Top 7 Shampoo Alternatives and Their Pros and Cons

Let’s be real here; your store-bought shampoo probably contains a lot of nasty stuff that you’re spreading onto your precious hair multiple times a week.

On the alphabet soup ingredients list at the back, you’ll find known carcinogens- take sodium lauryl glucose or polyethylene glycol (PEG) for instance- hormone disruptors that can mimic estrogen- parabens anyone?- and pesticides.

Not to mention that most shampoos are fairly alkaline, so they wreak havoc with both your skin’s natural pH and the protective acid mantle that keeps toxins out of our skin.

So not only is your shampoo laden with dangerous chemicals, it’s also probably going to make your skin (and scalp) a lot more vulnerable to those chemicals. To avoid those risks, we need to get a little creative.

Here’s seven different natural, mostly DIY shampoo alternatives and how they stack up to ‘the real thing’.

Soap Nuts

natural shampoo alternatives

Soap nuts are actually probably more known for being used in natural laundry detergent. That’s because they contain saponins, a natural detergent. Extra perk? Soap nuts have got inherent softening qualities, leaving your clothes silky and smooth. And it does the same thing for your hair, smoothing out the bristly dry ends and just leaving everything so soft.

The good: I don’t know if you’ve ever had a day where your hair was so lovely to touch that you almost messed it up by running your fingers through it, but it is fantastic. Take note that using soap nuts for an extended period of time can actually thicken up your hair, which is great for those looking for an alternative to salon-grade thickening treatments but maybe not so great if you have trouble getting a brush through your hair in the morning already.

Soap nuts are also a very gentle soap and perfect for sensitive-skinned beauties who’re looking for something that cleans while being soothing for skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis. Last perk = these nuts make a very, very inexpensive natural shampoo.

The bad: It’s also worth mentioning that soap nuts do tend to leave an odor, which does take some getting used to, but can be covered up by getting creative with essential oils.

Ready to try them out? Get ’em here!

Liquid Castille Soap

best shampoo alternatives

Liquid castille soap is a jack of all trades when it comes to personal hygiene and care. The same stuff can be used as a shampoo, body wash, regular soap or detergent among others. So putting aside all of the shampoo stuff, it’s a fantastic little multipurpose soap that will save you a ton of money. But we’re talking about shampoo here, so let’s get on with it.

The good: The first thing you notice is that it’s quite gentle. It doesn’t pack much of a punch when it comes to giving you gorgeous flowing mermaid hair (because who wouldn’t want that?) but it does the job. After all, shampoo’s primary objective is just to get dirt out of your hair. We can’t blame the stuff for just doing that, right?

The bad: Soaps are alkaline and that’s not a bad thing in and of itself but our hair need a slightly acidic pH. So if you do use castile soap, make sure you follow it up with a diluted apple cider rinse (just 1 tablespoon of ACV to 1 cup water) to balance the pH. Also, unlike a few of the other shampoo alternatives, castille soap doesn’t condition or moisturize dry hair and can leave your tresses looking quite brittle and dry, so you’ll occasionally want to follow up the shampoo and rinse with a moisturizing all natural hair pack.

Ready to try it out? Get it here!


clay shampoo alternative

That’s right; the stuff you couldn’t quite tame in that one-off pottery class you did in elementary school could be just the thing for your hair.

This obviously won’t be any shock to you if you’ve been kicking about the natural beauty scene for a while, but it’s the sort of thing that might make people who are either new or outside of our little group huddle to think that we’re some kind of voodoo witches. And that might be the best thing about this one.

The good: Okay, okay, so there’s other cool stuff too. Sometimes called ‘mud shampoos’, shampoos made from clay are great at detoxifying and getting rid of the dangerous gloop that builds up in hair over the years. To top that off, clays are also full of nourishing minerals and pH-balanced. A DIY combination of 1 tablespoon of Rhassoul clay mixed in a cup of water has a pH of about 6 – which is darn close to your hair’s natural pH.

Clay shampoos also leave your hair surprisingly soft and silky-feeling. Overall, an A+ shampoo alternative.

The bad: Be warned that there will be a transition period when you’re using clays; if you’re not used to using natural shampoos then your hair can sometimes throw a hissy fit at not getting its fix of toxins and carcinogens. It might take a while for your hair to adjust to the new ingredients, so at first things might get a little dry and bristly. Things should start to clear up around the 2-3 week mark, though.

Ready to give it a try? Get straight up clay or go for a ready-made mud shampoo!

Baking Soda And ACV

organic shampoo alternatives

The bad: Baking soda gets quite a bad rep nowadays. You’ve probably heard tens upon hundreds of horror stories about people using it in a skincare product and getting massive breakouts and burns. As a shampoo, we really shouldn’t be so quick to judge.

The thing is that baking soda is probably one of the best natural detoxifiers you’ll find. But you have to actually want your hair to be detoxified, and we mean everything. To put it in perspective, baking soda is sometimes recommended as a natural way to strip the hair of hair dye. It’s just that powerful.

The good: But if you’re just looking for a gentle, natural alternative, or you have bright blue hair and you rock that look (which is all people with bright blue hair, really), there is a way to tame baking soda. Most of baking soda’s troubles comes from the fact that it’s a little too alkaline, and therefore messes with your skin’s natural pH- which, if you remember, is what we’re trying to avoid- so it needs a little help from outside sources to make it safe.

That’s where apple cider vinegar comes into the picture. Being naturally slightly acidic, it brings down the pH of the combination and gets you all of the detoxifying power without much of the hassle. Riding the hair of toxins makes way for stronger, more vibrant hair, so this pair is a match made in natural shampoo heaven.


honey as a shampoo alternative

The good: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before; honey is a humectant. That word is thrown around a lot (a lot like ‘astringent’ and ‘diuretic’) but what it actually means is that it can help the skin to retain vital moisture that it’d normally lose throughout the day. That’s what makes honey shampoos not only perfect for people whose hair tends to get a little dry and stringy, but also for normal hair to soften it and give it a healthy shine.

The ‘kinda’ bad: This one is a little unsettling because it’s a little bit thin- no lather to speak of- so it might not feel like it does anything to begin with and it won’t be able to stand its ground against hard water. It is a detoxifier, but a very gentle one; it gets a little bit of synthetic gloop out of your hair without stripping anything, which is perfect if you’re looking for a gentle natural shampoo but it might not be great for your first natural ‘poo.

If you’re just switching over to natural shampoo, you probably have a giant reserve of toxins in your hair and you need to get that all out first and foremost. Though if you’re not too fussed about it, there isn’t much of a transition period with honey so you’ll get the good effects straight away.

Coconut Milk and Aloe Vera

aloe vera and coconut milk shampoo

Coconut milk and aloe vera are like the precious cinnamon rolls of the natural beauty world, never hurting anyone or causing much trouble. So when you put them both together, you get a fantastic little shampoo loaded with vitamins and minerals that return your hair back to its natural vibrant, shiny self.

The good: They work so well together because coconut milk is almost alkaline at 7.0, and aloe vera is a weak acid at 3.0. When you mix them together, you get the exact pH of your skin (4.5). So there’s absolutely no worries about this shampoo harming your acid mantle or causing dryness- obviously, it’s the exact opposite. Aloe vera works as a moisturizer for dry hair the same way it does for skin, and coconut milk is just there with a tiny baton fighting off dandruff.

Yes, that yummy, creamy coconut milk is as good for your scalp as it is in your tummy – it provides a natural, soothing treatment for dry, itchy scalps while its saturated fats go to work repairing damaged hair.

The bad: If you’re making this yourself, you’ll soon realize that it goes bad pretty darn fast. Nothing like walking into the shower, slathering on your new aloe-coconut-y shampoo and wondering OMG, what died?! To avoid this, you’ll want to make a huge batch and then freeze them all into little shampoo cubes for your hair-washing-convenience.

You can coconut milk at the Asian section of your supermarket or order it online. As for aloe vera, make it fresh or get it in bulk online!

Shampoo Bars

best natural shampoo bars

Shampoo bars are actually the granddaddies of our modern day shampoo and conditioner bottles. These were used in a time before all of these new-fangled doodads and careless whippersnappers throwing dangerous chemicals into shampoos. Well, I’m about one step away from telling them to get the hell off my lawn.

The bad: As a rule, they’re mostly natural but this isn’t a given thing. If you’re buying a shampoo bar, always make sure to look on the ingredients list. If it starts looking like some kind of abstract poetry, you might be in for a spot of trouble.

The good: They aren’t necessarily detoxifiers, but they can help you to regain some of that sheen. There’s definitely been mixed reviews of this stuff, and it really just matters what shampoo bar you buy, but some find that it dries their hair out. Others find that it gives their hair more moisture. Simultaneously, some people feel like their shampoo bar softens their hair and gives it more volume where as others say it makes their hair frizzy. It’s a bit of a confusing circle, but if there’s anything we can say, it’s to always check up on the reviews of the specific shampoo bar that you’re buying. They’re probably better to ask in this case.

Check out a range of shampoo bars here!

All in all, natural shampoos not only get you away from the health risks of synthetic shampoo, but they can also help your hair to return to a naturally vibrant, hydrated and vibrant state- without any of the processed gloop.

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