Freedom From Shampoo: How And Why

shampoo soap

Post by Tara Patey

Let’s talk about shampoo.  I haven’t used commercial shampoo in almost a year. Instead I wash my hair with shampoo soap. During this time, I have managed to convert my husband and mother to using a good bar of handmade soap in place of their traditional shampoo.  Trust me, no meager feat.

Why give up regular shampoo and conditioner and switch to shampoo soap? I’ll tell you my reasons.


Health and Better Hair

If you take a look at the ingredients label of any shampoo found at your local drugstore or grocery store, it would quickly become apparent why you would be interested in trying an alternative.   For example, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and its sister chemical sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), found in 90% of shampoos and toothpastes, are cheap detergents that provide lots of bubbles.   However, SLS is also used to degrease car engines and in the same way that it dissolves engine grease, it strips away the natural oils of your skin and scalp.  It also denatures skin proteins, causing irritation and allowing contaminants to gain access to the lower, more sensitive layers of skin.   Once absorbed in to the body through skin application, SLS mimics the activity of the hormone estrogen, perhaps playing a role in various health problems including PMS, decreased male fertility and an increase in the incidence of female cancers.

So we now have the reasons why we would be interested in changing to a more environmentally-friendly, less-potentially toxic method of washing our hair.   Next let’s look at the how.


How to Use Shampoo Soap

The “how” is pretty straightforward – I simply stopped using commercial shampoo and began using a good bar of handmade soap to wash my hair.

First a little word about the soap: There are lots of handmade all natural soaps available that are formulated specially for use as shampoo.  I make one myself.  Although my Rosemary Mint shampoo soap is my favourite to use, I have had great success with whatever soap happens to be in the shower at the moment.

I make sure my hair is really, really wet first while working up a good lather with the soap using my hands.  Then I gently rub the soap over my hair, starting with the crown and working my way down the ends.  Once I have a good lather, I put the soap aside and simply massage my scalp, working the soap over all my hair.  Rinse thoroughly.  Done.  Squeaky clean hair.

Wait.  I already know what you are thinking.  “Done?  How can she be done?  What about conditioner?  She must use conditioner.”

Although I use a commercial conditioner occasionally, my favourite après-shampoo rinse is an apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinse.  I mix one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar into approximately 1 litre of warm water and then pour it over my hair.  (Warning:  Avoid eyes.  It will sting.)  Then rinse.  Without the ACV rinse, my long hair is one massive tangle.  It may be clean but there is no way I am getting a comb through it.   ACV rinse closes the cuticles scales that cover and protect the hair shaft, leaving hair smooth, shiny and easy to manage.  It also helps to balance the pH of your hair and removes build up from styling products.

Before my experiments with shampoo soap, I read that there is often an adjustment period of several weeks as your hair adjusts to the natural soap and removed the build up left behind from commercial shampoos and styling products.  Based on my experience and what I’ve heard from others, I think the adjustment period is dependent on hair type.  I have long, very thick hair and I don’t use any styling products.  After a couple of days of using shampoo soap, it was like I had never used anything else.  My mother has much shorter, finer hair and experienced no adjustment period.  She uses some styling products but finds she does not need to use any conditioner whatsoever.   The key to success seems to be giving yourself time to experiment to find what works best with your hair.

Another benefit to making the switch to a shampoo soap-  Less clutter in the shower as you reduce the number of plastic bottles you use.  Also, I love the fact that when we go camping or on holidays, one bar of soap is often all that we need to pack.  The less that I need to remember, the more likely I am to not forget anything.


Shampoo Bar Giveaway

To encourage you to give up commercial shampoo and conditioner for good I am giving away one of my homemade Rosemary Mint Soap shampoo bars, pictured above.

If you have never used a shampoo soap before, now is the time to give it a try with Rosemary Mint. Rosemary Mint is made with Steam Whistle lager, a local Ontario beer. Beer provides extra lather to the soap without a beer scent. Rosemary essential oil stimulates hair follicles, resulting in stronger and longer hair. Rosemary also nourishes the scalp and removes dandruff.

Ingredients: coconut oil, olive oil, castor oil, sunflower oil, Steam Whistle beer, lye, rosemary and peppermint essential oils.

Each batch of soap is made by hand, my hand, using the traditional cold process method of soap making. I do not use any chemical preservatives, harsh detergents or sulfates. The colours of my soaps are due to the natural ingredients I have used rather than synthetic colourings. I scent my soaps only with natural essential oils. I do not use synthetic fragrance oils.

My handmade soaps are biodegradable. Each bar of soap is hand cut and weighs between 120-140 grams (4.5 – 5 ounces).

To enter please answer the following question in the comments below-

How to you avoid chemicals in your health and beauty products?

UPDATED The contest is closed. Thank you for playing. The winner will be announced on Friday May 4th. The contest is open to both Canadian and US citizens.

Kristin added:  It would be super nice if after you left your comment you clicked over to Tara’s On A Branch Facebook page and gave it a like. Please and thank you.

Tara Patey is a mother, a reader, a putterer and a soap maker.  She finds inspiration from the daily world around her:  favourite books, music lyrics, a potted rosemary plant.  She finds support from her family and friends: her sons who ask why her soap room is so messy, her husband who doesn’t want it known publicly that he likes using the hand knit soap sack, her friends who are willing product testers and lab rats.  She blogs about it all at Resting on a Branch.


  1. I have been thinking about dumping the shampoo for ages. Just today I noticed my bottle is getting low and I was debating on not buying a new one. But I didn’t know about shampoo soap. I would love to try that. I think my family would be more receptive to shampoo soap than to Baking soda wash.

    Oh and mostly for the kids I use Burts Bees or Nature Clean shampoo products. I never managed to make the transition for myself though.

  2. Leslie says:

    You had me at Rosemary mint and nailed it with Steam Whistle lager!
    With my recent addiction to Pinterest I have been toying with the idea of trying to make my own soap. But I’m hesitant to make the leap (for some unknown reason).
    So, how do I avoid chemicals in my health and beauty products? I’m not so sure that I score a very good grade on that one. I don’t use a lot of different products but I really don’t know what goes into what I do use. I think I am really going to have take a look at what I’m using and see where I can make healthier swaps.

  3. Lee Ann says:

    My husband teases that if a bottle of shampoo has a picture of a leaf on it, it means it must be all-natural. For myself, though, I steer clear of shampoo containing parables, although I’m not drawn to any particular brand. I’ve been on a quest to find shampoo that smells nice but isn’t overpowering. Never heard of an apple cider vinegar rinse but I’ll give it a try. And I’d love to try the soap!!!

  4. Connee Pines says:

    Avoiding chemicals in my home has been a goal for over a year now…avoiding chemicals in my health and beauty products, not so much. I have been interested in making my own bar soap but cannot find lye in my area. I love the idea of a shampoo bar! At present the only thing I do for chemical free beauty products is a sesame oil cleanser/moisturizer that I make.

  5. Jessica Anne says:

    I try to buy paraben and sulfate free products as much as I can. The biggest change I’ve made is using make-up made from plant pigments and plant ingredients that I recognize. My skin loves it. Great giveaway!

  6. I am just now getting into a more natural, healthy way of life after my husband just had two 90% blockages and stents placed in his heart. I am happy to find your site and had never thought about shampoo, but you are right!!!! My hair as I have aged has gotten so dry and frizzy. I think the shampoo greatly contributes to this! Thank you for considering giving me a bar of your shampoo soap!

  7. LOVE LOVE LOVE your soaps!
    Never knew about the ACV rinse!

  8. Denise Malbrough says:

    We have been easing into freeing ourselves from chemicals in our house. We now make our own laundry detergent (love it!) and have been using vinegar for fabric softener and cleaning. I have been wanting to make our own soap for a while now, but just haven’t got it together yet :o/ I would love to win this shampoo soap! Thank you for the chance!

  9. I am intrigued! I will only buy natural, organic commercial shampoos and conditioners, but these can get expensive. I’ve been looking for an alternative. Thanks!

  10. Cindy Titford says:

    Love the post. I am slowly educating myself and need to start making the change. Maybe this is the summer to statt

  11. Heather says:

    I don’t use very many to start with and have been trying some natural face scubs but I would really like to simplify the shampoo bottle situation in my shower!

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