Shampoo Making 101

Shampoo Making 101


I’ve had so many requests about shampoo making, lotion making and how to use emulsifiers lately, I thought it would be a good idea to write a blog series on these topics. So if you're new to making your own shampoos, read on!

Making shampoo at home can be tricky. Everyone’s hair is different and responds differently. You don’t want your shampoo to leave your hair tangled or too oily (yes, oils are in the ingredients), you want just the right amount of foam, but no toxic chemicals; you want to tailor the ingredients and their properties to suit your individual hair needs. Where to even start?!

Basically, a natural DIY shampoo has three components: the soap or  surfactant part, the essential oils part and the carrier oils and other add-ins part. If using soap, liquid castile soap works well, or you can make your own soap (see here:  Soap Making 101), or if you’re lazy like me, simply use a ready made  shampoo base.  For now we’ll use either pure castile soap or else a shampoo base. It's quick, easy and fuss-free. As for essential oils, you can technically use any combination of your choosing. Each oil has its own properties. Here’s a list to get you started:


Lemon – for dandruff, highlighting light hair, dry scalp and oily hair

Grapefruit – for oily hair

Tea tree – for dandruff and dry scalp

Basil – for hair growth

Peppermint – for dry / all hair types, promotes growth

Myrrh – for dry scalp and dandruff

Sandalwood – helps maintain moisture, adds shine, combats psoriasis and dandruff and soothes an irritated scalp

Chamomile – adds highlights to light colored hair, calming and soothing

Lavender – for hair growth, itchiness and dandruff

Rosemary – for hair growth, dandruff and oily hair

Cedarwood – for hair growth and scalp irritations

Patchouli – for oily hair and dandruff

Also try lemongrass or sweet orange or vanilla


Combinations for hair types

For dandruff

For oily hair

For hair growth for all hair types


For the extras, use a carrier oil such as jojoba, sweet almond, grapeseed, argancoconut or avocado for hair nourishment and to lock in moisture. You can also add in aloe vera gel, apple cider vinegar, green tea, coconut milk, honey or glycerin.


Once you’ve decided on which oils and extras to use, it's a simple matter of combining everything together with the soap. Here are some recipes:

Basic Shampoo Recipe

¾ c pure castile soap or shampoo base

¼ c aloe vera gel

1 tsp jojoba oil

½ - 1 tsp sweet almond oil (optional for dry hair)

50-60 drops of your choice of essential oils

Glass bottle or pump bottle


Add the aloe vera, carrier oil(s) and essential oils. Mix well. Then add the castile soap and shake well to combine. Use as needed and follow up with an apple cider vinegar rinse for best results. Please note this is not a super foamy shampoo, but it will cleanse your hair.

Substitute in any combination of essential oils to suit your taste or needs. You can also use any other mentioned carrier carrier in place of the jojoba oil.


Shampoo for Curly Hair

Almond oil helps control curly hair, improving its shine and texture.

¼ c water

¼ c castile soap or shampoo base

15 drops rosemary

15 drops lemon

2 T sweet almond oil

Glass bottle


Combine oils together, then add the water and castile soap. Shake well before using. You may need to experiment with the amounts of the oils a little to suit your taste.


Conditioner for Curly Hair

1 ½  T aloe vera gel

½ c distilled water

1 T sweet almond oil (use olive oil if your curls are coarse or dry)


Mix well and pour over damp hair. Massage in well then rinse out.


These recipes are 100% natural and nontoxic, as well as vegan and earth friendly!


Some may ask about baking soda shampoos. Here’s my answer: I find baking soda harsh. It’s quite alkaline (pH of 9) while our scalp, sebum and hair have a pH of 4.5 -5.5 (slightly acidic). I used a baking soda deodorant for a few years before I built up an allergy to it and had to use an alternative. I don’t want the same thing happening on my scalp! Of course, you can neutralise baking soda with apple cider vinegar but simply using castile soap is much easier. There are many easy baking soda recipes out there if you wish to try however, it is different for everyone.

Please be aware if you are switching to natural shampoos for the first time after using conventional ones, that your hair may go through a ‘detox’ period. It’s about a month to 6 weeks of your hair looking a bit lank and waxy and feeling yuck. Your hair and scalp are reestablishing their natural oil levels and balance and no amount of washing will speed up this process. It is also completely natural, so don’t panic! After that, your hair will be back to its healthy, natural best, and you will be well on your nontoxic shampoo journey.


You may have noticed earlier on that I mentioned surfactants. Surfactants are detergents that have a cleaning and foaming power, but they aren't considered soaps. They make excellent shampoos and I encourage you to check out our blog series called  The Surfactant Series. Here is the first entry to get you started:  A Beginner's Guide To Surfactants.

Shampoos made with surfactants rather than soap such as castile soap are less harsh on hair and can be pH controlled. Some people find castile soap shampoos work perfectly for them and they are a little easier to make, but if you are really interested in making 'professional' shampoos,  then please check out  Part 1 and  Part 2 of DIY Shampoo Making for detailed explanations. It was too much to include in this one blog so we made a whole series on it!

Back to Hair & Scalp


Hi Alina, yes pH 5 is correct. Also check out the other shampoo recipes on the blog :)


Hello. I’m fascinating about making my own shampoo as I’m on a mission of bringing my hair back to health. I’m currently only using diluted Castile soap with water and few drops of rosemary oil. I want to check about your PH level of your Basic shampoo recipe please as will need to bring it down to approx 5. Is this correct? Thank you


Hi Natalie, how strange sorry! Perhaps try blending everything with a stick/soup blender. This might help to bind them more.
Otherwise reduce the amount of essential oils used


Hi. Thank you for sharing nice recipes. However, I noticed that after adding any oils to shampoo they separate after a couple of days. Could you please suggest how to keep them together? I tried to add different emulsifiers but had the same result


Hi Kay, you will need to make a herbal infusion or tea with the amla, and then use that in place of the water content of the recipe. Have a read here for how it’s done:

If using a shampoo base, you can only add in 10% extras, so you can use the amla infusion as part of your 10%.