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 oily hair
For hair growth for all hair types
For the extras, use a carrier oil such as jojoba, sweet almond, grapeseed, argan, coconut 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
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!