Do you remember a couple weeks ago in my Curly Hair Plastic Free July post when I said you could make your own DIY hair products? Well, that’s exactly what I’m doing today! I’m analyzing the ingredients in and testing Naptural85’s DIY African Black Soap shampoo.
Introduction to Ingredients
If you follow natural hair YouTuber Naptural85 (Whitney), you might remember her DIY Homemade Natural Shampoo With African Black Soap recipe video from a few years ago. In it, she combines African black soap with vegetable glycerin and essential oils to create a super cleansing and nourishing shampoo treatment. I’ve wanted to try it out for a looong time. Honestly, I probably should’ve done my homework a little better before testing this out because the ingredients in this are not the best for the environment.
In this recipe, essential oils are used for scalp cell regeneration, antioxidants to protect the hair from free radicals, antifungal/antiseptic properties, and hair strengthening. We definitely need to address the detrimental environmental impacts of essential oils when we consider this recipe. Since essential oils are so highly concentrated, it takes a lot of plants/leaves/fruit in order to create even a small bottle of oil. This means that often large monocultures run by huge corporations are degrading the land in order to create essential oils. According to this Earth Island Journal article, good things to look for if you are shopping for essential oils are organic certifications and if the plant was grown in its native habitat, both of which often mean that fewer inputs like pesticides and fertilizers are used.
This recipe also calls for vegetable glycerin, which acts as a humectant bringing moisture from the air into your hair and taming frizz. However, vegetable glycerin is another ingredient to be wary of. It’s typically derived from either soybeans or palm oil, both of which are often not sustainably grown. Soybeans are often genetically modified, meaning they’re controlled by big, exploitative agribusiness companies. Palm oil is infamous for being grown in deforested jungles where species like Orangutans are endangered by the loss of habitat.
On the flip side, African black soap can be a great ingredient! African black soaps come from traditional West African recipes. I bought my bar of African black soap from one of my favorite beauty companies, Alaffia! Alaffia is an awesome company that’s doing a lot of social good while creating ethical beauty products. From their website: “Alaffia’s Social Enterprise Model is a comprehensive approach to providing safe, efficacious hair, face and body care while alleviating poverty in West Africa through the preservation of traditional skills and knowledge in the global market.” I love that Alaffia supports both environmental sustainability – including reforesting projects and Orangutan-safe palm oil (since, as they point out, Orangutans are native to Southeast Asia while oil palms are native to West Africa where they operate) – as well as community-based initiatives for the women who create their ingredients – including maternal care and eyeglasses for children. They are also For Life and Fair for Life by a third party, ECOCERT.
Finally, another factor to address is the plastic use in this recipe. If you read the Plastic Free July post, you might also remember that I said “not every DIY is plastic free if you have to buy ingredients that come in plastic.” Well unfortunately, this recipe falls into the category of not being plastic free. I won’t make any excuses to try to justify it and I will admit that I bought a couple ingredients new and in plastic specifically for this recipe.
Okay, now it’s finally time to get into the recipe!
- 1oz African black soap, shaved or cut into small pieces
- 1 ½ tbsp Jojoba oil
- 1 tsp Vegetable glycerin
- 10 drops Lavendar essential oil
- 10 drops Tea Tree essential oil
Whitney also adds the following (but I did not):
- 10 drops Peppermint essential oil
- 10 drops Rosemary essential oil
- ½ tsp Argan oil
- 1 tsp Vitamin E oil
- 1 tsp Neem oil
- Shave about 1oz of African black soap into a heat-safe container.
- Add about 4oz of warm water.
- Add glycerin and all oils. Stir to combine.
- Let sit for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until soap is dissolved.
- Transfer mixture to applicator bottle.
- Apply to roots, massaging into scalp. Rinse and follow with conditioner.
Note that this creates a shampoo with a watery consistency. This isn’t an issue for me since I dilute my shampoo with water anyway (more on this below). If you want a thicker, more traditional shampoo consistency, I’ve seen that you can add salt to the soap and water mixture and let it sit for 24 hours to thicken.
Since Whitney says she gets 3 uses out of this recipe, I put ⅓ of the mixture into my applicator bottle and diluted it with more water. Then I sectioned my hair and applied it to my scalp as usual. To save water, I always shampoo my hair before I get in the shower, which means that the shampoo sits on my hair for a couple minutes before I wash it out. In this case, I think that really helped give the vegetable glycerine time to attract moisture and the beneficial oils to work their magic on my scalp.
I loved my results with this shampoo. Possibly a placebo, but my hair did seem much softer than usual after using this shampoo to wash my hair. I was a little worried about using oils in my shampoo after my experience using a DIY conditioner with oil, but this recipe left no residue or greasy feeling in my hair. My scalp feels as clean as it does with conventional, bottled shampoos. Dandruff is a consistent issue for me, so while I can’t say that this has cleared all my flakes, it has had a neutral effect my scalp so far. As long as it’s not getting worse, I can’t complain.
As I mentioned earlier, this DIY recipe is for sure not plastic free, which sucks. I won’t bore you with the math, but it is technically less plastic than buying a whole bunch of plastic shampoo bottles. It is, of course, more plastic than buying totally plastic-free alternatives like a shampoo bar or refillable bottle.
Overall, given the plastic needed for this recipe and the amount of work it takes, I don’t think I’ll be making this recipe again. It definitely works great and is much more moisturizing than most shampoos. It also gives you control over what ingredients you’re using on your hair, which is a big plus. But in the end, I don’t think it was worth the effort.