Natural Shampoo Alternatives For Washing Hair

  1. Castile Soap

Castile soap is not a brand; it is a soap that is made up of vegetable oil and lye instead of animal fat. The lye converts the oil to soap, a process that is called saponification. When the process is finished there is no trace of lye left in it. There are two types of lye used by soapmakers – sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide. Sodium hydroxide is used to make solid soap; potassium hydroxide is used to make liquid soaps. A combination of the two is used to make cream soaps.

The vegetable oil that is most prominent in castile soap is olive oil and it is made in a manner similar to the one that was used in the Castile region in Spain which is where the name originated from.

Because castile soap was originally made with a 100% olive oil persons are skeptical whenever any other oil is used in the make up of the soap. However, other vegetable oils are used in the making of castile soap these days. Some of them are coconut, jojoba, hemp and almond oil.

Castile soap basically has three ingredients: water, lye and oil.

You can also add essential oils and herbs to your finished product to create a healthy shampoo for your hair and body wash for your skin. If you have no time or patience to make it there are several persons who sell it online.

If you want ‘slip’ for castile soap preparations you can add flaxseed to it. Flaxseed or linseed, comes from the flax plant, it is rich in mucilage, a complex mixture of polysaccharides that looks like gel when you add water to it. The mucilage provides slip like a conditioner that helps detangle hair. It is also rich in Omega-3 essential fatty acids, which helps to strengthen the hair shaft and may help with hair loss.

Castile soap when diluted with water does not have a very high pH. It is recommended that you condition your hair after using soap to wash it. Or add an acid like lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to bring down the pH of the soap. This will reduce the tangled hard feeling that some persons experience after using soap for hair.

  1. Shampoo bars

The majority of handcrafted soaps use a base oil blend of olive, coconut or palm kernel, soy and/or palm oils. These oils are known to produce a nice hard bar that has good lathering qualities. Much like the liquid castile soap, most soap bars have three ingredients (water, oil and lye).

True soaps, made from oil, lye and water, don’t generally require preservatives. You can replace your liquid shampoo products with shampoo bars. These bars usually last a lot longer than liquid shampoo and are typically sulfate-free, and all of the other chemicals associated with shampoo. Some shampoo bars have added ingredients that are really beneficial to hair. As usual, it is advised that you condition your hair after using soap.

  1. Aloe vera

Aloe vera is antibacterial, antiseptic, emollient and moisturizing. To use, blend fresh aloe leaves and apply to wet hair and scalp as you would shampoo. Massage into hair. Rinse from hair. Make sure that the aloe is smoothly blended so that there are no chunks applied to hair. Strain the blended aloe if you need to.

  1. Soapwort.

The very name gives it away. Soapwart contains saponins, which work as a gentle but effective cleaner. It is safe enough to wash your hair with it every day. As a matter of fact, soapwort is considered a weed and nuisance in several countries because it is so invasive! Imagine you may be passing soapwort on your way to the store to buy shampoo. The parts of the plant that are used for soap are the roots and leaves.

Finely chop 1 cup fresh or 1/2 cup dried soapwort root, add 2 cups water to a pot and simmer the roots in water for about 20 minutes and let them cool. Blend the roots in a blender with water; using only a handful at a time, soapwort creates suds so you do not want to put too much in the blender.

Wait for the foam to subside, which can take a while. Pour the liquid through a sieve to removes the bits of root.

After straining, massage 1?2 cup of the preparation into your scalp and rinse. Store the remaining mixture in the fridge for up to a week.

For the leaves: add half cup leaves to 1 cup water, simmer the leaves for about fifteen minutes. Strain the liquid. Use as you would your regular shampoo.

Do not let it get into your eyes, it stings.

You can add a drop or two of essential oils and other herbs to jazz it up a bit.

  1. Soap nut or Aritha

The natural saponins not only cleanse hair, they add body and sheen and make hair feel thicker, silky and smooth. Used for centuries as an anti hair loss shampoo, the natural anti-fungal and antibacterial properties may help with dandruff. Regular washes with soap nut will make your hair shinier and softer, it prevents hair loss, promotes the growth of new hair. Soap nuts is gentle enough to use everyday! And a bag of soap nuts can last forever. Just kidding! But mine won’t quit.

To make your own shampoo from soap nuts you’ll need:

  • 10 soap nuts;
  • 2 to 3 cups of water (I used 2 cups)
  • A pot large enough to accommodate the soap nuts and the water;
  1. Just put the soap nuts in a pot and add 2 cups of water.
  2. Bring it to a boil and then boil for around 10-15 minutes. The more you boil it, the more concentrated it’s going to be.
  3. Then switch off the fire and just leave the soap nuts soaking overnight.
  4. Drain the liquid, transfer it to a bottle or wherever you’re planning to store it. Voila! Your shampoo is ready.

Alternative: Put liquid in blender and blend for thirty seconds. It will be suddy but suds will subside if left to sit.

This kind of quantity will probably last for around 2 washes. The same soap nuts can be reused again. They will still work just as well. They are ready to be discarded when they stop producing foam.

Do not expect this shampoo to feel like regular shampoos. It is very liquid like. You can wet your hair, pour some soap nut in a spray bottle, use your finger to part your hair in sections and then spray, massaging into scalp. Use remaining soap nut mixture to wet your ends, leave on hair for around 10-15 minutes and wash out again.

  1. Calendula. With stimulating, anti-inflammatory and demulcent properties, this healing plant is great for sensitive skin. Fill a glass jar with dried calendula flowers and cover with an unrefined oil such as avocado. Close the jar and store it for two to three weeks in a dark place, shaking it every day for the first week. Strain the oil into a clean glass jar and use as you would your regular shampoo.


  1. Shikakai

Acacia concinna has been used traditionally for hair care in the Indian Subcontinent since ancient times. The fruit is known in India as shikakai translated literally as hair fruit. It is used traditionally as a shampoo.

In order to prepare it the fruit pods are dried, a day or two in the sun can accomplish this, when they are crisp and completely dry it is grounded into a powder, then made into a paste. Store in a clean dry jar. The shelf life is very long and it can be stored for months in powder form.

When it is ready to be used take a small portion of the powder in a bowl and add water. Stir gently until you get a paste. Apply on your hair instead of a shampoo.


The link also contains pictures and other lovely ingredient ideas to add to the shampoo.

  1. Clay (Fuller’s Earth)

Multani Mitti which is also popularly known as Fuller’s Earth, is really just clay. However, this clay is not just your regular run of the mill clay it is composed of aluminum, iron oxide, silica, and high amount of water and has the ability to tackle impurities.

The history of the versatile Fullers Earth dates back to as far as the Roman times, when it was used as a cleaning agent, to bleach sheep fur, and for cosmetic and laundry purposes.

Fuller’s Earth has amazing absorbing and cleansing properties to tackle acne, excess oil in the skin, hyper-pigmentation based issues such as dark spots and freckles, and blocked pores. It is an excellent natural cleanser and moisturizer. This clay has the ability to remove impurities from your body and also the hair.

It helps to remove dandruff, eczema and some scalp conditions. It diminishes the itchiness from your scalp. It is a cost effective method for maintaining damaged hair. It helps to maintain hair growth. Multani helps to facilitate blood circulation. As a result new hair grows on the scalp and there are cases where the hair grows back thicker than before. It also helps to make the hair smooth and shiny.

How To Use As Shampoo:

2 Tbsp Clay, 1 Tbsp Appe Cider Vinegar, 1 Tbsp honey, enough warm water to make a runny paste. Apply to wet hair, massage into roots. Rinse when finished.

Alternative: 2 Tbsp clay, 1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar, 2-4 drops essential oil, warm water, leave on hair 15-20 minutes, cover with plastic cap. Rinse thoroughly.


  1. There are other absorbent clays that have amazing benefits for hair too like: Bentonite, Rhassoul, French Green Clay… Clay Washes and their properties will be explored in another article.

9. Yucca Root, is an emollient that contains natural saponins. It is a natural cleansing and foaming agent, making it an ideal ingredient in shampoo and other hair care products or used by itself as shampoo.

It soothes and nourishes the scalp. It is said to prevent hair loss and to cure dandruff. The easiest way to use yucca root is by getting the dried yucca powder. However, you can use the actual yucca root from grocery stores, some stores will have it in the produce section.

How To Use As Shampoo:

1 tablespoon of yucca root powder in two cups of water. Blend in food processor.  It will be foamy when you blend it. This should make for about two applications. It lasts for up to a week in the refrigerator.


  1. WatercressNasturtium officinale, is mild acid that contains lots of minerals like iron and phosphorus. It revitalizes oily hair, removes oil and soap residue and gets hair really clean.  It has also been used as an anti hair loss treatment due to its high content of zinc and biotin. Watercress has a very distinct flavor. The flavor is a little peppery and spicy.

How To Use As Shampoo:

1/2 cup watercress leaves and shoots, 1/2 cup aloe vera extract. Blend together, apply on scalp and wet hair, leave on fifteen minutes, rinse properly when finished. Do a final rinse with one part apple cider vinegar to three parts water.

Do not let it get in your eyes, it stings.

Source: Word of mouth.

You can read up more on watercress here: