Step 1: Make your own herbal hair care products. Step 2: Perfect your slow-motion hair flip.
So, there might have been a period of time in college when, in a fit of asceticism, I washed my hair with nothing but a bar of Dr. Bronner’s soap and rinsed with a capful of plain white vinegar. My friend had advised me that it ought to be a bar of soap, not liquid, because bars come wrapped only in paper — no evil plastic involved. While this was noble, sort of, the method was rather harsh, and I can’t say it had salon-worthy results. I wasn’t exactly a dirty hippie, but neither did I seem destined to be a hippie washed only in the All one! All one! suds of the good “doctor” followed by a pickling rinse. (If you’ve ever been curious about the eccentric text on the packaging of Dr. Bronner’s products, I recommend the documentary Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap Box. TO UNITE ALL MANKIND FREE! It’s no joke.)
As it turns out, I wasn’t really a hippie at all. I eventually went back to whatever mostly natural shampoo and conditioner I could find in the supermarket aisle.
And that was the end of my hair product experimentation until, over a decade later, I found myself at Storey with a copy of Herbs for Natural Beauty by Rosemary Gladstar in my hands. I decided to try out her Make-It-Yourself Herbal Shampoo and her Vinegar Hair Rinse. For the shampoo I turned to Dr. Bronner’s again for liquid castile soap, but Rosemary’s recipe waters it down and adds an herbal blend, along with jojoba and essential oil.
Her vinegar rinse takes a much milder approach as well, with herb-infused apple cider vinegar (sweeter and less harsh than white vinegar), also mixed with water and a few drops of essential oils. It being winter, I lacked fresh herbs but used what dry herbs I had: sage from my own garden, rosemary, and lavender buds. Lacking also a “warm spot” in which to leave the vinegar and herbs (it being winter, still, and the new wood stove not yet installed), I simmered the dry herbs and vinegar for a while to help the process along.
I stored my homemade shampoo and conditioner in the empty, washed-out bottles of the last set I bought at the store. So far, this gentler, lightly herb-scented shower experience is way better than my primitive bar soap and stinging vinegar routine, and it strips less of the natural oils from my hair than commercial products. I find the apple cider vinegar treatment particularly pleasant and sweet-smelling, and it leaves my hair soft and my scalp soothed. This feels more like indulgence than asceticism, and that’s just fine with me.
Happy herbal indulgence!
Make-It-Yourself Herbal Shampoo
- 1 ounce herb blend of choice (I used lavender, sage, and rosemary, and Rosemary offers several suggestions in the book.)
- 8 ounces water
- 3–4 ounces liquid castile soap
- ¼ teaspoon jojoba oil (or rosemary essential oil for oily hair)
- 20–30 drops essential oil of choice (I used sage and lavender)
- Combine the herbs with the water in a pan over low heat, and bring to a low simmer. Simmer for 15–20 minutes, then strain and let cool.
- Slowly add the castile soap to the herb infusion, then mix in the jojoba oil and essential oils. Store in a plastic container with a flip-top lid in the shower or bath. Shake well before using.
Vinegar Hair Rinse
- herb blend of choice
- apple cider or wine vinegar
- a few drops of essential oil of choice
- Fill a quart jar halfway with your herbal blend. Add enough vinegar to completely cover the herbs by 3–4 inches. Cap tightly. Place the jar in a warm spot and let sit for 3–4 weeks, shaking daily.
- Strain out the herbs, using a large strainer lined with a double layer of cheesecloth. Add the essential oils. For use with oily hair, dilute 1 part vinegar with 4 parts water. For dry hair, dilute 1 part vinegar with 6 parts water. You’ll soon discover what dilution is good for your hair. Store the vinegar rinse in a plastic bottle in the bathtub or shower.
- To use, after shampooing and rinsing, pour the vinegar rinse slowly through your hair, massaging it into your scalp. Rinse with warm water and, if you can stand it, a final rinse with cold water!
As for that last instruction, I’m afraid I couldn’t stand it, not this time of year. (See previous references to “winter.”) You, however, may be stronger than I, or live in a balmier clime, like New Jersey.