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4 Healthy and Natural Alternatives to Shampoo

These 4 healthy and natural alternatives to shampoo are perfect for dry and damaged hair and won’t strip the hair of natural oils.

They are natural, chemical-free, and work to cleanse hair gently. These suggestions are also great for high porosity hair. 

4 Healthy Alternatives for Shampoo

When I gave up chemical processing of my hair back in 2009, one of the hardest things for me to get my head around was the idea of giving up traditional shampoo.

It seemed insane to not shampoo my hair and scalp. How could I possibly get the dirt out otherwise?

However, as my journey progressed and I learned more about natural hair care and growing healthy hair, I learned there are much more suitable alternatives to traditional shampoos.

Why Give Up Shampoo?

  • Traditional shampoo is filled with additives like ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS), sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). These additives strip the hair and lead to dry hair and scalp. Other harmful additives include parabens, diethanolamine (DEA), and triethanolamine (TEA).
  • Healthy alternatives to shampoo are more cost-effective.
  • Healthy alternatives are gentler on your hair, especially curly hair.
  • You control what’s going on your head with healthy alternatives and can measure according to your hair’s needs.

4 Healthy and Natural Alternatives to Shampoo

1. African Black Soap

Raw Apothecary African Black SoapBUY NOW

African black soap is handcrafted by women in the western part of Africa. It’s a common ingredient in hair and skincare in West Africa.

The soap is made out of plantain skins, which are sun-dried then roasted.

Afterward, they are mixed with water and natural oils, stirred and left to set for 2 weeks.

African black soap is all-natural and contains no additives yet foams quite nicely when used as a shampoo. There’s no need to mix the soap with anything.

How to Use African Black Soap on Hair

Rub it between your hands until it lathers up, then run through your strands carefully with your fingers, massage your scalp, wait a few minutes then rinse.

Depending on the region, the soap can also be made out of cocoa pods, shea tree bark and palm tree leaves.

The method can vary as well. Always buy authentic and fair trade black soap.

2. Shikaikai Powder

Khadi Organic Shikakai PowderBUY NOW

Shikakai powder is a common herb in Ayurveda. The powder is derived from a shrub native to India.

It’s rich in vitamin C and D and contains saponins, which helps it to foam up when used as a shampoo.

The leaves and stems are dried then ground to produce shikakai powder.

How to Use Shikakai Powder for Hair

Mix 3 – 5 tablespoons of shikakai powder (depending on your hair length) with distilled water until it forms a paste, apply to hair as you would a shampoo, leave in for 5 minutes, then rinse.

You can also use amla powder and reetha powder with this recipe. They are complementary powders and also used in Ayurveda.

3. Castile Soap

desert essence castile soapBUY NOW

Castile soap is vegetable oil-based soap made from olive oil. Additional ingredients include water and lye.

The soap is believed to have originated from Castile, Spain. Hence its name.

Some manufacturers also add natural oils like coconut oil, sweet almond oil, and tea tree oil to the soap. Castile soap is mild and gentle.

How to Use Castile Soap for Hair

I mix 2 tablespoons of Castile soap with distilled water and that’s usually enough for me on wash day.

I work it in then leave on for 5 minutes before rinsing out. Squeaky clean hair that doesn’t feel stripped.

4. Bentonite Clay

Aztec Secrets- Indian Healing Bentonite Clay


I discovered Bentonite clay last year when I began trying out the Max Hydration Method. This is one of the best natural alternatives on this list.

Bentonite clay is derived from the ash from volcanos. The clay works by drawing out the toxins from hair and helping with better curl definition.

It moisturizes, strengthens, softens and reduces frizz in hair. Read The Power of Aztec Indian Healing Clay for Hair.

How to Use Bentonite Healing Clay on Hair

Mix 4 tablespoons of bentonite clay with enough hot water to form a shampoo-like consistency. It swells so be careful how much you make.

Add ½ teaspoon of organic apple cider vinegar to regulate the pH then apply generously to your hair and scalp.

Cover with a disposable cap and leave in for about 30 minutes. Rinse out with lukewarm water.

There are various versions of the clay – French clay, European clay, red clay, Moroccan/rhassoul clay, and kaolin clay.

I’ve tried them all and the best is Aztec Indian Healing Clay followed by Moroccan/rhassoul clay.

Elma and Sana Moroccan Ghassoul Clay PowderSome people swear by Terressentials Pure Earth Hair Wash, which has bentonite clay as its primary ingredient. 

There are two popular no poo methods I haven’t included above – baking soda and water.

I tried baking soda washing and it threw off the pH balance of my scalp. My scalp went berserk.

It didn’t matter what else followed the baking soda wash to return my scalp to the normal pH level, the itching didn’t stop.

Once I gave up the baking soda, my scalp returned to normal. Everybody’s hair is, of course, different but I wouldn’t recommend washing your hair with baking soda.

As for the water washing-only method which I covered in this earlier article, I’m still not sold on its effectiveness.

When You Should Use Shampoo?

I only use traditional shampoos when I need to clarify my hair after wearing a protective style for a long time for instance. 

You might also need to clarify when something goes wrong with products you’ve applied and you want to reset your hair so to speak. 

In this case, use gentle clarifying shampoos free from any harmful additives. I have a retinue of those with my current favorites being:-

Where to Buy Natural Alternatives to Shampoo?

You can grab the natural alternatives to shampoo recommended above with free shipping when you sign up, risk-free, for Amazon Prime. Try Amazon Prime HERE

You can also find them on iHerb. iHerb offers free worldwide shipping when you spend $40. Learn more HERE.

Have you tried some other natural shampoo alternatives apart from above? Share what your experience has been like in the comments section.

4 gentle, effective and budget friendly alternatives to traditional shampoo for dry hair


Abi is a curly hair expert who delved into the world of natural oils after severe hair loss issues. Through her research, study, and testing, she was able to regrow her bald spots & a healthy head of hair. She is the founder of Healthy Natural Hair Products & Ade Ori Hair Care, and the author of the highly-rated Healthy Hair Care Series. She continues to study hair science, Ayurveda, and natural and healthy solutions for hair and skin. Learn more about our Editorial Guidelines

This post contains affiliate links which means I will make a small commission if you purchase through those links. Read full disclosure HERE.


Tuesday 28th of June 2016

I absolutely love Moroccan clay like no other!! I just wish it wasn’t so pricey. It's cleansing and conditioning at the same time and provides slip to detangle in the shower. I've tried black soap and Castille soap and they were very gentle for cleansing. But these clays and powders are everything..!!

Natural Oils for Hair & Health

Wednesday 29th of June 2016

Yep. The clay is the best. A jar lasts for such a long time because it swells when you mix it with hot water. What brand of clay do you usually buy? The brand I use only costs around $6 or so.