High-Performance Herbal Shampoo

Superfood for hair – that’s how I would describe this shampoo. While this is not a 2-in-1 product, this recipe certainly has extra conditioning power than my Mint & Rosemary shampoo. Budding herbalists will love that it contains a larger portion of botanical actives. Aloe and butterfly pea flowers are the star herbal ingredients, while lemongrass, peppermint and rosemary make a fragrant appearance. Plus, a pop of purple keeps things fun. 💜

Recipe Variations & Substitutions


You don’t have to make the infusion and glycerite extracts. You can also just use plain aloe liquid instead of the infusion, and you can use plain vegetable glycerine instead of the butterfly pea glycerite. It will certainly save you time, but your shampoo will be white in colour and you’ll miss out on the benefits of butterfly pea flowers for hair care.


I really don’t recommend substituting the surfactants in this recipe. Nevertheless, if you must substitute then the best 1:1 replacement for SCI will be Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSa). For the decyl glucoside, the best 1:1 substitute is coco glucoside . I wouldn’t use lauryl glucoside in this recipe, because the shampoo might be too thick. You can experiment and use any blend of surfactants to find what works for you, but obviously it will be a completely different product to my recipe.

Aloe liquid:

If you’d like to be more cost-effective, then you can replace the aloe liquid with plain distilled water or deionised water. You can also substitute with any other botanical hydrosol or floral water instead (like rose water).

Step 6: Straining the infusion with coffee filter paper.

Active ingredients:

You can replace the hydrolysed wheat protein with any other hydrolysed protein (eg. rice, quinoa, keratin protein etc.). You can replace the d-panthenol gel with dl-panthenol powder, which is easier to work with, but synthetically produced. You could substitute the Lamesoft PO65 with pure Glyceryl Oleate or OliveM 300. You can use any essential oil blend. You could also exclude any of these active ingredients and replace with more aloe liquid / water instead.

Cationic Guar gum:

You can use another thickener, like xanthan, guar gum or carrageenan, but I would only use half the amount called for in the recipe. However, you will lose some of the conditioning properties of this shampoo when you exclude the cationic ingredient. You could make up for it by using another cationic ingredient like cationic wheat protein. Also bear in mind that each thickener has different properties in terms of how much it will thicken the product (more or less than my recipe) and what it will bring to the product texture, clarity and scent.

Geogard Ultra (Preservative):

You can use any water-soluble, broad spectrum preservative which is compatible in an acidic pH range. Just remember to adjust my recipe according to the manufacturer’s instructions and usage rates, and to test and correct the pH accordingly.

Cost & Shelf Life

Cost price: R224 per 200g for my exact recipe without substitutions. If the only change you make is to substitute distilled water for the aloe liquid, the cost of this recipe plummets to R87 per 200g. (Costs accurate at time of writing in 2023 & based on retail prices)

If you still want the benefits of aloe, it’s cheaper to buy pure aloe juice and strain out the pulp with filter paper, or add concentrated aloe extract powder to distilled water. It’s also cheaper to buy dried butterfly pea flowers than the powder.

Lasted me about:
2 months in a household of two people, with each of us using about a tablespoon of shampoo per week.
Estimated shelf life: 3 months if stored in a sterilised container, and out of direct sunlight.


  • Cost of using aloe more than doubles the price of this shampoo. To save money, rather use distilled water instead.
  • 99.5% natural: In order for guar gum to have a cationic charge, a synthetic element is required. Cationic guar gum is allowed by ECOCERT (under 2%) for natural products , but the ingredient itself is only partly natural. Cationic guar gum is considered a “quat”. You decide.
  • Product build-up: The cationic guar gum can cause product build-up, since it clings to your hair in order to condition it. Don’t dye your hair after using this shampoo, because the dye may wash-out. Rather use a clarifying shampoo instead.

Cherry on Top

  • It’s purple 💜
  • Sulfate Free
  • Silicone Free
  • Curly Girl approved ingredients
  • Multipurpose: This doubles-up as a conditioning body/hand wash.
  • Vegan Friendly (but always check the source of ingredients with your supplier)
  • Contains no cocamidopropyl betaine: which is a common ingredient that many people have an allergy / irritation to (including myself).


  • Aloe: contains vitamins (A, C, E, B12) which promote healthy hair growth and help repair your hair from sun damage. Aloe’s anti-inflammatory properties help to treat dandruff and itchy scalp. The fatty acids in aloe also moisturise the scalp and condition the hair. (buy here)
  • Butterfly Pea Flower: is high in antioxidants including ternatin anthocyanins which are responsible for the vibrant colour of this shampoo, and which promote overall skin and hair health. It also has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. One study suggests it may be more effective at promoting hair growth and reducing hair fall than minoxidill. (buy here)
  • Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate: or SCI is a mild, natural surfactant derived from coconuts. It is the primary cleanser in this recipe which provides dense and stable foam without stripping the hair. It is also responsible for the opaque colour and thickness of the shampoo. (buy here)
  • Decyl glucoside: is a natural surfactant that is derived from plant sources. Depending on the supplier, it can be derived from corn, coconut or palm oil. This non-ionic surfactant supports the SCI in the recipe and boosts lather (buy here).
  • Lamesoft PO65: is composed of glyceryl oleate and coco glucoside. Glyceryl oleate is a natural skin and hair conditioning agent that is made by reacting glycerin and oleic acid (commonly found in olive oil). Glyceryl oleate prevents hair from being stripped dry after washing. Coco glucoside is a natural surfactant similar to decyl glucoside. (buy here)
  • Vegetable glycerine: is a natural humectant that will help the hair retain some moisture, thereby making it more manageable after being cleansed. It is also necessary to hydrate the gum. (buy here)
  • Hydrolysed wheat protein: is also known as phytokeratin. Protein gives your strands their strength, flexibility and elasticity since hair is primarily made of protein. (buy here)
  • D-Panthenol Gel: is the naturally derived version of pro-vitamin B5. It conditions and improves hair shine, softness and strength. It restores the lustre of dry, damaged and frizzy hair. As an anti-inflammatory, it also helps to condition the scalp and treat dry and itchy scalp. Fun fact: Pro-vitamin B5 is the same key ingredient in Pantene Pro-V shampoo, as it’s name suggests. (buy here)
  • Cationic guar gum: is a positively charged thickener that leaves a protective film on the surface of skin and hair in order to condition it. It is sourced from the seeds of the cluster bean, and then it’s processed further and reacted with chemicals to make it cationic. It is also known as Guar Hydroxypropyl Trimonium Chloride (buy here).
  • Peppermint EO: Relieves the scalp of irritation, stimulates hair growth and helps control excess oil. (buy here)
  • Lemongrass EO: has been researched and shown to be effective against malassezia, the fungus attributed to some dandruff cases, and as surpassing the effectiveness of other essential oils in some studies. (buy here)
  • Rosemary EO: stimulates blood supply to the hair follicles, which promotes healthy hair growth. It helps eliminate microbial activity which is often a cause of hair problems. Its anti-fungal properties help treat/prevent dandruff. (buy here)
  • Geogard Ultra: is a broad-spectrum preservative which is approved for use in certified organic products. It is approved by COSMOS/ECOCERT, NATRUE and SOIL association. It is composed of sodium benzoate and gluconolactone. (buy here)

Recommended Retail Option

If you’d rather buy a ready-made shampoo, then Hey Gorgeous Aloe & Olive Shampoo is the closest retail equivalent to my formula (but it’s also missing a lot). This is a highly-rated shampoo by customers. Their shampoo also contains aloe, pro-vitamin B5 and botanical infusions like my recipe. It is also one of very few natural shampoos on the market that don’t contain cocamidopropyl betaine.

Safety Precaution

Please be very careful not to inhale SCI or any other solid surfactant! Even when you’re measuring SCI flakes, tiny particles always become airborne that will irritate your lungs. Always wear a well-fitted mask. I even hold my breath while measuring SCI, and then step outside to breathe while the SCI settles down again. Leave your mask on until the SCI has been melted down into a liquid/ paste form.

Have you made this herbal shampoo – how did it go? Please share your feedback in the comments section below.

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.

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