There are all sorts of recipes out there for all- natural, homemade shampoos and conditioners. I'd say, off-hand there are about eleventy million of them. I would hazard to say I've tried them all. Why, when so many commercial versions are available, in all price-points, from super-industrial better-living-through-chemistry types, to supposedly all-natural, are so many people interested in making their own? Before I hazard a guess, let me list the versions I've tried:
1. Skipping shampoo, also known as no-poo. Ha ha. Slightly funny name. Allegedly, after anywhere from six weeks to six months, hair and scalp readjust and find their natural equilibrium. Maybe that does happen. I don't know since I start looking more than a bit feral after about a week. And that's as long as I've made it. A less radical version is to use only conditioner. This makes sense because commercial conditioners contain a small amount of surfactant which allows them to rinse out. So using conditioner only is like using just a tiny bit of shampoo. Of course, whatever it is that people are trying to avoid in shampoo is still present in conditioner plus some other stuff we might want to avoid.
2. Wheatgrass juice -- Hair smells lovely and fairly clean, skin feels great. But a big pain to make a fresh batch each day (it doesn't store more than a day or so in the fridge), and unless you grow your own wheatgrass, it costs about $4/day. And how do you wash your hair when you travel?
3. Various fruit juices, like orange or grapefruit -- smells nice, but that's about it.
4. Soapwort -- I grew my own for awhile and it did make a nice shampoo but then a freeze killed it all off and it didn't come back. Plus, same problems as with all fresh concoctions. You must make a fresh batch every day and then what do you do when you travel?
5. Honey -- a terrible choice, that some people are curiously in love with. It does smell nice and feel nice. It rinses out fairly easily, but never seems to get my hair very clean. And honey is a humectant. It draws water to it. That's why it's a common ingredient in homemade skin products. The last thing we want is to for our hair to be waterlogged. That's called frizzy hair.
So why the search for homemade, natural shampoos? Because virtually all commercial shampoos contain skin irritants. Seriously. Even the so called natural ones. Even if they claim to be all vegetable derived. And because they really do strip hair of natural oils, so we have to replace them with bizarre lab-produced oils, including the most common and favored conditioning ingredient, silicone and silicone derivatives. Which are seriously hard to wash out of hair. So we use harsh shampoos. Which strips our hair. And so on.
I have two other reasons to want a homemade shampoo. I have the most sensitive scalp on earth. So does Widget Man and so does Widget Man's mom. Anything with sodium laurel sulfate or its vicious relatives immediately makes our scalps break out. Even the most "natural" shampoos eventually get us.
Reason number two is I hate throwing away shampoo bottles. What good is clean hair if I also create a filthy earth?
So here's the recipe. It's so simple I'm embarrassed it took me so long to try it. I've been testing it for a month because I didn't believe anything so simple (and inexpensive) could really work.
In a bottle, mix about 1 part baking soda to 5 parts water. You want a thin slurry.
In another bottle, mix about 1 part vinegar to 1 part water.
In the shower, shake baking soda and water to remix. Squirt a generous amount onto scalp. Wait a bit, then rinse.
Now squirt vinegar over scalp and through hair. Rinse. That's it.
The baking soda removes dirt and excess oil, without stripping. And the vinegar restores the hair's acid balance. You may want a little coconut oil on the ends of hair if you have long or dry hair.
Some recipes call for a thick paste of baking soda and scrubbing it into the scalp. Personally, I think that's too abrasive and not necessary.