How to make hair smell GOOD! (DIY Natural Hair Fragrance)

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Hair Care, No Shampoo, Water Only Hair Washing
Girl surrounded by flowers in a meadow

DIY Recipes for Natural Hair Perfume

One benefit that shampoo actually provided was a hefty amount of fragrance for nice smelling hair. I remember back to the days when I would frequently browse the shampoo aisles of stores (never satisfied with my current one, and hoping to find a shampoo that would deliver on its promises). I remember one of my criteria for purchase-worthy shampoos was its scent. I know some of you are like me – a great smelling shampoo would sell me right then and there – and I think it goes to show how important the scent of our hair is to us.

Many readers who follow a no shampoo hair method (clays, honey, water-only, herbs, etc.) have commented that they miss their hair smelling like flowers, but it can again! We can customize the scent, and we don’t have to subject ourselves to the irritants or toxins that are associated with commercial fragrances… win-win. Here are a few options to make hair smell delicious, flowery, and wonderful.

Option #1: DIY Easy Essential Oil Hair Mist Recipe

Spray bottle for making a DIY hair perfume

Make a customized hair mist by adding favorite essential oils to a spray bottle of water and spraying it onto damp hair. It’s quick and easy to make and use – and it doesn’t make hair look oily. The best part is choosing a favorite essential oil (or combination of them) to create a customized, desired fragrance. Popular essential oil scents are lavender, rose, lemongrass, cedarwood, orange, pink grapefruit, and more. Some essential oils can even be beneficial for the scalp & hair.

When using essential oils, it’s important to note that you MUST dilute essential oils! Never use undiluted essential oils on the skin or body or it may lead to irritation. A few drops of essential oils goes a long way, and use less for sensitive skin.

I purchased a spray bottle at the dollar store. I recommend a mister spray nozzle if you don’t want to wet your hair between washes, as it mists fragrance without dampening the hair as much. Here’s my recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Small bottle with spray nozzle
  • 1/4 cup (or 2 ounces) (or 60ml) of water
  • 12-24 drops (total) of favorite essential oils (for 1% – 2% dilution)

Instructions:

  1. First, figure out how much water the spray bottle can hold, so you’ll know if you need to divide the recipe in half to fit the bottle.
  2. Mix the water and add drops of favorite essential oils.
  3. Screw on the spray nozzle, and shake the bottle very well to mix. Shake the bottle before and during use to keep mixing the oil and water.
  4. Mist a few sprays on hair and gently massage it into the hair and scalp.

How to Use:

  1. You can spray the mixture on damp hair after a hair wash/rinse.
  2. You can also mist it onto dry hair to refresh the scent between washes, but I recommend misting it onto the hair brush if you don’t want to re-wet your hair.
  3. Keep shaking the bottle while using it since oil and water naturally separate.
  4. Be careful you don’t get it in your eyes!

Option #2: Hair Perfume

Bottle of perfume for use on hair

This one is pretty straight forward, but it’s one that a lot of people don’t think of right away. If you don’t already own or want to purchase essential oils, but you have a bottle of perfume laying around that you never use, a good option for you might be to fragrance your hair with perfume or body spray. (You can actually even buy “hair perfume” specifically designed to fragrance hair.) A little goes a long way with this option and the scent can last a long time.

Option #3: DIY and Silicone-Free Styling Products

I know some people like to use pomades to style their hair, and some people benefit from using an oil or shea butter to hydrate and soften the ends of long hair. If so, you can use any of these products as an opportunity to add fragrance to hair. I don’t need to use styling products anymore, but when I started no poo, I used a shea butter/cocoa butter/coconut oil/french vanilla blend that smelled absolutely amazing to hydrate the ends of my dry hair, and it made my whole head smell delicious. The product I used was actually meant to be used as a body butter, but the ingredients didn’t contain silicones (like many lotions/skin care butters) so I felt comfortable using it on my hair. There are a few things to be careful of when choosing/applying a styling product on no poo.

Requirements for choosing a styling product:

  • Regardless of which no poo method used, if you aren’t using sulfates to wash your hair, you must make sure you aren’t using any products that contain silicones!
  • Make sure you can sufficiently wash out any styling products that are added to hair. Whether or not you can wash it out depends on your no poo washing method. For those who use the Water Only method, make sure to choose a product that is water soluble (dissolves in water).
  • For oil-based products, use only a tiny amount of product as to not make hair look oily, and keep it away from the roots! I had success only rubbing a very small amount between my palms and distributing it sparingly at the ends of my hair and at the base of my scalp (not at the top or crown of my head).

DIY Natural Pomade / Hydrating Oil Recipe:

Make a homemade pomade by combining Beeswax + essential oil of your choice. Or make a homemade hydrating oil by combining coconut oil + shea butter + essential oil of your choice. I’ll share my own recipes with you in the future, but for now feel free to search online for some existing ones. :)

Option #4: DIY Natural Dry Shampoo Scented Recipe

Bowls of cocoa powder and arrowroot powder for DIY dry shampoo recipe

Another option is to deodorize hair (so it doesn’t smell like anything) with a simple, homemade dry shampoo: arrowroot powder. This is a great method to use if hair gets excessively oily and possibly starts to smell like dirty hair between washes. I recommend brushing/scritching/preening throughout the week with a clean brush to keep oils at bay, especially since oil buildup is usually what causes dirty hair smell. But at a certain point scritching/preening/brushing isn’t enough, so dry shampoo is a great option to make hair look and smell clean again, without requiring a hair wash. Dry shampoo should deodorize hair of any smells and soak up excess oils, but you can also add fragrance to dry shampoo.

Dark Hair: Arrowroot is a white powder so it blends into blonde hair best. For dark hair, mix together equal parts arrowroot and unsweetened cocoa powder to create a color that blends into darker hair better, which should absorb without leaving a white haze. 

Add Fragrance (Optional): For every 2 ounces (or 60 ml) (or 1/4 cup) of dry shampoo, add approximately 10 drops (total) of favorite essential oils (for ~1% dilution) and mix well. Add less essential oil for sensitive skin.

To Apply: Sprinkle a small amount of powder into hair (a little goes a long way), and fluff or brush hair until it absorbs. If a white haze is visible on hair, it generally means too much dry shampoo was applied, but it may be able to be fluffed away with a towel. Also be careful of how much dry shampoo is used because using too much can dry out the scalp which can encourage the scalp to produce oils to moisturize the head again. So only use as much as is needed, and a little goes a long way.

For more info about dry shampoo (and a homemade recipe) see “Tip #3” here.

I hope this post was helpful to you. What are your favorite ways of deodorizing or adding fragrance to your No Poo hair? :)


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9 comments

  1. Julia

    Hey there :-) first of all: Thank you so much for this beautiful and information-packed page! You’re doing great work :-)
    I’ve got a question and reaaaaallly hope you can help me: I’m trying water only for about three weeks now, and my hair is not really oily but so iiiincredibly waxy, so I have the urge to wash it at least once a week with a low-poo shampoo, but my hair is then afterwards so dry. Before I used to wash every Second day with a baby shampoo and before that I tried every crazy thing with my hair but the result was always dry and ststic hair :-(
    I would be soooo happy if you could help me!!! Thank you :-)

    1. Lisa Owens

      I’m a 60 year old woman who is looking to get back to her hippie roots. I find that the shampoos of yesteryear that I loved, namely Clairol Herbal Essence, the real green kind, and Bodycology, Chamomile and herbs, are gone now, and those are the only two I ever liked enough to try to find. Now that I am more savvy about chemicals and have dry, flyaway thinning hair, I’m really liking your simple recipes, like the no shampoo method! I’m going to give it a try! I wonder if there’s a way to control my flyaway dry hair, even on the ends. Tried olive oil, castor oil, but it’s still too greasy, even with a light hand. Any suggestions? (yes, it’s color treated!)

      1. Hi Lisa, Sometimes just using the scritch / preen / brush method can help distribute scalp oils throughout your hair which acts as a natural conditioner and styling product. I recommend trying this out and see if it helps your dry hair and flyaways. If that doesn’t work, I recommend trying argan oil on your ends. If you use a tiny bit, it’s one of the least oiliest oils I’ve personally tried, and it can help nourish your hair. Jojoba is another one that people often recommend. Be careful with how much you use! And keep it away from your roots to avoid looking oily. Hope this helps you.

  2. Kelly

    Hi! I loved your recipe for dry shampoo btw, and for the essential oil mix! I am currently using a lemon-scented one :)

    I have a question though, I hope it’s okay to ask here! I’ve been doing the no shampoo/BBB for about 6 months, and although I do like it as my thin hair responds MUCH better to this than standard shampoos, I’ve never actually been able to get the oil to absorb throughout my hair after BBBing. Like, I comb it usually from the second day, and while it helps for when I wash my hair with water, it doesn’t actually make it less significantly less oily where I can leave it down, etc. I wash my BBB only after I wash my hair (so once a week), should I be washing it after every use? So I would wash it daily from day two until my shower? Or maybe I am not brushing it thoroughly enough? Any suggestions/ideas would be VERY appreciated!!! Thank you for the awesome blog!

    1. Hi Kelly, Thanks! I’m glad you liked the recipes. You could try washing your BBB more often, but your hair should also absorb a small amount of excess oils at some point during the week, making it look hydrated but also clean. But you might also have an issue with silicone build up that is preventing your hair strands from absorbing moisture? More info here, hope it helps: https://justprimalthings.com/2015/08/24/still-experiencing-oily-hair-water-only-troubleshooting/

  3. Kerri

    I’ve so enjoyed your blog and its tremendous amount of information as I venture into the world of water-only washing. But I wonder if there is a way to remove odors from hair without using shampoo? I’m thinking specifically that lovely smokey campfire smell that is just so wonderful in the woods but not so wonderful when it’s back to work! Any tips would be appreciated.