You wash your hair to cleanse your scalp and hair, (1) but looking after your hair and maintaining its glory is another whole level.
Shampoos are good for cleansing the hair, but they contain harmful ingredients that can leave the scalp and hair dry and frizzy.
Most shampoos contain liquid cleansers based on synthetic detergents that get rid of stubborn dirt, sebum, oils, sweat, and product buildup from the head. (2) Some shampoos have a lesser amount of cleansers in them. Some contain more and are formulated according to hair type and condition.
Using shampoos that contain a lot of harsh chemicals can disturb the scalp’s natural balance. So, what should you do? It’s advisable to wash your hair with a natural shampoo or use natural alternatives. (3)
Natural Ingredients to Clean Your Hair
Here are some natural ways to clean your scalp and hair without damaging them.
1. Soap nut (reetha)
The fruit of the soap nut tree is abundant in vitamins A, D, E, and K and essential fatty acids that make it ideal for the stimulation of hair growth and reduction of dandruff.
The fruit coat extract is rich in mucilage and saponins, works as a natural shampoo, and is often used as an ingredient in herbal shampoos to cleanse the hair. The saponins in soap nut make the hair healthy, shiny, and lustrous when soap nut is used regularly. (4)
Since ancient times, soap nut has been an essential part of the hair care routine of many cultures.
How to use:
- Take ½ cup of soap nut powder in a bowl.
- Add warm water to it and mix everything.
- Strain it out with a tea strainer into another bowl.
- Add 3–4 drops of rosemary or lavender essential oil (optional) to the mixture.
- Use this natural shampoo you’ve just made in the shower to get soft hair.
Many women use hibiscus flowers to get long and strong hair. It contains vitamins B1 and C, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin, and niacin, which help the hair grow well and prevent premature graying.
Hibiscus is also helpful in controlling dandruff, and its antioxidant properties that come from flavonoids such as anthocyanins and other phenolic compounds help to rejuvenate and condition the hair. (4)
How to use:
- Take 15 hibiscus leaves and five hibiscus flowers and add 1 cup of water to it in a vessel.
- Boil the mixture for 5 minutes.
- Add 1 tablespoon of gram flour to the mix when completely cooled down.
- Wash your hair with this natural shampoo.
Shikakai (Acacia concinna) is another hair cleanser used in ancient Ayurvedic medicine to keep the hair looking healthy and lustrous. It is rich in lupeol, spinasterol, lactone, betulin, and betulinic acid, among other beneficial compounds. The high amounts of vitamin C in shikakai are also beneficial for the hair.
Shikakai extract is obtained from the pods and is used to cleanse the hair and control dandruff. This herbal cleanser helps lower the pH value while retaining the hair’s natural oils. It helps to strengthen and condition the hair.
When amla, reetha, and shikakai are combined, they complement each other, and all of them can be used in the dried fruit form. (4)
How to use:
- Take 5 shikakai pods, 5 reetha pods, and 1 tablespoon of amla powder in a pot.
- Add 750 ml water and soak them overnight.
- The next morning, boil the mixture till the pods are soft.
- Allow the mixture to cool, and then mash the ingredients together.
- Strain the liquid and keep it in a bottle.
- Use this mixture on damp hair instead of your regular shampoo.
- You might have to wash your hair twice with this natural shampoo to make it lather.
- If a little lather appears, your hair is cleansed, and you can wash it off.
- Use this natural shampoo 2–3 times a week.
4. Fuller’s earth
Fuller’s earth, or multani mitti, is clay that cleanses and purifies the skin; it opens up the pores and absorbs the excess sebum and oil.
Fuller’s earth contains aluminum silicates, which consist of montmorillonite, kaolinite, and attapulgite. It is lighter and more porous than other clays.
Fuller’s earth has excellent adsorbing properties and is especially beneficial for people with oily skin and hair, as it helps to remove and prevent the production of excessive oil and sebum from the face and hair. (5)
How to use:
- Combine 1 tablespoon of Fuller’s earth and 1 tablespoon of reetha powder and a little water to form a paste.
- Apply this paste to your scalp and hair, and leave it on for 30 minutes.
- Rinse it off with tap water.
- Use it two times a week for optimum results.
5. Gram flour
Gram flour is a ground form of pulse flour that you can quickly obtain by grinding chickpeas and it is beneficial for the hair. (6) It is rich in folic acid, iron, copper, and zinc, which are full of nourishing properties that improve the growth of the hair follicles.
Gram flour is also abundant in antioxidants that protect the scalp and hair from the damaging effects of free radicals. It has high amounts of protein that nourishes and thickens hair strands.
Gram flour also contains molybdenum, which supports the scalp tissue and hair follicles to give a strong foundation for hair growth. (7)
How to use:
- Take 10–15 g of gram flour and add some water to make a thin paste.
- Apply this paste to your hair and leave it on for 20 minutes.
- Wash it off with tap water.
- Do this twice a week to nourish and cleanse your hair naturally.
6. Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a slightly acidic liquid that can help eliminate fungi and bacteria from the scalp and wash the hair effectively. This fruit vinegar seals the hair cuticle layer and makes the hair appear smooth and shiny.
Apple cider vinegar is effective for washing oily hair without shampoo as it removes the excess oil and sebum from the scalp.
Dilute ACV with equal amounts of water to improve hair texture, cleanse the scalp, and keep lice away. (8)
How to use:
- Add equal parts of ACV and water in a bowl.
- Pour this solution on your hair and scalp and massage it well for 2–3 minutes.
- Rinse your hair with tap water.
Since the scalp pH is 5.5 and the hair shaft pH is 3.67, (9) using only pure ACV can be pretty harsh on the scalp and hair; thus, you must dilute it before application. If you don’t dilute it, it can cause burns and redness on the scalp.
7. Rhassoul clay (red clay)
Rhassoul clay is a reddish-brown clay found in Morocco; its unique detergent property is the reason it is used as a washing base in several shampoo formulations (especially for oily hair types).
Rhassoul clay is also used as a hair mask due to its basic pH, and its pH-neutralizing ability is suitable for the skin and hair. (10)
How to use:
- Add 2–3 tablespoons of rhassoul clay to a bowl and 1 tablespoon of aloe vera gel.
- Add a little water to it to make a thin paste.
- Massage this rhassoul shampoo on your head and leave it on for 5 minutes.
- Rinse it off with tap water.
- Use this rhassoul shampoo twice a week for the best results.
Benefits of Using Natural Shampoos to Wash the Hair
- Natural shampoos are helpful for the removal of dust, oil, sweat, and debris from the hair.
- They produce a good amount of foam to give the feeling of a good shampoo.
- You can easily wash them off with water.
- They do not dry the hair but leave it looking soft, lustrous, manageable, and combable.
- They give a pleasant fragrance to the hair.
- They do not cause any side effects or irritation to the skin and eyes. (11)
Why Should You Choose Natural Shampoos to Wash Your Hair?
Dermatologists say that the scalp produces a natural oil called sebum, a natural hair lubricant, and shampoo can strip away these natural oils from the hair, leaving it dry, dull, and brittle. Even if conditioner is used, it cannot compare to the moisturizing properties of natural sebum.
Using harsh chemical-laden shampoos alters the scalp’s natural balance and causes the scalp to overproduce sebum, resulting in oily hair and a greasy scalp.
You must read the product label on the shampoo bottle carefully. If it contains sulfates, sarcosines, and sulfosuccinates, avoid purchasing the product and instead buy natural plant-based shampoos. The harsh cleansers work well in hard and soft water, produce rich foam, and are rinsed easily, but they can cause damage to the hair and scalp over time. (2)
A small study recommended the use of natural shampoos that contain a good amount of cleansers and foam from plant-based ingredients to wash the hair. (3)
General Queries on Natural Ways to Wash Hair Without Shampoo
Will washing my hair with natural products make it oily?
No. Some natural products mentioned above can have cleansing effects. Common causes of oily hair are unhealthy eating habits, medications, improper hair care, stress, hormonal fluctuations, and change in weather and your body’s mechanism as the body’s sebaceous glands produce an oily substance called sebum to keep the hair soft and shiny and the scalp moisturized and healthy.
If the sebum production is reduced, the hair will turn dry and brittle, and if too much sebum is produced, the hair becomes greasy. (12)
Is it okay to wash the hair without shampoo?
This is completely your decision. Using chemical-laden shampoos to wash your hair can erode its natural sebum, resulting in dry, dull, and brittle hair.
Natural alternatives can help nourish your hair and balance the oils on your scalp but your hair may still feel greasy and it will not give that much cleaning effect as shampoo does, you can try the above-mentioned remedies and if it works for you then why to use artificial shampoo.
How frequently should I wash my hair?
According to a Columbia University health article, (13) if you have a hair type that is normal to dry, you need to wash it once or twice a week. But if you have oily hair, you would need to wash it more often.
Should you wash your hair with only water?
Using water and a deep conditioner can be helpful as the hair shaft naturally has a rough surface that leads to knots and tangles when it rubs with other hair shafts.
When there are more natural oils lubricating the hair by washing it with water only, the hair shafts glide over each other, and no tangles are formed.
You can say no to synthetic shampoos and instead use natural shampoos and ingredients to wash your hair. Limiting your exposure to synthetic shampoos has positive impacts on your hair and health.
The market is full of natural shampoos that are vegan, plant-based, and very effective in cleansing and strengthening the hair. You can use the DIY natural shampoos mentioned in the article or purchase one from the store today.
- Asifa N, Kusagur MS, SugaReddy. Prevalent practices and perceptions in hair cleansing. International journal of trichology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5596653/. Published 2017.
- Draelos ZD. Essentials of hair care often neglected: Hair cleansing. International journal of trichology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3002407/. Published January 2010.
- Formulation and evaluation of herbal shampoo – IJCRT. https://ijcrt.org/papers/IJCRT2009364.pdf.
- The Open Dermatology Journal – Bentham open. Synthesis and Evaluation of Herbal Based Hair Dye. https://opendermatologyjournal.com/contents/volumes/V12/TODJ-12-90/TODJ-12-90.pdf.
- Short communication Multani Mitti -is it more than a placebo? https://www.researchgate.net/publication/336868352/.
- The Open Dermatology Journal – pdfs.semanticscholar.org. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/1ca2/5c17343fd28d0dfa868e2abd0919f8e986dd.pdf.
- G; R-RDNEB. Chickpeas-composition, nutritional value, health benefits, application to bread and snacks: A review. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24915347/.
- Rizg WY, Hosny KM, Elgebaly SS, et al. Preparation and optimization of garlic oil/apple cider vinegar nanoemulsion loaded with minoxidil to treat alopecia. Pharmaceutics. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8706394/. Published December 14, 2021.
- Gavazzoni Dias MFR, de Almeida AM, Cecato PMR, Adriano AR, Pichler J. The shampoo ph can affect the hair: Myth or reality? International journal of trichology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4158629/. Published July 2014.
- Gubitosa J, Rizzi V, Fini P, Cosma P. Hair care cosmetics: From traditional shampoo to solid clay and Herbal Shampoo, a review. MDPI. https://www.mdpi.com/2079-9284/6/1/13/htm. Published February 19, 2019.
- Prasad Institute of Technology, Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh (India) – jetir. https://www.jetir.org/papers/JETIR2105847.pdf.
- Sebum. Sebum – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/sebum.
- How often to wash hair? Go Ask Alice! https://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/how-often-wash-hair/.