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    May 25, 2018 4 min read

    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!

    10 Responses


    September 29, 2020

    Hi Karmistha, please read the follow up blogs which I mentioned at the end of this blog – they go more into detail on preservatives. There is also a whole blog dedicated to just preservatives ;)

    Karmistha Poovan
    Karmistha Poovan

    September 29, 2020

    What is the shelf life of the shampoo recipes?

    Can a natural/eco-friendly preservative be added to extend the shelf-life?


    July 24, 2020

    Hi Megan, it shouldn’t as the oils are in small amounts and mixed in with all the other ingredients. Obviously don’t store the bottle in direct light, other than that, it should be fine :)


    July 24, 2020

    Hi Juliette. Does storing the shampoo in a clear glass bottle effect the essential oils?


    July 08, 2020

    Hi Nicola, you should easily be able to store it for 6 months+. Mine always got used up before then however! You can just keep it in your shower, there aren’t any special storage instructions. You are welcome to double or multiply the recipe according to your needs :)


    July 08, 2020

    Hi there!
    My husband and I switched over to natural beauty products in 2019 and I’ve decided to try and make my own natural shampoo. How long would a recipe like this last, or how long would I be able to store it? Should I store it in the fridge when not in use? I’m making the recipe for my husband and I, so is it possible to make double the amount? Again, how long would I be able to store it?
    Sorry for all the questions, I’m quite new to this! Thank you!


    May 25, 2020

    Hi Leelyn,
    You could definitely try using flaxseed gel instead. I would be very interested to hear how this worked for you!

    Leelyn Amos
    Leelyn Amos

    May 25, 2020

    Hi there. One question, would flax seed gel used instead of Aloe vera?
    Just wondering if it would last and still be beneficial in the shampoo compared to the Aloe vera. Thanks alot all this information is so very helpful.


    November 27, 2019

    Hi Susan,
    You can easily substitute any oil in a shampoo recipe with moringa oil. And you can use any essential oils of your choosing with it. Perhaps try rosemary or something herbaceous.
    You may also like to check out our other shampoo recipes here: https://essentiallynatural.co.za/blogs/hair-scalp

    Susan Mynhardt
    Susan Mynhardt

    November 27, 2019

    Hi. I am interested to make shampoo with moringa oil.

    What would you advise I start with and which essential oils can I combine with the moringa oil

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