Oh, the woes of hair care! If you are anything like me, you have good hair days and bad hair days. It’s part of the human condition. If only it wasn’t so complicated!
Personally, I don’t do much more than wash and dry my hair. I’m not one to style it or use hair products to make it do one thing or another. Yet, even with a really simple routine of just washing, it’s tricky to get my hair to do what I want it to do – not be oily.
Almost three years ago I really started going “green.” I was revamping my real food focus and also started paying attention to the ingredients in the household and body products I was using. Most of the shampoos and soaps on the shelf are full of chemicals. They may make your hair sparkle and shine, but what is the long term effect of those chemicals on our bodies?
Our skin is our largest organ, and it will absorb what we put on it. There are many toxins that we can’t control, so it’s important to limit the ones we can..
One of the easiest first steps to take in terms of healthier non-food items is to start changing the types of body products you use. Shampoo is something that almost everyone uses! We all need some way to clean our hair, especially if you are prone to greasy hair like me.
Over the past couple of years, I have tried many different methods of keeping the oil slick on my head at bay. The first non-commercial attempt was no ‘poo. I tried that for a while and liked what it did for my hair. After some time though, my hair started to get a little too dry, even with an apple cider vinegar rinse.
I was feeling a little lazy about creating something else that might work so I decided to just use the Castile soap that I make. I really liked how that was for my hair. It would actually stay clean!
When I became pregnant last year, my hair went nuts, so I went back to commercial shampoo for a little bit. I tried to make sure they were free of the harsh toxins, but those tend to cost quite a bit more and my budget wouldn’t be able to handle the price tag for long.
To save myself from breaking the bank with expensive “chemical free” shampoos, I tried mixing my own liquid shampoo. This made my hair super silky, but after some time, it made my hair too greasy. I have naturally oily hair and the mix just didn’t work out for me. However, this blend would be really great for someone with dry or coarse hair.
I ended up going back to using handmade soap. This time, though, I’m using a recipe that is better suited for hair care. There are certain oils and herbs that will nourish and tend to your hair much better than others and I’ve formulated a mix that so far is working great!
I’m utilizing the nourishing effects of aloe vera oil, jojoba oil, and castor oil. These oils are excellent for keeping your hair silky and soft with enough moisture to keep it from drying out. Herbs such as rosemary, sage, nettles, and arnica are really good for hair growth and strength.
If you are ready to take the next step to keeping the chemical intake at bay, here is my shampoo bar recipe along with hot process soap-making method. I prefer it over the cold process, since you can use the bars right away. I’m not very good at planning a month ahead for when I need shampoo! (Cold process soap has to cure for about 4 weeks to reach neutrality.)
How to Make a Homemade Shampoo Bar
1-2 Tbsp dry herbs (Rosemary, sage, nettles, arnica, etc.)
7 oz Water
4.4 oz Lye (Sodium Hydroxide)
10 oz Coconut Oil
9 oz Olive Oil
6 oz Avocado Oil
3 oz Castor Oil
3 oz Aloe Vera Oil
1 oz Jojoba Oil
3.5 oz coconut milk
0.5-1 oz essential oil of your choice** (optional, I like to mix orange and peppermint, rosemary and lavender, or single oils like eucalyptus, cedarwood, and lemon)
scale (optional, but very helpful)
protective eye wear (glasses or light shade sunglasses work great)
rubber kitchen gloves
4 qt crock-pot (there is almost always one at a thrift store)
Note: Lye is a caustic substance and needs to be handled carefully. Wear protective eye wear and long sleeves and gloves. Always make sure to pour the lye in to the water and not the other way around. It could cause a small explosion! As long as you are careful with handling it you shouldn’t have any problems. This part of soap making is definitely something to do while the kids are otherwise occupied.
Method: Hot Process Soap
To start out, plan ahead by a couple of hours because you need to infuse your water with herbs. Heat your water just to boiling and pour into a glass jar. Add in your choice of herbs and screw on the lid. Let rest for at least two hours so the water will pull out the nutrients and scent from the herbs.
Once the water is infused, re-measure it into a large heat proof bowl and add more water if necessary.
Note: It is very important to have accurate measurements in soap making. Inaccuracy could cause your shampoo to be too caustic and burn the skin.
Wearing gloves and eye protection, measure your lye into a separate dish. Take your water and lye outdoors to mix; they throw off some strong fumes! Add your lye into the water stirring as you pour.
Note: Always add the lye to the water and not the water to the lye. That could cause a very bad reaction!
You will see the herbal infused water change colors as you mix. I find the color change very fascinating! Leave the lye mixture outside to cool slightly while you start on the next step.
As you go back inside, place the dish that contained the lye into the sink and fill with soap and water and let it soak. You will want to make sure and wash it wearing your gloves.
Measure your oils (minus the essential oil if using) into a crock pot and heat on low. Again, be sure to get accurate measurements to ensure proper neutralization through the saponification process.
This step may take a while depending on the temperature of your home. Soap making is much quicker in summer when the coconut oil is already soft, but you can easily step away for a minute if you need to while the oils melt.
Once the oils are melted, it’s time to add in the water/lye mixture. Wearing your gloves and eye protection again, stir the water/lye into the oils. Place your large bowl in the sink with the other lye dishes to wash when you are done.
Now comes some fun! You need to mix the oils and water/lye mixture to “trace.” This is where the shampoo starts to saponify (making the soap into soap!). The best way to mix it to trace is to use an immersion blender, otherwise you will be stirring by hand for quite some time. However, you CAN use either method, and you should stir or blend until the shampoo looks like pudding.
Stir in the coconut milk. This adds a really nice texture to the shampoo bars and nourishes the scalp.
Cover the crock pot and let cook for about an hour for the shampoo to cook and reach neutrality. If you let it go a little longer, it’s okay. You can use a pH testing strip to make sure it’s at a pH between 6 and 8 if you’re concerned about the caustic ingredients. I typically don’t and haven’t had any issues.
If you are using essential oils for scent and hair benefits, add them in after your shampoo has cooked to neutrality. How much you add will depend on your scent preference and the strength of the oil. Keep in mind that it will smell very strong at this point, but once the soap cools the scent will dissipate some. I tend to go on the heavier side so I get a good strong scent.
Now it’s time to put your shampoo into a mold! I use a loaf mold. You can easily use a loaf pan, mini-loaf pan, rectangle box, or even a large shallow baking dish (you will cut it differently for this shape mold).
Line your mold with parchment paper or plastic wrap and scoop in your shampoo. It will be hot, so be careful. For an extra touch of pretty, sprinkle dried herbs on top.
Gently wrap the mold in a towel and place in a cardboard box or warm cabinet. If it cools too quickly it may split on the top. Let it set for 24 hours.
Once it has set, gently remove from the mold. Cut your shampoo into your desired size bar, but approximately one inch thick is my goal.
Using the hot-process method, the bar is at neutrality by this point so you can go ahead and use it now. For the rest of the bars, place in a cardboard box with some space in between each for some air flow. The bars will continue to harden as time goes on. Because this recipe uses a lot of coconut and olive oil it will turn out fairly soft. You should store unused bars in a cool place.
Using a 2 lb recipe like this to make your own shampoo bars will save you quite a bit of money! There is some upfront cost of supplies and ingredients. But when you break down the cost of the ingredients per ounce it ends up being about $25 for a whole batch. (Slightly more if you use essential oils.)
If you cut your bars into about 4 oz bars you end up with each bar costing $2.50. A bar can easily last three weeks or so.
That’s less than $5 a month for shampoo! That works for me considering one bottle of chemical free shampoo can run upwards of $8-$9 per bottle!
I have used several different recipes of Castile soap in my hair, but have found that this mixture is really nourishing to my hair. I always follow it up with a 1:3 mix of apple cider vinegar to water as a conditioner. Spray it on right before jumping out of the shower (and don’t rinse) to soften hair and give it some shine. The vinegar scent dissipates quickly.
This is becoming my favorite hair washing method. It is easy to use and works really well with my oily hair. And since I’m avoiding the chemicals found in commercial shampoos, it’s a win-win situation!