DIY Shampoo Recipe and Steps

Make Your Own Shampoo

Homemade shampoo in a glass bottle beside a bowl of homemade soap

Pete&Vivi / Getty Images

There are a lot of reasons why you might want to make your own shampoo from scratch. The big two probably are wanting to avoid the chemicals in commercial shampoos by controlling the ingredients, and wanting to save a few bucks by making it yourself. Back in ye olden days, shampoo was soap with additional moisturizers so that it didn't strip the natural oils from your scalp and hair. Although you can make shampoos that are dry or solid, it is easier to use if there is enough water to make a gel or liquid. Shampoos tend to be acidic because if the pH gets too high (alkaline) the sulfur bridges in the hair keratin can break, causing damage that no detangler could repair. This recipe for making your own gentle shampoo is chemically a liquid soap, except vegetable-based (many soaps use animal fat) and with alcohol and glycerin added during the process. Make it in a well-ventilated room or outdoors and be sure to read all of the safety precautions on the ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 5 1/4 cups of olive oil
  • 2 7/8 cups of solid-type vegetable shortening
  • 2 cups of coconut oil
  • 1 1/4 cups of lye (sodium hydroxide)
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons glycerin (glycerol)
  • 1 tablespoon vodka (or another food-quality ethanol, but do not use methanol)
  • 3 tablespoons castor oil
  • Optional: Essential oils like peppermint, rosemary, or lavender for fragrance and therapeutic properties

Directions

  1. In a large pan, mix together the olive oil, shortening, and coconut oil.
  2. In a well-ventilated area, preferably wearing gloves and eye protection in case of accidents, mix the lye and water. Use a glass or enameled container. This is an exothermic reaction, so heat will be produced.
  3. Warm the oils to 95 F to 98 F and allow the lye solution to cool to the same temperature. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to set both containers into a large sink or pan full of water that is at the correct temperature.
  4. When both mixtures are at the proper temperature, stir the lye solution into the oils. The mixture will turn opaque and may darken.
  5. When the mixture has a creamy texture, stir in the glycerine, alcohol, castor oil, and any fragrance oils or colorants.
  6. You have a couple of options here. You can pour the shampoo into soap molds and allow it to harden. To use this shampoo, either lather it with your hands and work it into your hair or else shave flakes into hot water to liquefy it.
  7. The other option is to make liquid shampoo, which involves adding more water to your shampoo mixture and bottling it.

You may have noticed that many shampoos are pearlescent. You can make your homemade shampoo glittery by adding glycol distearate, which is a natural wax derived from stearic acid. The tiny wax particles reflect light, causing the effect.