Shampoo and conditioners can contain endocrine disrupting chemicals that add to the toxic load in your body. After investigating conventional shampoos and finding so many with toxic and endocrine disrupting ingredients, we decided to share some homemade shampoo recipes you can make at home at your leisure containing ingredients that are natural and easy to find online. We’ve included ten natural homemade shampoo recipes for DIYers who would like to try making their own shampoo at home and skip out on ingredients that could potentially be harmful. You’ve trusted Mamavation to cover 10 homemade lotion recipes for DIYers,25 ways apple cider vinegar can change your life, and which popular deodorant brands are toxic and safe, now join us as we explore shampoo, how to make it, and ingredients that are safe for your family.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.
Chemicals in Shampoo that Are Problematic
Surfactants: This is what makes your shampoo lather up with suds. We usually associate soap suds with cleaner hair, but that’s not necessarily the case. Sudsing doesn’t really occur much in nature, so it’s often the result of a chemical reaction or agent of some kind. While these chemicals aren’t necessarily toxic to humans, they can cause serious irritation and can be really harmful to aquatic life. Given the quantity of shampoo going down the drain every time we wash our hair, we’d prefer to avoid irritation and create a safer environment by choosing a shampoo without these ingredients.
Preservatives: Ever noticed the expiration date on your shampoo? Nope, neither have we. That’s because commercial shampoos are full of preservatives to keep them shelf-stable. They’ll last for a really long time without separating out or going “off”. These preservatives prevent the growth of yeast, mold, bacteria, etc, but because they’re literally designed to kill things, preservatives are tricky and can have a range of toxicity problems for both humans and the environment.
Fragrance: This is definitely something to look out for. The term “fragrance” can act as a backdoor for all kinds of chemicals to sneak into your products. It’s often used as an umbrella term for up to 100 ingredients. Unfortunately, many of these ingredients can be toxic to human health, like phthalates (linked to reproductive and developmental harm) and synthetic musks (linked to hormone disruption and build up in our bodies).
Ingredients to Avoid*
- Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives:
- DMDM hydantoin
- Imidazolidinyl urea
- Diazolidinyl urea
- Polyoxymethylene urea
- Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
- 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (Bronopol)
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
*These ingredients are listed on the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Red List, which is part of the MADE SAFE screening process for personal care products.
The “No Poo” Method
If you are looking to avoid chemicals in your shampoo, you may want to consider trying the “no poo” method. The “no poo” method revolves around the idea that less is more for healthy hair.
Your hair contains natural oil, called sebum, in its follicles. This oil is essential for keeping itself conditioned and healthy. When you wash your hair everyday with harsh chemicals, it strips those oils away leaving your hair in poor shape.
Your hair can then overproduce more oil leaving your hair greasy at the end of the day and starting another vicious cycle of washing, stripping, and oily hair.
The “no poo” method is simple. Wet your hair down and wash with baking soda, then you rinse with apple cider vinegar and warm water once or twice a week instead of washing your hair every day. You can use an old shampoo bottle to make it easier to dispense the ACV. Your hair may go through an adjustment period and become greasy at first but it should go back to normal once it adjusts.
Basic Ingredients in Shampoo that Are Safe to Use
Raw Honey: Raw honey has been used for thousands of years as a medicine. The Egyptians used raw honey quite frequently. Honey has high levels of monosaccharides, fructose, and glucose and also includes minerals such as iron, calcium, phosphate, sodium chloride, potassium, and magnesium. Honey also possesses antiseptic and antibacterial properties, which make it very useful as a medicine in wound care and as a cough suppressant. Honey is slightly acidic with a pH level between 3.2 and 4.5. This makes it good for preventing the growth of bacteria, while its antioxidant constituents clean up free radicals. The physical properties of honey vary based on what flora the bees were around, as well as the water content.
Our recommendation for honey:
- Heavenly Organics is organic and “glyphosate-residue free” certified. Organic honey can still be contaminated with glyphosate because the farmer can’t control where the bees go, which is problematic and not discussed as much as it should be. This brand allows a third party to lab test and certifies that there is no glyphosate residue in the honey. We like that!
Coconut Milk: Coconut milk is full of love for your hair. It’s loaded with vitamins like niacin and folate which can improve the circulation of blood in your scalp. Coconut milk also contains vitamin E, a natural preservative, and fats that fight damage and deeply condition your hair. Making fresh coconut milk is actually very easy. All you need to do is grate fresh coconut and squeeze the milk out with a cheesecloth. Then let it simmer in a pot for about five minutes and cool and freeze in the freezer. The following day it will be ready to use after thawing. When using coconut milk as a hair treatment, it penetrates your scalp and cuticles to nourish and condition your follicles and hair shaft. The extra moisture boosts the productivity of your follicles and can improve your hair texture and health so your natural beauty can shine.
Our recommendation for coconut milk:
Coconut Oil: Coconut is the best source of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which is a special type of fatty acid with antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. It’s also very high in lauric acid, which is also naturally occurring in breastmilk. Coconut oil can penetrate the hair in ways that other oils cannot with amazing results, provided it’s used correctly. When used on the right type of hair, it improves scalp health, fights infections and fungus, and supports hair growth. People with fine to medium shiny hair see the best results, while those with coarse and dry hair may not have the best results.
Our recommendation for coconut oil:
Olive Oil: Olive oil is rich in vitamins A, E, and antioxidants. It also helps protect the keratin in your hair and seals in moisture while removing the buildup of sebum that impedes the formation of new hair follicles and hinders hair growth. It can also be used in the treatment of split ends and other things like dandruff. When dealing with dandruff, mix with lemon juice. Dandruff is typically caused by dry, flaky skin. The acidic properties in lemon juice help loosen dandruff while the olive oil moisturizes the newest layer of skin. Mix equal amounts of olive oil, lemon juice, and water to treat dandruff, just a few tablespoons of each will work. Massage into a damp scalp, leave for 20 minutes, rinse, and shampoo. Don’t use this treatment more than once a week.
Our recommendation for olive oil:
Avocado Oil: Avocado oil has amazing health benefits for your hair. It has a high quantity of monounsaturated fats and lubricates the hair, thus making your hair shiny and stronger. Monounsaturated fat, when applied directly in a hair mask, nourishes and strengthens hair strands. Avocado oil is also rich in Vitamin E and B, allowing it to work deep into the epidermis and strengthen the hair. Vitamin B also supports hair growth, while Vitamin E works on repairing hair damage.
Our recommendation for avocado oil:
Shea Butter: Shea butter comes from the seeds of the fruit of the Shea (Karite) tree. It’s rich in Vitamins A, E, and F and offers UV protection from the sun. It also provides the skin with essential fatty acids and nutrients necessary for collagen production. It contains oleic, stearic, palmitic, and linolenic acids that protect and nourish the skin to prevent drying. Shea butter has been used in Africa for thousands of years as a moisturizer.
Our recommendation for shea butter:
Egg yolks: Eggs contain a large amount of protein, fatty acids, and vitamins, which can help boost hair with the added nutrients it needs. Vitamin A in egg yolk helps improve the hair’s ability to produce natural moisture by stimulating sebum production—this helps control dandruff and prevent drying of the scalp. Vitamin E in egg yolk protects from environmental factors such as UV rays, and vitamin D improves texture and shine. Egg yolks also contain the fatty protein lecithin which helps reduce frizz and prevents breakage and brittleness. Biotin is also found in egg yolks and works to renew hair roots and follicles, improving your hair’s overall health.
Almond Oil: Almond oil contains a variety of healthy ingredients for hair, including Omega-3 fatty acids, phospholipids, vitamin E, and magnesium. Using a few drops of pure almond oil in your hair routine nourishes and strengthens your hair, and is optimal for treating hair loss and damaged hair. Be sure to use pure almond oil, and avoid brands that contain fillers.
Our recommendation for almond oil:
Jojoba Oil: Jojoba oil is extracted from the seeds of jojoba trees. The resulting product is actually not an oil, but rather a wax ester. Wax esters are very similar to our own oil produced by our bodies. Because of this, using jojoba oil can help with balancing the production of oil, because the body recognizes it as its own. Jojoba oil is rich in essential nutrients, vitamins E and B, and important minerals like silicon, copper, and zinc.
Our recommendation for jojoba oil:
Castor Oil: Castor oil has been widely used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years – with research finding castor beans in medicinal texts as far back as 1500 B.C. The anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal properties of castor oil can help reduce the effects of auto-immune diseases such as alopecia as well as help to treat folliculitis, dandruff, and scalp infections. Ricinoleic acid found in castor oil can help balance scalp pH, and the antioxidants in castor oil support keratin production in hair and help make hair stronger, smoother and less frizzy.
Our recommendation for castor oil:
Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar’s antibacterial and anti-fungal properties help to get rid of dandruff, and the acidity of the apple cider vinegar rinse can help maintain the pH balance of your hair to create a hostile environment for fungus, bacteria, or yeast that cause dandruff to keep coming back. A regular ACV rinse can also help keep hair tangle-free.
Our recommendations for apple cider vinegar:
Essential Oils: Your favorite essential oils do more than just make your homemade shampoo smell amazing. They also have great benefits for hair including promoting growth, inhibiting dandruff, reducing hair loss, soothing the scalp, improving sebum production, and more. Some of the most beneficial essential oils include Lavender, Peppermint, Clary Sage, Tea Tree, Cedarwood, Ylang Ylang, Chamomile, Rosemary, Lemon, and Juniper. A little research will help you find the best oils for your hair needs.
Castile Soap: Castile soap is made from olive oil, water, and lye. Castile soap comes in bar form, but for cleaning hair, the liquid soap is easiest to work with. It’s non-toxic, biodegradable, and great for cleaning hair. It’s strong enough to clean hair all on its own, but most people want to cut it a bit with other ingredients to soften the blow.
Our recommendation for castile soap:
Baking Soda: Baking soda is a substance known for its alkalizing effects pH of 9. The “no poo” movement relies on baking soda shampoo rinse which takes an adjustment period before you start seeing results. Its chemical name is sodium bicarbonate, and when mixed with acid, it makes bubbles and gives off carbon dioxide gas causing bread to rise.
Our recommendation for baking soda:
Aloe Vera: Aloe vera is used in a wide array of beauty products for antiviral and antibacterial properties. It contains enzymes that directly promote healthy hair growth. These proteolytic enzymes are able to eradicate dead skin cells on the scalp. These dead skin cells could be clogging the hair follicle and not allowing penetration of nutrients. It also has the ability to alleviate itching and reduce inflammation on the skin.
Our recommendation for aloe vera:
10 Homemade Shampoo Recipes
There are several homemade shampoo recipes you can make to minimize your toxic load. Most of these recipes come from simple ingredients. One retailer we recommend that has fantastic DIY supplies is Mountain Rose Herbs. I’ve made several homemade hair care products with supplies from their store.
- 4-Ingredient Homemade Shampoo from Wellness Mama
- Moisturizing DIY PH Balanced Shampoo from the pronounce skincare blog
- DIY Shampoo Bar from It Takes Time
- Chamomile Tea and Honey Shampoo Bar from The Nerdy Farm Wife
- Easy DIY Shampoo from Raia’s Recipes
- Rye Flour as Shampoo from My Healthy Green Family
- Homemade Coconut Milk Shampoo and Body Wash from Delicious Obsessions
- Kid-safe Shampoo from Raia’s Recipes
- Homemade Shampoo with Essential Oils from Shalom Mama
- DIY Dry Shampoo from Wellness Mama
Once you’ve gotten your hair squeaky clean with one of these great homemade shampoo recipes, don’t forget to condition. Here are a couple of homemade conditioner recipes to get you started!
Bonus: Homemade Conditioner Recipes!
No matter what hair type you have, you can benefit from using safe, natural homemade shampoo and conditioner. The myth that natural shampoo doesn’t work is just that—a myth!