My Experience with 5 All Natural Alternatives to Shampoo

Friday, October 3, 2014

frobunni natural hair
Shampoo vs. Alternative: My hair used to be frizzier, couldn't hold a style for long, and less defined when I was using shampoo. In the left pic, I was only out for an hour before my hair turned it a frizzy poof

Having natural hair, I have to be careful about what I put in my hair, and shampoo was one of those things that I just had to stop using. It made my hair dry and brittle, and when I detangled, I would have these huge hairballs that just seemed like overkill. And it didn't even matter what shampoo I used; Pantene, Herbal Essence, Suave, Shea Moisture, even my beloved Giovanni couldn't provide me with a shampoo that wouldn't strip and damage my hair. So, I decided to move away from shampoo and try more natural alternatives.

Baking soda for natural hair
Baking Soda
The first alternative to shampoo that I tried was baking soda. Before I adopted it into my regimen, I actually had tested it a few months prior. That mix was baking soda and water, and while it did make my hair shinier and more moisturized, my hair was always a bear to detangle. At the time, I thought it was the baking soda, so I stopped using it. But when I tried it again, I realized that without slip, which is present in all commercial shampoos, baking soda and water has absolutely no slip at all. So I added aloe vera gel, and my baking soda mix was amazing! It cleaned, detangled, and softened my hair, as well as removed build up on my scalp. Later on, I added maple syrup (which ended up changing the color of my hair but that's a post for another day). All-in-all, this is the perfect cleanser for my hair, but I can't help but to see if I can find something better.

Red Clay for natural hair
The most commonly used clay that I see naturals use is Bentonite clay. I've used that a few times, but it didn't clean my scalp the way I like. So I did some very light research and found that red clay is more effective at removing dirt than Bentonite clay. I used the red clay for a couple weeks while doing wash n gos, and I am happy to say that it does remove buildup better than Bentonite clay, but it does leave some behind. I still use it on occasion but I won't be buying more when I've used it up.

shikakai for natural hair
Shikakai and Hibiscus powder
I previously dabbled in Ayurvedic care, but not for too long and to be honest, it requires some more tries before I can make a full evaluation. Shikakai is used as an all natural hair cleanser in India and is said to promote hair growth, shine, and naturally darken hair. Hibiscus is said to do similar, except it is not as powerful of a cleanser and can leave a reddish tint to hair (since I drink Hibiscus tea, I was personally interested in its rejuvenating and anti-inflammatory properties). I washed with Shikakai and Hibiscus twice, and it was a very effective cleanser at removing build up on my scalp and hair. Plus, I had a lot less shedding than I did with baking soda (and I already barely have shedding with my baking soda mix). But, I did potentially have an allergic reaction to one or both of the powders (probably not hibiscus since I drink the tea regularly), but I am not sure. During the couple of weeks that I used it, I was also around someone's dog, and I am allergic to dogs (unless I have built up an immunity to their dander, like I have my own). I need to try these powders again, to make a full evaluation.

maple syrup for natural hair
I know what you're thinking, maple syrup to wash hair (and yes the real stuff, I'm from upstate NY and I know my maple syrup!)? But it does actually work even better than the clay. Maple syrup has saponins, which are glycosides found in certain foods that produce a gentle but effective cleanser when mixed with water. Maple syrup along with honey and agave are high in saponins. So are oats, beans and yucca. Some flowers are also high in saponins and include soapnut, bracken, horse chestnut, and soap lily.

For my maple syrup wash, all I did was mix 1 oz of maple syrup, 1/2 oz aloe vera gel, and 7.5 oz of water in an applicator bottle. I washed my hair and scalp with it, and to my surprise it did remove a reasonable amount of buildup on my scalp, but did leave some behind. Using saponin rich foods to clean my hair and scalp requires some more tries; I bought some oat flour and can't wait to try using that to wash with this weekend.

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