Shampoo talk

The other day, Katie asked me a question about shampoo, and I have been thinking about her question ever since.

Without learning the 'code-language' that is INCI (the International Nomenclature of Cosmetics Ingredients), it is almost impossible to understand any label on any cosmetic product. For many ingredients, there are dozens of equally accepted but totally different INCI names. It's a veritable jungle that I am constantly wading through.

The different surfactants you find in shampoos are a bit tricky to navigate. There is always a combination of surfactants in shampoo. The base (or alpha) soap (that does most of the cleaning) needs a secondary (beta) soap that helps it lather.

Even the INCI names of natural, plant-based soaps (the ones I use are all coconut and palm-oil based) sound a little scary: Mipa-Laureth Sulphate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Decyl Glucoside, Coco-glucoside, Glycol Distearate.

However, you don't actually need soap for cleansing your hair (or skin for that matter). There are a couple of alternatives I can recommend here.

Soaproot (yes, there is a plant called soaproot).  

Working with soaproot requires making a decoction (basically, boiling the crushed, dried plant for about 20 minutes, then filtering the liquid through a double-layer coffee filter). You can then use this liquid directly (it will not lather, but will 'bubble up' a bit if stirred).

The liquid is golden and smells remarkably soaplike. From experience I can say it works (I have normal hair that is quite fine). It doesn't give you that shampoo feeling, so it takes getting used to. Extra upside: no soapy residue build-up in your drain and pipes and it's 100% environmentally friendly!

Rhassoul clay is another alternative. 

This is also known as Moroccan Soap Clay. It is rich in minerals and therefore great for detox, masks, body & face cleansing, and shampoo. (Again, speaking from experience). Cleansing with rhassoul leaves your hair (and skin) feeling like you have been to the spa – soft, silky and thoroughly fabulous.

The only downside to rhassoul is that it is a bit messy to work with (it's mud for heavens sake - no way around it). Still, the results are actually worth the effort and you have the same environmentally friendly solution as with soaproot.

15 grams of the Clay Powder (about half an ounce) absorbs 25ml (0,8 fluid ounces) water, hydrosol or herbal infusion. It will swell to about 40ml (1,3 fluid ounces). This is enough for one hair wash/body wash. I recommend replacing 5ml (1 teaspoon) of the water with jojoba (oil) for even smoother and softer results on the hair and skin.

How to use Rhassoul clay

1. Mix 15g powder (about half an ounce) with 25ml (0,8 fluid ounces) of water, hydrosol or herbal infusion. Start with the liquid in a small container, then sprinkle/ad the clay into it and let it absorb the liquid before stirring. Then add jojoba and stir.
2. Apply to the body or scalp and rub it in gently.
3. Wash off thoroughly with warm water after a few minutes.

Both rhassoul and soaproot are available in health food stores.


kt679 said…
Thanks for the post on shampoo! I remember reading a book where main character used soap root. I swear she was Native American or Pacific Islander, or something like that! I had no idea stuff was actually still used. So interesting!

Your post has spawned a couple more questions.
1. I have tried various organic shampoos. I either get the feeling like I never got everything completely rinsed off (doesn't pass the "squeak test") or it is so stripped of oils that I am frantically grabbing for conditioner before my hair dries up and falls off head. What ingredients might cause this? Is one preferred over other?

2. I notice on your website that your hair care can double as body wash. I have noticed this on other natural care sites, as well. Why is this? Why is body care and head care so differentiated in "mainstream" care products but not in the natural ones?

Thanks much! Katie
LisaLise said…
Hi Katie, I will try and answer as well as I can.
1. Without knowing the ingredient list of the shampoos you have tried (as well as detailed info on your hair type) I can only take a stab at answering you. You could just be using a shampoo that is not suited to your hair (just cuz it's organic don't mean it's necessarily perfect for you). This could be causing the feeling you haven't rinsed enough or need conditioner. I used a highly recommended shampoo for a while that I felt dried my hair completely. (one of the main reasons I started adding shampoo and bath products to the list of things I make actually). Another reason could be the soaps they are using in the shampoos are either too harsh, or they haven't added enough fat-restoring agents for YOUR hair. If you could list the first 10 ingredients for me (it's always in small print on the back of the bottle) I could give you better feedback on the shampoo. Finally (and I would HOPE this wouldn't be the case), they could be mis-labelling the product and it is not entirely organic.
2. Any good shampoo is also good as a body wash. Simple as that. Mainstream products are marketed separately so they can sell more product. Body wash usually doesn't have as much (if any) fat-restoring ingredients, so using a body shampoo on your hair may dry it out.
Let me know more about your hair type. How often do you wash it? And do you use leave-in or rinse-out conditioner?