Saturday, June 15, 2013

DIY Shampoo

In recent years I have made a considerable effort to reduce the amount of potential toxins and mystery substances in my home and, especially, on my body.  It turns out that there's a lot of weird stuff in shampoo including parabens, sulfates, and synthetic fragrances which are linked to skin irritation, hormone disruption, and cancer risks.  I don't need that junk on my head, that's for sure!

Nettles and rosemary from my garden plus powdered bhringraj.

 Another factor for me is that I have autoimmune thyroid disease.  When thyroid levels fluctuate, our hair often shows the effects.  I used to have thick, wavy, fast-growing hair which in recent years has been replaced by thin, sparse, dull hair completely lacking in vitality.  I am prone to a dry, itchy scalp as well and I suspected that commercial shampoos were doing me no favors.   I know many people have people have had great results with the No 'Poo/ShamPHree method.  While I suspect it's much better for you than commercial shampoo, I know my hair and scalp were not happy under this regimen so I tried to come up with something that worked better for me. I began to research the herbs, essential oils, and other ingredients known to support hair health and have come up with a basic formula for shampoo that works beautifully in my hair.   My formula, however, will not be your formula and I encourage you to research and experiment to learn what works best for you.

A few things I've learned:  first of all, many of us wash our hair far more often than necessary.  This strips our hair of the natural oils which keep it shiny, strong, and healthy.  I make  my shampoo with a very low percentage of Castile soap and I include a small amount of light, beneficial oils such as argan and jojoba for shine and strength. If you are concerned about hair growth, the most important thing is to make sure the scalp is healthy.  A vigorous fingertip massage while washing is great, as is using essential oils which stimulate the scalp. 

No scary ingredients here!  
 The base of my shampoo is a strong herbal infusion of rosemary, nettle, and bhringraj, an Ayurvedic herb known to promote the growth of strong, healthy hair. I add aloe vera, Castile soap, argan and jojoba oil, a bit of xanthan gum to thicken the shampoo, and a mix of essential oils (rosemary, lemongrass, peppermint, and tea tree) for both fragrance and function.  I am happy to report that after exclusively using my homemade shampoo for the last 6 months my hair is longer, thicker, and healthier than it's been in years and my scalp is happy, too.  I won't go back to the commercial stuff for anything at this point because it's so easy and cheap to make my own and I know exactly what's in it and why it's there.
Simmering the nettles, rosemary, and bhringraj.  It smells better than it looks.
General Formula for an 8 ounce bottle of shampoo:

16 ounces of filtered or distilled water
A big bunch of herbs (try rosemary, nettles, lavender, chamomile, or calendula)
1/4 C aloe vera gel
2-4 T castile soap
1/4 t argan oil
1/4 t jojoba oil
1/2 t xanthan gum
essential oils (rosemary, peppermint, lavender, lemon grass, and tea tree are all nice choices)
Simmer the herbs in the water for 30 minutes.
Cool and strain through a very fine mesh strainer or a paper coffee filter.
Using a funnel and an empty 8 ounce bottle, add aloe gel, castile soap, xanthan gum, oils, and essential oils. Top off with cooled herbal infusion.  Shake well before use.

This is enough to last me about 6 weeks with generous use. I have had no problems with spoilage while keeping this in the shower.  While it might be tempting to make a larger batch, I wouldn't do so or, at the very least, I would keep any extra in the refrigerator because there are no preservatives in this formula. 

A great book for learning more about herbs and essential oils which are beneficial for the hair and scalp is Rosemary Gladstar's Family Herbal.

If you are interested in keeping harmful chemicals out of personal care products consider asking your your U.S. Representative to co-sponsor the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013. Congress needs to know that this issue is important to constituents!

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