how do I detox my hair?

It’s one of the most common questions I get from readers. Those half-way through the process email to ask me “when will the grease factory on my head knock off”! Patience my poppets, It Will  Happen!

via animaloddities

Truth is, different people have different experiences with hair detoxing and you never know how long it’s going to take you to come out the other end until you’re there. Some people find their hair eases up after a couple of weeks; others are still slicking it back after four. Mine took at least three weeks to ease up, but you have to keep in mind that hair grease (sebum) is your body’s natural hair and scalp conditioner and a healthy scalp will always produce it. If it’s grossing you out too much, wear your hair up!

Why should I detox my hair?

This, I answer in a two-part series here (part 1) and here (part 2).

The aim of detoxing your hair is to get rid of all the gunk and crud that builds up on your hair and scalp after years of shampoo and conditioner use. You want to do this so that you can switch to 100% natural plant oil-based cleansers and conditioners, and you want to do that so you enjoy a truly healthy scalp and naturally shiny hair without slowly poisoning yourself!

I also think it’s interesting to ponder this fact:  modern shampoo as it is known today wasn’t introduced until the 1930s with Drene, the first shampoo with synthetic surfactants. Before that, traditional shampoo was made entirely of natural oils...

So, how do I do it without looking like a dirty teenager for two weeks?

I give instructions on how to detox your hair in my free e-guide Beauty, naturally. How about I share it with you here?

Step one: operation degunk

If you’ve been using shampoo and other hair products (like conditioner, hair spray or gel) it’s a good idea to wash with a bicarb soda paste* a few times - say once a week for two or so weeks (no soap or shampoo during this time) - to get rid of all the silicone that will have built up on your hair follicles over time. This is really a necessary step in the process of degunking your hair and switching to all natural products.

I feel I should warn you though - as your hair follicles unclog, so too will your natural oils flow. You may find that your hair feels oilier during this time. It will settle. Patience. Mine took three or four weeks, but it did eventually calm down.

*To make bicarb soda paste, simply mix 2-3 tablespoons of bicarb soda with enough water to form a thick paste. Massage this into your scalp, then rinse thoroughly with water.

To finish off, rinse with a solution of 1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar in 1 cup water. That's a vital step, don't miss it.

This will help to seal the hair follicles (so they don’t dry out) and balance the pH. Just be careful not to get any in your eyes. It stings (trust me).

Once you’ve degunked your hair, you can make the switch to all-natural shampoo alternatives.

Step two: wash (castile soap)

Castile soap is made by saponifying plant oils. It’s a traditional method of making soap, which results in soap that is very pure and very mild (you can wash your face with it). Whilst traditionally, castile soaps were made only out of olive oil, these days most are made of a mixture of a few different plant oils. This is totally fine, but my personal preference is to use 100% pure olive oil castile soap. It's the most gentle out there. You can buy pure olive oil versions in Australia, if you like. Check the Things You Might Like page at the back Beauty, naturally for sources.

Use castile soap diluted. I use 50:50 castile soap and water or castile soap and runny honey. It's too drying if used straight up.

You can also add essential oils for a bit of aromatherapy action, and to help treat certain scalp conditions, like dandruff. Ask your local health food store for advice.

After cleansing with castile soap and rinsing with water, use a final rinse of 1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar in 1 cup water. This keeps your hair soft and shiny, adds volume and importantly, re-balances your hair's natural pH, so that the hair follicles close and your hair doesn't dry out.

If you notice soap build-up on your hair over time, simply rinse with a bicarb soda paste, and finish off with an apple cider vinegar rinse. Just don't use bicarb soda too often (once in a while is fine) as it can dry out your hair.


Conventional conditioners coat your hair like plastic, which is why your hair turns out so silky smooth. Unfortunately, this only dries your hair out further in the long run and locks you in a cycle of product use. Basically, when you’re using conventional conditioners, you’re hair isn’t actually soft and smooth – it just
appears that way because the follicles are coated in silicone and other plastic-like substances.

Traditionally, plant oils were used to condition hair after cleansing. They add a lustrous shine without drying.

Simply rub a TINY amount of a light oil, like jojoba oil or argan oil, into your palms and then massage into the ends of towel-dry hair. If your hair is coarse or curly, you might like to use a heavier oil like coconut oil. Comb through and dry as usual.

You can also use oil as an overnight treatment by applying a little more than usual and washing it out the next day. I do this every two weeks to keep my hair from going brittle.

For more hair cleansing and conditioning ideas as well as info on how to look after your skin naturally, download the complete Beauty, naturally guide for FREE by clicking the pic below:

Do you have any other tips for keeping your hair healthy naturally? Feel free to share below!


  1. Great post! I have been using natural shampoo for a while but never thought about degunking my hair first. Maybe I will give it a try this summer when I know the ocean will help keep any greasy hair a bay.


  2. I've been really enjoying using coconut oil as leave in conditioner, but would like to try pure argan oil too (I used to use Moroccan oil, loved it, but it was pretty pricey and I had no idea what else was in it!). What does it smell like?

    1. Argan oil has no smell... try jojoba also, I find that one the best for my hair and it's grown and produced in Aus (local if you're in Aus). Depends on your hair type though.

  3. Hi Maria - I have had no joy using the Castile soap, my hair went flat and lanky immediately after shampooing with it.It looked seriously dirty. So after reading your article above I'm thinking maybe i was using too much castile soap ( 1 tablespoon each time and washing twice, also maybe using it diluted may help? I used Robyn's Soap House Castile, so I know its good quality. Grateful for any tips you can give.

    1. Hm, I think you're right, I agree you're probably using too much. I dilute mine, partly because it's lighter on my hair but also to make it last longer! I keep my shampoo mixture in an old squeezey bottle - it's about 70% castile soap 30% water. Approximately! I never measure exact. That mix works well with my hair and I never really get build up of soap, only occasionally which I quickly get rid of by using a bicarb soda paste. Also if you do a final rinse with diluted ACV every time you wash with castile (after you've rinsed well with water), you'll find that gets rid of the soap really well.

      Hope that helps!

  4. Is it normal for hair loss to occur when washing your hair with bi-carb? I've been using it for the last couple of weeks and my hair has been falling out like crazy! :-/

    1. Not that I've ever heard of! Is it falling out at the roots or just breaking? It could be that it's breaking because it's getting too dry?? If it's falling out like that, best to stop with the bicarb(2 weeks is long enough anyway to get rid of build-up). Start using a natural cleanser like a diluted castile soap followed with an ACV rinse, condition after every wash with a little plant oil and also use an overnight conditioning oil mask (like coconut or olive oil) once a week for a couple of weeks and see how you go.

    2. Falling out at the roots. I think I have a sensitive scalp and maybe suddenly changing it's 'normal routine' was a bit of a shock to the system... I guess I figured if I kept doing it eventually my hair would get used to it and stop falling out, but now I'm not game to or I'll have none left! Ha

    3. Oh dear! Yes please stop with the bicarb! You must be sensitive to it. It's good you twigged early. Are you okay with nettle? If so, try rinsing with a nettle infusion after washing your hair (not with bicarb!) as nettle is renowned for helping hair to grow strong again. It works by stimulating blood flow in the scalp. It's an age-old hair loss treatment. Best of luck!

    4. Oh I've never heard of that before. Might give it a go, thanks! :-)

  5. Hi Maria,
    I used head and shoulders for years and always had a itchy scalp, I switched to bicarb with a vinegar rinse for about 2 weeks which helped with the itching a bit, but it didn't go totally, but my hair felt horrible, I couldn't wear it down at all, I thought I was pretty much through "transition" though so switched to a natural oil soap and my hair was lovely and soft and shiny and I could wear it down, but soooo itchy it was driving me nuts, so I have gone back to bicarb and now my head feels revolting again, I just don't know what to do, am at my wits end, I am so sick of having an itchy scalp, do you have any thoughts on what I could do?

  6. That's no good! I'm no doc, but have you tried some herbal therapies? Chamomile and rosemary are well known to soothe an itchy scalp. You could do a number of things:

    1. Make a herbal infusion with chamomile and rosemary leaves and use this is a final rinse every time after cleansing. (keep it in the fridge)

    2. Treat your scalp with olive oil or warm jojoba oil. I know it sounds strange but they're both used traditionally to treat itchy scalp. Massage and leave for at least an 30 minutes. Don't use too much or you'll find it hard to wash out.

    3. With the baking soda... if you're hair is feeling horrible straight after washing with it, try using slightly less baking soda in the mix (eg instead of say, using 2 tablespoons just use 1). Then, after rinsing it out with water, make sure you rinse with diluted apple cider vinegar as this helps bring some shine and softness back to the hair and incidentally also helps with an itchy scalp. Make sure you don't get it in your eyes - it stings!

    4. I know food can have something to do with itching scalps too. Eating lots of green leafy veg and seeds and nuts is supposed to help. Lentils etc too. Perhaps check with a naturopath?

    5. Have you seen your doc about it? Hopefully it's not to do with an allergy or skin condition?

    Good luck with it!

    1. Hi Maria, thanks for the advice, it could well be a skin allergy as I do also suffer from eczema, as I have long, quite thick hair I find it difficult to spread a small amount of bicarb all over my scalp so I end up using loads, I guess this could be a problem?
      I will definately try olive oil and jojoba, that sounds lovely, but what would I wash it out with?

    2. Ha, interesting question! I'd normally suggested diluted castile soap (70% soap 30% water) but since you had a negative reaction to it, you could try experimenting with an organic shampoo that is based on plant oils and doesn't have too many additives/derivatives in it. I know Biologika products are usually quite good, perhaps look into that one? You could try removing the oil with bicarb soda, not sure how affective that'd be as I haven't tried it. I hope you can get to the bottom of the skin allergy! Best wishes x

    3. Thanks Maria, just to update I am now using Faith In Nature shampoo and conditioner and my scalp is so much better. I think I was just drying it out before. I am glad I detoxed first though.

  7. Are there any alternatives to apple cider vinegar? I find it leaves my hair smelling quite strongly even after a thorough rinse. I also have quite dark hair and I'm concerned it will bleach it with long term use.

    1. Hm, it shouldn't smell once you're hair has dried, unless you're using too much? You could use a herbal rinse like rosemary or sage (which will in time accentuate your dark hair).



Flickr Photostream

Twitter Updates

Meet The Author