Several months ago I decided to go “no poo” — no shampoo — for a while. I didn’t like it. You use baking soda and water to wash your hair, and apple cider vinegar to rinse it out, and there are a thousand yes/no/maybe/liked it/loved it/hated it comments on the blogs that talk about this shampoo recipe. This seems to be a REAL trial & error thing for people, one where you definitely have to try it and experiment with it and see what does and does not work for your own body. For me, it made my hair feel like greasy straw. Ew! It works ecstatically well for other people. For some people, I’ve noticed, it works for a while, and then doesn’t.
It didn’t work at all for me. I had to go back to using store-bought manufactured shampoo.
UNTIL!!! I read that if you have hard water, which I do, BOIL your water first, THEN add baking soda, about a quart of water and a half cup baking soda. AHA! It was the hard water that was making my hair come out feeling like greasy straw! So I did that, and put it in a spray bottle, and decided to try using this recipe for a couple of weeks. Can it work for me? We’ll see.
And I put water in a second spray bottle, a cup and a half, with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a tablespoon of lemon juice…and a few drops of tea tree oil…and started using that as a conditioner. I decided to try this again and see how the soft-water option works, if it works any better for me.
On my mission to find more ingredients for more personal care products, I drove to Omaha on Christmas Eve, walked into the Natural Grocers store, and immediately a young lady clerk asked me if I was finding what I needed. I’d just got there! But while she was asking, I thought I’d have her direct me to what I was looking for…and we got into a conversation. I told her about my no-poo experiment and the baking soda and vinegar deal. She was kind of surprised. She’d been trained as a cosmetologist and had never heard this! about baking soda shampoo.
And as we talked, she took it all in.
Wow, and that’s the way we train students, whether they’re doctors (believing the lies the pharmaceutical company reps tell them) or cosmetology students (believing the lies the chemical cosmetic industry tells them). And when you’re a student, mostly, you accept what you’re told because “they know the truth” and wouldn’t tell you they put bad stuff in their products…or they just wouldn’t put bad stuff in their products, now, would they? So for the most part you don’t do your own research. You’re exhausted, what with all the studying for tests and all…and you do what you have to do to get out of school and get that degree so you can pay off the loan.
She was fascinated with the idea of no-poo baking soda shampoo, standing there, surrounded by all the hundreds of varieties of “natural shampoo” and endless bottles of “natural” this and that to put on body parts.
She makes her own toothpaste. Led me right to the Xylitol and neem oil and calcium/magnesium and trace mineral solution I wanted. I have my own bentonite clay and coconut oil.
She’s going to go home and google baking soda shampoo and learn all about the stuff she didn’t learn in school. And she’s going to look up “drstrangeitch” for my homemade body lotion recipe. She thought she could remember that.
Day 1 and it seems fine. May feel a little coarse at the ends. One thing I noticed is that most of the people trying the no-poo thing have fairly short hair. But not everyone. I think it’s harder to do this with long hair. Mine is longer than halfway down my back now.
Well, dang it, my hair is already (this is just Day 3!) starting to feel like greasy straw. Albeit it’s less greasy and less straw-like than when I used hard water to formulate the water & baking soda.
On the “wellnessmama” website I read through about DIY shampoo, she said she’d tried the baking soda no-poo idea and it didn’t work for her. She tried a lot of different options until hitting upon one that worked for her: Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap (3 T, I think?) and coconut milk (2 T?) and a few miscellaneous essential oils that made her happy. THAT worked for her.
So, in the shower just a bit ago…hair’s wet, all tangly, feeling hard, ick, what do I do?
There’s my homemade body lotion right there, made mostly of coconut oil…the one that’s posted on my website here… https://drstrangeitch.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/coconut-oil-skin-lotion/
I read that other people used straight conditioner instead of shampoo…hey, why not give it a try? Can’t hurt. I’m experimenting right now.
It was warming up, there under the shower…
Opened the bottle, put a little of the melted stuff in my hand, worked it into half my scalp…no bubbles, of course…then flipped my head over and put more on, rubbed that in…rinsed it out…and there we have it. I could tell right away my hair likes this better. I have no idea whether I’ll think this is the greatest thing since sliced bread until I give it a while.
One thing’s for sure: my hair didn’t need any conditioner, combing it out. And that’s a big improvement over the past two days of using baking soda shampoo. Yesterday when I combed out my hair it took me 20 minutes…tangles…hair tearing…and eventually I had to break out the Weleda Rosemary Hair Oil, rub that on, and comb out. At least then I could comb it out. And my hair had a heavy, stiff feel the rest of the day.
Note: If you put coconut oil on your hair, in other words, the coconut oil in my homemade body lotion, it will stay there until you wash it out with soap. I learned that by trying it. 🙂 That didn’t work so well for me either.
Day 3 note: I have read disclaimers like this on almost all of the “make your own natural body products” websites:
A word about making the switch to natural shampoo:
You must be patient when it comes to switching your hair care from commercial to natural. There is often a “detox” period where you hair may feel stiff, sticky, oily, heavy, or dry. The myriad of synthetic products that are so often in our commercial shampoos and conditioners artificially coat the hair with plastic or protein polymers to make it look and feel undamaged. The more damaged the hair, the more porous it becomes; the more porous the hair, the more it absorbs these synthetic “protein” polymers (e.g. soy, wheat or oat proteins – that are NOT edible foods), plastic polymers such as PVP (petrochemical polyvinyl pyrrolidone) and gum coating agents.
Until the residues of protein and plastic polymers have been completely removed your hair will take some time to heal from all the chemicals… leaving it feeling a little less than “ideal.” But if you’re patient, the end result is worth the wait! As new hair grows in to replace old damaged hair, you’ll probably be amazed at the difference. Then again, for some folks with very chemically damaged hair, you may not like the way your hair feels after the detox, because this natural shampoo contains none of the vinyl or protein plastic polymers to coat their hair to make it feel or look undamaged. Just a heads up.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes!
Okay, so maybe giving up on Day 3 is a little too soon.
I washed my hair on December 27 in a blended mix of one cucumber and “one lemon’s worth” of lemon juice. It worked pretty well; by evening and the next morning the hair felt soooooooooooo heavy and greasy. I had to do something else. The egg shampoo idea might be next.
My to-do list: make up a batch of shampoo including Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap.
I ran across someone’s website saying that she’d used the baking soda shampoo & apple cider vinegar rinse for a while and liked it, but eventually it made her scalp itchy and she was disappointed; she then learned about pH balancing your homemade shampoo. She tried different recipes, then came up with a recipe that is *only* straight aloe vera gel (not the kind you put on owies that you buy in the pharmacy section that has other stuff in it) and coconut milk (canned). Hmm! Maybe that’s what everybody’s missing: pH balancing.
So I googled around on the whole litmus paper thing, and pH balancing your homemade shampoo. This will take a bit more exploration. Someone on another website commented that red cabbage is also effective as litmus “paper.”
SO. The Hair Adventure Continues.
I washed my hair with the second half of the cucumber & lemon juice mixture I made the day before in my blender.
But…I settled on mixing up this recipe when I ran across one of the comments at the very bottom of the blog:
The comment said that to make the recipe pH balanced, add 3 or 4 teaspoons of raw honey. I have raw honey! And everything else! Except Xanthan Gum…and comments asked about substituting arrowroot…why not, she said…she added xanthan gum for a little bit of thickening.
So I did it.
From her website, she says you will need:
- 1 gallon of brewed tea or water
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- 1/4 cup castile soap
- 3 tsp xanthan gum (I omitted this — it’s to make the recipe a little thicker)
- essential oils (about 30 drops-optional)
- I added: 4 Tablespoons of raw local honey
She used chamomile tea bags, I think, and a later comment said she didn’t even think you needed tea. You could just use plain water. She has blond hair; I have brown hair that’s going gray.
I had an aha from several months ago when I wanted more brown in my hair, and looked around to find shampoo that adds highlights…didn’t have any luck. This may be a disaster in the making, but I added 10 Pu-Ehr Teabags to my gallon of water and let the water get hot, and let the teabags steep about 20 minutes. Then removed the teabags, added the rest of the ingredients — baking soda, arrowroot, Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap — I picked out the Tea Tree version — and added 15 shakes of rosemary essential oil and 15 shakes of peppermint essential oil after adding the 4 tsp of raw honey. Once it cooled I poured it into the one-gallon empty vinegar jug from my recycling bin to store it in my bathroom cabinet. It is VERY VERY brown, and we shall see if my bathtub suddenly goes from a lovely white to a nicely tinted dark walnut color. And we shall see if my hair suddenly looks dyed. That’s not what I’m going for. I’m going for just a little more brown highlighting amongst all the gray.
At least I do believe we’ve got ourselves a winner, with shampoo that will actually *foam* a little bit and clean my hair, won’t give me a terribly dry scalp over the long haul, and is something that I *could* ingest if I would so desire.
Somewhere on someone’s blog I read recently they made a point about our skin being our biggest organ, and we do take in whatever our skin comes into contact with. Why would I want to put something on my skin, any part of my skin, that I wouldn’t want to drink? Because essentially it’s going in anyway.
And it smells good!
And I won’t have to worry about rinsing it out really really really really really well so as not to have green stuff coming off my hair all day, green stuff that kind of looks like snot. Yeah, if you don’t rinse that cucumber out of your hair well, you’ve got problems.
Ah, the experimental stage….”some assembly required”….
WELL. After writing the above, I went to get dressed…and discovered that when I combed through my freshly-washed-in-cucumber-and-lemon hair, I had pretty big cucumber bits sticking to my comb. GAH! Not good. Looking a bit further, I’d additionally missed seeing the also-rather-big cucumber bits sticking to my shower curtain.
Lesson for the Future: use the cucumber from the top of the blender if we do this again. Cucumber bits settle. At the bottom you get stuck with the big pieces that truly *do* look like snot.
So, back in the shower, and next to try the newly formulated baking soda & tea & Dr. Bronner’s shampoo. I put it in a spray bottle and sprayed it on…rinsed…yeah, there’s a lot of brown coming out onto the bathtub floor, but it didn’t stick. Washed and rinsed again, and sprayed off with a spray of water, vinegar, lemon juice, and essential oil.
Cucumber bits were also stuck to my towel. I washed my towels.
Some assembly required is right.
My hair felt cleaner, dry at the roots due to the baking soda, I’m guessing, and I thought this was a pretty good recipe to stick with for a while. I was still planning to try out the aloe vera gel and coconut milk recipe; you pour that one into ice cube trays and freeze it, then as you need it you take out of the freezer the night before and use it, thawed, the next day. The recipe would last a week in the fridge, without freezing.
I also learned that I probably won’t be washing my hair every day like I used to. Apparently you don’t have to! Who knew! “Wash your hair every day” would indeed make more money for those selling hair products…AND…knowing that if you wash your hair with their products it will strip your hair of its natural strength (oil), then you’ll need more products to help it de-frizz…and as a result of adding the de-frizzer, your hair will then need something else…get a real nice little cycle of consumerism going for the companies…great for their bottom line, which is, by corporate law, “do whatever is in the financial best interests of the corporation”…so they were only following the law…
The Shampoo Journey, December 31: For the past couple of days I’ve used my mixture of Dr. Bronner’s, baking soda, water, and essential oils, and tea water, then rinsing with the water + vinegar + lemon juice + essential oils. At night I try to brush it with my boar bristle brush, “to distribute the oils to the ends of the hair.” My hair is still pretty greasy and heavy, once it dries out; I’m still washing it every day, hoping something will get the grease out, eventually.
I noticed yesterday that my hair has a different texture. It’s pretty thick, and I’ve always thought of it as “fine” in texture. Yesterday I washed it, rinsed it, combed it out — no tangles now — combed out pretty easily — and put it up in a ponytail. My hair has body! Thickness! When I put it in a ponytail elastic, it seems like there’s way more of it, and it kind of stands up on my head, a little, where before it would just lie down totally flat and smooth. And wrapping it up in the elastic band I notice that it looks much less perfect; there’s little strands kind of sticking out here, there…which I think is kind of cool. I like that. Once it gets dry I can comb it out and put it back in the band and it will be smoother — greasy-looking, though. But I know it’s clean. Just looks like I haven’t washed it in a week.
Today I used my “shampoo” recipe in the spray bottle as a “body wash” too. Smells good! Worked just fine.
I was going to whip up a recipe of Aloe Gel (got that now) and Coconut Milk shampoo; read the comments in that person’s blog, and sheesh, people are having trouble with that TOO! My next plan is to make my own coconut milk out of dried coconut — I have that — and hot water, strained through a fine mesh sieve — and use that, not canned coconut milk “with guar gum,” for my coconut milk supply. I may do that tonight while the rest of the world gets crazy over 2014.
I still have a cucumber in my fridge, and yesterday I restocked my lemon juice supply. Just in case I have a bad case of silliness deficiency and need a good laugh.
January 1, Update on Shampoo Journey: last night my hair was still damp (and felt a little greasy) on top. I brushed it out…the ends were all pretty okay…flyaway, yes, but didn’t feel greasy…just on top. I made a bit of “makeup” powder with arrowroot and cocoa powder and cinnamon, and had already tried that out on my face. Pretty neat. I took some of that arrowroot powder mix and sprinkled it on top of my head and rubbed it in…brushed it out. Pretty neat! I went to bed, got up this morning, felt the top of my head where it felt ewwww last night, and it feels pretty good! I combed out my hair this morning, it was static-y, and I put a little water on my hands and wetted down my hair. Pretty good! I may not wash my hair today. Or if I do, I’ll just rinse it with water and that’s it.
Hair feels better today than it has since the day I decided to start this, the last day I washed with store-bought shampoo.
January 1: I made my own coconut milk! Hot water, and about a cup of grated dried coconut, and a wire mesh strainer…I poured the water through the strainer, then learned I could actually put the coconut & water in a blender and strain *that*.
Burned out my little Oster one-person-sized smoothie-maker. But I made a whole bunch of coconut milk.
Then added the bottle of aloe vera gel and a cup and a half of homemade coconut milk, stirred it up with three chopsticks — I don’t have a wire whisk — ladled this mix with about 15 squirts of grapefruit essential oil into two ice cube trays, and they’re now in the freezer. Also I froze my new coconut milk.
One of these coconut milk / aloe shampoo bars lasts for several washes, according to some people…I don’t know; my hair is long and thick and we’ll see how it works.
January 4: Yesterday I washed my hair in the aloe gel & coconut milk mixture I stirred together, then froze in ice cube trays. With my long hair I used about a cube and a half of thawed-out aloe & coconut milk mix.
Not good. My hair felt heavy and greasy after washing, all last night, and today. I understand there is a detox period with this recipe too. I’m just not sure I’m patient enough for yet more hair detoxing.
Today I tried using the Body Wash recipe on my hair: http://www.diynatural.com/homemade-body-wash/
- ⅔ cup liquid castile soap
- ¼ cup raw, unfiltered honey
- 2 teaspoons oil – grapeseed, jojoba, sweet almond, sesame, or olive
- 1 teaspoon Vitamin E oil (I didn’t have any, so I omitted this item — if you’re planning on storing this for a while, you’ll need it; I’m using this up pretty fast so I don’t think I need to worry about it; it’s a preservative)
- 50 – 60 drops essential oils
Measure out all ingredients and combine in a bottle with a squirt top, shaking to mix. Shake gently before each use. To use, squirt onto a washcloth, bath pouf, or directly onto body.
When I mixed mine up, again, in a tall glass jar, in a pan of warm water or a saucepan of water heating on the stove, stirring it with a pair of chopsticks, I was worried about the honey. Mine is solid and thick. The directions didn’t call for mixing it up and melting it together, but I did. Would it get hard and lumpy when it cooled? No — mine is a nice liquid; the honey didn’t separate out or get hard; and it’s working very well as a body wash.
As a shampoo, it foamed up very nicely, gave me thick, rich suds, washed out well, and I’ve been using the water / vinegar / lemon juice / essential oil in a spray bottle as conditioner. My hair is drying, now, and it feels pretty good! I was pretty sure yesterday, while washing my hair, that my hair wouldn’t turn out well with the aloe/coconut recipe. It might work well as a conditioner, if you have really dry hair. At least you don’t have to worry about little green stuff remaining in your hair, on your shower curtain, in your bathtub, on your comb, with the aloe/coconut recipe…now, if it’d only work…
So, that’s where I’m at right now: I’ve tried plain baking soda and water with apple cider vinegar, using hard water. That doesn’t work for me. I tried boiling the water, adding the baking soda, using that as shampoo, and using half a cup of water, a tablespoon of white vinegar, a tablespoon of lemon juice, and 15-20 drops of essential oil as conditioner. This conditioner recipe seems to work, now that my hair has de-greased and detoxed for a while; plain baking soda and water does not work for me. Trying a recipe of Dr. Bronner’s, baking soda, tea water, and adding 4 tablespoons of raw honey — this one kind of works for me. Cucumber and lemon juice worked for me a little bit, the first day I used it; Day 2, using the settled-out portion of the cucumber mix, gave me large juicy green things in my hair, bathtub, comb, shower curtain, and towel (ew!). Aloe gel and coconut milk, correctly pH balanced, did not work, but then again I did not use this mixture for a long period of time, only one day, and gave up on it. I still have a whole bunch of frozen aloe vera gel and coconut bars in my freezer, and will no doubt use them up over time. What actually worked really well for me was the “body wash” recipe.
Now, that’s pretty sweet, right there. Imagine having just one recipe, the “body wash” recipe, to use for body wash, shampoo, shaving lotion, and facial cleanser. In the comments to that original blog post, someone asked if it could be used for shampoo; the suggestion was to remove the almond oil. I used it this morning “straight” — no changes to the recipe — and I have very oily hair, or at least that’s what I’ve believed about my hair since I was a teenager. Tonight my hair isn’t frizzy, isn’t static-y, isn’t greasy, and feels and looks clean, even with the almond oil and raw honey in the mix.
I may have something different to say after using this recipe for a while. But for right now, I’d give this one my *only* thumbs-up for the natural shampoo recipes I’ve tried so far.
Update The Next Morning: My hair feels pretty good today! At the roots, where it was the foamiest — I really didn’t wash the length of it, mostly just at the roots, all over my head — it feels dry and clean, still. It doesn’t feel at all greasy, not at all like “I need a shampoo today” like I usually feel the day after shampooing my hair, using whatever product is out there. The only thing I noticed today is that the length of the hair, past the ponytail point, feels a little like there’s “something on it.” Not that heavy, wet, greasy feeling, just hmm…there’s something there…but it doesn’t bother me that much. It’s a little static-y, too, but nothing I can’t calm down with a bit of water on my hands and rubbing that over my hair for a second. Day 2 of “body wash shampoo” photo from this morning:
And the Updated Update: I haven’t used that recipe since sometime in mid January; it’s now April. I discovered Zum Shampoo Bars at the Zum website. They do web-exclusive shampoo bars for $6 each in Frankincense and Myrrh scent and also Lavender. So far, the Lavender has worked best for me. Somehow, and it might be my water, the F&M variety gets thick and kind of clunky; Lavender is less thick and less clunky and doesn’t weigh my hair down as much with essential oils.
This is what’s worked really well for me now since January, but lately I got a little impatient with the thick and kind of gummy feel to my hair, so I tried an experiment — but I’ll get to that in a bit.
What I’ve felt, the reason I’ve really stuck with the Zum homemade shampoo, is that with this shampoo I can go almost a WEEK without needing to shampoo again. For me, that’s unheard of! I’ve always assumed I needed to shampoo every day; every other day was stretching it, even. If I didn’t wash my hair every day I had a greasy oil slick on top of my head. I *had* to shampoo it.
It’s been a learning curve, and I’ve learned that using this shampoo my hair looks as good on Day 6 (after shampoo) as it does on Day 1 and Day 2.
The way I do it, you need:
~Zum Shampoo Bar (3 ounces)
~4 x as much water as Shampoo Bar
In a saucepan, warm the water; as you’re doing that, grate your shampoo bar. Add the grated shampoo bar to the warming-up water, stirring gently until all of the pieces are melted into the water. Or, grate your shampoo bar into the saucepan, add the water, start it warming up gently. Don’t boil it, and don’t get it too hot, just keep it going until it all dissolves nicely. Keep stirring every now and then with chopsticks while the pieces melt into the water. And that’s it!
Let it cool, pour into the squeeze bottles you’ll use in the shower, and you’re done.
Now, the gummy part. I woke up on Saturday morning thinking my hair was feeling heavy and thick and kind of gummy. What would work to make my hair feel a bit lighter, freer, shinier? Really, what I was going for was that stripped-down feeling again, I guess…but how can I get that with natural products?
What I tried: adding my homemade shampoo to a good bit of sea salt, and putting that on my hair in the shower and using it as a shampoo. I rinsed it out I though pretty well…and put the usual “conditioner” on it — water mixed with vinegar and lemon juice and essential oil.
Well…not what I wanted. I let my hair dry all day Saturday, wrapped in a french twist on my head. It was still damp when I went to bed Saturday night. Sunday morning, waking up, my hair felt heavy and hard and thick.
So. I drew a nice hot bath and submerged my whole self under the water, soaked for a while, sat up, applied apple cider vinegar and water, half and half, in a spray bottle. I did that four times. You’d think that’d do something!
Put it back up in a french twist, went on with my day.
This morning: the hair is better, but still not what I was looking for. I shampooed it very very sparingly with a little homemade shampoo…rinsed it out again really well and applied the apple cider vinegar and water spray. And put it up in a french twist again.
So….this is a long, long, long, long, long, LONG venture, trying to get it right with my hair and my homemade hair products.
One thing’s for sure, though: I have body. My hair has body like it’s never had before. It’s thick, it doesn’t need shampooing on Day 2, it stays in a french twist without falling out a million times a day like it used to, it is DEFINITELY “not manageable,” it’s hard to comb through, there’s a lot of oil stuck to my hair and my combs — natural oils, coconut & whatever they make Zum out of — but would I go back to store-bought? No way in hell. Absolutely not. My hair is also strong and it’s holding a curl for the first time. And it’s actually gorgeous. When I take the time to comb it out. Which mostly I don’t. I just wash it, comb it out in the bathtub while I’m bent over at the waist, straighten back up, and it’s a tangled mess then, from which point I twirl it into a french twist and secure it with my favorite stick, and I’m done. It’s kinda messy, kinda curly here and there, kinda … creative looking.
I like it, grays & all. Imperfections & all.
Update, June 29, 2014: This is still a work in progress. I noticed when I went back to the farm where I grew up, for 10 days at the end of May, where we have rainwater (naturally soft water, naturally structured water) in the cistern to use for showering, my hair when I first got there was heavy and gunky and thickish, even though I’d just shampooed the day before. *Sigh.* But after showering several days in the rainwater, with a structured water “mini-shower” unit in the shower, my hair was way improved! Even without shampooing my hair, just running water through it and washing the scalp with my fingertips, my hair was vastly better there than it was at home in Nebraska.
So, I decided to get two more whole-house structured water units installed in my whole-house in Nebraska.
Got that done on Friday. I washed my hair Saturday in what would be 10-times-structured-water, if you count each whole house Dynamically Enhanced unit to be equivalent to 3 passes through a unit…so, 9 passes with the 3 whole-house unit, and one more, the mini-shower at the shower head…and my hair will be dry by tomorrow so I will have more to say about it.
Saturday night I made up a new batch of shampoo, with the Frankincense and Myrrh shampoo bar, grated, and 12 ounces of water — 9-times-structured-water, and since I had *all* my stuff out, all my oils and carrier oils and essential oils, making laundry detergent and toothpaste and bug bite juice and bug repellent spray…I noticed the bottle of jojoba oil suggested to add a tablespoon of jojoba oil to your favorite shampoo or conditioner. Ah! Why not! It’s sitting right there in the pan. Easy to just stir that in. So we will see how adding the extra tablespoon of jojoba oil to the grated Zum & water shampoo recipe works.