DIY Shampoo Ingredients

DIY Shampoo Ingredients


For the next installment of The Surfactant Series, I wanted to do a shampoo, as a good homemade, natural shampoo has been on my to-do list for ages. Proper shampoo making with surfactants and natural hair conditioning ingredients requires extensive research and experimentation so I have delayed writing this blog for quite some time while I’ve been playing around with formulas behind the scenes. But it's finally ready!

To get Part 5 started I thought I would break it in two, first doing a rundown of some hair loving ingredients that I have been experimenting with, including some rather interesting herbs, and then following up with recipes in part 2.

Besides the obvious cleaning properties of a shampoo - ahoy, surfactants! - you also need some conditioning agents to give shine, lustre, volume and moisture to the hair.


Natural Hair Conditioners

Specialty Products:

Hydrolyzed wheat protein is extracted from wheat germ and is rich in peptides, amino acids and non-animal protein. It is balancing and forms a protective film giving hair body and better control. Usage: 2-5%

D-panthenol or ProVitamin D5 is a well known ingredient in hair care products. It is a hair food and natural humectant, and can also act as a detangler, antistatic and smooths brittleness, dryness and split ends. Usage: 1% in the water phase.



Broccoli seed oil gives a lovely sheen and feel on hair, and is the natural equivalent of dimethicone (dimethicone, part of the silicone group, is a moisturising and soothing agent popular in conventional shampoos). It is a fast absorbing oil, nourishing and extremely good for dry and curly hair and moisturising dry and sensitive skins.

Argan oil is my go-to oil for use in shampoo as it is famous for its hair moisturising properties. Camellia seed oil is another great hair oil.

Rosemary, lemongrass and are for hair growth! They stimulate the scalp and are also antimicrobial, helping to clear up any skin issues. They are quite powerful oils so go gashly. These oils are nice additions to a shampoo if you want hair growth and to slow hair loss.



Best known for their use in skin products and as spritzers for the face, hydrosols are also great for the hair. Try adding half hydrosol, half water in your shampoo recipe, or substituting for a hydrosol completely.



Marshmallow root contains a substance called mucilage, which binds to hair strands and therefore has a volumising effect. It is also slightly slippery, making it a good detangler and conditioner. Marshmallow is also a moisturiser and is perfect for those with dry or brittle hair. To use, get the powdered herb and soak in freshly boiled water overnight, then strain.

Horsetail root is a somewhat smelly herb but it's worth it. Horsetail is rich in the minerals selenium and silica. Selenium assists the body in processing iodine, which regulates hair growth. A deficiency in iodine can limit and even stop hair growth altogether. Silica promotes the structural integrity of hair strands, strengthening them, increasing shine and improving texture. To use, get the powdered herb and soak in freshly boiled water overnight, then strain. The smell will dissipate as soon as you add the solution to your shampoo formula.

Hibiscus plus a quick science snippet:

Dried hibiscus is the gorgeous flower of the hibiscus tree, and has a deep pink red hue. It can be used as a colourant and is handy as a hair conditioner and volumiser and also increases shine. It can be made into a solution when soaked in water or hydrosol and turns bright pink, can be infused into oils (turns a deeper red colour), or the ground powder can be used as a gentle exfoliating scrub. Hibiscus tea can help to lower hypertension, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It can also help with cramps and aid digestion. What a wonderfully useful flower!

Hibiscus has some really interesting properties too, as we will see. Hibiscus and its powder contain anthocyanins, the same compound present in red cabbage, which make it a useful pH indicator. Hibiscus is acidic and the anthocyanins will therefore change colour when its pH level changes. At low pH it will be pinkish red, while at high pH values it will turn shades of green and blue. So when I first used it in a shampoo formula, the colour changes were absolutely fascinating! When I blended the surfactants (which have high pHs) together with the hibiscus solution (bright reddish pink), the mixture changed to a greeny brown tinge, which is somewhat off putting as a shampoo colour. Thankfully when I adjusted down the pH of the final mixture with a dash of citric acid solution, the colour returned to a light creamy pink.

If you want to use hibiscus as a natural colourant, you can actually achieve quite a few different colours by playing with the pH of the water. Increasing the pH by making the solution more alkaline can yield shades from brown, green, through to purple and blue. Please just keep in mind that increasing the alkalinity may affect whatever you add the colourant solution to, and that further pH adjustments may change the colour.


Here is a recipe I recently made and have been enjoying. 

Herbal Volumising Shampoo

1% horsetail powder

1% marshmallow root powder

1% hibiscus powder

50% distilled boiled water

1% xanthan gum

2% vegetable glycerine

8% lauryl glucoside

3% coco glucoside

3% cocamidopropyl betaine

2% Olive M 300

6% argan oil

21% extra water/hydrosol/herbal infusion

1% Euxyl 940


Essential oils of choice (I used lemongrass and cedarwood)

Citric acid solution to adjust pH

pH test strips

Infuse the horsetail, marshmallow and hibiscus powder in the boiled water overnight, then strain. A coffee filter paper is ideal.

Blend the xanthan gum and veg glycerine together, then drizzle in the herbal infusion while blending with a stick blender to make up a gel (it will be pink).

In a separate beaker, blend the two glucosides together then add in the Olive M300 and the argan oil.

Blend the surfactants into the gel, and add in the additional liquid (I used rose hydrosol). You can use distilled water with some aloe vera gel or a different hydrosol or even more herbal infusion if you want. Lastly blend in the cocamidopropyl betaine, preservative and essential oils. At this stage the hibiscus in the high pH surfactant solution will have made the colour go greeny brown but don’t worry!

Make up a citric acid solution to adjust the pH and test with the pH strips to around 5.5. The colour should return to a light pink shade.


A little goes a long way with this shampoo! If you are putting it in a pump bottle, one to two pumps, depending on how much hair you have, should be quite enough. Wet your hair thoroughly first, pump out the shampoo and spread on your hair then massage well and rinse thoroughly.