5 natural hair care tips I learnt designing a shampoo bar this summer

4 comments Jul 4, 2024by Alice Ojeda
Natural hair care tips Alice Ojeda Authentic House

If you've ever carefully scrunched your hair only to look like you've just woken up or made your hair lank with too much product, you'll know taking care of your natural hair is an art. Let's step far away from those shining curtains in 00s shampoo adverts (although you may have that too). What I love about natural hair care is how the method, and the results, are so personal to you.

I'm writing as a natural hair care maker with 2c hair designing a shampoo bar for my small business Authentic House. I love where tried and tested methods meet the science. In my 5 natural hair care tips I learnt designing a shampoo bar this summer, I'll share with you a bit of both to make a positive difference to your hair and, by extension, how you feel.

1. When to use hair oils... and when to put down that bottle!

Natural hair oils like argan oil get a lot of press, but you might not know exactly what they do. To put it simply, oils in your hair give your locks slip and slide and can stop them swelling up with water. They're a great way to protect your hair strands so they look shinier or curlier, whatever's your jam.

Why my best natural hair care tip is a pre-wash hair mask

So here's the secret. Natural oils and butters make the best hair masks. It doesn't really matter what you use, although oils like argan and coconut oil have a lot of tradition behind them. A study by Nature recently showed that coconut oil can even take care of your microbiome.

Growing up, the hairdresser would always tut at my damaged hair. I had no idea what was causing it, although trying to tame waves with a fine-toothed comb probably has some part to play! Let's just say, my hair was very frizzy.

One of the best natural hair tips I ever tried was to start applying a hair oil to my hair 30 minutes before wash day. It's a brilliant way to reduce damage with a couple of shampoo rounds to make sure you've gotten it all out.

When to use hair oil after washing, with a big caveat!

Then there's the flip side. If you have dry, curly or coily hair, you've probably fallen foul once or twice of using too much natural oil after your hair wash. I've got you. This month I've been researching natural conditioners and the thing is, most conditioners don't rely much on oil! They're cleverer than that.

Using a few drops of hair oil can still be great for your hair after a wash. I really do mean drop by drop though and only on your ends. You can always add, but you can't take away and it's not always easy to know if you've put on too much when your hair is wet. I'd say err on the side of less if you can.

If you have coily locks (think very tight zigzag curls and afros), your hair will love botanical oils and you can probably get away with using more. If you have really straight hair, maybe just stay clear of post-wash oil as you're most at risk of the greasy look!

2. Check the pH of your shampoo and conditioner, or have a good guess

Ah soapy shampoo bars... We all loved the idea. We even sold them at Authentic House. And, don't get me wrong, they were such a clever way to reduce plastic waste. The truth is they were also responsible for a lot of bad hair days.

Learning what follows made me do a double take. That's why! Soapy shampoo bars are naturally very alkaline. Your hair had a naturally negative charge and alkaline hair products make it even more intense. You'll probably remember from school, the same charge repels. Too much negative charge isn't just a downer (sorry!), it'll also leave your hair with lots of frizz and make it more likely to break.

This doesn't mean you have to chuck out all your solid hair wash bars and stock up on 3 for 2 plastic bottles. There is hope. You just have to be more discerning in the shampoo and conditioner bars you choose and go for 'pH balanced bars'.

A pH balanced bar is naturally more acidic, which our hair loves. Acidic pH gives your hair more of a positive charge. Opposites attract and this will help your hair to lie more smoothly or have less frizz and be easier to comb through.

But how, I hear you asking, am I going to know the pH of my shampoo and conditioner? The good news is it's easy to guess. If you see 'pH balanced' on a product, job done. Shampoos are the really alkaline products to look out for, but you can still balance them out with an acidic conditioner.

If your shampoo bar looks like a smooshed together paste cake (nice!), chances are it is pH balanced. If it looks soapy and has ingredients like 'Sodium Cocoate' or 'Sodium Olivate', chances not. Best of all though, just ask.

3. Your scalp is going to love me for saying, it also wants a skin care routine!

If this has you cringing, one more thing to think about!, stay with me for a moment. Once it's grown, our hair is dead. From that point, any hair care can only ever be a temporary sticking plaster.

Compare that to where your hair grows in the follicles of your scalp, and you have an opportunity to give your hair the very best start in... well, death, but you can see what I mean. Taking care of the skin of your scalp is the best long-term way to have your most beautiful natural hair.

A few weeks ago, I made a big cup of tea and did some serious Ecosia-ing. I was doing my Authentic House market research, and I came across a trend. It's the 'skinification' of the scalp. Basically, anything your face loves, your scalp loves too! But maybe not your hair, because it was never going to be that easy...

If you've read through my last two natural hair care tips though, the good news is you have everything you need to take care of your scalp as a beginner. Natural oils aren't just good for your hair. You can also massage them into your scalp to lock in moisture and for all the benefits a facial oil would have on your skin.

Just never use butters! You'll have a hard time washing them out. Jojoba and argan oils are particularly good for a dry scalp, or you could try calendula oil if your skin is very sensitive.

Choosing the best natural shampoo for scalp care

Next, what do you massage into your scalp every few days? It's your shampoo. Shampoo doesn't stay very long on your scalp, but it's a good opportunity to match your ingredients to your skin's needs. Here are a few ideas to try:

  • Tea tree, rosemary and witch hazel for an oily scalp
  • Gentle shampoos with panthenol for a dry scalp
  • Chamomile, oat and coconut oil for a sensitive scalp.

And lastly, if you want to make pre-wash day extra special for your lovely scalp, look out for hair serums you massage into your head. These can have all the special ingredients that would be wasted in rinse-off shampoos. Think hyaluronic acid for a dry scalp and salicylic acid for an oily one. Is a hair serum something you'd like to try? Let me know as I can work on it.

4. Why the shape of your hair shapes your hair needs

I always said this would be personal. The way your hair grows in your follicles gives you the barnet you call your own, whether it's straight, wavy, curly or coily. Simply knowing the shape of your hair and how it relates to other hair types can be a good rule of thumb for working out the natural hair tips you should try and the ones that aren't for you.

Let's start with sebum. That's your hair's natural oil which travels down your hair strands from your scalp. As we've said with oils, it's brilliant at protecting your hair and giving it shine, but the flipside is oils can look greasy.

For straight hair

The straighter your hair is, the easier it is for your natural oils to cover your hair strand. This is good news for conditioned hair and you might even have those gorgeous, shiny curtains too.

The bad news is your hair can easily look lank and you'll need to wash it more often. If your hair is on the straighter end, a good shampoo will give you volume literally by cleaning your hair really well so it doesn't weigh itself down.

For curly hair

Curly and coily locks, now for you. If your hair sometimes feels dry, it's because sebum doesn't flow down your hair very well. If you have coily hair, your scalp might even be less oily in the first place.

A benefit is that your roots are lifted which helps to hide greasiness so you can go longer without a wash. To have your best hair though, you'll need to be hot on your conditioners and oils as dryness and breakage is your kryptonite.

For wavy hair

Lastly for those very wavy or loosely curled ones, like me, I'm adding this in as you often aren't covered in natural hair care tips and it can be confusing! What you need for your lovely locks is a balance of good cleansing not to weigh down your hair with too much product, and a bit of extra conditioning too. This helpfully leads me on to my final tip.

5. For waves, curls and coils, why water and gel is your friend on a bad hair morning

This is for those of you who wake up with your hair sticking out horizontally, vertically... anywhere but the beautiful 'do you went to sleep with. Just like rain can be the undoing of your hairstyle, water can help to hit reset on the shape of your curls, waves and coils.

I learnt recently that one of the ways your hair strands stick together is with hydrogen bonds. These bonds get broken when you add water, which means your hair can dry back into something else.

Hair gel, it turns out, isn't just for those 90s peaks. Learning to use a curly hair gel has made a huge difference to my waves. Bouclème Curl Defining Gel is my favourite right now. Basically, adding a hair gel to wet hair, then combing, scrunching and styling your hair to the shape you want, means your hair is much more likely to stay that way as it dries.

Once you have your shape, don't touch your hair and the gel will dry solid. When your hair is completely dry and all those lovely hydrogen bonds are set, scrunch the gel out. You can use a lot more gel than you might think, but make sure to scrunch and shake out your roots enough or, yes, that accidental wet look may still be yours.*

*This was actually how I looked for 3 months of learning to style my curls.

 A final note on natural hair care

And there you have my 5 natural hair care tips I learnt designing a shampoo bar this summer. I didn't realise before writing just how much I had to share! I'm passionate about it though, especially as lots of hair care advice you get is often really generic or applies to mainly straight hair.

I hope you enjoyed this post and, if it makes your natural hair care discoveries any easier, I'll feel proud to have helped you on your way. Let me know too, do you have any favourite natural hair care tips you would add that someone else would benefit from?

If you found this post useful and learnt something new, share it with a friend or bookmark it to come back to - natural hair care tips are, after all, best tried one at a time. For more natural beauty and sustainable home ideas, make sure to subscribe to my Ideas Book newsletter.


  • Alice Ojeda July 10, 2024 at 3:31 pm

    Hi John,
    It’s not a literal shampoo bar although that would be a great idea! True, I assumed people know. Either way I’ll have it ready soon so I can share a picture. And maybe a shampoo bar is the next step. Thanks for reading my post.

  • Alice Ojeda July 10, 2024 at 3:29 pm

    Hi Mary,
    Thanks for your comment and I’m sorry you’re having trouble with hair shedding. It could depend on what life chapter you’re in as hair can thin around menopause or after giving birth. I think a good long-term idea would be to focus on your scalp. I haven’t finished my hair care products yet, so maybe try a serum. Waterman’s is apparently good. You can also look for ingredients in your haircare traditionally used for hair loss like rosemary and castor oil which you know. There’s also aloe vera, ginger, safflower, nettle and frankincense. You don’t need them all, but a product with one or two that stays for a while on your head is a good idea. Also think about that with the shampoo you use too.

  • John Kenny July 10, 2024 at 2:00 am

    Don’t laugh, I’m still trying to understand what a shampoo bar is. I opened the article thinking you’ve started a new business – a shampoo bar! (Ok to laugh, but I’ve seen oxygen bars!)

    Now I’m wondering if you’re trying to create shampoo that looks like a bar of soap?

    Anyway, please take this as friendly polite feedback. I hope you can use it.

    I enjoyed your article though!
    Oh! Just looked at your address. Bet you would’ve called it a shampoo pub (ha ha)

  • Mary July 8, 2024 at 8:05 am

    Hello, I really enjoyed your article on 5 natural ways for hair care. This is my problem I’m having quite hair shedding or it looks like loss to me and I’ve been using Nixon 4 and I want to change. I’ve started using rosemary pil with one bottle of carrier oil jojoba and castor oil. My hair is already straight, fine and it really needs to be washed everyday but I don’t do that, sometimes if I to.anywho I need help and advice because I’m now so confused reading all this info on hair growth and what to use. I liked your article and I think you’re honest and passionate about your products. I need your help please. Thank you

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