Perhaps you’re aware of soap nuts and their natural laundering abilities – but did you know these little fruits boast hair-cleansing properties too?
Indian soapberry (also known washnut or soap nut), is an impressive fruit packed with saponin, a mild cleansing agent that, when added with water, lathers, foams and suds up just like soap! Soapberries have been used for centuries by different cultures around the world – in everything from medicine to dessert toppings.
Recently, soapberries are gaining popularity as a gentler alternative to shampoo (which are often filled with harsh chemicals); however, some folks are even claiming soapberry offers some powerful hair rejuvenating properties too.
Soap nuts for hair: what are the benefits?
Grown with zero chemicals, these small but mighty little berries are:
- Antimicrobial: Offering a great natural treatment for inflammatory bacterial scalp issues†
- Anti-insecticidal: Making them a natural remedy for killing and preventing lice†
- Vitamin-rich: Packed with vitamins A, D, E and K, helping to tame frizz, address dandruff and even support hair growth†
These three properties combine to promote healthier hair that grows smooth, thick and shiny. Plus, since soap nuts are 100% naturally grown (and can be reused), they’re an excellent zero-waste shampoo alternative!
How soapberries gently cleanse your hair
Though these little nuts don’t actually contain soap, that doesn’t stop these dirt-busting berries one bit.
As mentioned previously, soapberries naturally produce saponin, a key ingredient in soap. Saponin is a surfactant, a compound that lowers the surface tension between chemical states, giving soap (and soapberries) its ability to dissolve dirt, oil and grime.
And, because soapberry is so calming, it’s also used in a variety of skincare products, like baby wipes, or for soothing common skin maladies such as eczema.
Where do soapberries come from?
Bright red soapberries grow on the Reetha tree (called the Sapindus mukorossi) throughout India, Asia, the United States and Canada. Reetha is notoriously tough (they don’t even need fertile soil to grow!) and resistant to disease. And, because this tree can grow in harsher environments, it helps to protect native soil, making it an all-star eco-warrior.
Interestingly, for the first nine years of its life, a Reetha tree will produce zero soapberries. However, once it awakes from its ‘beauty sleep’, the soapnut ‘floodgates’ open wide, allowing the tree to produce just under 80 pounds of fruit per year – for nearly one hundred years!
That’s some seriously sustainable production.
Once the berries are harvested and the seeds have been removed, the soapberry ‘shell’ is left out in the sun to dry. You can purchase them by the bag-ful for your own DIY purposes – like creating all-natural shampoo.
How to make a zero-waste soapnut hair wash
What you’ll need
5 soap nuts
2-½ cups water
Optional: 3-6 drops essential oil of choice (lavender is soothing while peppermint or eucalyptus are invigorating. A mixture of the three will leave your scalp with a lovely fragrance and a pleasant tingle!)
Wooden spoon (or a potato masher for agitating)
Recycled glass bottle
Funnel or large syringe
How to make
1. In large pot, combine soap nuts and water. Bring to a boil, stirring and agitating soap nuts until suds form.
2. Reduce heat and allow mixture to simmer for about 10 minutes. Add ½ cup of water (mixture should look golden brown in color), bring mixture back to a boil, then allow it to simmer for a final five minutes.
3. Remove pot from heat and allow mixture cool to room temperature. Remove soap nuts. (Note: They can be dried in the sun and reused.) Pour liquid into a separate bowl.
4. Stir in essential oils. Use funnel to transfer mixture to bottle.
How to use
Pour a small amount of liquid onto wet hair and massage deeply into scalp, then gently work it throughout the rest of your hair. Allow it to sit for five minutes, then rinse with warm water.
As a finishing touch, apply a natural leave-in conditioner to your roots to lock in moisture!
You can use soapberry shampoo as often as you would use regular shampoo – and this mixture can double as a natural laundry soap, or triple as a nourishing and calming skin lotion for dry, or ‘angry’ skin. However, you may want to skip adding essential oils if using for this purpose.
Happy hair washing!
†These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.