5 Alternative Shampoos That Actually Work
While living abroad, I ran out of my crunchy, vanilla and black honey shampoo my hair had become so adjusted to. I lived in Asia so finding a close replacement that was authentic and filler-free was slim to none. I tried a few products I found there that unfortunately broke my hair off pretty badly because the products weren't made for my hair type. So, aside from ordering my favorite $13 shampoo and paying $55 for shipping, I needed to find the next best alternative. I did bring my arsenal of essential oils, a huge brick of raw African black soap, and an economy sized box of baking soda- and with these ingredients, I went to work.
I'd already decided a while ago that commercial shampoos were not for me seeing they are typically packed full of harmful and even cancer-causing chemicals. I'm not 100% granola but I've made efforts to reduce my use of off-the-shelf products after I've done my research and have found viable replacements. For those of you who are looking to swap out big-box, store-bought shampoos for natural or even homemade products, I've made a list of some alternatives and recipes that are worth looking into.
Why Should You Stop Using Shampoo?
There are two things you should think about when deciding whether or not to stop using shampoo. What is in your shampoo and what does it do to your hair?
Harmful Ingredients in Shampoo
Commercial shampoos contain nasty ingredients… lots of them! Here is just a sample of common ingredients:
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – A known cancer-causing ingredient that is found in most commercial shampoos.
Polysorbates – An emulsifier that helps bind oil to water. The problem with this ingredient is that it can mess with the pH of your scalp and often leaves a residue.
Propylene Glycol – Another cancer-causing ingredient found in a majority of shampoos.
Shampoo Strips Hair of Natural Oils
Our bodies, including our scalp, produce oils for a good reason. The oil that your hair and scalp produce is called sebum, the oil responsible for keeping your hair and skin soft and supple. Ignoring these natural oils, and seeking to rid our body of these natural oils, can be detrimental to our health.
What usually happens with shampoo is that we strip our scalp and hair of natural oils with harsh chemicals, causing our bodies to try and make up for the deficit by over-producing oils.
So what alternatives are there to commercial shampoo?
1. Shampoo Bar
One popular alternative to commercial shampoo is the shampoo bar. A shampoo bar is similar to a bar of soap, except it is specially formulated to wash your hair. Shampoo bars are gaining popularity because they're easier to travel with, reduce the use of plastic bottles, and give you more shampoos per ounce than an equivalent bottle of liquid shampoo.
Just like traditional shampoos, not all shampoo bars are created equal. If you are new to the world of shampoo alternatives, you will want to find something that is made for your unique hair qualities in mind.
Years ago, before going natural, I tried a shampoo bar from a popular new body-skin-hair store that was popping up all over the country. Everyone who'd tried the shampoo bars was raving about how great this product was. I tried for myself and my hair matted up mid-shampoo. I didn't have the same texture as my colleagues and the product was clearly not made for my hair type.
Fast forward to present day and there are way more brands who make shampoo bars for different qualities of hair. I haven't revisited this option yet but when I do, I plan on trying one of the many SheaMoisture's offers.
2. DIY Shampoo
This, right here, is the absolute goal once I gather all the right information and ingredients. Anyone who knows me well knows I love a good DIY project. Give me a Friday night with wine, a Tidal account, and a kitchen full of ingredients and I will give you a whole medicine cabinet's worth of homemade products.
This idea is so appealing to me because you can design your own shampoo for exactly what your hair needs. Got dandruff? Add a few drops of tea tree or peppermint oil in the mix. Is your scalp itchy and stinky from wearing a braided hairstyle over the summer? Add lemongrass oil to deodorize and soothe your scalp. Literally, the options are endless.
There are plenty of DIY shampoo recipes on the web. I found one at Wellness Mama:
- ¼ cup coconut milk (homemade or canned)
- 1/4 cup Liquid Castile Soap
- 20 drops of Essential Oils of choice (depending on what your hair needs)
- For dry hair: add ½ tsp olive or almond oil (optional)
Combine all ingredients in an old shampoo bottle or jar of some kind- pump soap dispensers and even foaming dispensers work well for this. If you use a foaming dispenser, add 1/4 cup of distilled water. Keep for a month and shake well before each use.
3. Baking Soda
Baking soda cuts grease and can be very effective at keeping hair clean. This method is often called “baking soda washing” and it's a popular method among those who have decided to ditch the shampoo.
There are several ways to do baking soda washing, but it's all pretty simple. I think the easiest way is to dissolve the baking soda in some water and apply it with a spray bottle, then rinse thoroughly.
Baking soda can be hard to get out of your hair, which makes rinsing the most important part. A little baking soda goes a long way. A 1/2 tablespoon of baking soda in 16oz of purified water is enough.
When washing with baking soda, the shafts of your hair will open so rinse, or "condition", your hair with a solution of apple cider vinegar and water. Mix one part apple cider vinegar with four parts water to use as a conditioner.
This method is still up to debate by some people who swear by it and others who claim it ruined the integrity of their hair. I used it when I was in a pickle and couldn't get my hands on shampoo, and it worked perfectly. I wouldn't suggest this as a long-term solution, however.
4. African Black Soap
African black soap is an affordable cleanser that works ridiculously well. It’s packed with antioxidants as well as vitamin A and E, so it is said to treats a series of skin problems, from eczema to uneven skin texture. Tea tree oil is a tried and true antiseptic that cleanses and is said to promote hair growth, while almond oil adds moisture and shine.
Here's a recipe that's been floating around by YouTuber, Naptural85. I've used African black soap as a shampoo bar but have yet to try her method. Here's her easy-to-follow recipe:
- African Black Soap- 1.5oz
- Coconut oil- 2Tbs
- Tea Tree Essential oil: 4 drops
- Sweet Almond Essential Oil: 6 drops
To make your own soap, use a grater to shred the bar of African black soap into small pieces. Combine the ingredients in warm water and stirred until the soap dissolves. Poured it into a spray bottle and it's ready for use.
5. Bentonite Clay
A detoxifier that can be used on hair, skin and internally (to release body toxins), bentonite clay is a highly effective cleanser. It leaves the hair feeling soft and moisturized, and is known for producing defined curls post-wash.
- 3 Tbsp Bentonite Clay
- 6-9 Tbsp Water (optimally these would be dis
- 3 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar with mother.
- 2- 3 Tbsp Raw Honey
Mix bentonite clay & about 2/3 of the water into a non-metal bowl, using a non-metal spoon or utensil. This will form a dry/clumpy paste. Slowly add more water, mixing well, until a thick but stirrable paste is achieved.
Add in Apple Cider Vinegar and mix well. This should bring you to a yogurt-like consistency. Stir in honey.
Apply to damp hair, generously covering and massaging into roots. Once they are well saturated, finger-comb a small amount of clay into the length of hair. Let sit 1-3 minutes and rinse well.
Follow up with a vinegar rinse:
- 1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar with mother
- 3/4 cup Water
Photo credit. curlcentric.com