Shampoo & Conditioner



Goal #19 Completed: Make my own shampoo and conditioner

So if you have been reading along with my blog, you know I am trying to eliminate chemicals in my food and products, buy more local products, make what I can and cut down on my waste -specifically plastic. Well, shockingly one of the places you will find the most chemicals in your house is your bathroom.Lets think about it: toothpaste, mouth wash, scented hand-soap, shampoo, conditioner, special body wash, ex-foliation mask, mascara, foundation, eye shadow, perfume, ect ect ect. Well these are all things, well most of them, that we need to get through our weeks – however since we are not ‘eating’ theses chemicals somehow we have justified that they can have anything in them. In the US, the ‘cosmetic products’ are not regulated.

So the main thing in most commercial shampoos is sulfate -Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). So what is SLS? In short it is a surfactant and the lathering agent. Wiki says it is ‘SLS is a highly effective surfactant and is used in any task requiring the removal of oily stains and residues. For example, it is found in higher concentrations with industrial products including engine degreasers, floor cleaners, and car wash soaps. It is used in lower concentrations with toothpastes, shampoos, and shaving foams. It is an important component in bubble bath formulations for its thickening effect and its ability to create a lather.’ SLS is dangerous and has been linked with a carcinogen called 1,4-dioxane. This compound is irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract. It is suspected of causing damage to the central nervous system, liver and kidneys. … dioxane can contaminate cosmetics and personal care products such as deodorants, shampoos, toothpastes and mouthwashes. And sadly in 2008 the Organic Consumers Association found dioxane in almost half of tested organic personal-care products. [thanks wiki]

In addition to SLS, conventional shampoos have a variety of other chemicals. Like Preservatives -They do this to prevent bacterial or other growth and to extend the shelf life – these preservatives have been speculated to cause hormone disruptions, allergies, and scalp irritation. Examples include: iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, methylisothiazolinone, methylchloroisothiazonlinone and parabens. Then there are thickeners, stabilizers, ph balancers, colors (which are just for the looks, and we all know the dangers of say Red Dye 5) and fragrances (which can cause irritation and have there own set of dangerous chemicals they are made from).

Yikes, huh? Many of these have not been tested enough to even know what side effects could come from them in 5, 20 or 50 years. That is enough for me to want something natural. I don’t want to chance getting nerve damage, hormone disruption, organ failure or cancer from my shampoo. Also, many of these are in the ‘gentle’ baby products! Big name baby products have been caught having one more bad chemical – Formaldehyde. Ah! What are we allowing to happen to the babies – it is a no brainer to not allow your kid to bath in a carcinogen! Why are the Governments allowing this. However, the EU has stepped up and banned 1,4-dioxane in personal care products!

The industry says that they believe that these trace amounts will not harm you – and maybe such is true if you only used said product one in your life and no other products. But we use them everyday with many other products that also have trace amounts. So this is why I have decided to make my own shampoo and conditioner – I am not going to take the chance of not knowing what is in my products. The ingredients I am using have been around for ages, and if you were to take them ‘apart’ you could eat them all. There are many no ‘poo campaigns going on around the community – a few different methods. Some are just to use the conditioner, others are ACV and baking soda and some are using bar soaps. I am choosing the ACV and baking soda route.

So here is my ‘journal’ so to speak of the first few weeks:

Wash 1-3. I washed only with ACV (apple cider vinegar).. it was diluted in a 1 to 10 vinegar water ratio. I tried to see how little i could use this time – forgoing the baking soda – to spend less and waste less. Firstly, I have never been able to brush my long fine but thick hair so well before in my life! This looked like it might be a miracle way to wash my hair. The first time I let my hair air dry.. but it was terribly oily.. I know they say that there is a ‘breaking in’ period, so the next time I dried it – my logic was that it might evaporate some of the oil 🙂 Sadly my hair was still oilly, the roots only were though – the rest was great! Really great! So my third was I doubled up and washed twice – this did make it a tid bit better – but I still did not feel that I could go to work with my hair like this..


Wash 4. I decided that I needed to try the baking soda wash. I added 1 tablespoon baking soda to a 500 ml bottle, then added water. I know the baking soda to water ratio is suggested to be higher – but baking soda is not super common in Norway. When I washed with this and rinsed with the ACV water – there was a definitive improvement. But not enough. My hair was good for a few hours.. but then got ‘chunky’ – you know when your hair is oily and separates itself in to large strands, almost like dreads. So since I have always had some of the worlds most oily hair I decided that I should work this out so I did not look like my hair was wet – when it was just oily.


Wash 5. I decided to add more to the equation to help. I took a 500 ml bottle, added 3 tablespoons baking soda, one teaspoon of oil and one teaspoon of Dr. Bronners. So then I topped it off with water, gave it a shake and then tested it. I used about 1/4 to 1/3 of the bottle plus the ACV rinse, and the results were great. My hair is not oily 3 days later, brushes through great and feels so incredibly soft. At this point it is my plan to stay with this. It still is costing next to nothing to make – yay! Since I don’t wash my hair everyday.. then I think that I can just make a new batch every week or so – and it is so simple to make.. it is not like I will have to slave in the kitchen for hours to get it.. maybe 2 minutes.. more like 45 seconds though!

At the moment I have ‘my shampoo’ in a reused plastic body wash bottle and my conditioner in a spray bottle. I would like to find a non plastic way to go about this – but glass is dangerous in the shower and I have yet to find a stainless steel container that would work – but I am on the lookout! So what do you think? Do you have plans to rework your hair care?

[top photo via]

UPDATE: I am now using the baking soda mix and acv wash just every other weekend. I have some ‘baby powder’ to sprinkle in if it starts to get oily – which is also great to help styling it!

UPDATE MARCH 2011: I am no longer washing my hair with ACV and Baking Soda. While it is a great way to clean you hair, I still wanted to go more natural. Read all about it here.

12 Responses

  1. EcoCatLady February 20, 2011 / 01:46

    I’ve been doing the “no poo” thing for about 2 and a half years now and my hair looks and feels great! I have come to the conclusion that determining what will work or not is highly dependent on both your hair-type and how hard the water is where you live (the harder the water, the more acid you need to rinse out both the residue from either the baking soda or soap, and the waxy sebum.)

    I have found that I really needed to use a much stronger acid mix in order to get the baking soda to rinse clean and to get out the sebum (the waxy stuff that makes your hair clump together). For a while I was using straight distilled white vinegar, but I switched to using citric acid (which you can get in a powdered form wherever they sell stuff for canning food) because my boyfriend didn’t like the vinegar smell.

    My current system is 2 heaping tablespoons of baking soda per 500 ml water, and the same ratio for the citric acid. The other thing I do is to comb my hair with a fine toothed comb while the acid mixture is on it. All of this gray colored gunk (the sebum) comes out in the comb -sort of gross, but it works.

    The oiliness has totally gone away, and I even have to put some oil (either jojoba or coconut) on the ends these days.

    The other thing that gave me fits when I first started was that I had been using a lot of leave-in conditioners that contained silicone ingredients – anything ending in “xane”, “zane” or “cone.” Apparently, the silicone coats the hair and prevents the natural oils from penetrating into the hair shaft, and baking soda isn’t strong enough to wash them away. So I ended up having to do a clarifying wash with some cheap shampoo that didn’t have any silicones, and then everything worked fine.

    Good luck with it!

  2. fonda February 20, 2011 / 13:30

    Good point with the build up, I have been previously using a variety of shampoos – I had to mix it up or my hair started to feel funny. I knew there was some sort of build up in that shampoo so I would have to try another kind to strip it off. Just never realized it was silicone.

    I will keep the citric acid in mind.. at this point my hair does not smell – but I am using a very diluted mix. We don’t have hard water in Stavanger.. at least I think – so not enough for me to notice. I have heard of people adding argon oil or coconut to their hair – So far I am not needing to .. and good to know jojoba is good, as the others are hard to come by here.

    I did forget to mention.. I do brush my hair before washing it, I did not the first time and it was harder trying to brush trough it.. tangled abit. I can imagine thought that a comb would be great while washing it! Ill have to watch for one.

    Glad to hear your success story!!

  3. fonda February 20, 2011 / 19:52

    I would also like to add… Since my hair is so thick and so fine = lots of thin hair strands, it normally takes me ages to dry my hair. With a blow dryer it takes a good 20+ minutes, and air drying can take 6 to 12 hours. BUT this is not so anymore. It is only taking around 10 minutes to blow dry and has air dried in 2 to 3 hours. This is a huge plus, in so many ways!

    I am going to assume, though I have not proof for this, that it dries faster because there are not chemicals on it holding the water in – silicone for example is a sealant.

  4. EcoCatLady February 20, 2011 / 20:21

    I don’t know if this is true or not, but, I read somewhere that when you do “no poo” the natural sebum (the waxy stuff) coats each strand of hair and protects it. It also keeps much of the water from soaking into the hair so it dries faster. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I remember reading it somewhere. It does seem like my hair dries faster than it used to.

    But why the sebum would keep the water out but let the natural oils soak in… that’s a mystery to me!

    In terms of hard water, this website shows different levels in the US: http://www.goodwaterco.com/watereducation/hardWaterMap.htm. There’s probably something similar out there for Norway, but I couldn’t find it… probably you’d have to do the search in Norwegian and I fear that after 25 years my Norwegian language skills are a bit, um, primitive!

  5. fonda February 22, 2011 / 17:27

    That makes total sense – but still is mysterious! Ill have to do some searching to see if we have hard water here.

    But from that map the water was much softer when I lived in OKC to FTC.

  6. Sarah February 24, 2011 / 01:55

    Hello! Seems we are going through some similar transitions. I’m about to give up all castile though. Maybe because we have hard water & well water it just really isn’t holding up to all its fame for me. I’m going to do a post on my results after having tried it for numerous applications. I’ve switched my shampoo & conditioner routine out. I now use just plain baking soda for my hair. I put about a tablespoon in my hand and rub it into my scalp and rinse. That replaces my shampoo. For conditioner I use apple cider vinegar. I have a squirt bottle with 100% (not diluted) in it. I squirt it onto my head, rub it around & rinse. I haven’t really had an issue with smelling it once my hair is dry & it sure helps the body in my hair! Makes my hair feel thicker. Sounds similar to the changes you’ve made. I haven’t ran out of styling products yet so but I’ll have to figure out what I’m going to switch to there! I’m enjoying your blog & will be stopping back by!

  7. fonda February 24, 2011 / 15:04

    We are! I love your site too!

    I would really like to make my own acv.. because it is somewhat cheap to buy here in plastic – but in a glass bottle it is almost 4x the price. And I cannot find white vinegar in glass.. so odd. So for now I am still using it diluted.. I want to try it 100% though when this batch i have runs out.. just so see how much of a difference there is.

    I added 1/2 teaspoon oil to my shampoo mix yesterday.. my hair the first day after a was was looking very dry.. coarse almost, but still felt soft.

    As for styling.. i have just ran out.. I am going to try this recipe of sugar lemon water with 1 tea of vodka. Ill post when I do it and how it goes. But I have been on a all natural look kick for the last few months… so I have not had a need for it.

  8. Autumn March 3, 2011 / 19:36

    Oh excellent! Thanks for the info! If I ever decide that I want to clean my scalp again with something other than water I’ll totally try the baking soda/ACV thing. I do love a good shampoo lather but the stuff that makes it lather is also the stuff that makes it harmful (and has nothing to do with how well it cleans our hair; it’s all psychological, as per my seventh-grade science project). I’ll give up the lather and just gaze at your awesome image for this post instead!

  9. Cecilie May 28, 2011 / 09:24

    Hi, I’m just in the process of transitioning from normal shampoos & conditioners to ACV and natural stuff. My hair was a bit greasy at the roots for the first two weeks, felt heavy, but was just about starting to feel a bit better when I decided to try putting some coconut oil in it because the ends seemed dry to me. But that turned out to be a disaster! It’s now day three and my hair is still completely greasy from the oil and I can’t seem to get it out with the use of ACV or baking soda. I see that EcoCatLady mentions using coconut oil in the hair, so I was wondering whether anybody has any idea of how to get this bloody oil out of my hair again without resorting to conventional shampoo? Now that I’d gotten so far I’d rather not ruin the progress with shampoo again… And my boyfriend, who was sceptical at the outset of this project of mine, is now getting increasingly suspicious as he’s worried this oily thing is the new me 😉 Definitely won’t be putting pure oil in my hair again anytime soon! Anyway, if anybody has ANY idea of how to wash out the grease, I’m dying to know!

  10. Fonda LaShay May 28, 2011 / 14:03

    Hello, sorry to hear it went bad! I have never put oil in my hair.. so..

    I have heard that if you squeeze a lemon in the roots and massage it can help.. maybe EcoCatLady can chime in 🙂 or maybe you can use bar soap.. but that might kick start you back to step one… hmm

    I have actually stopped with all products in my hair.. even ACV and baking soda. Ill be making a new post about it soon. But i am just washing my hair with only water ever 10 days or so. It took about 5 weeks for the oily mess to go away.. and then it is just normal now.. they only thing i uses is the occasional baby powder when it is really oily and / or i have a business meeting and am feeling conscious.

  11. benjah September 18, 2012 / 11:24

    I support your goal of trying to become healthier but to say you want to eliminate chemicals from your life is like saying I would like to live without breathing, eating, or thinking. I know what you mean when you say “chemicals” but as an engineering student its in my nature to comment… Stray away from anything processed or in a package with a label on it (with a few exceptions of course) and you will notice a healthier mind and body..

  12. Jan October 24, 2012 / 07:59

    Why not just use a saponified oil soap and rinse with apple cider vinegar. If it tends to dry your hair, add an avocado “masque” once a week. FYI – Citric acid is probably made from corn and 80+% of US corn is transgenic (GMO). For styling (and I haven’t tried it yet) what would happen if your used whipped egg white (from a free-range egg)? It might leave you shedding little flaky bits or it might work – but it won’t hurt your hair any.

What do you think?