Water (Not scolding)
C. Someplace to bathe or shower
D. Scalp Massaging Brush (Can be bought at Amazon or in some Health & Beauty stores)
E. Vinegar (To strip Hair of excess oils)
F. Regular Hair Brush

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Step 1: 1. Forget the Shampoo and Conditioner

1. Getting rid of your "Shampoo Habit" is the first step to rejuvenating your natural hair oils as shampoo and conditioner strip your hair of the its essential oils which prevent a buildup of dirt, making your hair dry. When your hair tries to restore these oils, it overcompensates and makes your hair greasy leaving you uncomfortable.

This process seems counter-intuitive as "Shampoo" has become a way of modern life because it seemingly keeps your hair "clean". A sentiment that is projected by many family households as well as perpetuated by the USD $ 24 billion dollar skin care industry (USD $12 Billion in Hair Care,2004). Who see their projected market as "Baby boomers are still the core consumers, but the next generation in their 40s and beauty obsessed youth are also great potential customers for skin care industry.(" Thus if there is a large sum of money in the picture, many of the "facts" could be in fact false.

Step 2: 2. Be Patient

It takes about six weeks in order to ween your hair and re-regulate your hair oils for those natural oils to be fully balanced and restored. During this time, your hair will most likely become varying degrees of greasy. The worst of it will occur during weeks 3 and 4.

Tip: In order to counteract gross amounts extra oil during this time period of re-balancing use vinegar or method below to strip a healthy amount of hair. Oil build-up makes your hair look drab, lose its luster, and can make it appear unclean! But you can remove it with ingredients from your cupboard, if you follow the instructions below.

* Keep your eyes closed when pouring on the ACV because it may sting your eyes (harmless otherwise)

  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar (also called ACV)
  • 1 gallon of distilled water
1. Mix the vinegar and water.
2. Shampoo and rinse as usual.
3. Pour 2 cups over the scalp and let the mixture saturate your hair.
4. Finish up with a cold-water rinse.
5. Store any leftover mixture in a cabinet or the refrigerator and use it every couple of weeks to keep your hair squeaky clean.


  • Baking Soda
  • Water
1. Mix two parts baking soda with one part water in a large bowl.
2. Apply the paste to hair thickly.
3. Leave the paste to soak for up to half an hour.
4. Shampoo and condition your hair as usual.
5. Pour any leftover mixture down a drain. It is environmentally friendly and safe, but only usable once.

  • Dish Detergent
  • Conditioner
  • Water
1. Shampoo your hair with Dish Detergent once a week.
2. Apply conditioner after shampooing hair.
3. This will keep your hair from feeling lifeless. It will increase body in your hair.

Step 3: 3. Continue to SHOWER!

Rinse your hair thoroughly.Use hot (not scalding) water to wash dirt and excess oil out of your hair, then cold water to make your hair smooth and shiny. Remember, this Instructable was made to promote a healthy hygiene and relinquish the benefits of living with self cleaning hair without giving up your healthy showering habits. DO NOT STOP SHOWERING JUST BECAUSE OF HAIR! Showering is a necessity to keep hair clean and your body free of dead skin and but shampoo products aren't!

Step 4: 4. Groom Thine Self....Brushing Specifically....

IMPORTANT! Brush your hair regularly. Scalp massage brushes are good for reducing dandruff and stimulating healthy hair. Brush twice a day to maintain a healthy main. Brushing also keeps hair from "dreading" into dreadlocks.

  • You an obtain a Scalp Massage Brush @ Target,, etc. When all else fails, Google it!

Step 5: 5. Don't Be Self-conscious!

Don't be self-conscious! As long as you rinse and brush your hair properly, it won't smell or look dirty. People won't notice any difference.

  • If it gets really greasy during the third week, and people start to notice, just do a pony tail. Also make sure to pull back any bangs from your face. That way the attention will be on your face rather than your hair.
  • Some environments make shampoo a necessity. Rethink your plans to stop shampooing if you work around deep fat fryers or a lot of smoke. Good LUCK!



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    28 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Most shampoos contain sodium laurel/laureth sulfate which is not only damaging but has been linked to health problems like poor eye sight in children. It is a very cheap surfactant (breaks water tension).

    Ammonium laurel/laureth sulfate (surfactant) is much gentler. It is what you find in the baby shampoos (No Tears Formula).

    Massaging the scalp and brushing with a natural bristle brush help to distribute the oils.

    Corn starch was one way women used to extend the time between washes many years ago. My mother grew up in the depression and she often used it to help absorb any excess oil. Then the brushing helped remove the corn starch.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I like this instructable, I am starting week four of no shampoo, and my scalp looks great, but the hair is getting very oily...I welcome it! Winter in Alaska is very hard on skin and hair, and dries it out terribly. I use a wood brush every am and pm and that keeps the scalp looking great, and also massage with my fingertips. I only rinse with water once a week because I don't like having wet hair in the cold, so I simply wear a hip looking cap to cover up the bed head in the morning after I brush.

    So glad I am at this point, my hair is shinier and is behaving better than ever, and it is very wavy, so it needs the extra oils. will let you all know what it looks like in another couple weeks, so far, so good!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Funny that I just happened to stumble across this. I recently reached 'steady state' and I am shampoo free, with non-greasy hair. I weaned myself off shampoo by using baking soda, then using that less and less frequently. It's interesting to note that it doesn't matter how sweaty you get your hair, the sweat just rinses out once all the body chemistry is in balance. I go mountain biking in the summer, and a hot water rinse still does the job. I'm going to try the cold water rinse and scalp massager to see how that goes.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I have self cleaning hair because I'm just that lazy. Seriously, it happened by accident. Nice instructable!


    I thought I would try this as my hair is very brittle I have psoriasis on my scalp. It will be week 3 tomorrow. No shampoo or conditioner. I understand your hair doesn't actually clean itself, It eventually makes hair balanced with your natural oils. Which I suppose It would bring the PH Level to ideally around 5.5. Done 3wks, might as well just carry on as I didn't think I would get this far

    Please fix the misspelling in the materials list. Letter "B." Water cannot scold you, but it can scald you. Sorry to be anal, but I can't take an author seriously if they can't spell.


    4 years ago on Step 2

    what do you mean- "2. Shampoo and rinse as usual."? with what Shampoo?

    try the Shielo Volume Shampoo - it alot of the oil out, but still leave moisture in your hair + it has biotin...

    I like this instructable, but I have 2 questions; Where it says "2. Shampoo and rinse as usual." that is meaning with the ACV mix, right? and would mixing the ACV with regular tap water instead of distilled water make an important difference?

    3 replies

    Yes the AVC mixture is what it means by shampoo. Use a bit of regular conditioner (not too much) to re-saturate your hair. I have found that a small dallop of dish soap works as well. Remember that the AVC and alternate mixtures are to be used to strip extra hair oil; do not use the mixture everyday. The most important steps are showering with warm water and using a scalp brush to stimulate your scalp and keep from dandruff. Remember to use a regular bush to comb your hair if it is long to keep it from dreading.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Have you done this personally? the reason I'm wondering is because my room-mate and I did this experiment a couple of years ago, going 6 weeks without using shampoos or conditioners. The one problem is, though, we really noticed no decrease in the amount of oil production, and thus gave up the experiment. It's possible that the grease cutting mixtures might help with that, but wouldn't that also kind of count as a shampoo? This isn't meant to be major criticism or anything, I was just wondering.

    2 replies

    I've had success with this in the past. It can be a bit meticulous at times when using the stripping agents, but it was worth while. I had better results starting with shorter hair and then allowing it to become longer than long or matted (and probably dreaded) hair would. When you have longer hair and you try this method: be aware of other aspects of your hygiene as well. Diet and environment definitely affect the outcome of this. For example your pillow cases and sheets can become extra dirty as well and that will contribute to your hair being dirtier overall.

    Yes. the common misconception is that you have to drop shampoo completely. I found that sporadic use of shampoo will not strip you of your essential oils if you use "a small amount". I prefer this over the vinegar mixture but those work very well too.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    This may be near impossible if you have hard water. I at least haven't found a natural way to clean hair that works with hard water.

    1 reply

    I have lived in areas with hard water, again the vinegar is a miracle worker! My mother just let me know recently that she uses it to remove heavy deposits like lime etc on her water fixtures. I would assume, perhaps wrongly, that it should still strip the oil and mineral deposits from your hair.

    You should probably use Method 1 noted above, it should remove the excess product unless you are using something heavy duty. I may start experimenting with this and I will let you know how it goes.


    They will probably build up, requiring you to use something stronger, like a clarifying shampoo or regular shampoo to get rid of the build up. There are recipes for natural gels out there, usually involving aloe vera.