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I will admit that I happily hopped on the no-poo bandwagon last year. My husband was eager to try water washing, so I used him as my case study towards this shampoo-less lifestyle.
I wasn’t brave enough to try it on myself yet, but he didn’t mind me experimenting on him. I’ll frequently shove a spoonful of a new recipe in his mouth for a secondary opinion. Or approach him with a new bodycare product that I’ll just start applying on him without saying anything. The man is used to it.
Trying The No Poo Life
He started off by washing his hair thoroughly every day with water. After 5 weeks of “transition,” it was unbelievably greasy. He even got our neighbor to try it, but with the same failed results. We then switched to an apple cider vinegar and essential oils rinse. This was poured on and combed through. Finally he had results. His hair was soft, shiny, not greasy, and the dandruff from his psoriasis had been tamed.
Excited by his results, I decided it was time to ditch my bottle of shampoo. I tried the vinegar rinse and about 4 weeks later, I looked like a stringy, greasy mess! I had read that many fellow no-pooers would use baking soda as shampoo, before rinsing in vinegar, so I decided to give it a try. I instantly had perfect, nongreasy hair. I was hooked!
The Problem with Homemade Shampoo
Three months later, I couldn’t stop itching at my scalp. The problem with this method, and many other DIY shampoos is that they drastically raise the PH value of the scalp, then shock it when it’s hit with the acidic vinegar. Over time this disrupts the scalps natural PH and causes itching and flaking.
Castile soap is often used as a base in homemade shampoos, but it’s ph value is 10-11, while the scalps natural ph is closer to 5.5. And if your hair is colored or treated, the castile soap can strip the color according to Lisa Bronner.
After failing at my no poo experiment I caved and went back to my health food store brand, even though I wasn’t entirely impressed with the ingredients. Recently though, I discovered that not just soap or baking soda can be used to cleanse the hair.
It’s All About That PH
I don’t know the exact PH of this shampoo recipe, but I do know it’s not highly alkaline like baking soda. The ph levels of each ingredient are listed beside it so you can see for yourself how this works. Ideally you want the final ph to be between 4.5 and 5.5. All of the ingredients are in this range, except for the coconut milk which is between 6-7, so I added some apple cider vinegar to counteract the higher ph.
Many DIY shampoo recipes call for mixing coconut milk with castile soap, but I skipped the soap and added raw honey instead. This article does a good job explaining why raw honey is so good for the scalp and helps tame dandruff and frizz.
Many people have used castor oil to successfully grow hair, so I’ve included this in the recipe, but it can be skipped if your hair is naturally very greasy. I also use jojoba oil, which is technically a wax and closely mimics our hairs natural sebum. Learn more about carrier oils here.
So How Does it Work?
This recipe won’t lather like regular shampoos, but it will cleanse and moisturize. Don’t use too much though, or you’ll end up with leftover residue in your hair, making it feel gunky.
If you’ve been using a regular shampoo you may experience a detox period that can last for a few weeks while your hair adjusts. To minimize this you can slowly replace your regular shampoo with this recipe. So for example, if you wash your hair three times a week, start off with using the store bought shampoo for two of those washes; then the next week, reduce it to one. After a week or two, start using this recipe only. Even if you’ve been “no pooing” for awhile, it may still take a few times before your hair and scalp adjust to this recipe.
Storing Your Shampoo
In theory this DIY PH balanced shampoo can be stored at room temperature for a short amount of time, but to be safe I keep it in the fridge (where it’ll keep for a week or so). If you want to make a big batch up, pour the mixture into ice cube trays and keep in the freezer for later. Thaw out a cube or two every week as needed. This is the best way to use this shampoo and always have some on hand! My hair is just past my shoulders and I use about 2 teaspoons of shampoo on mine.
Moisturizing DIY PH Balanced Shampoo
- Mixing bowl
- Container for finished product
- 1 can full fat coconut milk (about 13.5 oz) – ph 6.1-7.0
- 2 Tbsp liquid raw honey – ph 3.9
- 1 tsp jojoba oil – ph 4.21
- 1 tsp castor oil – ph 4.65
- 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar – ph 3.1
- 1 tsp essential oils of choice (lavender, cedarwood, rosemary, peppermint, carrot, clary sage and tea tree are all good for hair; find some of our favorite organic, sustainable essential oils here)
- Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. This will separate some, so shake well before each use.
- To use, massage a small amount on the scalp and use your fingers or a comb to spread through the hair. Leave on for a few minutes before rinsing off.
- If your hair is naturally very oily, you can follow this up with an apple cider vinegar rinse made with ¼ cup apple cider vinegar and ¼ cup purified water.
- If your hair is very thin you can decrease the amount of oil you use.
- There will likely be a bit of a transition period, so keep that in mind.