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Most people use some form of shampoo on their hair to keep it clean, but some do so without using store-bought shampoo.
Perhaps you’re looking for something that won’t take a toll on your hair or cost a pretty penny, or perhaps you prefer to know exactly what goes into any beauty products you use. Any of these reasons may cause you to venture away from commercially made shampoos.
If so, trying out a homemade DIY shampoo could be the solution for you.
The evidence for homemade shampoo’s effectiveness is mostly anecdotal. There’s not a lot of clinical research, so we can’t truly know whether it’s safer or better for your hair than store-bought shampoo.
However, if you’re looking for alternative ways to keep your scalp and hair clean, there’s plenty you can learn about making your own shampoo from scratch.
When it comes to DIY shampoo, hair care specialist Aaron Wallace explains that it’s not necessarily better or worse. There are pros and cons to both and important factors to consider.
“When you make shampoos at home, you are able to use higher concentrations of ingredients, and the measurement process is not as accurate,” says Wallace. “This could lead to products that are out of balance and could end up causing more harm than good.”
Commercially made shampoos are produced in highly controlled environments and have to meet strict safety standards that are set by the government.
Wallace explains that he’d “still vote for commercial shampoos that are natural over homemade, because of the testing process that they would have gone through.”
Shampoo bar recipes are a bit more in-depth than liquid shampoo recipes, but if you love the idea of shampoo bars for environmental or travel reasons, then there are plenty of great recipes to try. Many use lye, but the following recipe is lye-free.
1 cup castile melt-and-pour soap1 teaspoon (tsp.) olive oil? tsp. castor oil ? tsp. black molasses15 drops vanilla essential oil15 drops patchouli essential oil10 drops rosemary essential oil1 soap mold
Cut the melt-and-pour soap base into small cubes.Add to a double boiler (aluminum bowl in a pan half-filled with warm water) on low to medium heat. Water should be simmering, not boiling.Stir continuously until soap base is melted.Add oils and black molasses, then mix well.Take the bowl off the heat and wait a few minutes until slightly cooled.Add essential oils and mix well.Pour into mold and let sit for 24 hours.
If you’re short on time or just prefer to purchase a shampoo bar, The Earthling Co. and Lush both have several options that are all-natural and free of harmful ingredients.
While research suggests there are health benefits, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider before you begin using essential oils.
Be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.
Clarifying shampoos are made for those deep cleans and are typically used sparingly — usually once per week. They’re made to remove product buildup caused by hairspray, hair mousse, and other products and chemicals. This recipe is great to use as a gentle clarifying shampoo.
3–4 tablespoons (tbsp.) apple cider vinegar2 cups water
Pour all ingredients into a 16-ounce (oz.) bottle.Gently shake to combine ingredients.
You can also check out Avalon Organics Lemon Clarifying Shampoo and Desert Essence Italian Lemon Shampoo if you’d rather pick up a clarifying shampoo at the store or online.
Most homemade shampoos will be all-natural, but if you want a very simple recipe to try at home, then give this one a go.
? cup water? cup castile soap? tsp. light vegetable or canola oil (can omit if you have oily hair)
Gently stir all ingredients. Be careful not to over-mix, as it will cause it to foam up.
Not everyone believes in the power of castile soap, despite its rise in popularity as a home and beauty product in recent years.
One of the main reasons castile soap isn’t used by some is that it has a high pH (8–9), while hair’s natural pH level is around 4–5. Luckily, you have options. This pH-balanced shampoo recipe may be great if you want a recipe free of castile soap.
1 can full-fat coconut milk (13.5 oz.)2 tbsp. raw honey1 tsp. jojoba oil1 tsp. castor oil2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar1 tsp. essential oils of choice
Combine all ingredients.Whisk until smooth.Shake well before each use.
While there isn’t much research behind homemade shampoo, there’s research behind ingredients that you can put in your shampoo recipe. For instance, a 2014 study found that peppermint oil promotes hair growth without signs of toxicity.
This green tea and honey recipe may help with hair growth, since green tea helps get rid of dandruff (which can cause hair loss) and honey is a great moisturizer for dry hair.
2 tbsp. honey1 tsp. olive oil? cup green tea? cup castile soap1 tsp. lime juice or aloe vera5–10 drops of peppermint and lavender essential oils
Brew green tea leaves (or tea bags).Combine green tea with other ingredients and mix well.
Another possible hair growth recipe is this carrot and maple DIY shampoo. According to this 2016 study, carrot oil has natural antifungal properties and stimulates hair growth, while maple syrup has antibacterial properties and can prevent dandruff and nourish your hair.
15 drops carrot seed essential oil15 drops castor oil3 tbsp. maple syrup? cup castile soap
Combine all ingredients until smooth.
Use this aloe vera DIY shampoo recipe if your hair is dry and brittle. Aloe vera helps balance the pH level of your scalp to lessen hair loss, while the almond oil soothes scalp irritation.
? cup castile soap? cup water? cup aloe vera 4 tbsp. almond oil
Combine all ingredients.
For hair growth-promoting store-bought shampoos, check out
OGX Thick & Full Biotin & Collagen ShampooShea Moisture Strengthen & RestorePure Biology Hair Growth Stimulating Shampoo
According to board certified dermatologist Kavita Mariwalla, MD, FAAD, if the homemade shampoo has ingredients such as olive oil, it can worsen dandruff.
“And depending on what is in the shampoo, it can throw off the natural balance of the skin and give you dandruff or even bacterial growth which leads to folliculitis which appears like small pimples on the scalp,” she adds.
The above carrot and maple recipe can also be used for dandruff.
For an all-natural commercial dandruff shampoo, try Jason Dandruff Relief Treatment Shampoo.
There are several things to keep in mind when switching to homemade shampoo.
Your hair is probably accustomed to commercial shampoo and has therefore adapted to match the ingredients found in them. It can take some time for your hair to adjust to the new recipe. Just like when swapping to a ‘no poo’ method, it will adjust but it will likely take time.
If you have pre-existing hair and scalp conditions, you should consult a dermatologist before making any changes to your routine.
“You need to be especially cautious about what you use and how,” explains Wallace. “The risk with homemade shampoos is that they are rarely made by formulation experts who understand the delicate balances of these ingredients and the correct way to mix and use them.
“The life cycle of homemade shampoos and their ingredients will be hard to measure, and so you are at risk of using out-of-date products without knowing or overusing ingredients unintentionally.”
Lastly, you may want to be careful about the pH level of your shampoo. As mentioned, castile soap has a high pH level. Mariwalla doesn’t think it’s an ideal choice for individuals with color-treated hair or issues with seborrheic dermatitis.
If you’re using ingredients you have never used before, do a patch test of the product on your inner arm. If there’s no reaction, then the ingredient is likely safe for you to use.
Making homemade shampoo can be a simple, efficient, inexpensive, and possibly effective road to clean hair. However, it is best to keep in mind that all evidence of the benefits of DIY shampoo is predominantly anecdotal and not clinically researched.
Always make sure to consult your dermatologist if you have any questions, concerns, or pre-existing skin or hair conditions.
Ashley Hubbard is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee, focusing on sustainability, travel, veganism, mental health, social justice, and more. Passionate about animal rights, sustainable travel, and social impact, she seeks out ethical experiences whether at home or on the road. Visit her website wild-hearted.com.