24 November 2011

5 Natural Alternatives to Toxic Shampoo

There are some amazing alternatives to store bought shampoo full of toxic chemicals. Etsy offers a spectacular array of natural products made by creative sustainable crafters who know where their ingredients come and cater to the needs of their customers the way they would to themselves.

But you can make sure you have a clean and healthy care even without the act of buying. Yes, Mother Nature has it all in store for us, and the only thing we need to know is how to use her riches.

Illustration: The Extent of Silence
Let me start with what I have been using since my teenage years - eggs. Egg yolks were essential if you wanted to have a thick hair. Treating it regularly with a mask of 1 egg yolk and a tablespoon of kaolin sure produced the effect! At the time though I didn't know that eggs also cleaned my hair, I only thought they were nourishing. But it's never too late for some additional knowledge, right?

Apart from recreating hair, the eggs fight dandruff and prevent hair loss. They work perfectly well for all hair types.
  • Oily hair - beat 1 egg, add the juice of 1 lemon. Apply to wet hair and leave for about an hour. Rinse well.
  • Dry hair - whisk 1 egg, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the juice of one cucumber. Apply and leave for 15 minutes to restore the luster of your hair.
One thing I've learned though is that after the egg treatment your hair smells rather unpleasant. You can avoid this by rinsing it with a solution of 1 tablespoon of vinegar in 1 cup of water.

Baking soda
I have written a lot about washing my hair with baking soda, but I will repeat it again – it is easy, cheap, and great for your hair. Rinse with vinegar to condition.

Edit: Since I wrote this post in 2011 I have learned the hard way that baking soda is extremely detrimental to hair. You can read a very thorough article with my findings, called Baking Soda Destroyed My Hair and see for yourself. I do not recommend anyone to ever wash their hair with baking soda.

If you know the ingredients of mayonnaise you won't be surprised - it has eggs, oil and vinegar. All three of them are doing wonders to your hair and think about what they can do combined!

Mayonnaise is great in your fight against split ends and dry hair. If you massage a handful of mayonnaise in your hair and leave it for 10 minutes you will have a smooth, shiny thick hair after just a few applications. To get rid of the smell, rinse with vinegar.

Aloe Vera
I am a big fan of Aloe Vera mostly because of its anti-inflammatory properties and the way it helps with acne or sun burn. But it is also very effective as a shampoo. You can use Aloe Vera gel and massage it gently all the way to the scalp. In this way it will not only clean your hair but will also work for a healthier scalp. Aloe Vera increases the blood flow, and balances the pH levels, and prevents hair fall. It removes dandruff, promoting a healthier scalp. With all these benefits, it is even more refreshing than using typical shampoo.

Calendula is a widely spread flower often considered as a weed. It is, in fact, a versatile herb known for its skin healing properties. Calendula contains flavenoids and has anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, ideal for soothing and treating the scalp. You can buy the dried flower or dry it yourself at home.

Make a natural shampoo by filling a glass jar with dried calendula flowers and adding olive oil until the flowers are completely submerged. Close the jar and store it for 2 weeks in a dark place but don't forget to shake it well each day. Strain the oil into a clean bottle or glass jar. For a natural preservative, add vitamin E oil to it and start using as you would a regular shampoo.

Here are 10 more ways to wash your hair without shampoo.
Whichever way you choose to wash your hair don't forget to wash it with lukewarm water. Hot water dries out your hair and makes it look lifeless and dull. For more advice on how to take care of your hair during the winter months, read my article 6 Natural Tips to Winterize Your Hair Effortlessly.

Have you tried any of these natural alternatives to shampoo? How do you keep your hair healthy? 


  1. I've tried the baking soda method over about a week and can say that I'm not really happy about it. No matter how much I rinse it stays in making my hair feel heavy and dirty - it probably has to do with my hair being colour treated though. Which makes me think that trying to avoid toxins in my shampoo is like an obese person ordering a diet coke with his five big macs ;)

    1. Hahaa! I love that metaphor!

    2. You probably have hard water. I've been doing the baking soda and vinegar thing since February and love it, but noticed that a couple places I went it just didn't seem to clean my hair; it looked clean but felt oily immediately after, and it felt thick and heavy and like I had rubbed vaseline into it or something when I was trying to wash it. I'm currently visiting relatives and am having the problem again, did a little research and discovered it's because of the hard water. Check out this blog post: http://inashoe.com/2009/05/shampoo-week-11-hard-water-epiphany/
      Or try one of the other options mentioned in this blog.

    3. Hi, I know this is a bit late but... STOP using the baking soda on color treated hair!!!! Its stripping your color and I am assuming that that is the last thing you want to do!!! IF you want to use an all natural chemical free shampoo, there is an amazing product line cal HBL. They are chemical free and all ingredients are derived from plant sources. ( And no I do not have any affiliation with the company) I am however a licensed hairstylist of 24 years..

  2. I love all these ideas! I use the baking soda, but I'd like to try some of the others.

  3. Tanya, interesting point! A year ago I stopped coloring my hair and only later did I try baking soda, so I guess I would have had quite the same experience like yours. Have you tried rinsing it with vinegar afterwards? Maybe it could help. Or if you skip baking soda (I've read that other people are also having trouble with it) and maybe concentrate on eggs. Whatever you decide, please, keep me updated!

  4. I just started the baking soda method too. I am having great luck with it! I rinse with apple cider vinegar and have clean soft hair each time! I am not seeing any of the trasition period that I have heard about. My ends are a little dry (I also have colored hair, mostly at the ends as it has grown out now.) So I am going to try the egg or mayo mask. Perfect timing to get this post!

  5. I have tried in the past to make my own herbal shampoos, usually containing castile soap, as well as other herbal ingredients, and they were awful for my hair! I make my own mayo, and have used it in my hair as a treatment for dry hair, but I never thought of using it as a shampoo. Thanks for sharing:)

  6. I wouldn't like to use eggs or mayonnaise - I hate the smell of it. :/ I haven't tried baking soda yet although I use it for deodorant. But I also don't like the smell of vinegar ... aloe vera and calendula are interesting - I use them for skin regeneration. But I didn't know that aloe vera is good against acne!

    I use shampoo by lush at the moment but I prefer to buy it from one of your sponsors. :P However, I don't use any conditioner but people ask me what I do to make my hair so shiny all the same. a lot of women also asked me which hair color I use, although I don't color my hair, with an exception of a few strands I colored some time ago.

  7. Debbie, I had the same luck with baking soda - no transition period at all!

    Love in Everything, tonight I made an egg-olive oil-cucumber shampoo for my husband and it made his hair soft and shiny!

    Masa, if you hate the smell of eggs and mayo, I can understand you :) It is also great that you are not using a conditioner. On the whole, it sounds like you are pretty lucky with your hair! But the Lush shampoo you mention, doesn't it have Sodim Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate?

  8. here in the Philippines we have a bark-like ingredient called gugo. it can also promote hair growth. :)

  9. I've had luck with using cornstarch as a dry shampoo. It's messy but finer and less gritty than the baking soda.

  10. Huh, I didn't know eggs cleaned hair! You learn something new every day, right? ;)

    And I'm not too surprised about Aloe Vera...that seems like it's good for a lot of things. :)

    Great tips!

  11. This is a wonderful post!
    I'll definately be trying one of these soon!

  12. This is a wonderful post!
    I'll definately be trying one of these soon!

  13. Sonia, yes it has! Lush definitely isn't my first choice (not only because of ingredients, I don't like their marketing approach and feel they're capitalists among handmade businesses, so I don't really want to support them).

  14. Thanks for these at home remedies to dirty hair! I only use natural or organic shampoo, and am definitely going to try some of these out!

  15. What about shampoo bars? A lot of toxic ingredients are added to shampoo just to keep them from spoiling, because they have such a high water content. But natural shampoo bars are just like natural soap, but formulated especially for hair.

  16. These are wonderful tips! I am going to try many of these options. I have been wondering about natural shampoos lately. I love calendula and I currently use it for my skin. It is great to help heal past blemishes. Good stuff! Thanks for sharing!

  17. It's sad that you can't buy the "cheap" stuff because of all the chemicals they put in them, and then when you pay $20 for a tiny bottle of shampoo you think "surely this is good stuff! You pay for quality right??" but it also contains several of those chemicals you talked about in another post!! So frustrating when you don't have that kind of money and only make the sacrifice because you think it's really the best thing for your hair!!! And reading about all the possible side effects (cancer, neurological problems, liver disease!!! yikes!) just makes it worse- and even if there is no "proven link", why risk it for something that basically just smells good? It just doesn't seem right!! Why is it SO hard for companies to make shampoos, soaps, laundry detergent, food, makeup, etc that is healthy and safe??? I'm just about to give up on all commercial products and go home-made all the way. I'm only 22 but me and my fiance really want to homestead when we get married and get some land. I'm gonna read everything I can about making everything for my future family and myself at home with all-natural ingredients! Wouldn't it be great if we could all band together and provide things like that for the masses!!

    Just a few questions: Is it easy to come by the calendula? I've never even heard of it and have no idea where to find it, if I can get it locally, etc. I don't have a lot of money (so baking soda and eggs are great options) but I love what I'm hearing about calendula's skin healing properties as I picked my face A LOT growing up and have minor past blemishes. And when I do get some, how do I go about using it on my skin? I would love to try making the shampoo with it!

    If I use the aloe vera gel as a shampoo, does it rinse out easily or does it leave your hair oily? MY fiance uses one specific kind of shampoo because he is sensitive to dyes and fragrances, so I'd love to get him off that and try one of these natural methods, and he loves aloe vera! He even has an aloe plant he's hoping to be able to harvest from one day! And I'd love to hear more about how aloe vera can help acne and how to use it! (I still struggle with minor breakouts, but its probably no wonder with all the fragrances and chemicals in my shampoo, conditioner, laundry detergent, makeup! I think the only thing I use that is HOPEFULLY safe is "Purpose" bar soap to wash my face..)

    Finally, is mayo safe with the preservatives and stuff it has, or do you recommend using the "all natural" mayo? I'm still a bit hesitant to use it over the others since it has several ingredients..

    Sorry I'm so chatty! I'm just really excited about coming across your site and learning all this great info! Thank you so much for spreading awareness!!! I now vow to NEVER wash my future children's hair with shampoo- baking soda and eggs all the way! Oh! And if anyone is interested, I came across this great site with a recipe for home-made laundry detergent. I just found it today so I haven't been able to make it myself, but the ingredients look fairly innocuous! Here's the url: http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/2011/07/brand-name-laundry-detergents-last.html

    1. Hi Brittney,
      I am with you on going homemade. Honestly, I have stopped asking the questions you pose and have concentrated on living a clean and healthy life. Companies don't care what they sell because their aim is not to help us but to make money. It is not their responsibility to keep us healthy/smart/clean, etc. but to make us believe...

      Calendula: you can pick it yourself an dry it to preserve it - totally free!

      Baking soda: that's the way I've been washing my hair for the past 16 months - it is clean, thick and beautiful! I don't see why I should want to buy any shampoo, it works great for me. I've heard that it doesn't have the same effect on all hair types. I use apple cider vinegar as a conditioner.

      For your fiance's problems and for fighting acne you might want to buy my book Banana Beauty

      or check this post.

      I have scheduled a post on how to make Aloe Vera gel at home that should go out on August 2nd. Aloe Vera works similarly to banana peels on skin - both are great solutions!

      As far as the mayo is concerned, I would go ahead and make mayo myself, you are completely right that the preservatives in it cannot be healthy either for eating or for hair.

      Nice to have you here and thank you for all the great questions! I wish you luck and hope you come back often. Thanks for the link as well!

  18. i tried the baking soda method. but no matter how i rejiggered the formula it made my scalp itchy and flaky. my boyfriend said he could see dandruff. and my hair never looked clean, it always looked limp. i tried it for just under two months. but it never got better. i used apple cider vinegar to rinse but it still didnt help. it took months for my scalp to stop feeling like i wanted to claw it off!
    i started using WEN and it's made my hair super healthy and soft and i FINALLY got rid of the flakes. but i HATE the price and i really really wanted to go all natural.

    where do you buy Aloe? how much do you use? i'd love to try that method when i run out of WEN.

    1. I am so sorry baking soda didn't work for you. I've heard that there are hair types that never accept it. Maybe your scalp and hair are generally dry?

      You can buy Aloe Vera gel in any pharmacy (at least in Europe).

      Or you can check this post of mine: http://blog.kanelstrand.com/2011/11/what-everybody-ought-to-know-about.html and see the list of handmade crafters who offer affordable shampoo alternatives.

      Good luck and please keep us updated on your choice and how it worked for you!

  19. Sonya, I need to try the dry hair egg concoction... alas, I have no juicer. Is there another method to get the juice of a cucumber you could recommend? Or is there another ingredient I could use that doesn't require a juicer? Thanks so much!!

    1. Hi Rhonda,
      The first thing that comes to mind is that you can grate the cucumber and leave it in a sifter for half an hour, maybe press it a little to help the water come out.

      I hope this works for you and please, come back to let us know how the concoction worked for you!

    2. Wow! You're fast!! Thanks so much for your prompt response! Question: after I let the mixture sit 15-20 minutes, do I then use Baking Soda to 'wash' it out or do I just rinse w/water, then use the vinegar solution to get rid of the smell? Thanks again!!

    3. You are most welcome Rhonda! I normally don't wash it our with baking soda because the mixture acts as a shampoo but you can try both ways and see what works best for your hair.

      By the way, if you put some rosemary, either dry or rosemary oil, in the vinegar, you will achieve even better smell. Rosemary neutralizes the vinegar smell.

      Again, looking forward to your results!