So, after a total of about a month and a week or two of not using regular shampoo on my hair, I finally caved and have now switched to "low 'poo." Here's what happened.
I decided to try this experiment to bring out more waviness in my hair, see if I could tame the frizzies, and ultimately use less shampoo (which has nasty chemicals, although that was not my primary reason). I have shoulder-length, very fine, kinda wavy hair that can turn loosely curly with some coaxing.
Week 1 was fine. I used baking soda and water to 'wash' my hair, and rinsed with diluted apple cider vinegar. It looked pretty good. The ends felt a bit dry, but I liked the enhanced waviness and the 'piecey-ness' that happened.
Weeks 2-4 were dicey. Some days my hair looked great; full, curly, wavy, bouncy, pretty. Other days the roots seemed really oily and gross, and the ends could get super-dry and tangled. This seemed to vary with how much I rinsed my hair -- the more rinsing (in plain water) the better. So I experimented with washing only every other day, etc. That seemed to work better. I also gave up the vinegar rinse, which didn't seem to be doing anything.
Week 5 or so the ends of my hair were so dry that I finally put some conditioner on them. That helped. I also used a little castile soap to wash the roots and that helped for a day or two. My hair was starting to feel heavy, although it didn't look too bad (I hope). Starting to have my doubts about my hair's compatibility to "no 'poo."
And then finally one day I had a day where my hair was so oily that all I could do was pull it back into a bun and wait to go home and wash it. I washed it with just a little bit of Neutrogena anti-residue shampoo, and suddenly my hair felt great. I think the natural oils that had been building up *had* made a difference, because my hair felt very soft and didn't have any flyaways like it usually does. I didn't use any conditioner that day, and I really loved how my hair felt and looked.
Since then (about a week and a half or so) I've been washing my hair only every three days or so, with a very tiny dab of shampoo, and then conditioning the ends. I do a very good rinse on the other days, if I'm not happy with my 'bedhead.' I'm just using up the shampoo and conditioner that I already have, and when I run out, I will be switching to a natural brand with no sodium laurel(th) sulfates.
Lessons learned: I definitely do not have to wash my hair every day. Every three days seems to be perfect for my hair type. I also don't have to use very much shampoo - just a dab, to refresh the roots. Conditioning just the ends seems to work great, too. My hair is much wavier and softer, with not so many flyaways. It also looks better just out of bed -- holds my style better, which saves time in the morning.
I do hear that if you have dry, curly hair, then no 'poo is a great solution, and I can totally see that. Also if you have very short hair, I think this would work great. My hair is just too fine and too silky (as opposed to porous) to handle the extra oil, which a different hair type would probably just soak up and handle just fine. So. I'm happy I did the experiment, because now I know, and I'm very happy to eventually switch to the most low-tech, natural shampoo/conditioner solutions, once I use up what I've got.
Was it worth it? Totally. For a cost of about 4 days when my hair felt really yucky, I learned a lot and can now cut down on my hair care even further, with better results. Fantastic!