Sunday, 19 May 2013

How To Detox Your Shampoo

In my quest to green my personal care products years ago I started buying "natural" shampoo, as in shampoo free of fragrances, sodium layryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureate sulfate (SLES), and a host of other toxic ingredients linked to endocrine problems, cancer and reproductive issues.

I had varying degrees of success with "natural" shampoos and there was always an adjustment period for my hair. Some left my hair feeling unmanageable and difficult to style, others did not clean to my liking. The one thing they all had in common was the cost - very expensive. I am not one to shy away from paying more for natural and organic products, but I felt unsatisfied with the results and therefore they were not worth the added expense, in my opinion.

As with many things on my eco journey, being frustrated was the key to the discovery of something better for me. Store bought commercial products were either toxic or ineffective or expensive, so I began searching for a more natural alternative - making my own!
Before embarking upon my No Poo journey. 
I was in need of a haircut at this point.

The Internet is full of posts on the no-shampoo, otherwise known as the "no 'poo", way to clean hair. Basically it is using baking soda and water to clean hair and apple cider vinegar to condition and tone. I'm with you if you're saying yuck or this wouldn't work for your hair. That's how I felt and I ignored this way to clean hair for several years. Hair can be a big part of our identity and we all now how a bad hair day can put us in a bad mood (or is that just me?). 

Well, I reached my frustration point again a little over six months ago and decided I had nothing to lose. I decided that this wasn't so crazy. One of the main ingredients in dry shampoos is baking soda, so I guess this made sense after all.  I have read all sorts of different recipes for this method but much like my cooking, I go rogue and just eye-ball the ratio of ingredients. I have found that approximately 1:8 or 1:10 baking soda to water to be just the right amount. I used to use a stronger solution but this made my hair feel very straw-like. It is surprising how little baking soda is needed for this. For the apple cider vinegar I use 1:2 vinegar to water.
My ingredients: baking soda, apple cider vinegar and water. 

Here's my No Poo method:

  1. Wet my hair as usual.
  2. Squirt the baking soda / water mixture onto my hair, being careful to tip my chin up to keep it out of my eyes. 
  3. Gently rub my scalp, massaging the mixture around. There is no need to work it down to the ends of the hair.
  4. Rinse hair with water.
  5. Squirt the apple cider vinegar (ACV) / water mixture onto my hair, again being careful to keep my chin up. Trust me on this! Vinegar in eyes really stings!
  6. Leave the ACV in for a few minutes. Rinse thoroughly.

This was taken several months after beginning my No Poo journey.
Other than a haircut my hair looks largely the same. I am pleased!

I like how soft the ACV leaves my hair and I really don't mind the smell. Then again I use white vinegar for most of my cleaning so I am used to it and now associate it with cleanliness.

Some people have said that their hair takes time to adjust to this and they find their hair feels greasier initially, especially if they wash their hair frequently. I have always limited washing my hair to at most three times a week (usual one to two) so I didn't notice any adjustment at all. In fact, I loved how my hair felt from the very first time. I know this isn't the case for many people so I was prepared for the worst.

Some Tips:

  • I use a peri-bottle, like the ones mothers receive in the hospital post-birth, because they are easy to squirt onto my head. Initially I used jars to pour the mixtures onto my head and this did not work well (went all over my face because difficult to control). I purchased additional ones here at Luna Pads.
  • I leave the ACV in my hair as long as I would commercial conditioners, if not longer. I wash at the beginning of my shower, go about my business, and rinse when I am finished. 
  • I have found that if I use too much baking soda or leave it in my hair too long it leaves my hair feeling like straw.
  • When mixing in the water I like to use warm, almost hot water to avoid a cold blast to my scalp while I'm enjoying a warm shower.
I use no poo to wash my three daughters' hair as well and they now prefer it, although they can still be lured by the fun designs, colours, scents and characters on shampoo marketed to kids. 

The only caveat I have is that I may need to do a deep conditioning treatment on my hair, and the same thing with my oldest daughter's hair, which is very thick. I'm going to try doing leave-in conditioner with coconut oil next time I wash my hair. 

Benefits of No Poo:

  • non-toxic, which was my main concern trying this
  • affordable: I buy my baking soda in the bulk section and although ACV can be somewhat expensive (especially if organic and unpasteurized) I am currently trying to make my own
  • easy to make with ingredients found around the home

I'm happy I've made one more step off the consumer treadmill by making my own shampoo and conditioner with ingredients I have around my home.


I have since experimented with using coconut oil to deep condition my hair and I can report that it is working well. Every so often, when I feel that my hair needs it, I massage a small amount of coconut oil into my scalp and hair. I leave my hair wet and put it into a bun or pony tail for the day. The next day (or the next time I wash it, as I sometimes leave my hair like this for days) I wash and dry my hair as usual and my hair is silky soft.

Occasionally I use the tiniest amount of coconut oil (less than the size of my pinky nail) in my dried hair because I have very wavy (frizzy) hair that needs lots of taming.

I use coconut oil for many other purposes as well.


  1. Nice post. I was thinking about switching to a natural shampoo. My hair just feels dry and frizzy and nothing seems to be working. I really like the idea of making your own shampoo. I'm going to have to try this, thanks for sharing. I'll let you know how it turns out.

    1. Great! I hope this works as well for you as it does for me.