It didn’t start out as a way to avoid chemicals or “toxins,” those nebulous little buggers that Southern Californian middle class white women in Lululemon deem the downfall of modern civilization. The only shampoo that didn’t seem to transform my straight hair into some sort of wig-mop hybrid cost $28 a bottle, and damned if I could drop that kind of cash on anything but car repairs anymore. So it didn’t start out as anything but another scheme to try to save a few dollars, to stretch them out until they squealed. I have tried a lot of those schemes in my adult life.

A jug of wholesale, unscented Castille soap arrived in the mail, and I measured the proper amount with the proper amount of coconut milk and a few drops of lavender essential oil. All told, this homemade shampoo was costing me about 50 cents to make. I was saving serious money, money I could finally save for the trip to Europe I’d been planning for the past nine years. My hopes high, I hopped in the shower, squeezed out enough to cover my palm, and went to work.

Almost the instant the kitchen brew touched my scalp, my hair clumped together as if I’d frightened it. I scrubbed harder, forcing the strands to separate and behave themselves, but they were having none of it. After rinsing with diluted apple cider vinegar, my hair became a bendable single unit, like Stretch Armstrong.

Thinking this might help, I blow dried it with my round brush. It looked like a brown football helmet; plasticine, unyielding. I didn’t need to wash it again for days, because it didn’t budge. My scalp felt raw and I was afraid to touch my hair, in case it would break off in a single brown shard.

I consulted my good friend, the Google, and discovered that Castille soap didn’t have the right ph for human scalp, blah blah science, blah blah I wasted 11 bucks on a jug of the harsh soap. But I wasn’t about to give up. I had dropped enough coin on the project to invoke the Gambler’s fallacy.

The next concoction, including aloe vera gel and more coconut milk, turned out smooth, healthy feeling hair…that was coated in wax, making it look wet long after it had dried. No amount of dry shampoo–whether baby powder or pulverized oatmeal–eliminated the shiny hanks that resembled an oil field.

Two days of sporting greasy looking locks was all it took for me to go running to the grocery store for a bottle of sulfate-free Aveeno. As the suds ran down my back, I felt the familiar heaviness that came with the knowledge that I’d been a sucker, like I’d been taken in by a pyramid scheme. It turned out to cost more than it would have had I left well enough alone. The shampoo burned, like my pride, but at least I could go out in public without a scarf over my hair.

Does anyone need a jug of Castille soap? I’m willing to sell it for a bargain.

castille soap



The Gambler’s Fallacy — 16 Comments

  1. I used to be so curious about the make-your-own shampoos and things, but never actually got up the nerve to try them…After reading this, I think maybe sticking with the little bit more expensive, toxin infused, buy-at-Target shampoo is the way to go.
    Samantha Brinn Merel recently posted…This is Thirty-TwoMy Profile

  2. Castille soap. Sounds so old school to me. Surely it would have worked? I’d have tried it to so don’t feel bad. I usually buy the cheap stuff but lately I’ve been splurging for a $5 bottle of something if I have a coupon. BTW, your hair looks lovely in your photo.
    jamie@southmainmuse recently posted…Oregon or Ohio State?My Profile

  3. Despite the fact that it’s not really any good as a shampoo replacement, I kinda love castille soap… It’s just better suited to be used as a liquid body soap or a replacement for a household cleaner.
    nikkiana recently posted…The AgendaMy Profile

  4. Oh lord. Doc Bronner’s. Whatever you do, DO NOT READ THE FINE PRINT ON THE LABEL. That’s where the crrazy is. But you can send it to me, I use it for felting 🙂

  5. I can’t tell you how many people have recommended that I use this stuff! Man, am I glad I never got around to trying it. I did read the label once and I think the crazy that Rowan mentions might have been what made me put it back down again. Thank you for writing this, it’s a wonderful public service announcement 🙂
    Silverleaf recently posted…Listening to ShadowsMy Profile

  6. Oh I cracked up at this! I could picture the lovely results you got so vividly.

    I second the use of household stuff, as far as “word on the street”. Though one thing I hear constantly about castille soap is that you have to use distilled water for the best results. I wonder if that goes for hair use as well.
    April recently posted…That time I questioned my colorblindness.My Profile

  7. I’m a “stick with the cheap crap at Walmart” kind of girl. Since I don’t bother to do much with my hair other than blowdry (since, at the moment, it’s too short for a ponytail), a bottle of Pantene does the job for me. Suave used to be my go-to but it tends to weigh my hair down no matter what I use.
    Kim recently posted…I Punked My Best FriendMy Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: