DIY Shampoo & Conditioner

We've talked before about how making our own personal care products is budget friendly and empowers us to be self sufficient when it comes to products we use every day in the home. Being able to make our own natural shampoo & conditioner is right up there at the top. 

There are plenty of reasons to take on the challenge.

Have you read the list of ingredients on your shampoo bottle lately? Do you know how these can possibly affect your endocrine system (that regulates your hormones). Or thought about how many plastic shampoo & conditioner bottles get tossed each month?

I get that it's super convenient to stroll through the store and snatch a ready made bottle off the shelf and there are puh-lenty of businesses offering good-for-you ingredients online, but natural products are typically more expensive.  And then there's the marketing - brands using words like 'natural' and 'organic' that to the untrained eye can make you think you're getting a nice product when it still has parabens, sulfates, or questionable preservatives in it. 

Most of us are too busy to do the research and make our own shampoo.  I admit I was mid-quest finding a good recipe when I started making plans to open up my own business.  Then I found Plaine Products, which I now stock in the store and use at home because it's a great product and I am busy - - with life.  Needless to say I never ended up pursuing the shampoo recipe I was looking for.  So for those of you who don't have time to make your own, we carry this awesome brand in the store and have travel sizes so you can try it before you commit to a whole bottle. 

For the rest of you - I finally scheduled out some time last week to test out a recipe - read on for a customizable hair cleansing routine you can make yourself! 

Most of you probably know we don't need a luxurious lather in order to get clean hair.  Sudsing agents - be they the dreaded sulfates or naturally occurring saponins like what is in soap nuts - do a great job at cleaning because they break up the surface area water, making it easier for the dirt and grime to be lifted away. Necessary? No.  Convenient? Yes!  That being said one requirement for my shampoo is that it is going to have a little lather.  Because I like it. To each his own.

Shampoo has always been a struggle for me.  My scalp is dry but if I attempt to go without washing my hair I get itchy and oil soaked flakes that are more like soft powdered sugar all over my dark hair.  Not good.  I've tried multiple dandruff shampoos, natural shampoos, apple cider vinegar, baking soda, and coconut milk.  The best results I have gotten to date has been with the Plaine Products and a random co-wash I bought once (that has since been discontinued), both of which allowed me to go 2 days without washing my hair - 3 if I really wanted to push it. 

After looking at multiple recipes I decided to Frankenstein my own recipe based on some common ingredients. The ultimate goal will be that my shampoo will still have the ascetics of store bought shampoo - a little sudsing, thick enough to squeeze from a tube or use in a pump, and effective enough to do it's job and clean my hair and scalp.  I feel like those are reasonable expectations..

DIY Shampoo

  • 1/2 cup coconut milk or coconut water
  • 3/4 cup distilled water (Or soapnuts)
  • 1 Tablespoon oat flour 
  • 4 teaspoons starch (arrowroot, tapioca, or cornstarch)
  • 1 Tablespoon baking soda
  • 2-3 Tablespoons liquid castile soap
  • 8 drops essential oils

Mix the coconut milk, water, oat flour (you can grind oats in your coffee grinder until very fine) and starch.  Heat on medium-low, stirring often until it has a light gel like consistency. Remove from heat and cool.  Add the rest of the ingredients.  Transfer to your chosen shampoo vessel. 

I have to say I am pleasantly surprised with this.  I used soap nut concentrate in mine to help with the sudsing, which in this recipe is minimal but I'll take it.  To make the concentrate just bring to boil 15 soap nuts in 6 cups of water and simmer 45-60 minutes, strain the liquid to use for your DIY recipes and repeat the boiling and straining process until your soap nuts are depleted.  They will start to look opaque in color and the resulting water won't be brown in color or have visual sudsing on the surface of the water.  You will want to freeze any excess concentrate as it doesn't have a long shelf life on its own. I mixed mine with vinegar and used it for liquid laundry detergent because I knew I'd use it up in about a week. 

As for how this shampoo performed, I would say very well.  The baking soda and oat flour add an extra scrubbiness that made my scalp feel clean while the soap nut liquid and castile soap further lifted away any grime.  The addition of coconut milk added moisture so my hair didn't feel dry.  Overall a great mild shampoo.  I would definitely make it again, especially since it was so easy.  

If you want to get fancy with your shampoo do some research regarding various herbs you could infuse in there like saw palmetto, nettle, marshmallow root, rosemary, etc.  Or even adjust your essential oils based on performance properties versus smell. 

And if you're keen on making your own shampoo and conditioner you might want to consider looking into a safe preservative.  Because the shelf life of our home made products is very limited.  Be sure to educate yourself on the differences of antioxidants versus preservatives and how these affect your product. There is a lot of information out there that touts essential oils as natural preservatives but do the research and you'll see that while they have antioxidant or antimicrobial properties they are not preservatives.   

Here is a great article from the Nerdy Farm Wife where she did her own experiment testing various preservatives in a home made lotion for mold and bacteria growth against lotion that had no preservative in it. The point is really driven home that even if you can't see visual mold forming on your lotion, there is a lot happening there on a microbial scale. 

Okay, mini lecture over - on to the conditioner!

DIY Conditioner

  • 1 Tablespoon ACV
  • 1 cup distilled water
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream
  • 4 teaspoons starch
  • 5-10 drops EO

Similar to the shampoo recipe, mix the distilled water, coconut cream and starch and heat on medium until you have a gel like consistency.  Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly, add the vinegar and essential oils. 

How did this recipe fair? Not too bad.  I used coconut cream because I have coarse hair and I really wanted a heavy moisturizing conditioner.  That being said, if you have thin or fine hair - this isn't the recipe for you.  You can substitute the coconut cream for aloe vera or coconut milk and that would make for a much lighter conditioner. 

I thought the gel consistency was perfect.  My hair didn't feel oily afterwards and I didn't need to use hair oil or anti-frizz serums like I usually do. That was a pleasant surprise. I felt like it was going to weigh my hair down and make it flat but by the end of the day my hair still looked the same and even looked like it had some chunky texture to it at the roots which surprised me. However, after using it for 3 days in a row I didn't get that effect (which I attribute to the high oil content in the coconut cream) so I think this recipe is better served as a once a week deep conditioning mask.  I would definitely go with the coconut milk or aloe vera route for a nice daily conditioner. 

So there you have it.  A simple, convenient, and uncomplicated recipe for shampoo and conditioner.  I was surprised how easy it was to whip this up and because of that and the fact it worked very well, I am more likely to make it again. And as mentioned it is a great base recipe which we can customize by adding additional herbs or oils to cater to individual hair needs.   

Have fun experimenting!


Disclaimer:  The recipes & benefits provided are for general reference only and should not be taken as medical advice. Wild Radish Studio does not guarantee the accuracy of information provided on referenced blogs & websites. Products and/or information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  Please do your research & make decisions in partnership with your healthcare provider. If you are pregnant, nursing, have a medical condition or are taking any medication please consult with your physician.

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