Just Add Water (or How I Wash My Hair)

My husband is a paramedic. And thanks to the TV show, Grimm, he can now say he also plays one on TV.

How I wash my hair (with one simple ingredient)
Last year, my friend told us out about a company that hires extras for shows and movies in our area, so my husband applied. And now he sometimes gets hired to be splattered with fake blood, shake IV bags and generally look sexy on TV.

Mmmm, he’s so gorgeous …

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, my hair.

So the last time he had a gig, we stayed with my in-laws, as we often do, because they’re so close to Portland. When I went to take a shower, I realized that I’d forgotten my homemade shampoo, so I decided to just suck it up and use theirs.

When I washed it out and my hair felt really strange and super tangled, I also used a bit of conditioner to help it out.

And then my hair got really weird.

So weird, in fact, that even my husband noticed a few days later that it just didn’t look normal, which of course he told me in the most tactful way possible (not really).

I tried to fix it with my homemade shampoo. Nope, didn’t help. So I tried the natural shampoo I bought online. Still a weird-looking mess.

I finally threw up my hands and decided I’d just try scrubbing my scalp under the water whenever I took a shower.

Et, voila! It worked.

At first, it was still weird. Not quite greasy and pretty tangly. After about a week, though, something happened. My hair got curly. Like, really curly, which it hadn’t been since I was about five (I used to have ringlets and then they fell out after I got walking pneumonia as a kid).

And it just stayed curly. And super cute. And ridiculously easy to manage.

Everyone noticed, including my friend Tsh. So, naturally, when I was a guest on her podcast we had to talk about my awesome new hair. She’s even trying the whole, “just add water” deal herself.

It’s just so easy. Want to try it, too?

How I Wash My Hair

So in case you’re like me and need really clear, step-by-step directions on doing something new or you find yourself in analysis paralysis, here’s how I wash my hair with just water.

Step 1

Get it wet. Not just a little bit – soak it all the way through. If you have super thick hair like I do, it takes a minute or two.

Step 2

Start scrubbing your scalp. Put your hair under the water and scrub with your fingertips for a few minutes. It feels so nice! And if there’s anywhere that’s prone to getting itchy, pay special attention to those places.

Now shower as usual.

Step 3

Dry it off and style. Use a towel to gently remove excess water and finger style it the way you want it.

All done.

Now, this may take a few weeks for your scalp and hair to get used to it. It took me about two weeks of hard-to-manage hair before it normalized and I was left with hair that I could easily style.

I have super dry hair, so my hair seems to like that I’m not stripping away the extra oils anymore. The result is a return to my naturally curly hair. You may have different results, especially if your hair is oily.

If your hair is oily, perhaps it’s that way because the natural oils keep getting stripped away and it’s overcompensating oil production (just a thought). My husband usually has a pretty oily scalp, but this method has been working great for him.

Please note: this might not work for your scalp or it might just take longer for everything to balance out. How long you choose to stick with it if it seems weird is up to you.

Also, if you happen to, say, go get your hair cut and decide to let them wash and style your hair as usual to see what happens, just know that you’ll get to start over from step one.

Now I know for next time …



  1. Amber says

    Our own Jacob Looper (worship leader at our church) is also on Grimm! I am so going to try this method on my hair!

  2. Sherie says

    This happened to me too! I was staying with family for a week and I forgot my homemade hair products so I decided to just use water and to my surprise my hair wasn’t really oily or dry as I expected. It was really curly and my family all commented that it looked great! I really couldn’t believe it but just adding water actually made my hair look better!

  3. says

    Thanks, Nina. When I heard you talk about it on the Art of Simple podcast, I had lots of questions about it. The step-by-step is so helpful.

  4. says

    How do I just finger style really long hair and not have it be a tangled mess? I could see short hair being easy to do this way, but it doesn’t seem as realistic with long hair. Any thoughts, or anyone with experience?

  5. says

    Thanks for this post. I first heard about your experiment with no shampoo on Tsh’s podcast and decided to try it for myself. I really like it now, although it was super hard to not use the habitual shampoo and conditioner I was used to. I’m happy with the way my hair feels and how easy it is to care for. I have long curly hair so before I get in the shower, I brush it good so that any it doesn’t turn into a mess after it’s wet. The hair next to my scalp gets more oily than I like so I massage my scalp well and use hot water on my hair to rinse the excess oil out. After I shower, my hair is pretty manageable, so I wait until it’s almost dry to do anything to it. Mostly, any styling I do is to add some coconut oil to the ends where it dries out quickly (for me) and use my fingers to make my curls more uniform. Nina, do you use any essential oil in your hair so it doesn’t smell so…”hair-like?” Also, I have some dandruff issues. What would you suggest?

  6. says

    Great post! Best frugal shampoo ever! Lol

    One question, how often do you wash your hair? I find my hair is way too dry to wash everyday but maybe that would be different if I was only using water.

    Also, I just noticed you have a nose ring. Would you be able to do a post on caring for piercings naturally. I would like to get one sometime after baby is born (I like to do drastic changes post partum lol) but I’ve heard they are quite hard to take care of without getting infected. Your insight would be much appreciated.

  7. Whitney says

    Do you have hard water or soft water? I find my hair is always more manageable with soft water, no matter the shampoo.

  8. Sandy says

    I take cold showers for the health of it. Wonder if this would make a difference. The biggest turn off is that if you shampoo once you must start process all over

  9. Charlene says

    Hi Nina, thanks to your podcast with Tsh, I decided to try using water only. I typically only wash my hair every two weeks anyways so I thought, “why not?” I have really long hair and it’s in a more oily place. I figure, I will keep going and see what happens. Along with reading posts about giving up shampoo and using only water, I also stumbled upon people who are walking away from using soap in the shower. Well, I am three weeks into using only water in the shower and I cannot believe how amazing my skin is feeling and looking. It’s changing the way I deal with heat and humidity and sweating!! Thanks for your post (:

  10. says

    That’s great, Charlene! So glad it’s working well for you. :) My husband also doesn’t use soap and I’ve considered it (though I only shower 2-3 times per week), but I love the smell of my homemade soap.

  11. says

    Nina, do you use any products in your hair? I just started using only water in the shower, but I would love to curl my hair – would water get the hairspray out? Or do you think once this method is started, nothing else should go on hair?

  12. says

    I sometimes use a hair butter from MadeOn Lotion – just the tiniest amount. I’ve just noticed that I have to scrub my scalp a little longer to get it out. After I got my hair cut last time, it took a while for the water to get the hairspray out. Too long, actually. I eventually used a little of my homemade shampoo to speed up the process, but my hair took a while to go back to the way it was when I was just using water.

  13. Myrtle says

    Hi, I’ve been doing the same for a number of years now. Started with the baking soda/ apple cider vinegar when needed, and eventually found I wasn’t using it at all. I still get my hair washed every couple of months at the salon because I *love* when someone else washes my hair. I find now even that doesn’t affect it. It doesn’t have to adjust, other than it has a little less body for a few days.

  14. Chris Dorrego says

    I like to use coconut oil on my tips (longer hair, mid back and thinner) and then I would shampoo my roots only. I have very oily hair and skin. So, I have also used coconut oil on my face and found it actually reduced the amount of oil production on my face. For my hair it simply keeps the ends looking not frazzled.
    I REALLY want to try using NO shampoo, but I may not be able to. I will give it a good two weeks….

  15. says

    Hey Nina – thank you for this post :-) Really happy to see it! and sorry it took so long for me to login and say so!

    It’s about 7 weeks now since I washed my hair and it’s going great. The only hiccup has been a family case of head lice (yuck!) we just wet comb and combing in different directions is tricky with wet but not conditioned hair….so I have added a bit of conditioner but funny it doesn’t really seem to go through the hair so well when it has more natural oil in.

    I’ve also been spraying with lavendar water which apparetnly the nits don’t like…but they don’t actually seem to mind!! Do you have any essential oil (or other) tips for head lice?

    Thanks again – so glad I found your blog through Tsh!

  16. Lisa says

    I haven’t washed my hair in many months. Nobody believes me when I tell them. I still color my hair though, so the only exception is that it gets shampooed at the salon when my color is done. Then I go right back to water only, and it’s fine.

  17. says

    Hey Ya! Oh, I’m so glad someone else gets this idea of NO SHAMPOO…I had to stop using shampoo a few years back after years of scalp issues (weeping sores,etc) I’ve just use water and get complimented all the time.

    By the way, Thank you for your work (this blog,flickr,etc). We are a green as possible family of 5 (single Mama with 4 boys) living in an RV at present. We hope to convert a Schooly soon (gathering resources), I had a 34′ Blue Bird about 13-14yrs ago. I was unable to finish the entire conversion…..miss that beast. :-)
    Anyways just wanted to make sure you knew how much I appreciate your presence. :-)

    Fre (free)


  18. says

    I’m really in to doing things the natural way and would like to try no shampoo but I’m not sure about giving up my mousse. My hair is naturally curly and looks kind of frizzy without it. Wondering what I could use to tame the frizz that would wash out with water?

  19. Karin says

    I have tried it for some weeks now but my hair is really oily.it feels like it is not clean at all and it doesnt want to get dry after shower..what do I do?

  20. Eric says

    I made this discovery as well. I’ve tried different shampoos and conditioners for years, and most of them dried out my hair so I would always have to put something back into my hair. Leave in conditioners seemed to work, but I struggled getting that right. Then one day, I just decided to see what would happen if I would just use water. One week later my hair is better than it’s ever been. Suddenly my hair was manageable, and I could keep it longer without it going all over. It’s amazing how the human body sometimes just knows what it needs, and people believe the exact opposite.

  21. Brit says

    So, Nina, do you thing this method would work for bleached hair? We all know bleach does some serious damage…so, thoughts. Also, I love reading what you’re doing and all the stuff you come up with. Can I just come live with you? I’ll make the bread! Lol.

    The Cuz

  22. Brandy says

    Help! I’ve been doing the water only method for 6 months now (Love it!) but I would like to dye my hair for my sisters wedding. Do you have any advise for the salon? Can they rinse dye with water only? If they use shampoo will it put me back to square one? Any advise would be helpful! Thanks

  23. says

    I’ve dyed my hair a couple times since I started using just water and it seems to set you back. But. I’ve found that it takes much less time to get back to where I want it – often about a week. When I visit the salon it takes about five days.

  24. Barbara says

    I have been WO for six months. In that time my hair grew out from a two inch crew. My hair is mostly white and now it has taken on a yellowish cast. I really don’t mind this but on the other hand I did like the snowy white. Has anyone else experienced this?

  25. Alanna says

    I’ve been doing this for a couple of weeks now, after reading an article on antique hair care. I’m loving it! I am still using conditioner (just to use up what’s in my house), but I comb my hair carefully before showering so it’s easy to work with, and after wrap-drying I use my boar-bristle brush to smooth my fluffy curls. Apart from needing a trim, my hair has never looked so healthy!


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