Recently, more people are steering away from commercial products because of the drying, and in some case damaging effect, they can have on the hair. To counteract this some people have adopted a minimalist approach using water only on their hair.

The water only method works by using warm water in place of your regular shampoo to cleanse and remove dirt and build-up from the hair and scalp. This method is also called the ‘no poo’ method because you do not use shampoo. To condition and moisturise your hair instead of using products you use your sebum, the oily and waxy like substance found on the skin and scalp, by stimulating the scalp’s sebaceous glands and manually moving the sebum down your hair.

Sounds pretty simple huh…? If you are interested in trying this method the steps below explain how to do it.

First things first, before starting the water only method you must start on completely clean hair by using a clarifying shampoo. You can use a clarifying shampoo, herbal and apple cider vinegar rinse or bentonite clay. Use whatever you fancy, although some prefer to use natural products over commercial products.

  1. To start the water only method choose a protective style that allows you easy access to your scalp (i.e. braid out, twist out, etc.). This step can be skipped if you have straighter hair that does not tangle easily. However, it does make it easier to do the following steps once your hair is in sections.
  2. Massage your scalp for 10-15 minutes to stimulate your sebaceous glands. If your hair is in sections, massage each section for a few minutes until the 10-15 minutes has been reached. This stimulation and the warmth from your hands allow the sebum to move down the length of your hair. It is important to be gentle during this step to avoid breakage.
  3. Afterwards, wash your hair in the shower with warm water. The warmth and pressure from the water helps to encourage the sebum to move down your hair. Then air dry and style as normal and repeat steps 2 and 3 on a daily basis.
  4. When you start to feel sebum building up on your scalp (in c.3-4 days) you can begin to use the scritching and preening method. This is another important step that allows you to manually move the sebum down your hair. To do this work in sections and clutch your hands into a claw-like shape. Then using the base of nails gently move your fingers as if you are scratching your scalp to release the sebum. But remember do not use your fingernails when doing this, only the base of your nails.
  5. The next step is preening. This is when you smooth the sebum that has been released from the scritching by gently moving your hands in a downward motion to ensure the sebum is evenly distributed. You can also use a boar bristle brush to help with this step. Repeat steps 2-5 until you have achieved full sebum coverage on your hair. This may take a while depending on the length of your hair. If you have shorter hair this will take less time. Once full sebum coverage has been achieved you can reduce the number of times you complete these steps.



You will need to clarify your hair as and when needed to remove any excess sebum on your scalp. How often you need to do this will depend on how quickly your hair produces sebum; this will vary from individual to individual. If you have excess sebum, your scalp will begin to itch and your hair will be sticky and have a dull appearance. Once you notice this it is time to clarify. 

Pros of the method

The water only method is an ideal alternative for those that prefer to avoid commercial products; however, you can adapt it depending on your hair’s needs. You can incorporate natural oils, butters and co-washes, particularly when your hair is feeling dry while you are trying to reach full sebum coverage. The daily massages are also a great way to stimulate hair growth while activating your sebaceous glands. People that have used the method have said it teaches them about their hair and have noticed their natural curl pattern is more defined and moisturised.

Cons of the method

It can be time-consuming. The length of time it takes to achieve full sebum coverage will depend on the length of your hair and how quickly your scalp produces sebum. Some people will have low, normal or high sebum production rates. Frequent massages may be too much manipulation, which could lead to breakage or scalp tenderness. You will also have to get used to your hair feeling and looking dry in the beginning stages. If you exercise regularly you may not like the idea of not cleansing your scalp with regular shampoos.


Nevertheless, if the water only method sounds like something you would like to try, give it a go for a month and see how your hair feels (and leave a comment!)

Happy Water Washing!

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