Natural Soap-based Shampoo

Soap isn’t an ideal shampoo. Yet, it does work for some people – particularly those with short, boy-cut hair. The appeal of a soap-based shampoo is that it’s incredibly easy to make, and it contains purely natural ingredients that most people understand. Hence, many newbie DIYers start here, and so did I. This is a recipe that I started with back in 2015. It no longer serves me now that I understand natural surfactants, but perhaps it will work for you.

Recipe Variations and Substitutions

Liquid soap:

The best natural soap to buy or make is a liquid soap made from coconut oil. It is the best cleanser, and has the best lather. Here is my recipe for a coconut oil liquid soap. Alternatively, you can use any natural liquid soap like Dr. Bronner’s castile liquid soap which is made from a mixture of oils, or pure castile soap which is made from olive oil, but it doesn’t lather as well.

Vegetable Glycerine:

Non-vegans can substitute the vegetable glycerine for standard glycerine or raw honey. However, if you use raw honey, the shelf life will be shortened to about 2-4 weeks when the honey starts to ferment.

Fractionated Coconut (MCT) oil:

You can use any liquid carrier oil. I have also used jojoba oil successfully. I prefer MCT oil, because it is a light, dry oil which won’t cause your hair to feel oily. You cannot use normal coconut oil which is solid at room temperature. It will solidify in your shampoo. Rather substitute with any other oil that is liquid at room temperature.

Essential oils:

I’ve included three essential oils in this recipe, all of which are beneficial for the hair and scalp. However, if your budget limits the number of essential oils you can afford, then I recommend the best oil to buy for this purpose would be Rosemary. Just increase the quantity to 35 drops if this is the only essential oil you will be using.

Cost & Shelf Life

Cost price: R25 for 100g. (Costs accurate at time of writing)
Lasted me about:
1 month (using once a week)
Estimated shelf life: 3 months


  • Soap cannot be pH balanced for the hair/scalp. Try my pH balanced shampoo recipe instead.
  • Experimental – soap shampoos do not suit every hair type. You’ve just got to give it a try to see for yourself.
  • It’s a thin liquid, and not a thick gel. So apply it directly to your scalp to avoid waste.

Cherry on Top

  • It uses purely natural, everyday ingredients that are easy to find.
  • This product doubles up as a body wash.

Ingredient Benefits

  • Vegetable glycerine: Strengthens hair follicles by retaining moisture and conditioning the hair (buy here).
  • Natural liquid soap: Biodegradable soap made from plant oils. The best natural soap is a liquid soap made from coconut oil. It is the best cleanser, and has the best lather. Here is my recipe for the coconut oil liquid soap that I use. (buy liquid soap here)
  • Fractionated coconut oil (MCT): Moisturises and strengthens hair fibers from the inside. Adds shine, elasticity & softness without the greasiness. (buy here).
  • Rosemary essential oil: Stimulates hair follicles, which helps hair grow stronger. Helps prevent microbial activity, dandruff and slows down premature hair loss and graying (buy here).
  • Lemongrass essential oil: Helps treat dandruff by preventing the growth of the dandruff-causing fungus (buy here).
  • Peppermint essential oil: Relieves the scalp of irritation and itchiness and stimulates hair growth by increasing blood circulation (buy here).

Not sure where to find these, or other ingredients? My shopping guide may help you. Are you new to essential oils? Please read how to use them safely.

Recommended Retail Option

If DIY isn’t your thing, then here’s my personal recommendation that I have tried and approved. It is also a soap-based shampoo. If you’re looking for pH-balanced natural shampoos then rather refer to my recommendations for those instead.

Hemporium’s Hemp Shampoo is the best soap-based option that I’ve tried. This product also has decent reviews from people with different hair types. Their shampoo base uses a liquid soap made from coconut oil, and to that they’ve added a bunch of nourishing plant oils and herbal extracts. However, it is watery, so it’s best to pour it straight onto your scalp and not into your hand first – you’ll just waste. This shampoo doesn’t lather as well as traditional shampoo, but the product is working, and using about 5-8 “pumps” for my long hair does the trick even if I don’t feel the bubbly action. The downside to this product is that it seems to finish quicker than other shampoos. (Buy Here)

Does this natural soap-based shampoo work for your hair type? Please share in the comments section below.



6 thoughts on “Natural Soap-based Shampoo”

  1. My preference is the GKhair anti-dandruff shampoo because it is totally sulfate free and very good at keeping the hair dandruff at bay. Truly a game changer. I can say that it is a very good fit for the hair dandruff. I’d highly recommend this very shampoo to say good bye to the dandruff forever and ever . 🙂 <3

    • Thanks for your feedback Mary. If GK Hair Shampoo works for you, that’s great. Unfortunately, I am put off by the unnatural ingredients, some of which are toxic. Here’s the list of ingredients:

      Pyrithione Zinc (active ingredient), Aqua, Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Acrylates Copolymer, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Cocamide MEA, Cocamidopropylamine Oxide, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Hydroxide, Polyquaternium-7, Fragrance, Panthenol, Disodium EDTA, Citric Acid, Methylisothiazolinone, Benzyl Salycilate, Coumarin, Eugenol, Gamma Methyl Ionone, Geraniol, Hexyl Cinnamic Aldehyde, Linalool, FD&C Blue #1.

      Many shampoos that claim to be sulfate free use Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate (AOS) as the main cleanser. AOS has been classified as having traces of Benzene, a carcinogen or reproductive toxin and also is created using petrochemicals. It also is not readily biodegradable.

      There are only three natural ingredients in this shampoo – aqua, citric acid and coumarin – which is why I personally wouldn’t purchase it. Generally, if I can’t read, pronounce or understand exactly what the ingredients are – I avoid it.

  2. Hi.
    I have most of the ingredients listed, but not rosemary eo (and don’t have access to any for a few months), but it’s obviously a key ingredient.
    Any suggestions as to what I could do?

    BTW… I’ve just discovered your blog and absolutely love! Thanks a million for all your efforts (and logical presentation!) x

    • Hi. Thank you for your comment, and for your encouraging compliment. I’m happy that my logical presentation is noticed AND appreciated 🙂 Thank you! To answer your question, rosemary is not essential. Yes, it is a great essential oil for hair care, but it is not necessary. Do you have other EOs on hand? Tea tree, lavender, peppermint, lemon, sandalwood, carrot will all work well for dry hair & scalp. But even if you exclude essential oils completely, that is fine. They just add benefits and fragrance, but the raw honey will provide enough nourishment. Are you using this shampoo specifically for dandruff – or just general use? If dandruff, then adding a teaspoon of aloe vera gel will also provide extra nourishment and relief to a dry scalp. I hope that helps.

    • Hello Janel,

      Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately, cinnamon spice won’t blend well in this recipe. But you don’t need to use cinnamon oil. You can use another essential oil that is good for your hair and scalp. Rosemary is excellent and is my first choice, but peppermint, tea tree and lavender are also great essential oils for hair.



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