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6 Great Shampoo Substitutes

• Jul 2, 2012

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

flytrap-vinegar1

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?

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73 Comments on "6 Great Shampoo Substitutes"

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Lola Zabeth
Guest

I’ve tried and love all the examples in the post. Lately I’ve been steeping dried hops flowers (used to make beer) in boiling water to make a tea, and then add a little castile soap once its cooled. My scalp has never felt cleaner and fresher.

merry
Guest

i enjoy reading your blog.

Lola Zabeth
Guest

Thx so much, merry!

O0oro0O
Guest

I use rhassoul clay, black soap or Marseille liquid soap to wash my hair and so far so good sometimes I use shikakai infusion too. I didn’t know it was a no-poo thing, I have used shampoo about twice since I started my hair journey and didn’t like it so I quickly used other things like handmade soaps, alep soap, even co washing (my scalp didn’t like it) and what I mentionned before.

Harlem
Guest

Fab post! Love shampoo alternatives especially clays. Organic Rhassoul Clay has been a long-standing favourite of mine. Always leaves my hair feeling clean but not stripped, just soft and fluffy.

Had to stock it once we started our online store at loveharlem.com

ayomide
Guest

I use Indian powders for a mask for the scalp either mixed with aloe vera juice/ water or with a conditioner/coconut oil. Does wonders for the scalp and hair. Leaves my hair soft and balanced. I use a mixture of Alma, Shikakai, Neem,and Brahmi.

Cee Mac
Guest

I’m a proud no-pooer. 🙂 My hair feels so much better without using reg. shampoo. I use Terressentials Lavender Garden Mud Wash. It’s UH-MAY-ZING! It’s duh-truth. lol I’ve also used an ACV rinse when I didn’t have my Terressentials.

clewis
Guest

I like to use apple cider vinegar and Africa black soap. Both are great cleansers that does leave your hair with that squeaky clean feeling.

Natalie
Guest

I rarely use shampoo, I make my own rhassoul clay wash, I use black soap diluted in water and also ACV.

I’m going to have to try the beer wash though and I like the sound of hop flowers too.

Thanks for the ideas.

AnaDion
Guest

I use diluted ACV!!!

Ada
Guest

Same here! I use diluted acv to clarify once a month and then cowash in between.

Coco
Guest

I’ve been using castile soap for a year. It never dries out my hair and it leaves my scalp clean. Plus, it’s super cheap and comes in a 32oz bottle. I buy it online.

Cathey Poindexter-Taylor
Guest
Cathey Poindexter-Taylor

I agree! I use the Castile Soap Bars and I swear by them. They never dry my hair out and they cleanse my scalp well!

denaturalistas
Guest

I love bentonite clay as a cleanser for both my face and hair. I also do ACV rinses for my hair and scalp.

Lillian Mae
Guest

Ditto! Same here!

I use bentonite clay once a month and diluted ACV on my scalp in the meantime.

Ogo
Guest

Do you mind sharing your routine? How often do you use the ACV rinse on your face?

antonia
Guest

bentonite clay was horrible for my hair! i added olive oil, honey, and acv to my mix and although my curls were defined the final results were horrific. guess i will use the remainder for facials only 🙁

Alicia G
Guest

you’re not supposed to add anything extra to it. just water or acv, that’s probably why it didn’t workout the first time.

Dolores
Guest

What were the final results?

Lillian Mae
Guest

I use the exact mixture with the exception that I add conditioner. Try that. 🙂

Keisha
Guest

I’ve tried Teressential’s Mud Wash and still use it actually. I like that it’s not too drying on the hair but I can’t rave about it like Naptural85 does. It didn’t clear up my whack patch or make my hair easier to manage…but it didn’t dry it out so that’s a plus!

Michelle @Radiant Brown Beauty
Guest

Me and shampoo are good. I use Shea Moisture Hair Thickening Shampoo alternating with the Coconut and Hibiscus shampoo.

I also have Terressentials Hair Wash but won’t buy it again because it takes too much to do my hair and I only got like 4 washes out of the bottle.

Jojo
Guest

Are any of these ok for a person with dandruff?

O0oro0O
Guest

Rhassoul clay mask cleans scalp very well you can also add ingredients to treat dandruff like EO in it too.

Trudy
Guest

What about people with dandruff (sebhoreic dermatiitis) and locs? I figure clay may not be the best for the locs.

treece
Guest

I love Terresentials, just not their shipping. So lately, I’ve been making my own rhassoul wash, plus the rhassoul makes my hair more slippy than Terresntials/bentonite

janine
Guest

at the moment, i’m using a homemade aloe vera-based shampoo. the ingredients are simple, it’s easy to make and my hair/scalp no longer feels like it has some type of buildup on it while washing. other natural shampoos would give my scalp that feeling.

mangomadness
Guest

Ingredients, please?

Barbara
Guest

Yes, please 😉

janine
Guest

*i just realized there were queries about the aloe shampoo. i noticed the clickback on my wordpress*

the recipe is listed here> http://maartground.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/create-it-yourself-aloe-shampoo/

however, i now use a mix of rhassoul clay, hempseed oil, water and something acidic like lemon juice for a luxurious clay wash. it works well and leaves my hair ready to be styled.

merry
Guest

i make my own clay wash — bentonite, shikakai and aloe juice.

terressentials is basically bentonite and aloe juice and some herbs thrown in. it’s so easy to make, i wouldn’t bother buying, especially considering how much it costs to get some.

but, i don’t use shampoo. my hair is better off too.

Lillian Mae
Guest

I was thinking of adding ayurvedic powders to my bentonite clay..sounds good! Will try with the shikakai

Ogo
Guest

Thanks for the info! I was wondering about T…tials!

Danielle
Guest

I use a ph balanced castile soap and I swear by it!

LaNeshe
Guest

I was doing exclusively co-washes, using the Shea Moisture Purification Masque as my “cleanser” but recently got the Terressentials mud wash and love it.

Annie L.
Guest
I cleanse with the water only (WO) method and scritch my scalp to exfoliate, I do this daily and the water acts as a moisturizer as well. I use either oil or pomade to style/seal so I don’t get a lot of build-up. I also run, do yoga and sweat a lot and don’t have any odor/bacteria complaints. I’ve been WO on and off for as long as I can remember and my hair is moisturized, soft, virtually split/break-free and low shed with this method (and low-manipulation styling). I like natural pH balanced shampoos, clays, ayurvedic powders and herbal rinses… Read more »
Landry
Guest

I tried the “no poo” method by using rhassoul clay and/or ACV, and it was no bueno! My scalp still felt itchy and my hair started to look dull b/c of build up. Giovanni and Shea Moisture shampoos dried my hair out, but I really like the Monoi Shampoo by Carol’s Daughter; it really cleanses my hair and scalp well without stripping it. I use it every other week and co-wash in between.

mangomadness
Guest

In the past, I used a DIY African Black Soap Shampoo (water/African black soap/honey). It cleansed my scalp very well while leaving my hair feeling soft. I’ll definitely revisit it in the future. For now, I’m loving my shea Moisture Moisture Retention Shampoo.

P.S. The water in the mix can be swapped out for tea (green tea, peppermint tea, etc.)

ladyluo
Guest

I am quite happy with cowashing right now with my VO5 but I do want to try the clays at some point. Bookmarking this post and although the article is good, the comments are better…

Trini
Guest

Great post and timely as well. I have used Ayuervedic powders such as Brahmi, Shikaikai, Aritha and Amla (separately) and it’s like my hair became immune to their effects after a number of uses, lol. I recently tried Bentonite clay and mixed it with ACV, olive oil and water and had great results. I am hoping to incorporate Bentonite as a monthly treatment and alternate between Acure and Shea moisture retention shampoos as needed.

Dr fomsky
Guest

Would you consider soap made from shea butter a castile soap?

Olivia Lane
Guest

To my understanding, castile soap refers to soap made from just olive oil (no other kinds of oil, not even coconut oil). It’s a traditional variety of soap that originated in Castile region of Spain. (I’m a total cleaning nerd!)

I love soaps and shampoos made with shea butter though.

katya
Guest

I like to use apple cider vinegar and Africa black soap. Both are great cleansers that does leave your hair with that squeaky clean feeling.

lisa
Guest

What happened to just balck soap?

Rae
Guest

I tried using a diluted ACV rinse, but no matter how well I rinsed and dried my hair, it retained that sour smell.

Now, I use a mixture of 3 parts aloe vera gel to 1 part jojoba oil, with a few drops of tea tree, bay, and rosewood oil mixed in. Every once in a while I’ll clarify with a bentonite clay mask.

I just started this regimen a few weeks ago though, but so far my hair feels great!

Ogo
Guest
When I was my ‘fro or my hair in big braids, I use black soap. I put the chunks in a spray bottle and add water. I sometimes add a bit of oil as well. I follow it with a ACV rinse most days. Sometimes I use Shikikai paste which is wonderful and NEVER fails. Or at least it hasn’t so far. But, now that I am in braids (Senegalese twists) I am trying to find something that works for the build up. The black soap wasn’t doing it so last night I used Bentonite clay. WONDERFUL! It got all… Read more »
ShanellEDot
Guest

DevaCurl No Poo Cleanser. I love it! Since I have color treated hair, I use the “no fade” one in the white bottle.

Alwina
Guest
I just started using pascalite clay, which is very similar to bentonite clay. I mix mine with aloe vera juice, coconut oil (any oil would suffice), green tea and raw honey (regular honey is sufficient). Both times I did the wash, I left it in my hair for roughly an hour, while I did other things (it can be left in for much less, maybe with a heating method). The results were awesome, soft and moisturized hair. I definitely recommend this to anyone who wants to wash and deep condition in one step. Check out http://www.pascalite.com for more information and… Read more »
nelle
Guest

i…LOVE…Bentonite Clay. My face LOVES it, my hair LOVES it. Soft, clean and regardless of the hotcomb, blowdry moments i get, bentonite clay always come through. my hubby uses it for facial hair bumps, and i use it for a on the spot treatment for breakouts or mosquito bites.

pliss
Guest

I use terressentials lavender too and it makes my hair very soft but it’s expensive so I bought bentonite clay and as Merry do, I will make my own mix.

Favour
Guest

Tried co washin. definitely not for me. I now use black soap, dilluted in water though.

Lynnette
Guest

Baking soda and acv method has been my go to no poo method for about a year now, I love it, tried swtich back to shampoo once. no bueno

Olivia Lane
Guest

Beer as shampoo???!!!! Wow! I’ve got to try this one! Thanks!

I’m boring. I just use Alfaffia brand shampoos. They don’t have sulfates so there’s no drying, abrasiveness, or other hair and health damage to worry about.

I plan to try a clay mask for my hair in the future too.

BB
Guest
Not really a replacement for shampoo, but something I use when my scalp is dry and my hair dull (or I have braids on that take forever to dry and I just want my scalp to feel clean): warm very light green tea with a few drop of lemon essential oil — or ylang, peppermint, bay, etc. I often do this when I don’t want to go through all the pre_poo-rinse-poo-rinse-condition-set-rinse circus. Prepare in advance (30 to 45 mns) for cooling time, or add cold water as needed: About 1l of boiled water and a 1/2 teaspoon of green tea… Read more »
Michelle
Guest

For me it would be Pear’s soap or Castille soap. Whenever I use beer, it’s usually mixed with conditioner for an overnight treatment BEFORE my official wash day.

LovelyNapps
Guest

I use monoi carol’s daughter shampoo. It doesn’t strip your hair, leaves it clean, strong and healthy. The shampoo is kinda of expensive, however I’m worth it.…lol

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janet
Guest

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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coffeeandfingernails
Guest
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 »
Dallas
Guest

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?

JojoFree
Guest

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!

Eboni
Guest

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! 😀

Dominique
Guest
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 »
Tamina
Guest

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.

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Joy
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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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