So, the only product in my house that I didn’t make myself was my shampoo and conditioner. I use a deposit only hair color to make my red pop. Cause of a pesky little thing called age, my hair has lost that gorgeous red color and looks more like a slightly auburn pine needle color. Ah well.
At some point, I’d like to consider trying henna to color. At least my beautician uses a deposit only color, which doesn’t open the hair follicle, so less chemicals. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.
Most natural shampoos use baking soda or vinegar, which is why I hadn’t tried them in the past. Vinegar strips your hair and my color, that lovely red, would go down the drain. No fun! So, I finally found that liquid castile soap can be used as a shampoo. It’s very gentle and doesn’t strip your hair. Reviews online said it did fine with colored hair.
Castile soap is concentrated, so I knew I would want to dilute it with water. Lots of recipes I found had steeping herbs, then mixing with the castile soap. Other just used essential oils, water and the castile soap. Generally the mix was half and half, soap to water ratio.
There are tons of essential oils that are great for your hair, either against dandruff/psoriasis, thinning hair, brittle hair, etc… I made a list of the ones that would be good for me. Clary sage, lavendar, chamomile and rosemary were at the top of the list. If you’re using dried chamomile and steeping it, you can get a yellow tint to the shampoo and therefore your hair. Some use it as a natural lightener. Alternatively, some use a tea bag for richer dark brunettes. I even found some redheads using beets and carrots steeped into their water to naturally tint their hair. I worry about the tub staining on that one, though!
Some people add anywhere from 1/2 tsp to 1 Tbl oil to approx 1 1/2 cups final shampoo, or no poo, or whatever you want to call it. The oil can range from coconut oil (good for strengthening), castor oil (for shine and health), olive oil (for shine) or jojoba oil (non-heavy moisturizer, close to natural sebum). I tried a few variations and found the 1/2 tsp was plenty.
Then comes conditioner. I made a small mixture of jojoba oil and coconut oil (50/50), added clary save, lavendar and rosemary. While your hair is wet, you drip a few drops into your hand, spread it around, massage into just the ends of the hair. Done!
I tried a few variations of the above shampoo and ultimately decided it not for me. Without vinegar to rinse off the build up, the castile soap leaves a residue in your hair. My hair looked clean and soft, but was kinda sticky. If that makes sense. It felt like I had rinsed it with something containing a sugary, sticky mixture. I could brush it and it looked fine, but running my hand through it wasn’t pleasant. I tried the mixture without any oil at all and found it kinda straw-like. Not exactly dry, but in a slightly stick-together chunky way.
Definitely not a win-win. I let this process go for 2 weeks, just incase it was a detox period I keep hearing from others online. I tried less castile soap to water ratio, hearing this makes a difference. It did, but not enough.
Some people make a shampoo bar, and since this wouldn’t have to be exclusively castile soap (exclusively olive oil), it might work. I have my own bar soap, that is 2/3 olive oil and 1/3 coconut oil, so I tried that next.
It was better, but still not there. I was starting to get frustrated and not sure what else to do. I could settle with a nice natural store bought shampoo, one that was more highly recommended, with no laurel sulfates, parabens, etc, but that’s a whole new research path. Potentially expensive, too, as I would have to buy a bottle of each and potentially not like it. And come on, there has to be a better way to do this thing! Folks have washed their hair….for decades. Come on! I just can’t imagine they all had crappy hair, or used heavy chemicals. They didn’t have heavy chemicals too far in the past.
I did find a recipe with castile soap and coconut milk, kinda half and half. Not sure if that would have worked, but that was going to be my next experiment when I stumbled upon spices….
Wait? What! Spices?
Apparently, the Indians have been doing it for years… as with a lot of the best things I’ve found. Why make it difficult when it doesn’t need to be?
I found a few variations. The one I tried was yucca root powder. It’s used as a cleaner and has saponification qualities. Basically, saponification is a reaction between lye and an oil or fat. Originally found by people tossing wood ash into greasy pots and pans to clean them. Course, lye can be extremely caustic and burny. Not a good thing.
Saponins do occur naturally, though! You don’t have to use lye and oils to create a caustic situation in your hair/on your body. Thank goodness! Yucca, soapnuts and soapwort are two great sources of saponins. You can boil soapnuts to get the saponins out for natural laundry soap. I prefer a mix with some borax, washing soda and castile soap for a heavier cleaner, but it all depends on your level of comfort.
Yucca (also known as soaptree – go figure!) specifically has been used by Indians and Native Americans as it leaves the hair silky and healthy. I’ve also heard shikakai works well as a hair powder. Some people dry the yucca root, mash it up and use it in a clean sock to soak and wash their body and hair. I really like my bar soap, so I decided to try the already powdered version, available in any health-food store and Amazon.
I also used fenugreek root powder, as it reportedly has detangling properties. Others suggest alma berry powder (gooseberry powder) as a conditioner, but I didn’t have access to that. I did order some recently, so I’ll tell you how that goes.
I still use the oil conditioner for my hair ends after I wash it, but I don’t have to do this every time I wash.
I have washed my hair in the yucca and fenugreek mixture for a week and a half now, every other day, like I did before. I am actually happy with how my hair feels. There have been times that I feel it’s a little sticky yet, but not like it was before. My hair does have a little bit of a ‘heavier’ feel to it, like there’s something leftover on the hair, but really good rinsing helps with this. I have even rinsed my hair in the in between nights with good results.
It’s weird, I tell ya. I used equal parts yucca and fenugreek and added just enough water to make a paste. I rubbed it into my hair…weird…and then let it sit for 5 minutes before rinsing well. You have to rinse the shower down as well, not from staining, but from little flecks of the root. You hair will also smell a little like celery, but I don’t hate that.
I was really impressed with the silky texture of the hair and I’m definitely losing less hair.
Some people boil the roots themselves to release the saponins and then use this boiled mixture to wash your hair. I hear that it doesn’t last long, so you can freeze or refrigerate the soap to prolong the shelf life. Not sure I want cold shampoo or the pre-work in melting it prior to wash, so I will try this next if I can’t get a good hang of the paste.
But for now, the paste is working. I’m going to add the alma berry powder when it comes in. I may try steeping the powder, for less mess, just to see how that goes. Or try the shikakai to compare against the yucca in terms of saponins and cleaning ability.
I’ll stay in touch with it, but I think the secret is not overusing the paste. Less is more. I think that will ring true here as well.