This page will be added to when I find or invent more recipes. If you have allergies to preservatives, nuts, seeds, fragrances or anything else in shampoos, conditioners and body washes, you're left with few choices and many of the "hypoallergenic" products are anything but - not to mention they cost a lot more and seem to be sold in smaller bottles. These recipes are great to have in your anti-allergy "toolbox" and, of course, lead to healthy, lustrous hair and skin.
None of these recipes replace the advice of a doctor and if you have severe allergies, you should check with a doctor first. You may wish to "patch test" any ingredients by placing a smear of the finished product in the inside of the elbow or behind an ear and leaving it in place for 24-48 hours. Better safe than sorry.
First off, let's re-think the purpose of soap and shampoo, cleansers and detergents. Skin and hair evolved without any of these. Dermatologists tell us to avoid soap, avoid hot water and so on. Why? Because skin needs it's protective "acid mantle" created by sebum, bacteria (yep) and other factors. This keeps the pH at a place in which nasty infections are kept in check, and forms a protective barrier for skin against wind, sun, water and whatever else it's up against. If you wash this off daily, your skin is left to hurry up and repair itself before the next cleaning. If you use hot water, the sebum rinses off more easily and the skin is left both unprotected and irritated by the heat of the water. In some sensitive people, heat-dialated blood vessels release histamine which is itchy. This aggravates everything from acne to rosacea to ezcema. Some people have sensitivities to detergents and other ingredients in shampoos and "anti-dandruff shampoos" (this is more common than you might think) and don't even realize it.
Daily washing with detergents for hair causes it to swell, creating the potential for dehydration and loss of protein. It strips hair of the sebum that traveled down the hair shaft, leaving it unprotected.
Consider your skin and hair as "delicates" and you'll find them becoming radiantly healthy.
Just give me some recipes already! Yes, we want to be clean, but you can get clean without detergent. Most of us can just rinse most of our bodies (save the detergents for the smelly areas), most of the time. Some of us have oily scalps (which is made worse by too much washing and with harsh detergents) and we don't want greasy hair. So what can you use when you can't use a lot of things?
Hair wash recipes:
Aloe hair wash: In a cup or bottle with a cap, whisk or shake 2 tablespoons of aloe vera gel (the edible kind) with 1 teaspoon of vegetable glycerin. (Those with nut/seed allergies be wary, glycerin is made from nut and seed oils). Apply this mixture to the scalp and massage the scalp (under the hair) gently in small circles (don't scrub vigorously!). Comb the mixture through the length of your hair and gently squeeze the hair to distribute. Rinse well.
* Aloe has enzymes, acids, amino acids, saponins (saponin=soapy) and anti-inflammatory compounds which cleanse gently and moisturize the hair and scalp. Some aloe preparations are quite acidic. If you use this recipe often, buy some pH test strips at your local drugstore or pet store and make sure the pH of your mixture is between 4.5 and 6. Mildly acidic preparations are suitable for skin and scalp, but if it stings, dilute with half water.
* Glycerin can cause frizz for some people, but it helps moisturize and detangle. Leave it out if you don't like the results.
Yucca hair wash: Southwestern Native Americans used yucca root to wash their hair. This adds gloss and a little "weight" to the hair. It cleanses gently without stripping.
Use about 2 teaspoons yucca root powder (you can buy capsules and open them). Place this in a square of old t-shirt and tie it up well with a rubber band or string. Warm about 1 1/2 to 2 cups water and pour into a large bowl. Dunk the yucca root bag and swish and stir it around vigorously until the water is foamy. Set the bag aside and use this foamy water for a shampoo, using half for the scalp, then the other half for scalp and hair. Rinse well.
You can add oils or glycerin to the water as you mix, you will wash your hair with half or less of this mixture and refrigerating the rest.
* Yucca root contains saponins (saponin=soapy) which foam and trap oils and dirt like a very gentle detergent.
Clay hair and body wash: Get ready to rinse the shower well! You need some good-quality clay. Clay is a super-gentle exfoliant, grabs dirt and excess oils for clean skin and hair. White cosmetic clay is gentle, so is bentonite clay. Green, red and yellow clays can be more astringent (skin-drying). Start with about a tablespoon clay (the amount will be up to you, how much hair you have, and whether you want a bodywash too). In a bowl, slowly mix in water (or herbal tea if you like, or some oil) until the clay is a thin, smooth mixture. The thinner it is, the easier to spread. Too watery will be difficult to apply. Dip your fingertips in the clay mixture and apply to scalp (go under the hair). Massage gently. Add more clay and work (with fingers) through the length of hair and squeeze gently. Rinse and rinse again.
For a bodywash, use circular motions to spread the clay on your skin (out of the shower spray), then rinse well. Rinse the shower too or you'll be scrubbing it later on.
I find this to be a little drying (scalp feels tight afterwards) but including some oil or glycerin or honey in the mixture might be good for dry scalps or scalps in dry climates. Clay can also be added to a gel like my flax-free hair gel recipe or humectant curl-boosting jelly recipe for easier application (see the recipes tab for links to those recipes).
Herbal Tea hair washes: Good herbs for hair washes are lemongrass, nettle, rosemary (great shine), chamomile (shine and golden highlights), thyme and sage (mild antibacterial/antifungal), yarrow (astringent, good for oily scalp), calendula (soothing), bay leaf, lavender, horsetail, hops, even peppermint. If you have allergies, some of these herbs may cause itching, so use with caution. Herbs are full of all the nutrients in the plants and can help gently cleanse hair, and add body. Most of the vitamins and minerals will not be absorbed by your hair or skin, but the macronutrients - sugars and some of the proteins, will.
Use 2-3 teaspoons dried herbs in 1 cup boiling water. Allow the "tea" to steep for at least 15 minutes, strain the herbs out and cool before using. Use as a scalp and hair cleanser or a final rinse.
These give cleaner hair than you might expect, smell nice and add shine.
My picks for oily scalp: Clay wash (unless your hair is very fine and too easily weighed down), yarrow herbal wash, peppermint or lavender herbal wash, or sage and thyme herbal wash, yucca root hair wash.
Dry scalp washes: Aloe vera wash, lemongrass or calendula herbal wash.
Scalp and skin scrub: Skin needs exfoliating. Even if you have a skin condition. Atopic dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, ezcema - all cause an increase in skin turnover, meaning your irritated skin is producing and shedding skin cells faster than it otherwise would. All that dead skin accumulating with sebum is a perfect home for fungi and bacteria to grow more than you'd like and this adds to the itchy situation. The key to exfoliating sensitive skin is to know how gentle to be. Clay is the gentlest exfoliator because the particles are 1-5 microns in diameter.
Sugar scrub: Mix equal parts oil and white or brown sugar (it should be a little on the oily side) in a bowl. Olive oil is good, as is avocado oil, grapeseed oil, safflower oil, even canola oil. If you have nut or seed allergies, you might use mineral oil, olive oil, avocado oil, evening primrose oil, or jojoba oil.
Stand in the shower or over a towel! For your scalp, apply the scrub to the dry scalp in small sections, massage very, very gently. Leave this on for 10 to 20 minutes or so (wrap a towel around your head so you don't drop oily sugar blobs on the rug), then shampoo out.
For your body, apply liberally, massage in big circles, then shower.
If you like, you can add 5-10 drops of tea tree oil for it's mild antifungal and antibacterial effect (for the scalp), but do a patch test with diluted tea tree oil on your inner elbow or behind an ear a day in advance to make sure you are not allergic or sensitive to this oil.
This scrub can transform flaky, scaly, itchy, ashy skin into smooth, supple skin. If you experience redness or sore skin, you probably scrubbed too hard or used something too abrasive for your skin.