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Shikakai: A Natural Hair Cleanser (No Poo)
This is NOT a sponsored article and I am NOT a doctor, nutritionist, or astronaut… just in case you were wondering. I AM a writer however, so check out BuddhafulBritt.com for more.
A little over four years ago I started to become this natural hippie-chick who refused to use chemicals no matter what. I had discovered that thousands of toxins were legally being used in and on our bodies daily, causing all types of auto-immune diseases, heart troubles, cancer and obesity.
Mysteriously, I became very sick; in an attempt to get healthy I ditched the store bought deodorant, toothpaste and shampoo (among many other things) and switched to some natural variant of whatever I could find. I even make my own almond milk.
…but the ONE product that was still haunting me after coming up with several alternatives was a natural shampoo.
I tried baking soda and apple cider vinegar (ACV) on my hair like so many websites recommend, but it left my hair feeling waxy and stiff. After awhile, I could see that this was not only making my hair feel gross, but it was also damaging my tresses as well.
Before I get the well meaning hippie-posse after me for saying that… please let me say that if it works for you, then I am happy for you. It did NOT consistently work well on MY hair.
That. Is. All.
I tried coconut oil as a conditioner (which I love), but found it nearly impossible to wash out for days. My hair is thin; I have a lot of it, but it is baby-fine and straight, it gets greasy if the wind blows… ICK
I’ve tried eggs, beer, aloe, water-only… You name it, I’ve put it on my head.
Somehow I was always left with hair that felt un-clean and I was ALWAYS steps away from giving up. Needless to say I felt like I was putting more time and effort into my hair than ever before and came up with mediocre results AT BEST.
I would switch to what we call “low poo” on days that I had a luncheon or meeting where having clean hair was absolutely necessary.
“Low poo” would be that shampoo you buy at a health food store that is sulfate and paraben free; there are less of the evil ingredients than something you would buy at the drugstore, but still it’s not completely natural.
Low poo, had become my occasional savior all these years, since nothing else seemed to work.
Then one glorious morning I heard the words SHIKAKAI, (sh-ick-a-cai). Say it… SHIKAKAI… like the song from the beginning of Ferris Bueller.
“Ohhh yeahhh… bom bom. Shick… Shikakai”
SHIKAKAI, is a natural root which is ground up into a powder that people from India have been using for many years. The root itself has a woodsy, earthy, smell to it which I have really come to love, not only because I hug trees, but because I find it calming.
You can buy the root and grind it yourself or you can buy the powder from a box. I bought mine from the local Indian market (as in India, not Native American), but you can also buy it on Amazon. I paid less than $3.00 for a month’s worth.
I was told to use two tablespoons of powder and two cups of water, boil it and leave it sit over night to create a tea.
Well… to be quite honest, I am wayyyy to lazy to think about preparing my hair cleanser 24 hours in advance. So I simply put the two tablespoons of powder with two cups of warm water into a shaker bottle and poured the earthy root onto my head. I rinsed it out, waited for my hair to dry and was pleasantly surprised.
Hmmm. It looked clean, it was shiny and felt soft.
Sadly, the next day I was greasy as usual and tried to re-wash my hair with the same Shikakai mixture again… but this time I was left with TONS of the same-ol’ grease (aka sebum) I had become accustomed to.
Disappointed, I washed with low poo for a dose of sanity.
I was stuck with a full box of powder and decided to give it one last try; I mean the beautiful girl on the box has long clean hair… I was determined to make it work.
This time, figuring that I had a whole box to waste I decided to just pour a whole bunch of the root into my shaker bottle. I would say that I use maybe 4-6 tablespoons worth of Shikakai and two cups of water in the latest concoction. The exact measurements don’t matter, play around with it.
I added MORE powder and LESS water to my shaker bottle and poured the entire thing over my hair.
So, to be clear, this makes a “tea” from hot shower water. I let it steep while I shave my legs; then I scrub and massage my scalp with the gritty root until my hair feels “squeaky clean.”
You do not need to include the gritty root particles; you can also cut a pair of nylons and place a small covering under the shaker bottle lid as a filter to keep the root in the bottle which lets you only use the tea.
Personally, I like to feel the particles in my hair, but people with thick curly hair complain they can’t rinse all the particles out. Nylon under the lid fixes this problem.
I also use apple cider vinegar (ACV), diluted in the same bottle, as a rinse afterward… and HOLY CRAP!
I could NOT be happier or more stunned with what my hair has been doing these last four months. I swear to you… its actually GROWING like a weed. All of a sudden people are saying “wow, your hair is really getting long.”
I feel that I have finally found the Holy Grail of natural hair products. There is no need for me to search further or throw a bunch of crazy items from my kitchen over my head in hopes that I find something to clean my hair; I plan on sticking with this ancient Indian secret for the foreseeable future.
Shikakai is PH balanced and does not strip your hair of its natural oils.
It can be used with hard water.
UPDATE: I have also discovered these other products by the same company found at an Indian Grocery or online at Amazon.com. You can mix and interchange any of these products, each claiming to do different things. I encourage you to google them and learn more.
O’velly, Awla, Reetha, Shikakai Powder: my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE combination of cleansing and conditioning powder that I have found so far. I purchased this miracle in Rishikesh India, and could not find it anywhere online once I returned home. Their customer service is as good as their product. I will no longer use the Hesh brand unless in an emergency. O’Velly, Shailsons Joe LLP email: email@example.com
Aritha aka: Reetha or soap nuts. Soap Nuts can be drying to your hair. I like to use them after oiling my hair overnight to help rinse the oil out.
Brahmi and Neem are excellent hair cleansers. They also sell a product called Heenara, which combines all of these powders for you. Personally I like the Shikakai best, but do add some Brahmi to my concoction sometimes. I am allergic to Neem so please do an allergy test first on any product you are not used to.
My recent Indian grocery-store miracle is the MAHABHRINGARAJ oil. HAHA… say THAT I dare you.
Maha-bring-a-raj, this little slice of heaven has out performed coconut oil on my hair time and time agian. Needless to say I am in love with these natural hair products and will never go back to store-bought shampoo again.
Please tell me of your natural hair journey. Have you tried Shikakai or any of the other products? How do you like it? Send pics as well to BuddhafulBritt@gmail.com or post them in the comments.
Any questions feel free to ask.
Next time, we shall discuss the latest trend… PLOPPING. Say whaaaaaa?
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Thanks for the lovely article.
I have also tried all kinds of concoctions made at home and rinses.
My only favourite remains an apple sauce.
I also have a very fine hair. Used to have lots of it, but now it’s about 1/3 of the original volume. Yep I am very sad about that.
Anyways, back to your article.
I also have ordered the shikakai and tried it, and didn’t love it at all.
It makes my hair go into 1 dread, pretty much as soon as I start to massage shikakai into it, this one big dread makes it very hard to rinse out. Another painful side effect is, that it makes my hair (the dreaded hair) very stringy and absolutely impossible to brush, even after it is 100% dry.
So as you have explained your feelings so well, after your unsuccessful attempt, I also have given up.
However I feel to try it again, encouragement is perhaps all I needed.
Though, I am still in the dark about what is the chemical reaction with my hair and shikakai powder?
So thanks again for a lovely share
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Are you diluting it enough? Some people say to make a paste, although undid not like that. I use only a little bit with a lot of water. I make a TEA. Some people also strain the water so the root doesn’t stay in their hair. I’m curious how you’re making the Shikakai, because I’ve never heard this reaction before. Please tell me how you prepare it.
Hi Britt 🙂 How often do you wash your hair with Shikakai? I’m excited about using it myself. Thanks x
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You an wash it as often as you like. If you are used to washing it everyday you can. What I’ve discovered though is that I can go longer without a wash since using Shikakai. It’s such an amazing product, but you need to play around with it. Use more, use less… Add ACV, try Amla, or neem… Find what your hair likes best. I’ve heard some say that Shikakai drugs their hair out, that doesn’t happen with mine, but aritha does. Just play around, your hair will grow like a weed and you will never use chemical shampoo again if you figure it out. I promise.
DRIES LOL not drugs my hair. 😜
How do you use the oil? On your scalp, on your ends? I am experiencing hair loss and I loved using shikakai but if I can help along even more I will 🙂
For hair loss, you must use it on your scalp! It’s a co but oil base, and I find mixing my Shikakai with soap but after an oil night helps it get clean quicker. Soap nuts are very drying though, so I don’t use them much unless I use oil.
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Thanks for your informative article and your hair looks gorgeous! I gave it a try and also varied differ amounts, but I get this waxy feel towards the top of my head, a similar feel I get with shampoo bars. It’s hard to comb through my hair or run my fingers through. The ends are fine but definitely not as smooth as yours. Do you know how I can get rid of that feel? Thanks!
Do you know if you have hard or soft water? I stayed at a friends house once who had hard water and my hair was very waxy feeling. I find that adding some Amla powder as a softener or conditioner helps this problem. Definitely though, water type matters.
That is a good question. I’m not sure actually. I will give the amla a try on my next wash. Thank you!
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