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Shampoo can be a bit of a challenge for people wanting to go a more natural route in their hair and skin care regimen. There are some options out there that use clean ingredients, but I have found many that appear to be more natural, and upon closer inspection, they’re just not. When I have found shampoo that looks really good, I’ve also found a price tag that made me cringe. I’m frugal. Very frugal.

No Poo Method

Years ago I tried no-poo. No-poo consists of using a baking soda and water mixture to cleanse, and an apple cider vinegar (ACV) and water mixture to condition. I loved the results initially. I used this method for years. But after a couple of years, I began to notice that my hair started to feel elastic after washing. The baking soda followed by ACV takes your hair to pH extremes. While some people find long term success with this method, it was taking a toll on my hair.

There are many recipes

I tried several recipes I found that included coconut milk or aloe juice or even castile soap, but none of them worked well for me. I will say that before having my first daughter over 9 years ago I had thick curly hair. After her birth my hair changed to thin and I don’t have curls, anymore. Add a thyroid issue, and my hair is pretty thin these days. So I need to use shampoo that will not weigh my hair down and will not leave it too dry.

Traditional hair care from India

I set out to find some ideas, and I came across some ingredients used in traditional hair care in India. While I didn’t find actual recipes, I felt confident in purchasing the ingredients and experimenting a bit. I found success! It even works well on my daughter’s hair, which is incredibly thick. The result was a liquid, which I had gathered it would be from my reading. It really burns if you get it in your eye (picture me completely flipping out in the shower, just certain my eye was going to have to be removed, and laugh, because I am. But it burned for a long time, and left me with a red eye. Not something you want to happen to you or your child). I always helped my daughter wash her hair with it, because I really didn’t want her to get it in her eye, and it’s hard to ensure that it won’t when it’s a liquid you’re pouring onto hair.


After talking about the issue of the liquid shampoo with my husband’s family on a camping trip, his aunt suggested corn starch. For some reason in my mind corn starch would make it hard to rinse out, so I just never tried it. But after her suggestion I tried it the next batch I made. It worked beautifully. I also tried it with arrowroot, and it worked just as beautifully. I thicken it to the point of not quite a gel, because I have found that to be the sweet spot for me as far as spreadability goes, but it’s truly a preference and is fully customizable. Since thickening the shampoo, I have not had any eye scares.

The players

The shampoo is made from soap nuts, shikakai, neem leaves, and water. The soap nuts are what cleanse the hair, and they do a great job of it. Shikakai, which are a pod found in India, condition and detangle the hair, so they kind of balance out the harshness of the soap nut. Neem leaves act as a natural moisturizer for hair, and is also said to help with dandruff and even hair loss, as it stimulates blood flow.

Some notes

With this recipe, it’s important to note that there is no lather. I know this can be difficult to adjust to, but once you let go of the need to feel the lather, this recipe is great. I like to keep it thinner than a gel, as I mentioned, because it allows me to really get the shampoo throughout all of my hair without feeling like I need to keep adding more. I allow the shampoo to sit on my hair while I clean the rest of my body, and then rinse out at the end of my shower. If I feel like my hair needs conditioning, I typically use an all natural (read: expensive) leave in conditioner, that with my thin hair I rinse out. I’m still working on coming up with a good conditioner recipe that works well for me. As soon as I find something with consistent results, I’ll be sure to share it with you. I don’t want to share anything that I don’t fully believe in and stand behind. I’m very open to thoughts and suggestions, so if you have any conditioner recipes that you swear by, please share! But for me, this recipe yields a result that doesn’t require conditioner for me on any sort of a regular basis. I will note that I only wash my hair every other day to avoid drying it out.

Natural Shampoo


Shikakai – 25-30

Soap Nuts – 20-25

Neem Leaves – 1/4 cup

8-12 cups of water

Corn Starch or Arrowroot Starch


Put the Shikakai, neem leaves, and soap nuts into a pot, and cover with the water. Allow to soak for 4-12 hours. Bring just to a boil and then turn heat to low, covered. I allow it to simmer for several hours, then turn off heat and allow to cool. Once cool I use a strainer to remove all pieces. I pour what I plan to use in the next couple of weeks into the pot, and the rest into a storage container that I can freeze.

Next, I heat up the shampoo that is in the pot, to just about a boil. I add the thickener of choice, starting off slowly; I start with about a tbsp for about 3-4 cups of liquid. Remember, you can always add more. It does take cooling down to see how thick it’s gotten, but you can always reheat and add more starch if desired. Make sure to use a slurry (some cool shampoo liquid in a cup with the starch mixed well), and add that to the boiling shampoo, rather than adding the starch directly in. I have found that sometimes I get a nice smooth result, and sometimes I just can’t seem to avoid lumps. I use an emersion blender to make sure everything is nice and smooth. Then I transfer to old shampoo bottles that I’ve cleaned out and keep for this purpose.

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