The Detox Series: Detox your hair (Part II)

Yesterday I promised I'd tell you how to ditch shampoo and conditioner. For good. This kind of thing thrills me to no end, partly because it's a shunning of the consumerist mumbo jumbo we're fed by beauty companies on a daily basis (and I have a deep-seeded disdain for consumerism for the sake of consumerism), and partly because it's a step closer to living a more natural life.

I ditched my shampoo and conditioner two months ago. I even shunned the organic varieties. Because a) I couldn't find an organic shampoo without a truck load of ingredients in it (to me, this is not sustainable), and b) they generally cost a small fortune and I'd rather spend that money on organic food.

Instead, I researched traditional hair cleansers and shampoo/conditioner alternatives that have undergone the most minimal processing and have the least impact on the environment. I've investigated, and investigated, and investigated. I've come up with this list of natural alternatives. These cleanse your hair without stripping it of it's natural protective moisturiser (sebum). They nourish without causing your body any harm. I also found an alternative to hair gel, for the boys.

  • Bicarb soda: This is what I use, for now. I've posted instructions here. Bicarb soda won't produce a lather, it's nothing like washing your hair with regular shampoo. But, it cleanses beautifully and leaves your hair shiny and toxin-free.
  • Liquid castile soap: A good alternative if you want something a little more 'shampoo-like'. Buy the plain stuff and add essential oils to suit your hair type. For oily hair, bergamot, lemon or patchouli. Dry hair, sandlewood or rosewood. For normal hair, lavendar, rosemary or ylang ylang. For dandruff, thyme, peppermint or rosemary. Melrose Health make castile soap here in Australia. And we love local. Add 20 drops essential oil to 100ml liquid soap.
  • Soapwort hair cleanser: I'm giving this one a go next. Soapwort is a flowering plant and can be easily grown in your own backyard. Which is way cool. For ease, you can buy it from healthfood shops. The root is high in saponins, which produce a mild lather that'll gently gently cleanse your hair. It's perfect for sensitive skin. Boil 20gm soapwort root in 500ml water for 20 minutes and let it sit for 10 mins. Strain and store in a bottle for a few days. Massage into hair and scalp as you would normal shampoo.
  • Pure pulse shampoo: This is apparently an excellent option for fine, dry or damaged hair. If you can get past the fact that you're massaging chickpeas into your hair, it could save your scalp! Mix 50gm chickpea flour and 400ml water to a smooth paste. Gently heat for 20 minutes. Massage warm paste into hair and scalp. Rinse thoroughly. Thoroughly.
  • Soap nuts: These are exciting little buggers. They're actually berries from Soap Berry Trees found in various parts of India, North America and Asia. They contain saponins, like soapwort. They've been used in Ayurvedic preparations for centuries. They're completely toxin free, chemical free and come in natural cotton packaging. Check out this little video for an idea of how to use them to make shampoo, as well as to wash your clothes, dishes, anything really. My only gripe is that I don't live in India, North America or Asia, therefore they don't gel with my 'buy local' campaign. In saying that, apparently a 1kg bag can last a few months. And the money goes to the small communities that harvest them and sell to exporters via co-ops (fair trade).

  • Avocado! Blend 1/2 ripe avocado, 1tsp avocado oil and 1 egg yolk until smooth, then spread throughout hair and leave for a few minutes before rinsing. Excellent for fine or dry hair.
  • I massage coconut butter into the ends of my hair and leave overnight. Honest to goodness, easy peasy moisture boost
  • Apple cider vinegar, which I use after cleansing with bicarb soda. It helps to seal the hair cuticles and balance the pH.

Hair gel
  • No alcohol, no plastic polymers, no artificial fragrances: Sprinkle 4gm xanthum gum over 100ml warm water and whisk to dissolve. Strain if necessary to remove any lumps that may have formed. Add 10 drops of essential oils to suit your hair type. Store in fridge.

What do you guys think? Are you ready to ditch the shampoo/conditioner we've become addicted to?


  1. these last two posts have been very interesting. I have ditched shampoo for a while now and have been making goat milk and honey soap..which doubles as an excellent shampoo. Not only is it a money saver , it is also so much nicer and safer than bought shampoo.
    Will have to try your conditioning ideas.I am still buying that!

  2. I swear by coconut butter Kim, it's fantastic stuff! To eat too! And we like haircare products you can eat. I find I don't need to use it very often, my hair has been just fine with the apple cider vinegar rinse. I apply coconut butter twice a week to give the very ends some extra loving care. Try it and let me know how you go!

  3. I am so excited to read this! Thanks for giving such amazing information out. I've been stuggling to find completely natural hair care products in my price range. Thankyou !!!

  4. My pet peeve too! I hate all this commercials and ads everywhere telling us how bad a good old soap bar is. They are actually brilliant! I recently moved to Australia and found a local producer of shampoo bars, Alex's handcrafted soaps! I don't use any conditioner, curl creams or gels, as I had to do before I stared using soap bars! Locally produced, no plastic bottles, no nasties! Its fast and it's cheap!

    My boyfriend, who used to have dandruff doesn’t anymore! Have a look at those dandruff shampoos. They usually contain several detergents (SLS, ALS and so on) although people with dandruff are having extra sensitive scalps, and the ingredient Zinc pyrithione, which is actually poisonous and have teratogenic effects on fish. Even though the effects of other ingredients in shampoos may be exaggerated, they are certainly useless and may have negatively effects on the nature where they most probably will end up. And they’re just inexpensive chemicals that producers trick us to buy for a lot of money.

    A friend contacted me the other day, she had bought “moroccan oil treatment” for around AUD 50 and it contained 75% silicon. I found a little bottle of pure argan oil (moroccan oil) for AUD 25 at the farmers market…

  5. Thank you very much for this post and the whole blog, Maria. Keep on doing what have you been doing. Because it really makes a contribution to the world to create more humane atmosphere.

  6. I agree, this blog is a fantastic way to get the message about the benefits of organic and natural products/foods to people. I really had no idea about this stuff until I started reading your blog. I'm going to start reducing my use of packaged products full of chemicals, and opt for home-made where possible. I'll have to do it one thing at a time as my products run out...I spend so much money on expensive hair care, I'm looking forward to testing out some natural remedies! Thank you so much and I really congratulate you on what you're doing here :D

  7. I thought that only our skin needs detoxification but also our hair needs it. Good thing to know how important detox to your hair.

  8. HI Maria - I am inspired by your natural skincare book and am slowing replacing my current skincare with natural alternatives. I find rosehip to be my HG for my combination/dehydrated skin.
    I would like your thoughts on the Castile Liquid Soap, many forums say it is drying for your hair, what have you experienced? How much do you use to wash your hair,and do you rinse and repeat? Many thanks Mel

    1. Hi Mel, I've been using liquid castile soap on my hair for over a year and have not found it drying. I think it depends on which one you use. They'r not all equal. I used Dr Bronner's for a short while but found that to be really drying. I then switched to Robyn's Soap House, which is locally made near me, and haven't looked back since. I think the difference lies in the ingredients but also the method used to produce the soap. I also rinse my hair with diluted apple cider vinegar and rub a little jojoba oil into the ends to condition. Hope that helps. Let me know how you go!

    2. Hi Maria - thank you for the tips. I can buy Robyn's Soap HOuse online. Do you use the unscented liquid soap?
      Also can you recommend a company that sells organic jojoba oil? Would like to get it in large-ish amounts like 1 litre at a time especially if I am to use it as a body moisturiser. Regards Mel



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