Healthy Ingredients for Natural Shampoo

These lists will help you find the right organic oils and healthy ingredients for natural shampoo recipes.

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by Unsplash/Anshu A

Acclaimed hair designer and educator Mary Beth Janssen aims to help readers achieve harmony in both mind and body with Naturally Healthy Hair (Storey Publishing, 1999). Jansenn has long been a voice for the integration of health and beauty, and many of her recipes call for the uses of organic ingredients and forgotten knowledge. These two charts, excerpted from Chapter 6, show that when it comes to choosing healthy ingredients for natural shampoo, there are many splendid options. You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Naturally Healthy Hair.


Healthy Ingredients for Natural Shampoo

When making your own hair care formulas (or purchasing them from the store), you want to be sure that the ingredients you choose to use are the right ones for your particular hair condition. Many recipes call for a generic oil. That means that it’s up to you to decide what your hair needs. Some guidelines are below. Remember to look for natural, organic oils when picking healthy ingredients for natural shampoo.

Base Oils

Normal Scalp: Sunflower, almond, coconut, castor, or olive oil

Dry or sensitive scalp: Sunflower, almond, coconut, castor, or olive oil

Dry, brittle hair (including overstyled, permed, or color-treated): Jojoba, sesame, or almond oil

Oily scalp and hair: Canola, safflower, sesame, or almond oil

Note: Those who suffer from dandruff will, depending on their condition, benefit from formulas designed for either dry scalps or oily scalps.

Herbs and Essential Oils

Normal hair and scalp

  • Beneficial Herbs: Calendula, chamomile, horsetail, nettle, rosemary, sage
  • Beneficial Essential Oils: Bergamot, carrot seed, cedarwood, chamomile, clary sage, cypress, geranium, juniper, lavender, lemon, neroli, orange, parley seed, rose, rosemary, sage, sandalwood, thyme, ylang-ylang

Dry hair and scalp

  • Beneficial Herbs: Aloe, bay leaf, calendula, chamomile, coltsfoot, horsetail, lavender, marshmallow, nettle
  • Beneficial Essential Oils: Carrot seed, cedarwood, chamomile, clary sage, geranium, jasmine, lavender, neroli, orange, parley seed, rose, rosemary, sandalwood, ylang-ylang

Oily hair and scalp

  • Beneficial Herbs: Bay leaf, burdock, calendula, chamomile, horsetail, lemongrass, mint, nettle, thyme
  • Beneficial Essential Oils: Basil, bergamot, burdock, cedarwood, chamomile, cypress, eucalyptus, geranium, juniper, lavender, lemongrass, orange, peppermint, rose, rosemary, sage, thyme, ylang-ylang

Sensitive scalp (dandruff, dermatitis, inflammation)

  • Beneficial Herbs: Aloe, bay leaf, burdock, calendula, chamomile, horsetail, marshmallow, nettle, oregano
  • Beneficial Essential Oils: Cedarwood, chamomile, clary sage, cypress, eucalyptus, jasmine, juniper, lavender, lemon, marjoram, neroli, orange, peppermint, rose, rosemary, sage, tea tree, thyme

Hair loss or thinning

  • Beneficial Herbs: Aloe, basil, bhringaraj, burdock, nettle, parsley, rosemary, sage
  • Beneficial Essential Oils: Bay, carrot seed,  cedarwood, chamomile, clary sage, cypress, lavender, lemon, rosemary, sage, thyme, ylang-ylang

Blond hair (enhancing)

  • Calendula, chamomile, lemon

Dark hair (enhancing)

  • Rosemary, sage, black tea

Red Hair (enhancing)

  • Henna, saffron (copper tones), sandalwood (reddish brown)

Many recipes may also call for an unspecified essential oil, and in other cases you may decide to add a few drops of essential oil to a homemade or store-brought product. A few recipes even call for the herb of your choice. Your decision will be based upon the desired effect, whether physiological or psychological, from calming to stimulating or from balancing to moisturizing.

Use these lists as a way to assess the labels of products you purchase at health food, department, and drugstores as well as hair salons for the most healthful ingredients possible. Note that many herbs and essential oils cross over into different categories, showing the incredible diversity and efficacious nature of botanicals in beauty care.

Read more from Naturally Healthy Hair

Make Your Own Natural Shampoo With Soapwort
Make Your Own Natural Shampoo With Essential Oils
Make Natural Shampoos That Are Chemical Free


book cover with a drawing of a woman with red hair

Reprinted with permission from Naturally Healthy Hair: Herbal Treatments and Daily Care for Fabulous Hair by Mary Beth Jansenn and published by Storey Publishing, 1999. Buy this book from our store: Naturally Healthy Hair.

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