I’m just summarizing the info in the hulking monster of the WO thread
because I don’t want to have to read it all again, and apparently nobody else does either. This is composed of my random scribbled notes, so I unfortunately have not credited any of the advice. Please PM me if you would like me to credit your contribution, or if you have more information. I’ll be (hopefully) editing this periodically if anybody discovers something helpful.
Water only (WO) is the method of using only water to wash your hair, with the goal of coating your entire length of hair with naturally produced sebum. This was inspired by this article
about a woman who has not washed her hair for 11 years.
There are many reasons people choose to go WO: a successful transition into WO can produce healthy, shiny hair without dependence on commercial products and those with dry or irritated scalps can find WO beneficial. Each person’s method will depend on their goals for the WO routine. Those whose quest is virgin hair will prefer hardcore WO, those trying to calm an irritated scalp may use products on their length and do WO only on their scalp, people trying to reduce their dependence on commercial products may use ACV/herb rinses, egg washes or similar methods, and some use WO methods to simply decrease the necessity of frequent washings. This method varies greatly from person to person and it is hard to predict how any one scalp will react, so you must choose what works best with your particular hair (by trial and error) and with your goals for your hair. Doing something other than hardcore WO is not “cheating,” it is discovering what will help you achieve what you want from your hair.
Both curlies and straight-hairs have had success with this method. Since most people experience some time with noticeably oily hair, it is convenient when hair is long enough to put up to hide the greasies. Similarly, bangs can be hard to deal with, but shorter hair can always be covered with a scarf, and not everyone experiences a bad transition period. Those switching from infrequent COing or similar routines are likelier to have an easier transition.
The most important part of WO is to move the excess sebum the scalp produces down the length to coat the entire hair shaft. It is also important to massage or scritch the scalp to remove dead skin cells. Use your fingers to preen, or move the oil from roots to end, as well as scalp massage to deal with buildup, plus it feels good and increases growth. Snowy’s Massage Technique
is a good way of doing this. A boar bristle brush can help if your hair is good with the brushing. Some people like wood or horn combs to move down the sebum as well as using the fine combs for scritching. Remember to clean your brushes and combs frequently, since they are cleaning your hair now that you are no longer using shampoo. Q-tips are good for combs, and old toothbrushes for brushes.
WO rinses can cut the greasiness and help move sebum from the roots to ends. After a few pages of discussion, people seemed to agree on a washing temperature sequence of cool-warm-cool, with a lot of massaging to move down the sebum. Not much benefit was seen in a final icy cold rinse except for shocking you awake. Especially in the beginning, your hair may feel like a big block of wax when wet. You may be able to detangle under the running water, but many people find it easier to wait until it is dry. Oiling the ends before washing can help with detangling, as well as dry ends. (If you play with your hair a lot, it’s best to do this right before washing to prevent you from putting more oil on your scalp hair. Trust me.)
The most common pattern is greasiness in the beginning, then a period where the scalp calms down. Many people hit the worst hair problems at the 5th or 6th week, and then find it smooth sailing after that. The original challenge was to do WO for one month, but it appears six or eight weeks is needed to find out if WO will work for you. Some long-time WOers have moved to no water (NW) instead, as once the transition period is over they find that wetting down the hair is not necessary very often.
Upon hearing about WO, most people are worried that they would look and smell like a nasty person who, well, doesn’t wash their hair. Although most people have noticed their scalp smelling “different,” it’s not stinky. Some have compared it to a cat’s fur. It’s comforting to ask a close friend or family member to reassure you that you don’t smell like a dirty nasty oil slick, or some posters put EOs in their spray bottle, but that’s really not something to worry too much about. As for looking like an otter in an oilslick (aka the O/O stage), updos are good. Scarves and hats are better. More frequent rinses can help, my favorite trick is after you’ve put up your hair, spritzing it with water and smoothing it down. This spreads the oil and makes it look more like product than sebum. If you find your transition too harsh, go more slowly. Gradually dilute your shampoo, stretch out the time between washings, do WO every other wash, or that sort of thing. The transition will take longer this way, but you’re less likely to spend it as a total greaseball.
Many people have experienced a waxy yuckiness in their hair in the first or second week that comes off on the comb and looks and feels nasty. A dilute ACV rinse has been reported to help, and one poster reported good results after a scalp massage with some oil, apparently the oil can dissolve the wax and can then be combed out. Naturally, you should take care to not use too much oil. Other potential issues: Henna/dye:
Henna has been reported to be hard to wash out, and your hair will hold the henna smell when wet for some time. One poster reported her dye not taking as well on her hair after WO—perhaps the sebum prevented some dye uptake? Dry/damaged ends:
Coconut oil, shea butter and aloe vera gel can help. Oiling the ends just before washing can help keep the oil from spreading back up to the scalp during normal combing and brushing. Swimming:
A thorough soaking in water before swimming seems to be sufficient for most people. Swim caps are recommended. Oiling the ends can’t hurt. Hard water:
Try a final rinse with distilled water first, then ACV rinses or a shower filter.
If this sounds interesting, give WO a try! It’s fun!