There’s something so satisfying about working shampoo into a thick lather in the shower. Covering your whole head in big, foamy bubbles just feels so—clean. But, as good as it feels, that shampoo probably isn’t doing you any favors.
While you might not realize it, your traditional shampoo is actually coating your scalp in artificial fragrances, parabens, and other potentially harmful chemicals every time you lather up. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem so clean anymore.
There is good news, though: You can replicate that fresh feeling without all of the funky additives by making your own shampoo. Doing so allows you to control exactly what goes into every batch, since most recipes only call for a few common ingredients anyway. Here’s everything you need to know about trying DIY shampoo at home—plus easy recipes to get started, including conditioners and hair masks, too.
Why DIY shampoo?
Whether you buy the cheapest bottle you can find at the drugstore or a fancy brand from a high-end salon, odds are, you probably couldn’t list (or even pronounce) any of the ingredients. If it smells nice, foams up, and leaves hair feeling clean, that’s good enough—right?
Not so much. The unfortunate reality is that most conventional products contain all kinds of potentially harmful ingredients. Take sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS, for example. Research has linked it to skin irritation, organ system toxicity, and even environmental pollution. According to the Environmental Working Group, more than 300 shampoos contain this foaming agent.
And SLS is only one of several potentially harmful ingredients in conventional rinses. Many formulas also include propylparaben, a preservative that could cause allergic reactions or even disrupt the endocrine system.
The vast majority of store-bought brands also contain “fragrance,” a vague ingredient listed on more than 1,000 shampoo bottles. Because manufacturers aren’t required to disclose what scents and chemicals make up each fragrance, it’s nearly impossible to figure out what’s really lurking inside—and anyone with allergies or sensitive skin knows how dangerous this could be.
On the other hand, making your own shampoo gives you complete control over what formula you use. Instead of artificial additives and impossible-to-pronounce chemicals, these DIY hacks rely solely on natural emollients, essential oils, and household staples in order to clean your hair. Plus, homemade shampoo usually costs a small fraction of the price.
DIY shampoo recipes
You don’t need a degree in chemistry to make your own shampoo. In fact, most of these ideas call for ingredients you probably already have at home—and none require more than a few minutes of work to get the final result.
This four-ingredient recipe works for all hair types—from fine and straight to thick and curly. Coconut milk and jojoba oil moisturize, while liquid soap removes excess dirt and oil. Even better, this shampoo gets its fresh scent from essential oils instead of artificial additives.
Combine everything in a squeeze bottle or jar and shake well to mix. Apply to hair and lather up from roots to ends for 30 seconds, then rinse. The shampoo will stay good for up to one month.
Though hemp isn’t a common ingredient in beauty DIYs, it’s an essential component of this shampoo. Hemp oil naturally hydrates and contains ceramides, a type of fat that keeps hair strong, shiny, and healthy. Plus, it’s non-comedogenic—meaning those with sensitive skin don’t have to worry about breaking out on the neck or shoulders.
Combine ingredients in a jar with a lid, then seal and shake well. Let sit for 24 hours before using. Shake before each use, and use as you would any shampoo—lather, rinse, and follow with conditioner. Each batch lasts indefinitely.
Woke up late? Roommate hogging the shower? Don’t want to spend an hour blow-drying your hair? Grab this simple dry shampoo that makes it easy to go a few days without washing. It absorbs all that extra grease and oil, leaving you with a shower-fresh look even if it has been days since your last wash.
Blondes can stick to plain cornstarch or arrowroot flour, but brunettes should also add in cinnamon or cacao powder until the mixture matches their hair color for seamless coverage. If you like, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil for a subtle scent.
Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Store in a recycled salt shaker or mason jar (just poke a few holes in the lid for easy application). Sprinkle on your scalp, then brush through hair to absorb oil in between washes. This mix will last indefinitely.
The “no 'poo” method calls for washing hair with nothing but plain baking soda. Advocates say cleansing the scalp with baking soda (a base) and conditioning with apple cider vinegar (an acid) balances the hair’s pH. To try it for yourself, follow the baking soda up with the apple cider vinegar hair rinse detailed below.
2 tablespoons baking soda
Wet hair, then scrub scalp with baking soda, avoiding the drier parts of the hair shaft and the ends. Rinse well with water, then follow up with an apple cider vinegar rinse (see below). Let hair air dry.
DIY conditioner recipes
Like peanut butter and jelly or ketchup and mustard, you just can’t have shampoo without conditioner. For strong locks, you’ll want to follow up any DIY shampoo cleanse with a good moisturizing treatment, like any one of these three conditioners.
Packed to the brim with hydrating ingredients like shea butter and coconut oil, this conditioner will leave your tresses shiny and healthy. Antioxidant vitamin E oil repairs damaged follicles, while vegetable glycerin acts as a humectant, pulling in moisture from the environment and sealing it into each strand.
Heat shea butter in a double boiler until it just begins to melt, then quickly remove from heat. Mix in the rest of the ingredients. Let cool for a few minutes, then whisk until you get a creamy texture. Store in a squeeze bottle or glass jar with a lid. After shampooing, work the conditioner from roots to ends, leave it in for a minute or two, and then rinse thoroughly. Use within one month.
Follow up a simple baking soda shampoo with this minimalist treatment. Apple cider vinegar brings the hair’s pH back into balance as well as stripping product buildup and providing a natural exfoliant (goodbye, dandruff!). Just don’t forget the lavender essential oil—it covers up the strong vinegar smell.
Mix ingredients in a glass spray bottle. Use less ACV for dry hair, and more for oily hair. Add lavender until the desired scent is achieved. In between or following shampooing, shake the bottle, spray this ACV rinse all over wet hair, and work through from roots to ends. Rinse out and let hair air dry. The rinse will stay good indefinitely.
Straightening, curling, dying, blow-drying, even braiding—any kind of styling can damage the hair. Help strengthen and repair each strand with a leave-in conditioner. Using this moisturizing DIY formula as little as once a week can bring new life to frizzy, dry hair.
Combine ingredients into a spray bottle, shake well, and spritz all over hair, avoiding the roots so they don’t get too greasy. Add more water if your hair is fine, or less if it’s thick. Comb through. Use within one month.
Bonus haircare DIYs
Though a simple shampoo-conditioner duo does the trick on most days, your hair needs a little extra TLC from time to time. Enter these two simple conditioning masks. Both will leave you with luscious-looking locks in as little as 10 minutes.
The same healthy fats and proteins that make yogurt so good for the body also make it wonderfully nourishing for the hair. Plus, the lactic acid helps banish dry, dead skin cells on the scalp. And adding in moisturizing coconut oil and honey only makes the mask work even better.
Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a small bowl. Massage mask into scalp, working it from roots to ends. Wrap hair in towel, and leave on for a minimum of 20 minutes to one hour (the longer, the better). Then, rinse well and wash hair with shampoo and a finishing conditioner.
Eating your greens isn’t the only way to soak up their nutrients. Now, you can try masking with them, too. A trio of verdant ingredients—powdered chlorella algae, aloe vera gelly, and fresh avocado—bring vitamins and reparative proteins to this hair treatment. Plus, the mid-mask, green-hair look makes for great selfies.
Mash all ingredients together in a small bowl. Massage into hair, completely covering from roots to ends. Leave on for 10 minutes, then wash out with shampoo and rinse well.
With these DIYs in your beauty arsenal, you’ll be looking (and feeling!) like a hair model in no time.