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Four "No Poo" Shampoo Recipes and Alternatives

by guest writer, Nina Nelson

Learn how to make your own shampoo or no poo with these recipes, via SustainableBabySteps.com

Photo via davincci

Had you told me ten years ago that I would ditch shampoo and conditioner and instead wash my hair with shampoo recipes that include coconut milk and honey, I would have laughed and said you were crazy. I loved fancy shampoo and conditioner (I was a bit of a hair product snob) and had been conditioned (ha, punny!) to believe that I needed those products to keep my hair and scalp in good condition. However, after digging into reasons why I was having such a problem with itchy scalp, I decided to ditch commercial shampoo forever.

There were a few reasons why I stopped using shampoo:

Itchy Scalp

When I was using commercial shampoo, I had to wash my hair every day to avoid an itchy scalp. After a few months of using a shampoo, even washing every day did nothing for the itchiness. So I would switch to a new brand and start the cycle over again. Since I've started using homemade shampoo recipes and doing "no 'poo", I am able to go a few days between washing my hair because my scalp feels great and doesn't itch.


I contribute some of the itching to the residue that commercial shampoo and conditioner left on my scalp after each use. A hairdresser told me that I'd need to occasionally do a deep cleanse (with another special, expensive product, of course) in order to get rid of the residue left by the shampoo and conditioner. What? Isn't the purpose of shampoo to clean my scalp? Why is it ok, even expected for it to leave residue that needs a special cleansing to get it off?

Harmful Chemicals

When I learned about the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database, I was curious about the ingredients in the products I was using. I looked up my shampoo and conditioner and was surprised at the amount of questionable ingredients included. There were carcinogenic chemicals that I was applying to my scalp every single day! Some of these chemicals were even known hormone disruptors. These were not ingredients that I wanted to keep putting on my skin, which would absorb them into my body.

Realizing that I was putting harmful chemicals in my body on a daily basis was the last straw. I decided to look for shampoo recipes and alternatives that were safe and didn't leave me scratching my head all the time.

At first, I tried natural shampoos which I bought in bulk from Whole Foods. These worked well and I was able to go every two days before I needed to wash my scalp. However, I soon learned about no poo from The Organic Sister and decided to give it a shot.

What exactly is "No 'Poo"?

"No 'poo" is the term used for washing hair without commercial shampoos. There are a few ways to go about this, some of which involve creating your own shampoo recipes from simple, natural ingredients.

Please note that when making a switch away from commercial shampoo - which strips the scalp of its natural oils and causes your scalp to compensate by creating extra oil - you may experience extra oiliness for up to several weeks, even months. Stick with it! In no time you'll see a big difference in the natural wellness of your scalp and hair.

Below are some ideas to get you started:


This is the simplest way to do no 'poo and is generally best for people with short hair. My hair is coarse and extremely thick, but tolerates this method well when cut into a short pixie cut. When washing with just water, simply wet your hair and while it's under the water, massage your scalp and scrub your hair all over. You can wash daily or less frequently depending on your needs, although you might find that if you use a lot of styling product this option might not be the best for you.

Baking Soda

A popular way to do no 'poo is with homemade shampoo recipes using a baking soda/water mixture. Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda in 1 cup of hot water. Stir or swish to mix and dissolve and pour over your hair after getting it wet. Massage your scalp, then rinse out the mixture. If desired, followed with a homemade conditioning rinse made with 1 tablespoon of vinegar (try white and apple cider to find which your scalp prefers) mixed into 1 cup of hot water. Pour over your hair, lightly massage the scalp, then rinse.

There is some concern that this method can be too drying on hair because of its pH level. Some people have reported damage over time, not unlike constantly coloring hair. If you use this method, I'd definitely do some coconut oil hair treatments too.

Castile Soap

I've also successfully used castile soap to make shampoo recipes. I'll either use a squirt of liquid castile soap (I have to use a bit more than most people for my super thick hair - about 1 tablespoon) or I'll wet my homemade bar soap and rub it over my hair like a shampoo bar. Either way needs some extra water on my head to make a good lather and a nice scalp massage to spread it all over.

My Favorite of All Homemade Shampoo Recipes

Because I enjoy creating new natural shampoo recipes on a regular basis, I recently made a homemade shampoo that I really enjoy. It's quick, simple and leaves hair feeling soft and clean.

  • 1/2 cup liquid castile soap
  • 1/4 cup canned coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp fractionated coconut oil (if you can't find that, use jojoba or almond oil)
  • 1 tbsp Vitamin E
  • 50 drops essential oils (I use a combination of wild orange and lavender that smells amazing)

Mix all of the ingredients in a container with a lid. Put on the lid and shake to combine. Shake before using and use as you would any commercial shampoo.

What about you? Do you use any of these no 'poo methods or have a shampoo recipe you can share in the comments?

Nina Nelson is a writer, student midwife, and mama of four. She blogs regularly at Shalom Mama and loves helping others create wellness through simple living. Check out her website for more simple wellness tips and connect with her on Facebook.

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