Hey there friends!
How are you all today? I just have to tell you about my newest creation – a homemade herbal shampoo that I absolutely love. I quit commercial hair products back in September of 2014 and I’ve really worked hard, and had a lot of fun (and frustration, lol) getting my hair to where I love it, and this shampoo emerged in the process.
Who on earth would be weird enough to make their own shampoo?
[raises hand] Me. If you’re weird like this too, then you might think about giving this a try. Although this shampoo (you could even think of it as a hair “tea”) will not have the consistency of commercial shampoo, the herbs in this shampoo are well-known for helping cleanse, moisturize, and volumize hair in a natural, healthy way. I really think you’ll like it. 🙂
If you’re very familiar with the no-poo way of washing hair, then you’ll most likely have heard of these herbs. I’ve worked on this for months and months, perfecting to where I’m happy with it and what it does for my hair. I’ll tell you a little more about the key players, we’ll talk about how it can work for you, and I’ll show you how I make it.
Shikakai means “fruit for hair” and is a staple of ayurvedic herbal hair care. It’s an excellent cleanser that doesn’t strip your natural oils from your hair, and respects the ph balance of your hair. Shikakai pods contain naturally-occurring saponins which help clean off excess sebum and dirt from the scalp. I buy this powder, because it is very finely ground, and it has worked great for me.
Amla is an Indian herb known to help nourish the hair and scalp and prevent premature graying of hair. Amla (Indian Gooseberry) comes from an edible fruit that has also been used in traditional Indian hair and skin care for thousands of years. Amla adds a somewhat unusual consistency to this shampoo, and will add volume. I purchased this amla and it has worked well. P.S. Amla has been known to darken hair. I am a brunette and so this is not an issue, but be careful if you have very light hair! You might want to try another recipe.
Reetha Powder (also known as Soapnut!) is another all-natural herb that works great with hair. Reetha (Sapindus mukorossi) is a valuable natural cleanser. It is gentle on skin and hair, and doesn’t strip hair of its natural oils. It makes hair silky and shiny, without chemicals! Here’s the one I bought.
Known in India as “The Divine Tree” , its bark, leaves, fruits, seed have been used in India for several thousand of years for their medicinal quality. The antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties of Neem effectively heal any scalp related problems, which is why I chose to add it. It reduces scalp itchiness, enhances the growth of the hair, prevents dandruff and lice. You can find neem here.
Here’s one you’ve heard of for sure! I add cinnamon because I love the scent, but cinnamon stimulates the scalp and increases blood circulation. It has anti fungal and antibacterial properties, so it can benefit the scalp. It has also been used to combat hair loss. Cinnamon has the potential to lighten your hair, although for such a small amount that’s in this recipe, I don’t think it would really lighten much. I use ceylon cinnamon, because I believe it’s healthier and more potent.
You will basically be brewing a “tea” out of these powdered ingredients, and using it to wash your hair. Here are the measurements, equipment, and instructions. Be sure to read the notes before you make it! 🙂
- 1 tablespoon powdered shikakai (where to find)
- 1 tablespoon powdered reetha (where to find)
- 3/4 tablespoon powdered amla, you will just have to eyeball it (where to find)
- 1/2 tablespoon neem powder (where to find)
- 1/4 tablespoon ground cinnamon (where to find)
- Fresh sprig rosemary (totally optional but great for your hair!)
- A few drops essential oils of your choice – I love lavender, rosemary, and frankincense, but go with what you love! Click here to learn more about essential oils and the brand I recommend!
- about 3 cups water to reconstitute and cool off (filtered is great)
- medium sized pot
- mesh strainer (like this)
- clean washcloth, tea towel, or even cheesecloth for straining further
- 32 ounce container – I bought some stainless steel tumblers from Amazon and I LOVE them for using in the shower when I wash my hair, but I can’t find them on Amazon anymore! Any quart sized container will work, but be careful in the shower if you are using glass!
I’ll show you the steps in pictures, but really this is very easy.
1. Combine the herbs (and rosemary, if using) in a small pot. Add 2 cups of water (stir with a small whisk or fork) and bring to a simmer.
You’ll notice the ingredients start to foam! That’s good. But you need to keep an eye on it, let it simmer but watch it to make sure it doesn’t boil over. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.
Line your mesh strainer with a washcloth or whatever filter you are using, over your quart sized container. (You could use a coffee filter in a pinch, but it will take FOREVER to drain.) TIP: Soak the towel in water and wring out first – that way the towel will not soak up all your precious shampoo! 😉
When your mixture has simmered long enough, pour into the wet cloth and let it strain into your quart sized container. You should end up with a cup of shampoo, more or less. (The amount is not really important – you’ll be reconstituting it.)
At this point your herbal shampoo/hair tea will still be quite hot. You can add a few drops of any essential oils you might be using into your container now. Add three cups of water (filtered or spring water is great! I have the best success with filtered water.) to fill the rest of your container. This cools the tea so it doesn’t burn you or your hair! Now, you have your shampoo ready – time to wash!
This is a no-poo wash, and is best for hair which is not coated in styling products. Although, I use this pure and natural gel after every wash, and it still washes out great.
I have used this homemade shampoo to wash my hair at its oiliest, and it has worked very well.
- For best success, do NOT wet your hair first. Slowly pour HALF of your mixture onto your dry hair, and gently massage your scalp. It will make your hair feel like straw – and that is normal for this setup. If you’re used to foaming shampoo, it will feel really, really weird. Gross, even. Just know that your gentle massaging is doing the trick. You can massage the length of your hair, but keep the focus on your scalp.
- After you’ve massaged your scalp well, rinse your hair.
- Then wash again with the second half of your mixture, always concentrating on the scalp. Why wash twice? I have found it to work best with all types of washing, whether homemade or commercial. The first wash stirs up skin cells, oil, and dirt, and the second wash cleans them away.
- Rinse well.
- You can follow up with a gentle acidic rinse, especially if you have really hard water, but it is not required. A gentle acidic rinse might be something like a tablespoon of white vinegar to a cup of water. (You can learn more about acidic rinses here.)
- Then do whatever you do after washing. Comb with a wide-toothed comb, and you might even want to add some argan oil or my homemade heat protectant to the tips of your hair. I also add a dime sized amount of the gel I mentioned earlier in the post. I try not to use heat on my hair, and just allow it to air dry.
You did it! You made your own homemade shampoo!
- Okay, as I mentioned, this shampoo will feel weird on your hair. The herb Amla is probably most to blame for this weird feeling. Some people say it makes their hair feel like plastic barbie hair. I tend to agree – but actually, that’s why I love it! That’s the volumizing part for you. Your hair will feel thicker because of it.
- Not everyone uses these herbs to make a hair tea, and that is totally fine! Some people just make a paste out of the powdered herbs and apply to their hair like a mask. I tried that and it was a huge disaster for me. The powder would not.wash.out. I was brushing powdery brown gunk out of my hair for the next several days. As in, bigtime fail. That’s why I decided to make the brew I just described above. I tried it first without straining it like I do above, and it also was a disaster. It didn’t rinse out again. Thus, the straining. It works much better for my hair. But you make sure and find out what works best with your hair.
- I’ll say it again: experiment and find out what works best with your hair. This is what works for me after much trial and error. It took months to perfect. I share it with you in hopes it will help you, but feel free to tweak away! Everyone’s hair is different. You can change the amount of herbs to suit you.
- This wash can be used every four days or longer. The goal of no-poo is to stretch your washes to at least a four day space between them. Honestly, I use this shampoo anywhere from once a week to once a month! Most of the time I am doing acid-only rinses once a week. But I LOVE the volume this shampoo gets me. If I want my hair to look super great for something, this is the wash I use.
- It does take a few minutes of preparation with the boiling and straining, but the good part is what I just mentioned: you don’t do this everyday. Once a week/month is fine with me, and I find it so fun to do. (I’m weird though.) Do it as rarely as you feel like it. Or as often, as long as you’re waiting 4 days between washes. You can start it boiling and then work on something else in the kitchen while it’s going.
- As long as you keep the ratios the same, you can make up a big mixture of the powders, and be sure to use 3 1/2 tablespoons powder per use just like the original recipe. A sample mixture might be this: 1 cup shikakai, 1 cup reetha, 3/4 cup amla, 1/2 cup neem, and 1/4 cup cinnamon. Be sure that this ratio works well for you hair before you make a big mixture, though. 🙂
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Thanks for stopping by! Do you love making your own beauty products too?
Much herbal hair love,
P.S. For more kitchen tips, healthy recipes, and ideas for a simpler, love-filled life, why don't you subscribe to my newsletter? No spam, ever. <3
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