The Water Only Method

Many people raise their eyebrows when they hear about people not using shampoo in their hair and only use conditioner or put baking soda and vinegar in their hair. But I must admit that even I was a bit sceptical of the water-only, or WO-method. Not using anything in your hair whatsoever? Only water? That sounds … odd, to say the least. I first read about it on the Long hair community where people, inspired by an article about a woman who hadn’t washed her hair for 11 years, experimented with cutting down on everything and only washing their hair with water. This was years ago, and it wasn’t until a few months back that I actually started toying with the prospect of trying it out myself, inspired by a few success stories from the swedish no ‘poo facebook group.

But does it work? First, let’s have a look at the theory behind WO, and then I will share how this worked for me. 

Why you should use the Water Only method

  • First of all (and do I have to mention this?): it’s cheap it basically doesn’t cost anything. Yup, the days of spending money on your hair is over!
  • You will not be dependent on commercial products to make your hair look gorgeous – your hair can do that all by itself!
  • If successful, the WO method will result in shiny, easymanageable hair with lots of body.
  • You don’t have to bring lots of stuff to the gym or on vacation.
  • You can wash your hair as often or as seldom as you like. You will probably find that you don’t need to wash your hair more than maybe once or twice a week, but daily wo-washing will not be harmful to your hair in any way.
  • This is a method that works well in combinations with others. If you feel like cutting out all products in your hair, or if you find the water only method doesn’t work perfectly for you,  there’s absolutely no harm in using it only now and again. For instance you can make every other wash a wo-wash or simply take your baking soda (or whatever) only at times when you feel like your hair needs an extra boost.

Downsides to the WO method

  • There might, and probably will, be a few weeks of adjusting where your hair will be a bit greasy.
  • It can be somewhat time-consuming as you will need to massage and brush your hair in addition to washing your hair.  On the other hand, you won’t have to spend time styling and adding products to your hair.

Who does the WO-method suit?

  • WO is good for people with straight as well as curly hair.
  • The method can help calm a dry and irritated scalp.

What do you need for using the WO method?

  • Some people like to use a boar bristle brush and / or a wooden comb to spread the hair sebum.
  • It’s common to do an apple cider vinegar rinse after the washing.

The water only hairwashing method Only water in this hair for 5 days

How does it work?

The theory behind WO is to take advantage of your hair’s natural sebum production, instead of strip them out, as conventional shampoos do. Sebum is oil produced by the scalp which will make your hair look dirty, and possibly clog up the follicles in your scalp if not cared for correctly. This is why the WO method includes some massaging and brushing – instead of staying in the scalp and looking oily, the sebum is distributed along the lengths of the hair, where it instead will make your hair look shiny and healthy. After a while, your scalp will adjust the sebum production, ending the vicious circle where your shampoo strips your hair of the natural sebum, causing your scalp to produce even more sebum. After the scalp has adjusted, you will not have problems with oily hair in the same way.

The method

Before washing your hair, you need to distribute the sebum. Do this by massaging your hair or using a boar bristle brush. You can for instance use Snowy’s massage technique. Me, I would mostly just hang my head upside down, massage the scalp for a couple of minutes and possibly run a boar bristle brush through my hair. When showering, massage your scalp as if you were applying shampoo, do this for a few minutes at least. Apparently, it’s best to start out with cool water, then increasing to warm water and finishing off with a cool rinse, but there is no need for icy cold water. Finish off with an apple cider vinegar rinse or a herbal hair rinse for maximum shine.


No. The hair will smell differently, sure, but not bad in any way. Just more… natural. Hairy. I don’t know. If you’ve ever tried argan oil, I think it smells a bit like that. If you don’t like the smell, you can always add a few drops of  essential oil to your hair rinse.

This is something that I was a bit worried about when I started trying this method. I heard that some people had some difficulty getting the henna out, but for me it wasn’t a problem at all, actually. The henna came out as easily or maybe even easier than when I used something to wash my hair with. If you find that you have trouble getting the henna out, just use some conditioner, a shampoo bar or anything you normally would. There’s no harm in that.

This method does take some transit time, and the people over at the long hair community recommend giving it at least six to eight weeks to let your hair adjust to the new method. If you start with wo straight from conventional  shampooing, it will probably take longer than if you used baking soda or similar before.

Like I mentioned before, yes, you might have trouble with oily hair in the beginning before your scalp adjusts the sebum production, and not produce as much sebum as before. To cope with this, use a dry shampoo, put your hair up or in a braid, buy a cool hat. I didn’t find the oily hair was much of a problem – I would use cocoa powder whenever I thought it looked a bit oily and then it just looked great 🙂

The water only hair washing method Only water in this hair for 1 week. Time for some cocoa powder?

My story


Toward the end of October, I had an impulse as I was reaching for my conditioner bottle, and decided to go cold turkey. Without much reading to back me up or anything, I just massaged my hair thoroughly while in the shower. During the next several days, I would massage my scalp while watching tv or doing other things that didn’t require my full attention and a pair of hands. After about three days I started noticing my hair going oily, which is about how long it takes when I use the CO method as well. I applied some cocoa powder to it, and it looked great! I could still go a couple of days before another wo-wash.


As the weeks past, I was too lazy forgot to massage my hair as much and as thorougly as before, and I also did notice that my hair got oily quicker than it did in the beginning. If this was because I didn’t massage as much or because I hadn’t used any products in it for a while, I don’t know. Maybe a bit of both. But I never really had any disastrously bad hair days, and mostly I would just rub some cocoa powder in it and everything would be fine and dandy.


My hair seemed to adjust a bit to the method, and during my three week Christmas holiday I hardly used any cocoa powder and just washed my hair with water whenever I found the need to, which was about twice a week. My hair was shiny and looked nice, but not amazing in any sense.


After I came back in the beginning of January, I started working out up to four times a week, and thus washed my hair a lot more often than before. I would always massage it a little bit in the shower, and a little bit afterward, but not much. I went swimming in a pool a couple of times and I think this might have caused some buildup or something. My hair still looked okay, but it was definitely starting to look a bit stripy and boring. So last week I used some herbal shampoo powder on it. This did make my hair look a lot nicer, it got a lot of its body back and was really soft and shiny. This was well over a week ago and after that I’ve only done some WO washes after the gym, and now I really like the way my hair looks.

The water only hair washing method 14 weeks and with water only!


It’s now about 14 weeks since I started washing my hair with only water. In the beginning, I didn’t really want to use any other methods in addition to WO because I wanted to see how my hair would react to it. The result was okay and I thought my hair adapted to the change pretty quickly, but I think in the future I will be using some other method in addition to WO. Probably something like WO washes at the gym and something else when I’m at home. But I would definitely recommend trying out WO just to see how your hair reacts to it, and to reflect on how much you actually need external products, no matter how natural they are, when your body itself can provide the things you need.


And now, you might think the natural hair care has reached it’s peak. Only using water to wash your hair must be the ultimate natural method out there? Wrong, my friends. After you’ve tried WO, you can move on to NW – no water! Chew on that.

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  2. Corinne

    I have been doing the WO method since just this week. I did a cheap Suave clarifying shampoo with baking soda mixed together before I started the transition. I also put organic ACV on my hair as a deep condition after the wash. It has been 5 days and I WO rinsed my hair this morning and let it air dry before flat ironing it. The only product I use on my hair is my heat protectant serum. I apply I small tiny amount and work it into the ends mostly. I have also taken better handling with straightening my hair. I don’t go over more than twice each piece I work. I think as my hair grows out longer I will lay off the flat iron. I just don’t think my wavy curly hair looks looks appealing to me at mid-length right now. Anywho… My hair looks wonderful so far. I was worried this method would give me a rough transition, but I am pleased that it is working well so far.
    I think my transition is having a good start because I originally would only wash my hair every 4 days with shampoo/conditioner anyway before discovering and trying this method. I am going to give this method some time and see what further results I can get with it. I am excited for this to continue.

    I didn’t know about the NW method until I read your blog. I will look into that. Thanks for the wonderful blog.

  3. Eleanor

    I have started this this week, mainly because i’m fed up with washing my hair and am trying to set out on a healthier, easier lifestyle. I’m only two days in so i know need to give it time but my hair is just super super greasy and looks like I haven’t washed it for weeks, do i just need to hold out?

    1. hilda

      Well, every method is not for everyone. I’d definitely say you should try it out for longer than two days to see the effects – 6 to 8 weeks is the time span people normally recommend. Use some dry shampoo (cooca powder if you have dark hair, arrowroot or cornflour if you have blonde hair) when it’s looking greasy, try out some new hats or scarves 🙂 Have you massaged your scalp and use a boar bristle brush daily? Did you try the method for a bit longer, and if so, how is it coming along?

  4. Andreea

    I have only recently began doing it so I’m probably still transitioning, but should I be worried if I can’t get my hair to look clean at the roots? Not even immediately after washing and drying it, let alone 2 or 3 days later. I know that sebum is rather waxy/oily in consistency and water cannot get it out on its own, but I am still hoping someone has the solution for having clean, perfect hair by using only water. Also, how important is water hardness (or rather, softness) when it comes to getting great results? Thanks and good luck in your every endeavor!

  5. Pingback: The WOW Experiment – Headventures

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