The Problem With Low Poo Shampoos (And Alternatives To Use!)

If you are a long-term follower of the Curly Girl Method and have read Lorraine Massey’s handbook, you’ll know that low poo shampoo has never actually been CGM friendly. 

It is therefore interesting that low-poo shampoos have somehow found their way into many Curly Girl routines over the past few years. I will admit too that I have used low poo shampoo in the past. 

woman with curly hair looking pensive

I simply thought that the process included clarifying and low-pooing. Not so!  

In fact, it’s only recently that various online forums and Curly Girl groups have highlighted once again that shampoos are simply not CGM friendly.

But can we really blame ourselves for low-pooing? Over the past few years, the beauty market has seen an astronomical rise in low poo shampoos and free from ranges.

This is great of course, but it is also a fantastic marketing ploy to make consumers like us believe that we are buying premium products that are better for us.

But are they?

There seems to be so much confusion about what low poo shampoo actually is and I therefore wanted to get to the bottom of it once and for all.

In this article, I highlight the issue with low poo shampoos if you’re following the Curly Girl Method. 

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What does Low Poo Shampoo Actually Mean?

Low poo is essentially shampoo that does not contain sulfates.

Sulfates, sometimes labeled as sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate, is the ingredient that causes the lather effect when you wash your hair.

Lather essentially creates bubbles and gives you that feeling of ‘clean’ hair. 

However, you may also have noticed that your hair feels dry and coarse after using shampoo.

This is because sulfates strip hair of its natural moisture. We then usually follow up by shampooing with conditioner to soften the hair again.

Hair follicles

But regular conditioner contains silicones which act as a barrier between hair strands and water, essentially embalming your hair whilst repelling moisture which is essential for your hair.

Your hair then begins to overproduce sebum, or oils whilst the silicone in turn also becomes greasy and dirty. Hence the need to shampoo again!

Low poo shampoos do not strip your hair of its essential oils and are therefore promoted as a product that is essentially better and healthier for your hair.

Interestingly, the term ‘low-poo’ was originally coined by the American haircare brand, Deva Curl. Devacurl is known for its curl-friendly products, including ‘low poo’ non-sulfate shampoos.

Lorraine Massey, the author of the Curly Girl Handbook, used to be associated with DevaCurl but she is no longer affiliated with their products and has started her own company, Curlyworld.

Why Is Low Poo Shampoo Not Curly Girl Approved

As you probably know, the Curly Girl Method promotes the use of non-sulfate, silicone-free, and alcohol-free products.

It is therefore understandable that many Curly Girls would have believed that low poo shampoos were CGM friendly.

After all, Deva Curl produced a low poo shampoo and Lorraine Massey was associated with this company for quite some time. 

However, there is a big difference between being a ‘low poo’ girl and following the Curly Girl Method. This is also something that Massey has highlighted since parting ways with Deva Curl. 

Although a low poo shampoo does not contain sulfates, it still lathers because it is a shampoo. Lather is not Curly Girl Friendly, it is as simple as that.

To get the lather effect which is normally caused by sulfates, companies add additional chemicals and ingredients to low poo shampoos to replace sulfates, but these lathering agents may be even more damaging than sulfates or silicones.

In The Curly Girl Handbook, Lorraine Massey never endorses the use of shampoo, she only mentions sulfate-free cleansers which are very different from shampoo.

Instead, the Curly Girl Method promotes a no-poo method, meaning no shampoo whatsoever. The goal is to eventually only co-wash, meaning washing with conditioner only. 

Lather is not Curly Girl Friendly, it is as simple as that’.

When co-washing only, you begin to repair your scalp and hair from damage caused by years of using sulphate and silicone products.

When using CGM-friendly conditioners, you actively nourish and hydrate your hair and as a result, your curls begin to transform into healthy, strong locks.


Another term that has found its way into the Curly Girl Method is ‘clarifying’, which essentially means getting rid of build-up from product use, grease, and dirt from pollution. 

Many Curly Girl followers have been clarifying for years with low-poo shampoo, believing that the process starts with a sulfate-free shampoo.

This is again understandable seeing as the term has been widely circulated on CG forums and online groups.

According to Lorraine Massey, clarifying actually has nothing to do with the Curly Girl Method and the term is misleading.

If you follow the method properly, there shouldn’t be a need to clean your hair with harsh chemicals. Instead, you should cleanse and co-wash your hair more regularly. 

It is a myth that you should be able to go a whole week without washing your hair on the Curly Girl Method and it is also a myth that you need to use 4 different products to get beautiful curls.

If you are truly using water-soluble products, you’ll find that there is really no need to use shampoo. 

However, if you do have greasy hair or your scalp becomes itchy due to product build-up, the best approach is to use a sulfate-free cleanser.

The best sulfate-free cleansers are high in botanically derived ingredients and water-soluble.

According to Massey, these types of products naturally evaporate from the hair within 2 to 3 days and then you start your co-washing routine again.

Sulfate-free shampoos do not contain harsh chemicals that normally could cause irritation and even hair loss.

If you find that you are initially unable to co-wash only, I suggest using one of the following products to help remove build-up and dirt:

Coconut CoWash Cleansing Conditioner 454g

Coconut CoWash Cleansing Conditioner

The As I Am Coconut Cleansing Conditioner is specifically formulated for curly hair types and cleanses scalp and hair without stripping moisture and essential oils. 

The special formula contains castor oil, tangerine, and coconut oil and eliminates build-up and promotes healthy hair growth.


  • Non-lathering gentle cleanser
  • Preserves curls
  • Promotes hair growth and healthy hair follicles
  • Hydrates and adds moisture
  • Helps detangle hair

How to Use:

Rub a generous amount of product between your palms and apply to wet hair. Use as you would normal shampoo and massage scalp for several minutes.

To remove persistent build-up, use a scalp massager or untangle with a wide-tooth comb.

Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Co-Wash Cleanser 237ml

Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Co-Wash Cleanser

The Shea Moisture Co-Wash Cleanser is designed to give you soft and manageable curls.

Its natural ingredients nourish hair and gently cleanse waves and curls. 

Hydrating ingredients such as coconut oil as well as Hibiscus extracts strengthen hair and reduces split ends.

The conditioner is lightweight and Silk Protein has been added to the formula, adding brilliant shine to your hair and leaves your curls vibrant and bouncy.


  • Non-lathering gentle cleanser
  • Lightweight
  • Moisturises and protects dry, damaged, sensitive hair
  • Strengthens hair and reduces breakage.
  • Adds shine and controls frizz

How To Use:

Rub a generous amount of product between your palms and apply to wet hair. Use as you would normal shampoo and massage scalp for several minutes.

To remove persistent build-up, use a scalp massager or untangle with a wide-tooth comb.

Bouclème Curl Cleanser 300ml

The Bouclème Curl Cleanser is made with 98% natural ingredients such as Argan oil, Virgin coconut oil, Aloe Vera, and pomegranate extract.

Created for curls, this non-foaming conditioner can be used daily and cleanses hair without stripping away moisture and essential oils. It’s great for very dry hair and thick curls.

Often mistaken as a low poo shampoo, the Bouclème curl cleanser was the winner of Marie Claire Beauty Awards 2019 for “Best Shampoo for Curly Hair”.


  • Non-lathering gentle cleanser
  • Detangles hair 
  • Keeps curls bouncy
  • Adds moisture

How to use:

Rub a generous amount of product between your palms and apply to wet hair.

Use as you would normal shampoo and massage scalp for several minutes. To remove persistent build-up, use a scalp massager or untangle with a wide-tooth comb.

Eden Bodyworks Coconut Shea Cleansing Co-Wash 473ml

The Eden Bodyworks Cleansing Co-Wash is another excellent sulfate-free, non-lathering conditioner. It is perfect for all hair types and removes build-up and dirt when used in between regular co-washes.

The formula has been designed to improve strength and flexibility, adding shine to curls while hydrating and moisturizing your scalp. 

Ingredients include Shea butter which protects and nourishes hair as well as Aloe Vera for softer and smoother hair. 


  • Non-lathering gentle cleanser
  • Hydrates and repairs damaged hair
  • Aids hair regrowth
  • Lubricates and softens the lair

How To Use:

Rub a generous amount of product between your palms and apply it to wet hair.

Use as you would normal shampoo and massage scalp for several minutes.

To remove persistent build-up, use a scalp massager or untangle with a wide-tooth comb.

If you would rather avoid buying further products or feel that these don’t quite do the trick, you could try one of the two following homemade remedies to get rid of build-up. 

Alternative cleansers to Low Poo Shampoo

Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse (ACV)

The apple cider vinegar rinse is a very popular routine for a lot of Curly Girl followers. It is an excellent alternative to store-bought products and dirt cheap! 

You will need:

Mix together and apply on soaking wet hair. I like to use a scalp massager to really cleanse my scalp and get rid of dirt. Apply to the entire hair and let sit for a minute or two.

Then rinse and co-wash and condition.

Note: Sometimes I don’t feel the benefits of an ACV rinse straight after washing but I always feel a huge difference during the next wash.

Lemonaid rinse (from the Curly Girl Handbook)

You will need:

  • 1 lemon
  • Your usual amount of conditioner

Mix these two ingredients together and apply them to wet hair. Ensure you massage your scalp thoroughly to remove all build-up.

As lemon obviously contains a large amount of acid, it is very important that you follow this rinse up with conditioner.

Ideally, apply a leave-in conditioner for up to 10 minutes and then carry on with your usual routine. 

Your hair should feel clean, light, and refreshed. 

The Problem With Low Poo Shampoos Pinterest

Disclaimer: This site is not intended to provide professional or medical advice. All of the content on is for informational purposes only. All advice should be followed at your own discretion. Ingredients may change at any time so always check the product label before using. Check our full disclaimer policy here.

2 thoughts on “The Problem With Low Poo Shampoos (And Alternatives To Use!)”

  1. Hi, the recipe for Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse (ACV) lists just water. Which one of these should be Apple Cider Vinegar?

    250 ml of water
    3 tbsp warm water

    Many thanks

    • Hi Julie,

      Wow, those were really unhelpful instructions I gave! So sorry! It’s 250 ml of water and 3 tbsp of Apple cider vinegar. I’ve updated the article now with further instructions. Thank you for reading! 🙂 Dee x

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