*This post was updated on May 20, 2013 to include apple cider vinegar*


Many naturals like the “no shampoo” or “no poo” approach to hair care (although we should note that shampoo is not inherently bad, and there are quite a few that do a great job of cleansing without stripping), and have to decide which cleansing alternative is best for them. We’ve compiled a list of 5 shampoo substitutes that are effective and reasonably priced.

1. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar (or ACV) is a perfect cleanser, gently lifting dirt and residue off the hair and scalp while also laying down the cuticle for a smooth finish. Just make sure that you dilute this highly acidic product so that it doesn’t dry out your hair. One part ACV to one part water is a good mix.

2. Terressentials Mud Wash

This mud wash is known for cleansing hair without leaving the “squeaky” feeling, and for increasing the ease of detangling and condition post-wash. Many naturals feel that it’s the perfect pre-styling cleanser, because it leaves the hair so soft and conditioned. Plus it’s 100% organic! Check out Naptural85’s review:

3. Bentonite Clay

A detoxifier that can be used on hair, skin and internally (to release body toxins), bentonite clay is a highly effective cleanser. Like Terressentials, it leaves the hair feeling soft and moisturized, and is known for producing defined curls post-wash.

4. Baking Soda

While baking soda is too harsh for some naturals (because of its high pH), it’s a highly effective cleaner for others. Check out this post weighing the pros and cons of baking soda to determine if it’s the right option for you.

5. Beer

Yes folks, you heard it right, beer. It’s a cleanser known for also adding body to the hair, possibly because of the protein it deposits. TruthinAging.com breaks it down:

As we’ve seen in the many ways it is believed beer can help your hair, there are special components within beer- including B vitamins, wheat proteins, and maltose sugars- that make drinking a bottle less useful than pouring it on your head. The complex carbohydrates in beer have a hydrating effect, while proteins coat each strand, giving them more strength and elasticity. Not only does hair appear shinier in the short term, but it also becomes stronger to avoid long-term breakage.

There are quite a few “beer shampoos” that are formulated with beer as a main ingredient. You can also make your own concoction using a homemade recipe.

6. Castile Soap

Castile is an oil-based (usually olive or coconut) cleanser that can be used on hair, skin and even for laundry! However, this cleanser is very alkaline and can leave the hair with a super squeaky feeling, and even agitate the scalp (particularly if you suffer from dandruff). If you choose to use this make sure to dilute it (1 parts soap, 3 parts water).

Ladies, do you do the “no poo” method? If yes, what products do you use to cleanse your hair?

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noelliste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop culture and black beauty enthusiast. bell hooks' hair twin...

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72 Comments on "6 Great Shampoo Substitutes"

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[…] you can, just use your Apple Cider Vinegar,or check out other recommendations by a blogger I love here xx, […]


i want to try the clay or something with no “nasties” i know companies say their products are all natural etc, but the only way you can be sure is to make a no- nasty (carcinogens etc) product at home


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After having used baking soda + ACV for more than six months, I just discovered reetha powder (soap nuts). I mix the powder with hibiscus tea, it makes my hair very soft – much, much better than the baking soda.

I LOVE Bentonite Clay! On wash day I will co wash using Treseme Naturals conditioner. After ill mix my bentonite clay with water and apple cider vinegar, apply to hair and scalp and leave on for about 40mins, wash out then deep condition with a mixture of coconut milk, Treseme naturals conditioner, olive oil, glycerine and castor oil. Leave on for a minimum of an hour. After rinsing that out ill do a final really mild apple cider vinegar rinse to get rid of frizz. (I do not wash out). The following pictures are from the day after, not the… Read more »

Castile soap doesn’t clean my hair well enough. So I’ve just started using the Terressentials Mud Wash (Cool Mint) and I love it. I use it as my clarifying cleanser once a month. I don’t know that I love it enough to stop using other shampoos/conditioners as others have. A little bit goes a long way too, so the 16oz bottle I purchased will last for at least 1 year! 😀


I was wondering if ACV should be used prior to applying conditioner? I always read that it should be a rinse at the end of a regimen rather than at the beginning, but with the clarifying qualities it makes sense that it should be towards the beginning. Has anyone tried applying it prior to conditioning?


I do an ACV rinse after shampoo and follow with a deep conditioner. I used to do this religiously once per month before I started using clay washes twice per month. Love the clay!

Thanks for this, will definitely try the clays. For the longest time I was swearing by Wen (including on this page a few times I think) and finally I realized that while Wen is a great product, most of the benefit I was getting came from the fact that I just never shampooed my hair. I co-wash only with Organix Macadamia Nut Oil and use Kinky Curly as my leave-in and get the same results for less money and without having to order it in the mail. Still, it would be nice to have an option for cleansing now and… Read more »

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Thanks! I was looking for shampoo alternatives!

Have been co-washing for a long time, because normal shampoo makes my scalp itchy and dry, even causes dandruff.
After some weeks of co-washing I realise build-up on my scalp that also looks like dandruff. My hair feels greasy, but the tips are dry. I am not really happy and am looking forward to trying the. Alternatives you mentioned (starting with the beer!) 😉

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