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Natural Hair Care & Body Wash: Recipes & Recommendations

on July 8 | in DIY Beauty | by | with 36 Comments

When I found out I was pregnant with Katie one of the first things I did was read the labels on every product in my bathroom. I’m not sure what prompted me to do it, but I think it was this study linking hidden chemicals in perfumes to “abnormal development of reproductive organs in baby boys.” The perfume I was currently wearing (Dolce & Gabbana’s Light Blue) was on the list.

Seriously, could just spraying something on your skin have that much of an effect on a developing baby? Apparently so. Until then I had been mostly concerned with what I put in my body . . . now I was just as concerned with what I put on it. After all, everything that entered my bloodstream entered my baby’s, too. Did you know that . . .

On average, we each use nine personal care products a day containing 126 different ingredients. Such “safety” testing as exists looks for reactions, such as skin redness, rashes or stinging, but does not investigate potential long-term problems for either humans or the environment. Yet the chemicals that go into products such as shampoos and hand creams are not trace contaminants. They are the basic ingredients.

Absorbed into the body, they can be stored in fatty tissue or organs such as the liver, kidney, reproductive organs and brain. Cosmetics companies complain of unfounded hysteria, but scientists are finding industrial plasticisers such as phthalates in urine, preservatives known as parabens in breast-tumour tissue, and antibacterials such as Triclosan and fragrance chemicals like the hormone-disrupting musk xylene in human breast milk. Medical research is proving that fragrances can trigger asthma; that the detergents in shampoos can damage eye tissue; and that hair-dye chemicals can cause bladder cancer and lymphoma.

Environmental Working Group: How Toxic Is Your Bathroom?

For me, the best option I knew about was to buy all my personal care products at Whole Foods. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before I realized that “organic” personal care products often contain chemicals, toxins and known carcinogens. With a few exceptions (like castille soap), I realized that the cheaper “natural” products at Whole Foods often contained unhealthy, synthetic fillers. In this case, you do get what you pay for.

So what is there to do? Buy a teeny-tiny bottle of shampoo for $15 and ration it like it’s gold? For me, the solution evolved like this: Pay out the nose for some really important stuff and then cheaply make what you can to balance out the cost.

For example, I make my own shampoo but buy the pricey California Baby for Katie because the homemade stuff isn’t tear-free (UPDATE: California Baby reformulated their shampoo and I no longer recommend it.). You know what I love about my shampoo? It’s made with ingredients so pure I can literally eat them (except for the tea tree oil). Food grade personal care products are the gold standard.

If you’re interested in transitioning to healthier personal care, here are some product recommendations and recipes:

  • Homemade Shampoo Bar – I use this Rosemary Mint Shampoo Bar recipe. It smells amazing!
  • Chae Organics Baby Shampoo n’ Body Suds- This is a great first cleanser for newborns and toddlers. With just six ingredients, it’s both simple and gentle. I plan on using it with Babypotamus.
  • Detangler/Conditioner – Apple Cider Vinegar with optional essential oils for scent. It really does help detangle long hair and prevents the Vitamin E in my homemade shampoo from making my hair too oily.

Before you leave, consider this: Every one of these recipes and products was recommended to me by someone else. Without those people generously sharing what they’ve learned I would have nothing to share with you. So if you have a tip please leave it here so we can all benefit. Maybe your favorite natural moisturizer? Home blended massage oil? A salve for itchy ant bites?

Come on, I know many of you have awesome tips to share. SPILL!!!


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36 Responses to Natural Hair Care & Body Wash: Recipes & Recommendations

  1. lizzy says:

    i make my own body lotion.
    olive oil or coconut oil (i use coconut because it smells delightful) + aloe vera gel + vitamin A + vitamin E. the only caveat is that you have to keep it in the fridge, so if you use the coconut oil it solidifies. but usually taking it out of the fridge and putting it in your bathroom while you shower loosens it up enough to use it when you are done. :)

  2. Esther says:

    I read an article by Dr. Mercola on this topic as well. yikes! I love my Giovanni “natural” shampoo and conditioner but need to go re-read the ingredients. It looks like Dr. Mercola is selling all natural hair products now: http://products.mercola.com/shampoo-conditioner/?source=nl

  3. Annie says:

    I tried the shampoo (dr bonners, apple cidar vinegar, and the oils). Did your hair get really greasy? Mine is sticky, greasy. I can barely get a brush through it. If so, what did you do?

    • Heather says:

      Annie – I had the same experience when I first started using it. Over time I have learned two important things. First, less is more. Second, using apple cider vinegar as a detangler allows me to brush my hair even while it is still wet and keeps it shiny/grease-free. Just make sure to rinse the ACV thoroughly so your hair smells fresh ; – )

      Of course, the Passionate Homemaking recipe may not work for everyone. Let me know if that helps!

  4. I’m thinking about using a combination of baking soda and apple cider vinegar instead of my good old shampoo and conditioner but I’m still not sure about the smell. Could you give some info on that?

    • Tamara says:

      Apple Cider Vinegar is great for hair, and it can smell when it’s wet. I’ve been using it for years now, and I can attest to the fact that as soon as it’s dry, the smell goes away. Baking soda, however is too harsh for your hair. I know that it’s a fad going on right now, but baking soda is an 8 or a 9 on the pH scale, while hair is 4.5. ACV is around 3, but if you mix it with water, which is 7, it’s perfect!

  5. amalia says:

    try this : The basic ingredients and recipes for making a natural shower gel are as follows.

    1. De-ionized or distilled water or even straight from the tap is fine especially if you are going to use the product immediately and not store it for later use.

    2. Surfactants have properties that enable it to “attract†dirt and oil and are the active ingredient in most soaps and cleansers. Natural surfactants called saponins are found in aloe Vera gel.

    3. Humectants attract moisture from the air to the skin. Examples of humectants include honey and glycerin.

    4. Thickeners provide “body to a liquid. Aloe Vera gel is a natural thickening agent, as is cornstarch and arrowroot.

    5. Emollients are used for smoothing and softening skin. Examples of emollients are almond, jojoba, olive, or coconut oil.

    6. Exfoliating agents are used to slough off dead skin. Malic and citric acids are examples of exfoliating agents and are found in cane sugar and fresh fruits such as apples, pears, or strawberries.

    7. Natural preservatives and antiseptics are found in lemons or grapefruit essential oils.

    8. Two types of fragrances can be used: Essential oils or fragrance oils. Essential oils of fruits include: grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange, and tangerine. There are no essential oils of apples or pears. Essential oils are very concentrated and should never be applied directly to the skin.

    Fragrance oils are synthetic fragrances or combinations of synthetic and natural fragrances that imitate a scent such as pear or apple. If fragrance oil is used when making a shower gel, always use one that is designated as being safe for using on skin and avoid direct contact with skin.

  6. Heather Knickerbocker says:

    do you have any recipes for shaving gel? i cant imagine my husband switching his shaving gel but i would love for him to try something natural/homemade that is not full of junk.

  7. Elisabeth says:

    Speaking of itchy bites, I made a homemade salve. Beeswax, almond oil, plus antiseptic/ healing tinctures (golden seal, calendula, lavendar). You melt the wax in a double boiler (I use a glass jar inside a pan of water), then mix in the oil and tinctures. The trick is to get the proportion of wax to almond oil just so, so when it cools it doesn’t set up into a rock. Half and half is still way too heavy on the wax. I got mine to be a good texture now, but I wasn’t keeping track, so I can’t say what proportions are ideal. But it makes a great, healing cream for the occasional ant bite or bee sting.

  8. melyssa says:

    i love cleansing my face and removing make up with a mixture of olive oil and caster oil. It’s super moisturizing without being greasy and tear free for tugging all that mascara off. Baking soda also makes a good scrub. :)

  9. Mary says:

    I just simply use water and hypo-allergenic soap for my skin. I can’t stand to have it and even afford to apply all of this eight products. I’m always in a hurry and don’t want to stay long in the bathroom. I never use to being that so delicate when it comes to my skin but still consider myself lucky then for I don’t have flaws on my skin.

  10. Tawnya says:

    I have been brushing my teeth with either baking soda or tea tree essential oil for the past 8 years.

    • Heather says:

      Thank you, Paxton! I wrote a post awhile back about Miranda Kerr and her love for coconut oil – so glad to see more good stuff coming out of her blog!

  11. amanda says:

    I so love your site, i just spent a better part of the morning reading all of your recipe’s, watching your tutorials and now am heading out to shop for ingredients. where have you been all my life. Thank you thank you thank you!

  12. Akhira says:

    It’s every women’s passion to greatly take care of their appearance and even health so this leads each ladies to have the idea of the basic consideration that we must have to totally have that great result and effect.

  13. Sury says:

    I use an apple cider vinegar rinse after I shampoo and it’s been a miracle! I have lupus and my hair falls out in clumps daily and I have irritable scalp as well. No matter what hair products I used, nothing worked till I used the apple vinegar cider rinse. I mix a ratio of 1:3 vinegar & water with about 5 drops of peppermint or lavender oil in a spray bottle and it’s good to go. Sometimes I use this mix as a toner too. Am now looking for a lip balm recipe as my lips cannot seem to tolerate stuff with wax. Sigh. Love your blog. Glad I found it. :)

    • Nicholas says:

      Try using a hard nut butter like kokum butter instead of wax when making your lip balm. I’ve never tried to substitute it straight across but I imagine with a little tweaking you could get something that would be the right consistency. Email if you have questions and good luck!
      Ciao,
      Nicholas Zemp
      Western & Chinese Herbalist, Aromatherapist

  14. Marie says:

    OK Mommypotamus (love it), here goes. I tend to get an itchy scalp so I use Dr. Bronner’s tea tree flavor. It has worked great. I no longer have to use head & shoulders and such. I scrub up and use the lather as a shower gel for the rest of me. It works well for laundry too, along with peroxide, vinegar and baking soda. I’m wondering, though, about how migrating away from soap, at least instead of bar soap. I was just on a trip, and I used aloe vera gel (purchased from CVS, not organic or anything). It seemed to work fine. That’s how I found your site – I was looking for a recipe to make it from scratch with aloe vera juice.

  15. Tori says:

    For an exfoliating and moisturizing body scrub/polish try this…..
    1/2 cup raw sugar
    1/4 cup coconut oil (solid form)
    3 Capsules Vit.E
    4-5drops Grapefruit E.O.
    (tea tree E.O. can be used also for acne and other lesions)

    WHIP all ingredients together, divide into 2ounce portions and store in fridge.
    when ready, massage over body by hand focusing on areas that need extra exfoliation or moisture. Rinse with warm (not hot) water and pat dry. Enjoy!

  16. Nicholas says:

    Here is a fantastic recipe for a bug bite salve:
    1/4 c. Calendula infused oil
    1/4 c. Violet infused oil
    1/2 c. Plantain infused oil
    1 oz. beeswax (shaved)
    30 drops lavender essential oil

    Gently heat oil in double boiler on stove ( I don’t have a double boiler so I use a Pyrex liquid measuring cup). Add beeswax and stir until completely melted. Should be firm but not solid when cooled on the back of a stainless spoon inserted into the mixture. If it’s too soft, add more beeswax, if its too hard, add more oil. Remove from heat and allow to cool until a ring of salve forms around the inside of the measuring cup. Stir in the EO & immediately pour into clean sterile dark glass jars. (I buy mine from Specialty Bottle, they can be found online.) Usually makes between 18-21 1/2 oz jars. :)
    The secret to its effectiveness is the plantain oil and lavender essential oil. Both are renowned for their ability to soothe bug bites, stings, rashes, & burns. Both calendula & violet oils are also amazing for the skin as well! I won’t go into all the details now, but anyone can feel free to contact me for more info.
    Ciao,
    Nicholas Zemp
    Western & Chinese Herbalist, Aromatherapist

  17. Nicole says:

    Hello all:
    I’m curious…I want to transition myself off of coloring my hair (just can’t accept too much gray yet), as well as “store bought shampoo and conditioner. I’ve started taking unsulphered molasses internally and plan to use it with honey as a conditioner to hopefully restore the color. My question is….so far the recipes for shampoo that I’ve seen here, as well as in the DIY Beauty Recipes book say that they are not safe for chemically treated hair. What does that mean? Does it mean that they would strip the color out (which would be the intent right?) or does it mean that my hair will turn some sort of funky color? I’m willing to live with some detox results for a few weeks while my hair adjusts, I’m just not willing to come out with some crazy colored hair and I’m wondering about the best way to transition. Any info you can provide would be deeply appreciated!

    • Heather says:

      Hi Nicole! Because the pH of soap is alkaline it opens up the hair shaft and allows dyes to leak out during washing. It won’t affect your natural color or change your hair color, though. The only exception is with honey, which **can** theoretically lighten hair because it contains a small amount of naturally occurring peroxide. I use it on my dark hair, though, and have never noticed it having this effect. Hope that helps!

      • Nicole says:

        Hello Heather
        Thanks so much for the info. I think I will proceed as planned. I really want to make the Sweet Orange and Honey Shampoo and try to use a vinegar rinse. I will probably also need a conditioner of Molasses & Fenugreek, as I’m trying to restore my gray hairs, as well as I have very dark, thick and course hair and I usually need something a little more intensive to keep it in good shape. Thanks again

  18. Erin says:

    Hi Heather,

    I have your book DIY Organic Beauty Recipes and I love it. I just had a quick question about sweet orange and honey shampoo. Is it supposed to lather?? I always wonder if I’m not using enough because mine doesn’t but I’ve heard castille soap usually does.

    Just FYI I love the deodorant and the baby diaper cream is amazing. I’ve also made both the tooth soap and powder. I like the tooth soap but don’t like the aftertaste. I think I may add either some more essential oil or maybe some cinnamon.

  19. Sarah says:

    Hi, just wondering if the color issue also pertains to blonde highlights? I’m assuming not since it’s bleached rather than a dye added in. Thanks!

  20. Nicole C. says:

    I just found your website and am interested in buying your ebook! However, I do color my hair, and I just can’t give it up yet. I’m only 39 and have mousy brown-gray hair. Not pretty. However, as I was reading, I saw apple cider rinse or homemade shampoo isn’t safe for color treated hair. Do you have other alternatives in your book? Thank you!

    • Heather says:

      Hi Nicole! Unfortunately, I haven’t found an effective natural shampoo that is safe for color-treated hair yet. Some say soap wort it, but I didn’t find it cleaned my hair all that well. :(

      • Becky says:

        Acacia powder works amazing to clean hair. It has a pH of 4 when mixed with water. It would be good for colored hair. I LOVE the way it makes my hair feel after a shower; however, it can be a little messy and it’s definitely not tear-free.

    • LTH says:

      I just asked my hairdresser about this today. I have highlighted hair. She said ACV is fine but distilled white vinegar would not be good for colored hair. She did not think it would be a problem to try using a more natural shampoo product. She’s Aveda trained, if that means anything.

  21. Nicolette says:

    Hi Heather!!!

    One question I have is, what did California Baby do to their formula to change it and cause you to no longer recommend them?? I’ve been using them for just over a year now. But I just purchased a large bottle a few weeks back and did notice a different order/some new ingredients in the ingredient list. I love how multipurpose it is… But anyhow, this is good news since I need to start making my own products.

    Thanks for your insight!

  22. Sarah McLain says:

    A tip for blondes on switching from shampoo/conditioner to baking soda/apple cider vinegar- I found that rinsing with ACV made my hair turn a much darker shade of blonde than it had previously (or ever) been. I substituted ACV for regular vinegar to deal with the color issue and so far there haven’t been any complications. This may not be the case for all blondes but it is nice to know there is an natural alternative.

  23. Wendy says:

    Hi
    I love all your recipes and cant wait to start trying them. I have Very curly fine hair and tried the natural shampoo but left my hair hard, i couldnt put a comb through it, any ideas for kinky curly hair?

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