How To Detox Your Hair

Heather Dessinger

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Got Gunk?

If you’re new to using homemade shampoo, there a few things you need to know before getting started. First, store bought shampoos usually have a pH level of around 5-6, which closely matches your hair’s natural pH. While this is a good thing, it is most often achieved using toxic surfactants such as sodium lauryl sulfate.

Most homemade shampoos, on the other hand, are soap rather than surfactant-based. Soap has a much higher pH, which can leave hair dull and gummy. Fortunately it’s very simple to restore your hair’s natural pH (and therefore shine and smoothness) after washing– simply follow with the shine boosting rinse listed below!

Another consideration when transitioning to natural shampoo is the use of silicone in many commercial brands. Silicone coats the hair much like plastic to give it slip and shine. Unfortunately this can make the transition from commercial to homemade formulas can be a bit difficult.

Your hair will need to detox – a process that can take up to a few weeks depending on the types of product previously used. During this process hair can feel very dry and tangle easily. As the follicles shed the coating they will begin to be able to drink in moisture, but this can take time. There are a few ways to speed up the process, though . . .


Detox Hair Mask

  • 1/2 cup bentonite clay powder (where to buy bentonite clay)
  • 1/2 cup aloe vera gel
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 additional cup apple cider or regular vinegar

Instructions: Mix bentonite clay, aloe vera and 1⁄4 cup apple cider vinegar together and work into hair. Put on a shower cap and allow to sit for 20-30 minutes. Don’t let the mixture dry! Rinse thoroughly. Rinse with 1 cup vinegar and allow to sit for 1-3 minutes, then shampoo. Follow with shine boost rinse or detox hair soak.

Detox Hair Soak

Fill up the bath tub and add:

  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups of naturally extracted baking soda

Lie down and let your hair soak for 10 minutes, massaging scalp occasionally. Follow with shine boost rinse.

Shine Boost Rinse

  • ¼ – ½ cup apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar and enough filtered water to bring vinegar mixture to 3/4 cup.*
  •  8 drops essential oil (optional) – rosemary and peppermint work well for most hair types.

To Use: Mix ingredients in a mason jar or wide-mouth cup. Pour enough over hair to saturate and allow to sit for 2-3 minutes, then rinse. Cool water is best because it helps the hair cuticle close, but warm is okay.

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Heather is a holistic health educator, herbalist, DIYer, Lyme and mold warrior. Since founding in 2009, Heather has been taking complicated health research and making it easy to understand. She shares tested natural recipes and herbal remedies with millions of naturally minded mamas around the world. 

Leave a Comment

50 thoughts on “How To Detox Your Hair”

    • 5 stars
      If I dilute apple cider vinegar to half cider/half water, what would be the shelf life of that. I wanted to keep a spray bottle of it near the shower for my hair rinse.

    • It’s going to vary from person-to-person depending on their hair and what kinds of products were used before making the switch. I would probably do it once or twice (spacing out over 2-3 days) and then see how my hair felt.

      • Hi Heather,
        I was wondering about colored and high lighted hair? Have you had anyone report on that? I would love to try these natural haircare options, as I have switched just about everything else in my house out. Its my last big tackle. Not sure how it will change the color either. Hmmm, but then, hair grows right? Just wondering if you had any takers who color their hair 🙂

        • 4 stars
          Hi! I have highlighted hair! I havent used this specific recipe since I just found this post, but using an apple cider vinegar rinse can help lock in that color! I’ve noticed visibly less staining on my towel after a shower compared to when I shower without it. (And I usually try to have a shower cap on to get it as less wet as possible even, but I have to shampoo eventually)

          I only figured this out because CHI Chroma Paints recommends to use their Chi color lock to “lower the ph of the hair,” but ACV does the exact same thing, lowering your hairs ph!

          I cant say anything for this recipe specifically, but your highlighted hair will probably love the ACV included in it!

          I hope that helps 🙂

  1. Is the vinegar rinse ok to use every time you wash your hair? I started using about 2tbl vinegar and like cup cool water. When I first started used vinegar rinse I used a lot more vinegar and it seemed like a lot of my hair was coming out. I use regular ACV, without the “mother”, is that ok?

    • I always use a vinegar rinse when I wash, but as a mom of three small children I only wash my hair every other day at the very most 🙂

    • Haha, I asked myself that question a little too late–as I was working the mask into my dry hair. Oops. I added enough water to (hopefully) get the clay worked through evenly, and I will be smarter next time!

  2. Do you always keep the ACV rinse in a mason jar in your shower or do you have an easier, suggested container for frequent use?

    • I always put ACV in an old lotion bottle(that is clean) and has a lid that screws off and squirt it on my hair, or I put it in a spray bottle and spray it on my hair.

  3. I can’t seem to find plain aloe Vera gel anywhere local! I could drive to whole foods, but that is 30+ minutes away…. I need to detox my hair before tonight!!! Please let me know if aloe Vera body gel will work? It has additives like alcohol denat., carbomer, triethanolamine, etc…..

  4. I have a question that may be dumb.. however, it is still a question. Haha.

    If you detox/switch to a more natural hair cleaning system shouldn’t you be washing your hair less often? Currently I wash every 4-5 days- I worked up to this of course and utilize dry shampoo on day s 3-4. However, I want to switch to better shampoo and other hair products. Would I still be able to maintain or at least work back up to only washing every 4-5 days??

    I ask because I noticed in your comment above you still wash almost every other day.

    Thank you!

    • You certainly can. I wash mine more often because I have a toddler that likes to sneak up on me and rub butter in my hair (plus other similar reasons).

  5. Do you think the salt water and baking soda soak will strip the color out of my hair?
    Just trying to decide how “natural” I want to be. 🙂

  6. I just made the coconut oil shampoo bars, and LOVE IT!! Though I think I’ll try cold processing it next time.

    I was wondering if lemon juice could be substituted for vinegar in the rinse? It is a common substitute for vinegar in cooking. I may just have to try it, as my guy isn’t very fond of the vinegar “whiffs” that come off my head after using the ACV.

  7. Hi, would adding vinegar to the soap mix help bring it up to the correct pH? Or would that not work?

    I made the soap bar but my hair felt not good, even whilst still in the shower!! Dry and gummy and when I got out, I couldn’t get a brush through it!!! 🙁
    I am going to wash it again tonight and use the acidic rinse to see if that helps. I will have to try the detox mask if not because it’s really bad. I really want it to work, I hope I get there in the end!!

    • Hi, i have the same problem as what Mandy mentioned above, the dry and gummy feeling in my hair. Could it be from my shampoo bar not having the right ph? Do i Have to use the ACV as a rinse for it to work? I have long, thick hair that tends to start getting oliy very by day 3 but feels very dry from midlengths. any suggestions anyone

      • Your hair sounds about the same as mine. You must use an acid rinse after using a real soap shampoo. The gummy feeling you have is basically soap scum and the acid rinse will remove it. Depending on how hard your water is you can try anywhere between 1 Tbsp to 3 Tbsp ACV per 1 cup of rinse water. I use a spray bottle, spray my hair, work it through with a wide toothed comb, rinse and then repeat. Additionally, for your dry ends you need a conditioner. I make a mix of coconut oil, kokum butter, honey, lemon and bergamot essential oils and slather my ends and let sit for at least 30 mins. I do this once a week. Then, after every wash I use a hair serum mix of argan, castor and camelina oil plus some lavender essential oil, just a couple drops of the mix on the very ends.
        Do NOT add vinegar to real soap, it will lower the pH too much and cause your soap to separate out back to its original oil and base.
        I make and sell organic real soaps and hair care products and have learned these things from lots of trial and error and testing.

    • If you use a soap in your hair, you should definitely follow with an acid rinse, either vinegar or lemon juice diluted in water (1-2 tbsp per cup of water). Also, keep in mind that soap might not be your best option if you have hard water. Soap (as opposed to detergent, which is what shampoos are) can react with the minerals in hard water to form soap scum residue in your hair. There is a low-poo/no-poo Facebook group that has tons of info if you want to know more

  8. Hello ! I have just tried your clay detox+rinse. Rinsing the clay is such a long process ! My hair felt very tangled and dry after but the ACV rinse made it much better and it now feels soft and was almost knot free.
    I was wondering if this recipe could be use on armpits to speed up/avoid the transition to natural deodorant as it can take a few weeks as well for the skin to adjust and stop smelling. Or is it a completely different transition process?
    Thank you !

    • I often mix water and baking soda in the shower to clean my armpits. It does a great job of removing the storebought deodorant buildup.

  9. Hi!
    if I were to use Hairprint on my gray root growth instead of a permanent dye color, would I be able to then apply highlights over it?

  10. Can this be used on color treated hair? Also, I loved the feeling my hair had after I used the clay mixture with aloe gel and acv , but after rinsing with the cup of acv it felt dry, is this normal? Do I need to use the acv at all? Thanks for your feedback. I love your blog btw!

  11. Heather, I have dry scalp that’s starting to get worse, especially around my hairline. Any suggestions for a shampoo and conditioning treatment to help with this?

  12. I am very grateful for this interesting lecture. More grease to your elbows. I wonder if all these are good for permed her? Or not permed hair. I am from Nigeria in Africa. I love natural beauty products. From bathing soap to hair to cream. Recently, I have been trying to get a recipe and the instructions on how to make bathing soap, body cream and hair cream with pure 100% Shea butter. I’ve not been able to have a breakthrough. I wonder if you can help also. Thanks a million in anticipation.

    • Daisy, after going through this wonder web of information posted by Heather, I later found Between the two websites, I’ve started converting all products to nature homemade items.

      Previously, I only made my own laundry powder. Since studying both sites, I now have new body soaps, and hair conditioner. I just wrote my first body soap recipe, using 100% Shea butter. I haven’t made it yet. Will comment later, after using it.

      Heather’s body soap recipe is awesome! I added lavender oil to my mixture. I started using it on my hair before detoxing first. oops! I made the coconut mix conditioner to add daily, until I am able to get all the ingredients to make hair detox.

      I hope this helps!

  13. I am really excited to make this shampoo! I am breastfeeding though and have heard that peppermint is bad for milk supply. I’m not sure if peppermint essential oil applied to my hair can effect milk supply but just in case, are there any other essential oils you would recommend for the shine boost rinse? Or to scent the shampoo bar? I am a big fan of patchouli. Do you think that that would be safe to use on hair?

  14. Just did the detox and the rinse but my hair is super super dry so I added coconut oil to it so I could brush through it. It’s Pretty bad ?
    What’s the process to get moisture back in my hair?
    I plan on washing my hair in a few days with my almost toxic free shampoo and cream rinse? It rated a #2 on the think dirty app.

  15. Good morning Heather,

    I tried your shampoo and it is not working for me!! The first time I tried it, my hair turned out dull and gummy. On my next wash, I tried rinsing my hair with ACV…it was a bit better but still dull. After reading some of the comments, I thought the water could be the cause as our well as a high concentration of Iron so I tried some filtered water…again it was better but not enough to say it was a success. I ordered what I needed to detox my hair but before using the Detox Hair Mask, I need to know if it is ok to use as I have colour with a few highlights in my hair. I really want this to work…so if this soap does not work for me no matter what, do you have a recipe for any other soap that would be better for my type of hair (thin and oily)?

    • Hi Francine, some experts say not to use clay products on colored hair because it may fade the color more quickly. Unfortunately I don’t have another recipe published that I would recommend over this one.

  16. Hi Heather!

    I was wondering for the detox hair mask if you could use French Pink Clay in place of Bentonite Clay? My supplier I order my stuff from doesn’t carry that product, but I already have some of that pink clay stuff at home! 🙂

    Thank you!!

    • I haven’t worked with pink clay so I’m not sure how it compares, so if you try it please let us know how it works out!

  17. I have always been blonde, then used blonde nice and easy.white hair in roots so I used med.blonde in roots. My hair turned grey and looked nice but not me. I used clarifying shampoo and tried blonde again but turned white. Then I used baking soda and shampoo a few weeks later .Again I used Lt.blonde and still white hair. What can I do to get my hair back to blonde.

  18. Thanks for this! I had been wondering what was wrong with my hair. Anytime I tried to switch to many natural shampoos it felt like I was putting glue in my hair. Sooo tangled. Maybe this will help. I don’t think I could go three weeks with how tangled it gets.

  19. Hi, love your recipes for hair, my hair is post menopausal thinned in the crown area, the back is very thick past shoulders. What can I use to thicken the crown more or make it stronger? It is salt and pepper and I would like to keep the color just need to strengthen it or thicken it. Does gelatin work? Thanks