The Nickel Pincher: Easy, Homemade Hair Care Products

Clean up your shampooing routine with homemade shampoo and these other natural hair care recipes.

May 28, 2009

Clean your hair naturally. Well, maybe not this naturally.

Shampoo is one of those “necessary evils” in life. No one wants to go around with a greasy mop, but the products designed to clean said mop are usually full of unhealthy ingredients that can pollute your scalp and your local ecosystem—and they’re expensive, at that! The solution? Homemade shampoos. And before you write off the idea of homemade hair care products as the domain of hippies, rest assured that these recipes really do get your hair clean and shiny!


Basic Homemade Shampoo
½ cup water
½ cup castile (vegetable-based) liquid soap such as Dr. Bronner’s
1 teaspoon light vegetable oil or glycerine (omit if you have oily hair)

Combine ingredients, mix well, and put in a recycled shampoo bottle. Use a palmfull or less to lather once, and rinse with warm water.

This is thinner than commercial shampoo and it won’t suds much—but it will clean just as well.

Herbal Shampoo
Substitute ½ cup strong herbal tea (chamomile, lavender, and rosemary are good choices) for water in the Basic Shampoo recipe.

The Nickel Pincher’s Unshampoo
If you want to know the real secret to truly healthy hair, grab a box of baking soda and some apple cider vinegar. Online bloggers rave about how much better their hair looks after a few weeks of using them (it can take a while for your hair to adjust), and I can attest: I’ve used the mixture for years.

I put a few tablespoons of baking soda in the bottom of a repurposed squeeze bottle, top it off with hot water, and shake it well. After it settles for a few minutes I apply perhaps ¼ cup of the clear liquid to my wet hair, work it through with my fingers, and rinse it out. (If you don’t wait for it to settle you’ll get some grit on your scalp—this does no harm, it just takes a few more seconds to rinse completely out.) There are no suds at all, but the mixture leaves my hair clean and shiny. I keep adding warm water to the bottle every few washes until the powder is used up, and then I add a few more spoonfuls. It costs next to nothing per wash.

Follow that with this basic rinse. Mix ½ cup of apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice with 2 cups water. Pour it through your wet hair and rinse with cool water.

3 No-Fuss, Natural Hair Care Recipes

Egg Conditioner
1 egg yolk
½ teaspoon olive oil
¾ cup warm water

Right before you wash your hair, beat the egg yolk until it’s frothy, add oil and beat again, then add water slowly while beating. Pour the mix through wet hair, working it in with your fingers. Allow it to set for a few minutes then rinse it out with warm water.

Deep Conditioner
For dry or damaged hair, a weekly conditioning pack can make a huge difference. You can use any of the following in combination or alone: olive oil, coconut oil, beaten egg, yogurt, mayonnaise, mashed banana, or mashed avocado. Massage any of these into wet hair, wrap it all up turban-style in an old towel for 20 minutes, and rinse well.

Herbal Color-Modifying Rinses
While none of these will turn blond hair black or black hair strawberry blond, using them on a regular basis can add highlights and even tone down some graying strands.

• Strong chamomile tea, diluted lemon juice, or tea made with fresh rhubarb will lighten hair. For more pronounced results allow rinse to dry in hair—outside in the sunshine if possible.
• Strong sage, lavender, or cinnamon tea will darken hair and mellow out graying strands over time.
• Hibiscus flower tea will add reddish highlights to light hair.

Antistatic Treatment for Dry Hair
Put a small dab of natural hand lotion in one palm, rub hands together to coat both evenly, and run your fingers through your hair.

Natural Hair Gel
½ to 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 cup hot water

Dissolve gelatin in water, store in refrigerator between uses. Work into hair with finger tips, and style as desired.

Natural Hair Spray
½ orange
½ lemon
2 cups water

Chop fruit finely, simmer the pieces in water until they are soft and the liquid is half gone. Strain liquid into a small spray bottle, and store in refrigerator between uses. Spray finished hair lightly; dilute with water if sprayed hair is stiffer than you desire.

Stretch Your Bottle
If you prefer the premade route, there are ways to stretch your shampoo and conditioner to save money—and save your hair.

1. Wash less often. You probably get that the “lather, rinse, repeat” mantra was thought up by some incredibly savvy shampoo marketer a few decades ago and totally unnecessary. But going a day longer between shampoos can prevent your hair from drying out and make your shampoo bottle last twice as long. Massage some cornstarch or arrowroot, which absorb excess oil, into your scalp on non-shampoo days.

2. Cut it with water. Most shampoo is so thick we tend to use more than we really need. Pour half your shampoo bottle into an old, reused bottle. Add warm water to the original bottle, and slosh gently to blend. I’ve been doing this since my kids were little, and it works great!

With all that money you’re saving, you can now switch to an all-natural or organic shampoo if you aren’t already using one. The scalp is good at absorbing traces of chemicals you’d rather not have inside you, and most commercial shampoos are full of unhealthy ingredients linked to hormone disruption and even cancer.

Here’s hoping every day is a good hair day!

Farm gal, library worker, and all-around money-pincher Jean Nick shares advice for green thrifty living every week with Rodale News.

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