Although most people are happy with the huge array of choices we have in our department stores and find that most commercial products work well for them, there are many of us who find hair care challenging and difficult. For me, it’s an allergy to fragrances and a sensitivity to chemical additives. If I use the wrong shampoo, my head itches, flakes, gets a rash and sometimes burns for long periods of time, even as long it might take me to wash the residue out with another shampoo. So my search for shampoo has become a real challenge. I just can’t use whatever my sister leaves in the shower. Mine has to be fragrance free, without dyes or chemicals and usually has to have organic ingredients. Same for my hair color. I have found a few products that work for both purposes, dyeing and washing, but they are expensive and I have to order them online. In the meantime, I have come up with a lot of homemade alternatives and most of them are really good.
In my next post, I will give recipes for making homemade rinses and conditioners. I am also working on an ebook about homemade hair dyes and the methods for using them. Here, in this post, I want to share some of my recipes for homemade shampoos. These are safe, non toxic, hypoallergenic, easy to make and to make adjustments to. You will see when you get started on the recipes and after you use this stuff, you may be inclined to give up the commercial chemical based products you’ve been using most of your life.
Here are the recipes:
Soap Bark Shampoo
This is a very old, traditional shampoo that has been used for centuries by women around the world. This is a quick, inexpensive and effective hair cleanser. Soap Bark chips used to be just about everywhere, easily scavenged from fields and wooded areas. But not so much anymore. Today, you have to find them in a health food store, a natural living shop or a herbalist. They are unscented, natural chips from the bark of the Soap plant and this is where Soap got it’s name, by the way. From the Soap plant and from Soapwort, another natural source of cleaning bubbles. Women used to wash their clothes with soapwort and water and wash their hair with soapbark chips they’d boiled. Here is how they did it.
1 tbsp Soapbark Chips (available in health food stores)
1 cup water
Make a decoction by simmering the chips for 30 minutes in a pot over a medium heat. Do not boil and do not burn. After 30 minutes, remove the remaining liquid and strain it completely.
Pour the water over your head and lather. You will be amazed at how much lather this creates. Be ready with a hair rinse to rinse it all out.
Prepare before showering and use as often as you like.
Quickie Dry Shampoo
Back when I was a teen, in the 1960s, I used to use a dry shampoo made of talc. I would just brush it through my hair and it would collect all the grease and oils and carry them out with the brush. Surprisingly enough, it made my hair look clean and shiny and I could get through a day or two without having to wash it. It was just great in a pinch. But they no longer make these dry shampoos and the recipes are all lost in the history. Yet, there are still many times when women or men are in a big hurry and just can’t get into a shower before they face the public. Why don’t make a quickie dry shampoo that is all natural, safe to use and effective? Just because they don’t sell them anymore doesn’t mean we can take advantage of their convenience.
2 tbsp powdered Orris Root
2 tbsp powdered Arrowroot
This is especially effective on greasy hair that just seems to get that way between shampoos. It is also far easier to use and safer than the old talc and powder recipes they used to put in the cans.
Simply mix the root powders together thoroughly. Part the hair in narrow regular bands and sprinkle the powder along each row. Leave on head for 10 minutes to allow the powders to absorb the grease from the hair.
Brush the hair out vigorously and shake the head to remove the powder. The hair should be clean, dry and shiny.
Now, you can use this every day and the powders will build up over time if you don’t get into the shower and wash. This is just good in a pinch and it’s cheap, safe and easy.
This is a cheap and easy mix that can be used everyday. It’s simple to make and has no chemicals, dyes, fragrances or other additives. It is really good for those who are sensitive or allergic to chemicals. Remember to use the most natural form of any ingredient and look for the 100% organic label on anything from plant materials.
2 tbsp of strong infusion of Herbs (instructions below)
Unscented, clear, glycerin Soap
You should buy the glycerin soap in the most natural form you can find. If you start with a liquid soap then you can use it as it is. If you purchase a solid glycerin soap, such as in a bar form, then you will have to dissolve it SLOWLY over heat. In any event, you need the glycerin soap to be liquid when you combine it with the infusion of herbs. Dissolve the soap over very low heat in a small pot on the stove until it is glossy and thick.
To make the infusion of herbs, choose your favorite herbs and stick with that. If you experiment you might end up with something more you are sensitive or allergic to. So use your favorite herbs to make the shampoo. If you don’t have a favorite herb or herbs or are unfamiliar with various herbs, let me suggest peppermint, lavender, rose, rosemary, lemon balm or chamomile. None of these herbs will alter the color of your hair or dry it out if you use it in a brief shampooing.
Make the infusion by adding handfuls of the fresh or dried herbs to water and boiling it down until to about 1/3 the original volume, where the water appears darker in color. Add back an equal amount of fresh water to the pot and another huge handful of herbs. Boil it down again until you have a very dark water. Once you have about a third of the amount of infusion as you do of liquid soap, put this in a container such as a bottle or jar. Add the melted or dissolved soap. Once you have the two elements blended, the soap and the herbal infusion, swirl the bottle a few times (do not shake) and keep it in the referigerator until you are ready to wash your hair. Use just enough to create a reasonable foam and be careful to wash it all out. You don’t want a film on your hair when you get ready to use your conditioner or rinse. I highly recommend using a rinse.
Shampoo for Colored Hair
If you are one of those people who always thought that shampoo for colored hair had to have special chemicals or additives to work, you are not alone. The hair care industry has done a good job brainwashing all of us, in much the same way that all product manufacturers do, through their advertising. Often advertising is filled with “facts” that are not true and warnings about things that really aren’t dangerous at all. Consider what they have done to natural foods and vitamins over the years.
Anyways, this is a great shampoo you can make to not only clean those tresses but will also make the colors brighter. Herbs are great for this purpose. This is a very basic shampoo that requires few ingredients but it is highly effective. So be careful to choose the variation for your hair color and don’t experiment. If you want a shampoo that will work on all hair colors, then make the other recipes.
6 tbsp Castile Soap
3 Pints Water
1 cupful of Herbs (chosen by color enhancement properties)
Start by choosing the right herbs for the color you wish to enhance. For instance, if you are trying to bring out the blond in your hair or lighten a blond shade you have altered chemically, then you should choose Chamomile or Rhubarb. With Chamomile, you should use the ENTIRE head if the flower, not just the petals, and be sure to add in the calyx. With Rhubarb, use the leaves.
If you are trying to enhance darker hair or to enrich or enliven a dark shade you have altered with chemicals, then you should use Lavender, Rosemary or Sage. Lavender for lighter shades of brown (even with some blonding), Rosemary for dark and very dark shades and Sage for ash brown shades. Use fresh herbs if you can get them although dried will work ok. Dried herbs will go a lot farther than fresh and there are more of them per cup. A cupful of dried herbs is more intense than a cupful of fresh but the results aren’t as strong because there are less oils in dried herbs. You decide what’s easiest for you.
In using fresh herbs, use the entire stem, stamen and flowers of the plant. Dried herbs usually contain only the leaves.
Grate the Castile Soap using a cheese grater. Put the dried or fresh herbs into a large bowl and pour over with hot, boiling water. Stir the herbs into the hot water, cover with a towel and set aside to soak. Leave them soaking for 2 hours OFF THE HEAT.
After two hours of soaking, strain the liquid through a colander or cheesecloth, squeezing every last drop out of the plant materials. Once they are totally squeezed out, you can discard the stems and leaves. Add the grated Soap to the herbal water. Put the pot or bowl over low heat and whisk steadily until the Soap has melted. Once the Soap has dissolved into the water and the fluid is viscous and dark, allow it to cool on the counter until COOL.
Once it has completely cooled, you can whisk in the two eggs. DO NOT add the Eggs if you are washing very dry or brittle hair. Eggs are most effective on oily or normal hair types. Once the Eggs and Soap are blended, you can add the Shampoo to a bottle, a jar, a can or whatever you like. Always shake it very well before using. You can keep it in the refrigerator for use over a short period of time. Do not keep for longer than two weeks.
Now, some of us aren’t sensitive to fragrances or dyes but we have a low tolerance for soap. The drying effect of soap on skin and hair can cause inflammation, swelling, itching and cracked skin. It can also cause hair to get so brittle that it simply breaks off or crumbles. If you’ve ever experienced this kind of result from using soap you are probably always looking for alternatives. Not that many exist. But here is your chance to make a soapless shampoo that will not dry out your hair, will not make it brittle and will not make it break. It will leave your hair strands just the way it found them and maybe even in better condition. Look for my next post on conditioners and rinses. I will have some great ones for people with dry, brittle hair.
6 tbsp powdered Soapwort
1 cup of herbs or flowers, your choice
3 pints of boiling water
Start by choosing your herbs. For this recipe, I recommend using dried herbs, although fresh ones will work, too. Fresh herbs give off too much oil for this recipe, though, so dried are preferred. Use your favorite herbs, as always. If you don’t have a favorite herb or have difficulty choosing, let me recommend Elderflowers, wild Thyme, Lime flowers or Lemon Balm. Use all of the herbs, inluding thes stems and stamens. Dried blends of these herbs will includes leaves and flowers. Use all of it. You can get both the dried herbs and the dried Soapwort in a health food store, a herbalist or a natural or alternative living supplier.
Put the 3 pints of water into a large pot over high heat. Bring to a boil. Mix the herbs and dried Soapwort in a large bowl. Stir them around until they are well blended. Once they well blended, pour over with the hot, boiling water. Stir the herbs into the water completely and then cover with a rag or towel. Set aside to soak for two hours.
After two hours, check to be sure the mix is cool. Once it is cool, strain it through a colander or cheesecloth. Toss away all the stems and leaves from the dried herbs and skim the water to be sure no leaves or flowers remain. Once the water is clear, but dark, you should whisk in the Egg. Because you are not using real soap in this recipe, it is safe to add the Egg. It will not enhance the drying elements of the Soapbark the way it enhances the drying effects of ordinary soaps.
After the mixture is well blended and cool. Bottle it up and keep it in a cool, dark place. Use when needed.
Not only do we use shampoos to clean our hair but we often also use it to treat skin conditions. Problems like dandruff, eczema, head lice, allergic dermatitis, to name a few. Here are some variations on a natural and simple shampoo recipe that will help you treat various conditions of the scalp.
3 Tbsp Unscented, pure Baby Shampoo (organic if available)
1 Tbsp Fresh or Dried Lime Flowers
3 Tbsp Herbal Infusion (made with herbs chosen for each condition)
Start by making a Lime Flower Soap that will soften and clean your hair. This is a gentle, safe soap mix that will make a great starting point for any medicinal herbs you want to add later.
Start by boiling the Lime Flowers in a cup of distilled water. Boil it gently until the water changes color. If the water boils down rapidly, add another 1/2 cup of distilled water and continue boiling until the water is dark. You should have at least a Tbsp of dark liquid when done. Strain the Lime Flowers through a cheesecloth, squeezing the juice out. Squeeze until you have the Tbsp of liquid you need. Discard the flowers.
Add the Baby Shampoo to the Lime Flower Water and warm. Stir it as it warms but do not bring to a boil. Do not overheat. Simply warm it and stir it until blended. Once the mix is thoroughly blended, set the pan aside to cool.
Now it is time to choose the herbs you will need for the condition you are trying to treat.
For an effective Hair Loss Shampoo, use dried Southernwood.
For an effective Dandruff Shampoo, use dried Stinging Nettle and Southernwood
For an effective Shampoo to help fight Eczema, use fresh Chickweed and dried Comfrey leaves
For an effective Shampoo to bring down Inflammation of the Scalp, use fresh Calendula petals
For an effective Shampoo to help heal Psorasis, use fresh, crushed Flaxseeds
For an effective Shampoo to help soothe Skin Ulcers on the Scalp, use Comfrey leaves, Calendula petals and Marsh Mallow
For an effective Shampoo to help releive the pain of a Sunburned Scalp, use a tea made of fresh Sorrel leaves
Once you have decided which condition you wish to treat, then select those herbs and make an infusion. Put a handful of herbs for every cup of distilled water. Boil this down by 2/3 (to about 1/3 cup liquid) where the water is dark. Add back in about 1/2 cup of distilled water and another handful of herbs, fresh or dried. In the case of Flaxseeds, crush them first before adding them to the water. Crush them and toss in a handful of crushed seeds. In the case of fresh Chickweed, which you can find growing in your yard, you will also crush the stems and flowers like you do the Flaxseeds. Bruise them until they are sticky with the liquid inside the stems. Add the sticky leaves, flowers and stems to the water. In the case of the other herbs, toss in a handful of dried leaves, stems and flowers.
Boil the second 1/2 cup of water and new handful of plant material in the same water you have already boiled down. Do not strain. Bring to a boil and allow it to boil down to about 3 Tbsp of liquid. At that point, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool on the counter. Once it is cool enough to handle safely, strain the liquid out of the stems, seeds and leaves through a strainer or cheesecloth. Squeeze all of the liquid out untiil you have at least 3 Tbsp. Toss the leaves, stems and seeds in the trash.
Add this herbal infusion to the original Shampoo and Lime Flower mix. Warm gently over low heat until the mixture blends. As it warms and softens and the liquids begin to merge, swirl the pot gently to encourage blending. Once they are completely blended, then take them off the low heat and set aside to cool. Once this mixture is cool enough, it can be added to a bottle, jar or cup and used right away.
Do you love the recipes you see here? Would you love to have a lot more? My new ebook, Homemade Herbal Hair and Skin Treatments, is now available. You can buy it quickly and easily right here for only $2.99.
Simply click on the button to download: