This article features the 11 best shampoo alternatives for natural hair plus DIY shampoo recipes if you’re trying out a no-poo regimen for a while or avoiding shampoo altogether.
To be clear, no poo doesn’t mean you never wash your hair. This is not possible.
You still have to clean your hair and scalp and remove dust, dirt, product residue, etc.
No poo just means you wash with a suitable shampoo alternative that does the job just as well.
I have tried some of these shampoo alternatives with varying results and for different reasons and I’ve shared my experience with those as well below.
Why Wouldn’t You Use Shampoos?
Several shampoo brands contain sulfates and other ingredients that strip the hair of natural oils and cause dryness.
Some natural shampoo alternatives can also be more cost-effective than regular shampoo and gentler on the hair.
Having said that, lots of hair care brands these days are going to great lengths to remove drying ingredients from their products. You can find some great recommendations at:-
- 22 Clarifying Shampoos That Work Without Damaging Hair
- What Are the Best Shampoos for Natural Curly Hair?
If you still want to give shampoo alternatives a go, read on for the 11 best shampoo alternatives for natural hair. Some of these recipes also include natural oils and essential oils.
What Are Some of The Best Alternatives to Shampoo?
11. Shampoo Alternatives – Baking Soda
Plain baking soda is a favorite shampoo alternative. However, baking soda has a high pH of 9 which can really strip the hair and scalp. It can be abrasive to the scalp as well.
The trick to cleansing with baking soda is lowering the pH by mixing it with a little bit of conditioner.
DIY Baking Soda Shampoo
- Mix baking soda with a conditioner like Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Conditioner or Giovanni Smooth As Silk Deeper Moisture Shampoo in an 8 oz squeeze cap bottle (exact measurements in the recipe card below).
- Fill up the bottle with lukewarm water. Shake until mixed well then squeeze a generous amount onto hair and scalp and wash gently. Do not use a scalp massage brush.
- Rinse thoroughly until your hair is clean then follow up with a good moisturizing conditioner.
When I used baking soda as a shampoo alternative, my scalp didn’t care for it and it caused intense itching so I switched to something else.
However, your scalp may react differently so it’s still worth a try. Any generic baking soda brand is fine for this recipe.
10. Shampoo Alternatives – Coffee Oil
Coffee oil is derived from cold-pressing green (unroasted) or roasted coffee beans. It’s a dark brown oil with a pleasant coffee aroma.
Coffee oil increases the circulation of blood to the scalp and stimulates healthy hair growth. It does this by inhibiting 5-α-reductase activity.
5-α-reductase activity converts testosterone into DHT (dihydrotestosterone). An excess of DHT can trigger hair loss. BTW, coffee oil also improves natural hair color in people with black and brown hair.
DIY Coffee Oil Shampoo
- In an 8 oz squeeze cap bottle, mix pure coffee oil, Castile soap, raw honey, and lavender essential2 tablespoons of oil (exact measurements in the recipe card below).
- Fill up the rest of the bottle with distilled water and shake well.
- To use, apply to hair and scalp generously and cleanse. You can use a scalp massage brush for an even more invigorating experience.
- Rinse well and deep condition your hair.
9. Shampoo Alternatives – Tea Rinse Shampoo
Tea rinsing is the star of book 3 in the Healthy Hair Care Series, Tea Rinsing Secrets for Healthy Hair Growth.
I cover over 30 types of tea for hair in the book. Teas can be used for a variety of hair care issues.
Though they are mostly used as a final rinse after deep conditioning, they can be used prior to shampooing and as a simple shampoo as well.
For this recipe, I’m sharing one specifically targeted at a clean scalp.
DIY Tea Rinse Shampoo
- In a large mason jar, add dried calendula flowers and pour boiling water over the flowers.
- Cover and set aside until cool then strain the mix and pour into a spray bottle. Add lavender essential oil or tea tree essential oil and vitamin E oil (exact measurements in the recipe card below). Shake bottle well.
- To use, spray the mix generously into your hair and scalp and wash like it’s a shampoo. It will not foam up like a shampoo but it’s doing the job. Use a scalp massage brush as well.
- Rinse well and follow up with a deep condition.
This recipe will not work well if your hair is quite dirty. For instance, after taking out braids or a weave. You need to clarify your hair in this case.
8. Shampoo Alternatives – Conditioners (Co-washing)
As a shampoo alternative, co-washing is a great option. It’s an excellent way to cleanse hair without removing moisture and introducing even more hydration.
Co-washing is particularly good for curly and kinky hair. BTW, high porosity hair loves co-washing.
And the good news is these days, there are special co-washing conditioners available for natural hair.
Some of my co-wash conditioner favorites include:-
- Ouidad Coil Infusion™ Drink Up Cleansing Conditioner
- As I Am Coconut Cowash Cleansing Conditioner
- Theorie Sea Kelp Mint Cleansing Conditioner
Co-Washing Hair Resources
- Is Co-Washing Good for Natural Hair
- Co-Washing Curly Hair – Step By Step
- 20 Plus Best Co-Wash Conditioners for Natural Hair
7. Shampoo Alternatives – Shikakai Powder
Shikakai Powder is derived from the pods of the Acacia concinna tree. The pods, leaves, and bark of the plant are harvested, dried then ground into a fine powder.
Shikakai powder is a popular herb in India for cleansing hair. It’s also a natural conditioner and strengthener for hair.
Shikakai powder contains vitamins C and D as well as saponin. Saponin is the property that helps shikakai powder to foam up when used as a shampoo.
DIY Shikakai Shampoo
- In a clean bowl, add shikakai powder and amla powder (exact measurements in the recipe card below). Mix with distilled water until it forms a smooth spreadable paste.
- To use, section your hair and apply the paste as you would a conditioner or henna.
- Massage into your strands and scalp then pin your hair up and leave alone for 10 – 15 minutes.
- Rinse well with lukewarm water then follow up with deep conditioning.
In an upcoming article about shikakai powder, I will share even more DIY shikakai shampoo recipes. Recommended shikakai powder brands include:-
- Merlion Naturals Shikakai Powder
- Just Jaivik 100% Organic Shikakai Powder
- H & C Natural Shikakai Powder
6. Shampoo Alternatives – Fenugreek Seeds
Fenugreek is aka methi and is used as a herb, spice, and vegetable. It can be used in seed form or ground into a fine powder. Fenugreek is popular in Indian cuisine and Middle Eastern Cuisine.
As a shampoo alternative, fenugreek seeds are rich in hair-enriching properties – iron and protein.
They are also rich in saponin and are a popular treatment for dandruff and dry scalp.
An additional component of lecithin provides hydration and strengthens follicles.
DIY Fenugreek Shampoo
- Measure fenugreek seeds and amla powder into a bowl. Pour distilled water into the bowl and cover (exact measurements in the recipe card below). Leave overnight or at least 6 hours.
- The next morning, mash the mix together with a pestle until smooth then pour into a pot and heat until the liquid has evaporated a bit.
- Strain and pour into a squeeze cap bottle.
- Use as you would a shampoo then follow up with deep conditioning.
If you are using fenugreek powder instead of seeds, skip the boiling method and strain after leaving it overnight.
Recommended fenugreek seeds and powder brands include:-
5. Shampoo Alternatives – Reetha Powder (Soapnut Powder)
Unlike the other herbs recommended above, reetha powder actually has soap in its name.
It has a higher content of saponin (surfactants) than the other powders above and is the most ideal for cleansing out of the three.
Reetha powder is also known as soapberry and washnut powder. In addition to effective cleansing, reetha powder has excellent detoxifying effects.
Reetha powder has antimicrobial and antiseptic properties as well as a high concentration of vitamins that aid in promoting shine and silkiness and reducing dryness.
DIY Reetha Shampoo
- Measure reetha powder, amla powder, and hibiscus powder in a bowl (exact measurements in the recipe card below).
- Add distilled water and mix until you have a smooth paste.
Apply to hair and scalp. Massage scalp with fingertips and smooth along the hair shaft.
- Pin your hair up and wait 20 minutes then rinse well and follow up with deep conditioning.
You can also mix equal parts of reetha powder, shikakai powder, and fenugreek powder for these recipes but use them separately first before mixing.
If you’re wondering why I included amla powder in all the recipes, it’s a very powerful powder for reducing and preventing excessive hair shedding and hair fall.
It’s one of my top recommendations for treating hair shedding in The Ultimate Hair Growth Guide.
The book also features a chapter dedicated to several more Ayurvedic powders to use for hair growth.
Recommended reetha powder brands include:-
4. Shampoo Alternatives – Castile Soap
Castile soap is another one of my favorite non-shampoo cleansers. It is named after the olive oil shampoos that originated in Castile, Spain.
Castile soap is made from olive oil although other oils like sweet almond oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and hemp oil can also be used. It may also contain water, citric acid, and tocopherols.
For best results, mix Castile soap with distilled water on wash day and shampoo as normal. Follow up with deep conditioning.
3. Shampoo Alternatives – African Black Soap
African Black Soap originates from West Africa and is made from plantain skins.
The plantain skins are dried, roasted then mixed with water and oils, and left to set for some time.
African black soap is a natural shampoo alternative that’s gentle, moisturizing, and excellent for scalp exfoliation. Use with a scalp massage brush!
African black soap also softens hair and is a natural detangler.
You can buy raw African black soap and mix your own shampoo or buy ready-made African black soap shampoo.
My favorite brand for this is Alaffia African Black Soap, which also contains shea butter.
I reviewed it earlier at Alaffia African Black Soap for Hair.
2. Shampoo Alternatives – Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
One of the most powerful attributes of apple cider vinegar is its ability to bring the hair’s pH back to normal levels after rinsing with it.
It also promotes shine, smoothens hair, and helps eliminate dandruff. Apple cider vinegar contains healthy acids, B vitamins, and vitamin C.
DIY Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo
- In a spray bottle, add apple cider vinegar, distilled water, and lavender essential oil (exact measurements in the recipe card below). Close and shake well.
- Use this recipe after cleansing hair with baking soda or Castile soap first.
- Spray generously into hair and scalp and massage thoroughly. Pin up and leave for 5 minutes then rinse well and follow up with deep conditioning.
Never use apple cider vinegar undiluted. It can burn your scalp. You can also use an apple cider vinegar rinse after regular shampoo. I will cover that in a future article.
1. Shampoo Alternatives – Bentonite Clay
Bentonite clay is my favorite shampoo alternative. It really is the best natural shampoo alternative recommendation on this list.
Bentonite clay is one of the primary ingredients in the Max Hydration Method.
It is derived from volcanic ash and is ideal for detoxifying hair and removing build-up.
It also promotes curl definition, moisturizes, softens, and strengthens hair extensively.
DIY Bentonite Clay Shampoo
- In a bowl, add bentonite clay then pour in enough hot water to form a thin paste close to the consistency of shampoo.
- Add organic apple cider vinegar and mix thoroughly (exact measurements in the recipe card below). Check that mixture is no longer hot before applying it to hair.
- Apply to damp hair in sections and really work in the mix until you start seeing curls forming.
- Pin up your hair and cover with a disposable shoe cap then leave on for 30 minutes.
- Rinse out with lukewarm water then deep condition your hair.
I have documented my experience with bentonite clay in Bentonite Clay Application on Natural Hair with pictures.
Bentonite clay is also available as French clay, European clay, red clay, Moroccan/rhassoul clay, and kaolin clay.
The best version for natural hair that I’ve tried remains bentonite clay and Moroccan/rhassoul clay.
My favorite brands of bentonite clay and Moroccan/rhassoul clay include:-
- Aztec Indian Healing Clay
- Molivera Organics Bentonite Clay
- Elma & Sana Ghassoul Moroccan Lava Clay Powder
- Natural Elephant Ghassoul Moroccan Lava Clay Powder
Not all the shampoo alternatives mentioned above are ideal for low porosity and high porosity hair so I’ve sorted them according to porosity suitability below.
Shampoo Alternatives for Low Porosity Hair
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Baking Soda Shampoo
- Bentonite Clay Shampoo
- Castile Soap
- Coffee Oil Shampoo
- Fenugreek Shampoo
- Reetha Shampoo
- Shikakai Shampoo
Shampoo Alternatives for High Porosity Hair
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- African Black Soap
- Bentonite Clay Shampoo
- Coffee Oil Shampoo
- Fenugreek Shampoo
- Reetha Shampoo
- Shikakai Shampoo
- Tea Rinse Shampoo
How About Water Only Washing?
I’m really not sold on the water-only method of washing hair for natural hair.
It might be effective once or twice but after a week or two of applying leave-in conditioners, hair sprays, oils, butters, etc, you really must cleanse your hair properly with something other than water.
Additionally, after taking down a long-term protective style like braids or a weave, water only definitely will not cleanse your hair enough.
I tried it twice and I didn’t really care for it. If you want to go no-poo, the best really is one of the shampoo alternatives recommended above.
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