I Tried Making My Own Shampoo — & This Is What Happened

Girls with natural hair and shampoo have a complicated relationship. Eventually, we all have to wash our hair, no matter how much we avoid it — and boy do I avoid it. Despite this, many store-bought products are made with harsh and hard-to-pronounce chemicals that can strip our hair texture, leaving it damaged and begging for a restorative mask.

To sprinkle some salt on an already-open wound, shampooing gets even more difficult when you’re a natural girl wearing a weave. Though extensions are typically made from human hair, they require a different care routine to compensate for the lack of an attached human head. In my quest to grow and master my natural hair, I am meticulous about the products that come in contact with these curls. Though I’ve been able to settle on conditioners and oils, shampoo continued to evade me — until I stumbled upon a DIY recipe posted by natural hair vlogger Naptural85. Her formula was simple: African black soap, sweet almond and tree tree oil, all combined in water for a gentle, natural cleanse.

African black soap is an affordable cleanser that works ridiculously well. It’s packed with antioxidants as well as vitamin A and E, so it is said to treats a series of skin problems, from eczema to uneven skin texture. In other words, a physical embodiment of black magic. Tea tree oil is a tried and true antiseptic that cleanses and is said to promotes hair growth, while almond oil adds moisture and shine. Naturally, I was ready to take this for a spin.

The instructions called for a cheese grater, which I didn't have, so I was forced to peel my bar of soap like a potato...

Mind you, all of these products are available for a low cost at any beauty supply store or natural food mart. I am not blessed with a local shop, so instead, I headed over to a small boutique that sells healing crystals and incense. You know, one of those stores you can’t forget, but with a name you can never remember. I collected my supplies for a little under $20.

On arriving home, I got to work. The instructions called for a cheese grater, which I didn't have, so I was forced to peel my bar of soap like a potato using a kitchen knife. It was not an entire disaster — and an alternative I can readily recommend if you, also, do not have a grater. Afterward, I took advantage at the recipe’s lack of precise measurements, eyeballing the mixture and adding copious amounts of sweet almond oil because, well, it smells like heaven.
Finally, I combined the ingredients in warm water and stirred until the soap dissolved, then poured it into a spray bottle to begin shampooing. Since I don’t use much product on my extensions, I focused primarily on the scalp by lifting each weft of hair and spraying the mixture directly at the roots. I struggled with the application process at first — it dripped everywhere, including into my eyes. (Be careful out there, people!) After massaging the shampoo into my scalp I immediately felt it lifting away buildup. The sweet smell from the almond oil was pleasant and the tea tree left my scalp with that awesome tingling feeling that lets you know that shit is working!

The black magic shampoo (that’s what I’m calling it now) washed out with ease and didn’t leave any residue on my hair. This formula checks of off several boxes from my list of shampoo grievances. It’s an easily-customizable recipe for preference and needs, it's cheap, and natural! I’ll definitely be using this again — but this time I'll be picking up a cheese grater, too.

Shea Moisture African Black Soap, $5, available at Target; Hollywood Beauty Tea Tree Oil, $4, available at Walgreens; Now Foods Sweet Almond Oil, $4, available at Vitamin Shoppe.

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