Will Homemade Shampoo Leave Behind a Residue?

Woman with a shocked look on her face inspecting her hair for residues.

Homemade shampoos are becoming more and more popular as people’s concern over questionable ingredients in everyday products rises.

Much to the dismay of commercial shampoo companies, many of us worry about the potential endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, plastics, and synthetic dyes and perfumes that we routinely dump on our heads.

What about homemade shampoos? Sure, you control and customize the ingredients, but does everything wash off completely when you rinse, or are the benefits exaggerated?

Will homemade shampoo leave behind a residue? Because homemade shampoos are typically made with natural ingredients, they will not leave behind any residue when rinsed thoroughly. Residue is left on the scalp and hair from silicone, waxes, and synthetic additives commonly found in commercial hair products.

No one relishes the thought of gunk building up on their scalp or hair, but many shampoos do leave behind difficult-to-remove residues. Are homemade shampoos a better option? Let’s find out.

Does Homemade Shampoo Leave a Residue?

It seems that there are as many different recipes for homemade shampoo as there are store-bought shampoos.

There are however, key differences in products that you buy from the store and those that you make yourself.

The main difference involves the ingredients.

Store-bought shampoos typically contain a long list of ingredients, some of which are nearly impossible to pronounce and may do more harm than good. 

Although the list goes on and on, some of the more widely used ingredients include:

  • Sulfates. 
  • Silicone. 
  • Parabens. 
  • Waxes.
  • Methylisothiazolinone. 
  • Polysorbates.
  • Foaming agents.
  • Polyethylene glycols. 
  • Synthetic dyes and fragrances.

Homemade shampoos, on the other hand, usually contain just a handful of natural ingredients, many of which are edible. Common ingredients in homemade shampoos include:

  • Castile soap.
  • Coconut milk.
  • Olive, jojoba, argan or essential oil.
  • Aloe vera juice.
  • Honey.
  • Vinegar.

Each of these ingredients will easily wash out of hair with warm water and leave nothing behind but a clean scalp and healthy hair. 

No residue.

No harsh chemicals.

No product buildup.

(You can find a great, all-natural recipe here.)

What Is Residue?

What exactly is product residue and why is it such a big deal?

The simple definition is that residue is any unwanted substance left behind by products that come in contact with your scalp and hair.

Residues can come from a variety of sources such as: styling gels and mousses, hairsprays, leave-in conditioners, minerals in hard water, swimming pool chemicals, and even environmental pollutants, but one of the biggest offenders is, you guessed it, commercial shampoos.

Many of the ingredients found in store-bought shampoos can be difficult to rinse away in the shower.

For example, silicone is a common ingredient in shampoos, conditioners, and styling products.

Did you know that silicone is a plastic polymer (yes, you read that right – plastic)? It coats the hair to smooth it out and add shine. 

Does it do a good job? Sure. 

Is it natural? Nope. 

Does it cling to the hair and scalp as a residue, clogging pores and weighing down your hair? Yes indeed.

All of those emulsifiers, foaming agents, and preservatives accumulate on your scalp and hair over time. The negative effects include:

  • Sebaceous glands are prevented from functioning normally.
  • Nutrients and moisture are unable to penetrate the hair strands.
  • Hair appears lifeless, dull, and dirty and may feel like it’s being weighed down.
  • Scalp may be itchy, dry, oily, or irritated from the prolonged contact with the chemicals.

Thankfully, you can avoid these issues entirely by crafting your own shampoo with gentle, more natural ingredients.

Difference Between Product Residue and Natural Buildup

Unfortunately, residue from products isn’t the only thing that tends to collect on our heads. You should be aware of natural buildup as well.

As living human beings, our bodies are constantly working to keep everything functioning smoothly.

This includes the scalp. It never gets a break. 

  • Skin cells are constantly renewing themselves with fresh cells and sloughing off old, dead ones. 
  • The scalp’s sebaceous glands diligently secrete sebum to moisturize and protect the scalp and hair. 
  • Sweat glands work hard to cool your head in warm temperatures.
  • Hair follicles anchor each hair in place and regulate hair growth and structure.

All of these wonderful functions of the scalp usually don’t garner much appreciation or attention, until a problem arises. 

If not cleansed routinely, dead skin cells, sweat, and sebum can build up on your scalp, leading to flaking, clogged and/or inflamed hair follicles, blocked skin pores, and overgrowth of nasty things like fungus and bacteria. 

Thorough, routine washing with a homemade shampoo is usually sufficient to prevent natural buildup, but if you don’t take the time to really work the shampoo down to your scalp or if you tend to shampoo infrequently, this could become an issue.

Just Switching to Homemade? Allow Time to Adjust

Store-bought shampoos strip away so much of your hair’s natural oil that your poor sebaceous glands go into overdrive in an attempt to compensate.

Homemade products cleanse gently without stripping.

When you first make the switch to a homemade shampoo, those glands will remain in overproduction mode for a week or so until they acclimate to your new regimen.

If your hair feels greasy and abnormal at first, remember that this is normal and not likely caused by residue or natural buildup. Your scalp is just learning to adjust.

Will Homemade Shampoos Remove Residue?

While homemade shampoos won’t likely cause residue, unless you’re adding synthetic ingredients or not rinsing thoroughly, they may not be strong enough to remove residue left behind from commercial products. 

Most homemade shampoos contain some kind of soap, typically castile.

Soap is a natural surfactant which reacts with water and oils in your hair to gently cleanse – key word here being gently.

Unlike store-bought shampoos, homemade versions don’t strip all the oil from your hair and scalp, nor do they leave behind chemicals to pile up over time.

Everyday grease and dirt should not be a problem to wash away, but for residues which have accumulated for a long time, you may need some help in the form of clarifying shampoos.

When to Use a Clarifying Shampoo

Clarifying shampoos are deep-cleansing products that are designed to remove accumulated residues, dirt, oil, and anything else that might be clinging to your hair.

Both commercial clarifiers and homemade versions will help get rid of both product residues and natural buildup.

While removing those unwanted accumulations, they also remove the nourishing oils from your scalp and thus, can leave both the hair and scalp dry.

For this reason, you should only use a clarifying shampoo occasionally, not as part of your everyday routine.

If you’ve used commercial hair products for any length of time, you most likely have accumulated residue and could benefit from a clarifying treatment.

Other signs that it’s time for a deep cleansing are:

  • Your hair feels weighed down and lifeless.
  • Hair no longer has a natural shine or luster.
  • Styling is difficult or ineffective.
  • Hair appears dull or dirty, even after washing.
  • Scalp is itchy or irritated.

Before making the switch to your homemade shampoo, it may be wise to start fresh by removing any and all residue first.

This way, when your hair is going through the adjustment period, you can be sure that the condition of your hair is only due to the scalp’s slow adaptation and not to product residues.

Make Your Own Clarifying Treatment

Skip the expensive clarifying shampoos and make your own with just one all-natural ingredient – baking soda.

Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda with water, shampoo, or conditioner to make a thick paste or add it to 1 cup of water to make a baking soda rinse.

Apply to wet hair, wait a few minutes, and rinse well. Follow up with a dilute vinegar rinse or your favorite natural conditioner.

If you’re combatting natural buildup, a DIY exfoliating scrub can work wonders.

Simply pick one of the following natural exfoliators and mix one teaspoon with just enough shampoo to wash your hair.

  • Sugar.
  • Brown sugar. 
  • Crushed aspirin.
  • Baking soda.
  • Cornmeal.

Gently massage your DIY scrub on your scalp in circular motions, and then rinse thoroughly with warm water. That’s all there is to it!