My foray into homemade herbal shampoo began last summer. Up until that time, I just used whatever cheap shampoo I could get my hands on. Times were tight and my beloved salon shampoos were most certainly not in the budget. However, I was pretty uncomfortable with the thought of us being exposed to all of those weird sounding chemicals and knew I could do better than that.
I got the framework for this shampoo from the book Earthly Bodies & Heavenly Hair by Dina Falconi. Oh, how I love this book! If you want to make your own natural body care recipes, then this is THE book to own (or check out from the library as much as they’ll let you!)
Before I share the recipe, just a few notes on shampoos made with castile soap:
- Don’t use straight castile soap on your hair. It’s just too concentrated & strong that way. Your hair will not be happy.
- Don’t use castile soap on dyed hair. It’s too alkaline and will strip hair color.
- You can apparently use castile soap on highlighted hair though and possibly henna colored hair. I don’t know anything else about those two options – but THIS POST will give you further reading to explore.
- Although you will see many recipes on the internet calling for it, don’t add vinegar directly to a recipe containing castile soap. One is an extreme acid and the other very alkaline – at best, the vinegar will react with the soap immediately and become uselessly inert, and at worse, it’ll create some sort of curdled mess. You’ll still want to use vinegar, just AFTER washing with your homemade shampoo.
- Homemade shampoo made with castile soap looks watery after you make it. However, pour a small amount into your hand and rub together and you’ll quickly see just how much lather it makes. A little bit, goes a long way.
- After washing, your hair will greatly benefit from a spritzing or rinsing of diluted vinegar and water – I use a roughly half and half mixture, you may find a better ratio for your own hair. Vinegar rebalances the pH of your hair, leaving it smoother and shinier. A rinse will also help remove any excess soap residue. More on that below.
- If you try this and aren’t happy with the results, keep experimenting or try a completely different option such as the popular “No ‘Poo” method. My friend Sara at My Merry Messy Life has a great post on this.
- You are either going to love this shampoo or you’re not going to love it. There’s not a lot of medium opinions on this one! I found this post from Lisa Bronner while browsing around the internet. Read through the comments on the post to see all of the different reactions that people’s hair can have to castile soap. It’s not going to work for every hair type/length/water situation so be sure to make a small, test batch to start.
- From the tons of feedback I’ve gotten since I first published this recipe – the most success for this shampoo seems to happen for those with thick, coarse hair.
- Everyone’s hair is different! What works for mine, won’t work for everyone. My husband uses this daily (without a vinegar rinse) and it’s the best thing we’ve ever found for his short, thick, slightly oily hair. My hair is long and fine and other than an unfortunate perm in the seventh grade and an I’m-9-months-pregnant-and-my-hormones-insisted-I-chop-off-my-waist-length-hair-and-get-blonde-highlights incident, it’s not been chemically treated. I find I need a wash with a store-bought clarifying shampoo (I use Neutrogena) once every few weeks to prevent my hair from feeling like it has buildup. Obviously not 100% natural, but as my hubby is fond of saying, I’m more flaky than crunchy sometimes… and I’m still quite happy that I’ve reduced most of my chemical exposure via shampoo.
- Update for 2015: I’ve switched to shampoo bars instead of castile soap and like the way they work on my hair better. (Links to shampoo bar recipes will be posted in the near future for those interested.)
Customizable DIY Herbal Shampoo Recipe:
- 2 ounces Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Baby Mild Pure Castile Soap
- 4 to 5 ounces of water, infused with herbs (see suggestions below)
- 1/4 teaspoon carrier oil – more for dry hair, less for oily (options below)
- 20 to 40 drops essential oil (suggestions below)
First, make your herbal infusion by placing a teaspoon, or pinch, of each type of herb you wish to use in a heat proof jar or glass, pour one cup of simmering hot water over the herbs, cap with a saucer and let steep for several hours. Strain and set aside 4 to 5 ounces. Any leftover infusion can be used in your bathwater or diluted with vinegar to use as a hair rinse.
Add the castile soap, carrier oil and essential oils to the water. Gently stir until mixed. Try to avoid whipping up any bubbles, as much as possible. Pour into an easy to dispense container. You can recycle an old shampoo bottle for this.
Make small batches at a time and store this in your refrigerator. Shelf life will be up to a few weeks, but check for spoilage before each use.
Shake or swirl gently before each use. If at all possible, follow with either a rinse or spritzing of vinegar and water. More on this below.
Okay, so now that we know the basic recipe, let’s talk about how to customize this shampoo in order to make it your own.
Herbs to try in your infusion:
These can be fresh or dry or a combination of both types.
Chamomile is traditionally used for light hair and rosemary for dark hair, but feel free to mix and match as you please. You can make a lovely floral shampoo, using roses, violets, lavender and other flowers with matching essential oils or create a more medicinal one with rosemary, thyme and tea tree oil.
Comfrey and calendula are great for scalp conditions and rosemary is said to prevent thinning hair. Lavender may help a dry, itchy scalp. These are just a few suggestions.
Peruse through the listings of available bulk herbs at Mountain Rose Herbs and see which names catch your eye. Each herb has a little link under its name that you can click for more information that will let you know what it’s useful for.
You can also invest in a great herbal reference book. My favorite is Making Plant Medicine by Richo Cech.
- Lemon or Orange Peel
- Nettle Leaf
- Rose Petals and/or Leaves
- Violet Flowers and/or Leaves
For any herbs that I don’t grow, I buy from Mountain Rose Herbs.
These add a little bit of a moisturizing boost to your shampoo. My favorite to use is Tamanu Oil since it has so many great skin-healing properties and is also anti-microbial, making it ideal for those with dandruff or other scalp conditions.
If you have very dry hair, you can use a bit more in your shampoo, if your hair is very oily, use less or omit completely. Make sure to shake your shampoo before each use so that the oil isn’t used up within the first washing or two.
Essential Oils are added for scent and therapeutic use. Depending on the types and amount used, they can also help extend the shelf life of your shampoo.
If you have dandruff or scalp conditions, tea tree oil is an excellent addition to consider. There are many other options however, including the ones listed below. Be especially careful if you are pregnant, nursing or on any medications before using essential oils.
- Geranium Rose
- Tea Tree
- Peru Balsam
- Ylang Ylang
I buy virtually all of my essential oils through Mountain Rose Herbs, but your local health store should carry a good selection as well.
Ideally, you’ll follow your homemade shampoo with a vinegar rinse. As I mentioned above, my husband skips this step and still has excellent results with the type I make him. (I’ll put that particular recipe at the bottom of this post.)
For my hair, I fill a small spray bottle half way with vinegar then top it off with water. I then spritz all over my towel dried hair. (Don’t worry, the vinegar smell disappears after a while!) You can also mix some up and pour over your hair as a rinse. (No need to rinse it out afterwards with plain water.)
The vinegar helps smooth your hair, restore pH and when used as a rinse – remove soap residue.
I like to use either my homemade lavender vinegar or rose petal vinegar, but you can infuse your vinegar with other herbs, or just use it plain. Most people prefer apple cider vinegar and I do use it sometimes, but I like how white vinegar lets the floral notes of lavender and rose shine through, so use that more often.
To infuse vinegar, just place flowers and/or herbs (fresh and/or dried) in the bottom of a glass, heat proof jar. Pour simmering (not boiling) vinegar into the jar to fill, then cap and let sit in a dark, coolish place for several weeks. Strain and store in the dark for a shelf life of at least a year, most likely much longer. Sunlight will make the pretty colors fade faster than just time alone, which is why a dark storage place is emphasized.
Rosemary Calendula Shampoo:
This is the recipe that works best for my hubby. You can use dried or fresh herbs.
- 2 ounces Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Baby Mild Pure Castile Soap
- 4 ounces water infused with: rosemary, plantain, calendula flowers and rose petals
- 1/4 teaspoon tamanu oil
- 10 drops tea tree oil
- 5 drops rosemary essential oil
- 15 to 20 drops lavender essential oil
I hope this post helps to show just how easy it is to create your own herbal shampoos! You may want to use them full-time or part-time or, if you find you don’t care for it as a shampoo, you can still use it as a body wash or even a bubble bath. Have fun experimenting!
Links to Mountain Rose Herbs and Amazon.com in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you click on one of them and make a purchase, I earn a small commission for sending you to their site. This helps support my blog and lets me keep doing what I’m doing. Thank you!