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Lather Up: A Natural DIY Shampoo for Oily Hair All-Natural DIY Shampoo Recipe

My journey to find the perfect shampoo has been one of trial-and-error, heavy on the error. Error and hats.

Lesley is ditching her store-bought beauty products and going full hippie. Here's how to join her.

My hair is important to me. Maybe too important. I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time coifing or tending to it—more often than not, I forget to even comb it—but it is my old friend, my security blanket, and a huge part of my identity. It’s the first thing I use to describe my appearance (I call it “hippie mermaid princess”—the dream is Daryl Hannah circa Splash). I am incapable of dancing in public without hiding behind it. So I spend a lot of energy worrying about how I treat it. Am I shampooing too often? Should I shampoo at all? Should I be putting mayonnaise on it?

Hippie hair care is harder for blondes. It’s just a fact. The dark-haired among us can pull of a level of grime that looks embarrassingly gross on a blonde. Light things showcase flaws. That’s why you have wine teeth and sweat-stained undershirts. Between my blondness, my irritable scalp, and my particularly oily disposition, hippie life is hard. Going 24 hours without a shampoo nets me a halo of sebum dark enough to be mistaken for a yarmulke at a distance.

For me, hair care is incidental to good scalp care, so I need a shampoo to serve two basic functions: talking my scalp down from the dry, itchy ledge it lives on, and cleaning up after its overzealous oil production. The journey to find such a shampoo has been one of trial-and-error, heavy on the error. Error and hats. The test I always apply to a natural hair cleaning regimen is dinner with my mother. If her eyes drift wordlessly to the top of my head, I go running back into the arms of ammonium lauryl sulfate. This recipe is the first to pass the mom test.

Cosmetic clay is one thirsty SOB. It absorbs grime and oil like crazy, which is why it makes an incredible acne spot treatment. For your skin, its aggression means you have to use it sparingly. But if you, like me, are operating a Crisco factory out of your hair follicles, it’s a godsend. Any cosmetic clay will work here. I use French green clay because it’s a heavy lifter and it’s readily available at my neighborhood hippie grocery. If you have less intense oil-fighting needs and the patience for mail delivery, there are many gentler varieties available online. Along with a combination of tea tree oil and green tea—which turns out to be effective in treating inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis and dandruff—this formula keeps my scalp-monster nice and quiet.

Natural health and beauty suppliers sell unscented shampoo bases that would probably work fine in this recipe, but I prefer castile soap because it’s gentle and has a nice lather. I keep a big bottle of Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile on hand at all times. I use it in body wash, cleaning products—I’ve even done my laundry with it in a pinch. I prefer the unscented baby-mild formula, but their ubiquitous peppermint or any other variety will do. Of course, you can get really serious and try making castile soap yourself. I’ve never bothered because lye makes me nervous and I don’t see the point when Dr. B’s provides a solid product and some fascinating reading material.

Since this is a clay-based mixture, storing it in plastic or metal is not recommended. The resulting chemical reactions seem to be a greater concern when it’s being hydrated for consumption than it is for topical application like this one. To be safe, I keep mine in dark, air-tight glass. And thank goodness for that, because the looks I get carrying my Fleischmann’s yeast jar to the shower at my gym are a thing to cherish.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Selenium Sulfide

1 tablespoon green clay
1 tablespoon liquid castile soap
2 teaspoons strongly brewed green tea
10 drops tea tree oil

Combine everything and stir until it's smooth and has a green, muddy consistency. Like that time you started to borrow your brother’s Selsun Blue, but it was so gross and stinky that you couldn’t bring yourself to use it. It should be like that. Next, get over it and wash your damn hair.

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