I know that you can use soap nuts for laundry, but lately, I have been wondering, can you use soap nuts for hair too? It turns out that soap nuts make a brilliant shampoo, leaving your hair, silky, shiny and naturally healthy.
What are soap nuts?
Soap nuts are not nuts, they are actually berries that grow on trees native to India. The native name for the trees they grow on is Sapindus mukorossi, also known as Reetha. Soap nuts are 100% natural and organic.
The shells of the nuts have a unique soapy-like quality when added to water and are naturally antibacterial. This makes them a perfect natural alternative to regular detergents.
Soap nuts have several uses. You can use soap nuts to wash your clothes, wash dishes, and also wash your body, including your hair.
When you add warm water to the soap nuts, it releases natural saponins, and it is this ‘juice’ that cleans your hair, body, and clothing.
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The benefits of washing your hair with soap nuts
There are numerous benefits of using soap nuts as a shampoo. If you have problems with an itchy scalp, or you like the idea of a product that does not come in a plastic bottle, they could be for you.
Here’s where soap nuts win over regular shampoo:
- Naturally antifungal and antibacterial, which can help with scalp problems such as dandruff
- Does not contain SLS (Sodium Laureth Sulphate) which can irritate the skin and scalp
- Can make your hair softer, especially if you add in a vinegar rinse from time to time or massage in some oil before you wash
- Could prevent hair loss and promote hair growth
- You can reduce your plastic usage by using them
- Kinder to the environment than regular shampoos containing detergents
I’m not aware of any scientific tests that prove soap nuts prevent hair loss or promote growth.
However, soap nuts have been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries for treatment against hair loss.
It’s important to treat the whole body, for example, checking your diet and hormone levels.
I do believe that reducing the chemicals you put on and in your body can only be a good thing. I suffered from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and hair thinning was one of my symptoms. Cutting out chemicals and changing my diet helped alleviate issues for me.
How to make soap nuts shampoo
There are various ways to make soap nut shampoo.
You can make a batch of it on the stove, and use it as a normal shampoo, or make some soap nut ‘tea’ in a cup (which is the method I prefer).
You can also make a powder with your soap nuts. Check out my directions for making soap nut shampoo powder here.
Here’s how to make your soap nuts shampoo:
Option 1 – How to make soap nuts shampoo in a cup
- Add 2-3 soap nuts to a cup of boiling water
- Leave to steep overnight.
Option 2 – How to make soap nuts powder
You can also make a paste from the soap nut powder by grinding it up and then adding water to make a paste. Check out the directions for washing your hair with soap nut powder here.
Option 3 – How to make soap nuts shampoo on the stove
This option will make a larger amount that you can use for several washes.
- Put 15 soap nuts in a pan
- Add 6 cups of water
- Bring to the boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes
- Remove from the heat and leave to steep overnight
- The next day, take a potato masher and crush the nuts to release more soap
- Drain the liquid into a bottle
How to use soap nuts to wash your hair
Let’s find out how to wash hair with soap nuts. If you are using soap nut powder, check out the directions here.
Important: make sure that the soap nut liquid does not get in your eyes. It will sting a lot!
I like to use the first option above for making shampoo (the cup method). If you use option 3 instead to make a batch, then your shampoo will be more concentrated, and you can use less.
Step 1 – Oil your hair (optional)
If you find that washing your hair with soap nuts makes your hair dry, then you will want to begin by applying oil to your hair. You can do this just before you wash or the night before. Almond oil can work well for this.
Step 2 – Prepare the soap nut shampoo
Remove the soap nuts from the mug that you soaked them in and add them to another mug with some more water.
Step 3 – Wash
Wet your hair with the soap nut ‘tea’. The soap nut liquid will be thin rather than concentrated like a normal shampoo.
You will not see lather until you start to massage.
Continue massaging for a couple of minutes.
If you have oil on your hair, the lather will take longer to appear.
Step 4 – Wash again
Repeat the previous step with the second mug.
Give it a shake first to release the soap suds before you apply it to your scalp, and then work it down to the ends of your hair as you did before.
Step 5 – Rinse
Rinse your hair thoroughly.
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How to use soap nut powder for hair
Another way to make soap nut shampoo is to make it from powder. This method is said to give your hair more strength and make it extra shiny. If you have issues with hair loss, this might be the better option because you use the whole (powdered) soap nut rather than the juice.
Here’s how to wash your hair with soap nut paste:
- Combine powdered soap nuts and powdered dried shikakai pieces with water to make a paste.
- Apply the paste to your scalp and work it down your hair shaft until it is evenly applied.
- Massage for a couple of minutes
- Rinse thoroughly with water until the paste is completely washed out.
You can make your powder by simply whizzing the soap nut shells and shikakai pieces in a food blender or coffee grinder.
Pro tip: Don’t let the dust get in your eyes, it will sting!
Also, you might want to have a dedicated grinder because the soap nut powder will taint any other food you grind up in it.
Frequently asked questions
How many soap nuts per hair wash?
You will need 3 to 4 soap nuts to make your soap nut ‘tea’. Don’t forget that soap nuts can be used more than once.
You can test that the soap nuts still have soap in them by wetting the muslin bag and then squeezing it. If you see suds, then it is perfectly fine to reuse for another wash.
Are soap nuts good for hair?
Yes. Soap nuts have been found to cleanse the hair naturally without the use of harmful detergents or fragrances.
Does soap nuts cause hair loss?
It has not been reported that soap nuts can cause hair to fall out when you use them as a shampoo.
Soap nuts are naturally free from any harmful detergents and are naturally fragrance-free. This means they should not irritate your scalp, which can be the cause of hair loss.
If you are worried that soap nuts might irritate your skin, try a patch test first. The best place to test is behind your ear. If after 24 hours there is no reaction, you are safe to use soap nuts.
Does soap nuts dry out the hair?
Many people say that washing hair with soap nuts makes their hair healthy and shiny. However, some people have reported that it can dry out your hair.
It depends on your hair type. Soap nuts can be used with conditioner. I have fine, greasy hair, so I need something that deals with that. I still use a conditioner though because I need to wash and dry my hair every day, which causes damage if I don’t condition it too.
If your hair is thicker and more prone to brittleness, you will want something else to moisturize it, just as you would with a normal shampoo.
If you feel your hair is getting dried out, make sure you are rinsing your hair properly after washing with soap nuts and then use a suitable hair conditioner.
Another option you could try is to massage some oil into your hair before washing your hair. Almond oil is said to work well.
The main thing is to experiment with the best option.
Where to buy soap nuts for your hair?
Soap nuts are available to buy online. I have never seen them in UK shops, but you can buy them cheaply on eBay or Amazon.