5 Low-Salicylate Ways I Wash My Hair

Over the next few videos we’ll be looking a little into hair care. Today’s topic covers five ways I wash my hair! Most shampoo and conditioners have plenty of chemicals and fragrances that may cause issues with someone who is salicylate sensitive. Then if you go “natural” and pick something up in the natural food section, you’ll run into shampoos and conditioners that use peppermint, rosemary, aloe, and other natural botanicals high in salicylates. It can take quite some time to find something safe to use! That’s why I’m here to share a few of my tips.

1. Bar of Soap

My current and favorite method to wash my hair with is to just use plain lard or tallow bar soap. Between the two, I prefer lard soap. The grass-fed tallow soap smells a little grassy to me, and the lard soap has less of that smell. I think some of this depends on where the vendor gets their tallow and the quality of course! I will get my hair wet, run the bar soap along the strands, and then massage for a good lather along my scalp. My hair is long, so I’ll avoid washing my ends unless they are dirty (I play pretty hard outside) or have product on them. Some people like to shave the soap and mix it into squeeze bottle and dilute it with water. This is good way to go for children, you can have a little more control over where it goes. Oh! and, if you get it in your eyes – it does sting a little.

If you’re vegan, vegetarian, or prefer not to use animal products, you could contact a soap maker and ask them to make you a custom blend. Low/No salicylate oils are: canola, cottonseed, palm, rice bran, soy and sunflower. Offer to buy the whole batch from them – this saves on shipping for you, and the soap maker won’t have a loss if they can’t sell the others.  Ask the soap maker to use oils without antioxidants or preservatives. It doesn’t have to be organic, but just make sure it doesn’t have other ingredients in it.

And don’t forget! If you find a soap maker that will make you something custom – and you liked it – let me know and I can list it on the product directory. That way other low-sal folks can reach out to the same soap maker for the same thing. Eventually, they’ll just leave it stocked in their store!

  • Sodium hydroxide/Lye and Salt are needed ingredients in soap – these ingredients are ok to use.
  • Potassium hydroxide is another type of lye, also called caustic potash.
  • Sodium tallowate = rendered tallow already mixed with the sodium hydroxide.
  • Saponified [fat] = rendered fat already mixed with the sodium hydroxide
  • Sodium cocoate = rendered coconut oil – avoid this.

Where to find it:

2. Liquid Soap

Liquid lard or tallow soap can be made by soap makers – and outside of Etsy, I’ve never found a simple liquid soap. This year I purchased two liquid soaps, one was thicker and creamy, the other was slightly runny. I think the texture is affected by how much salt is used. I like to add it to a little squeeze bottle for easy application. Again, if you don’t want animal products, contact a soap maker and ask if they can make you something with custom oils. Oils have different properties, so rely on their knowledge and experience for which oils to use. For vegan soaps, look for a castille soap maker and see what they can make! Castile soap is normally made with olive oil, but it’s not limited to it.

Where to find it:

3. Cleure Shampoo and Conditioner

Cleure Shampoo and Conditioner say their products are salicylate free – and we have to trust them. I used them for about six months, and didn’t have any reactions. I did have chronic hair loss for about 5 years, and once I stopped shampoo completely and switched to animal products (or water only), my hair loss stopped. I’m not telling you this to discourage you – I think their hair products are just fine, but it didn’t work perfectly for me. My biggest concern about the ingredients is that they use coconut products, and I’m still not sure if EDTA is safe for the salicylate sensitive.

The conditioner works well. I didn’t see any coconut or questionable ingredients, and I use it occasionally.

Where to find it:

4. Custom Medicated Liquid Soap

I’ve had a dry and itchy scalp for about 4 years – I was hoping a low-sal diet would fix it. It’s improved a little bit, but it’s still there! My dermatologist recommended I get an anti-dandruff shampoo. Since all the shampoos over the counter have fragrance and high-sal products in them (including some with salicylic acid!) we opted for a custom medicated soap. I ordered a liquid lard/tallow soap from an Etsy soap maker, took it to my compounding pharmacy, and with the doctor’s prescription, they added the active ingredient to my soap.  I used Zinc Pyrithione as the active ingredient and did not have a reaction to it. It also didn’t clear up the itchy scalp – so we’ll need to try a different active ingredient or maybe look at trigger foods again that might be affecting it.

5. Baking Soda and a Safe Acid (Clarifying wash, once/month)

Baking soda (Sodium bicarbonate) is a great cleaner! I use it as a clarifying wash once a month when I’m feeling extra dingy. I’ll use 1 teaspoon with about a 1/2 cup-1 cup water, throw it in a squeeze bottle, and give it a good clean. Because it’s so alkaline (and our scalps are acidic) I don’t recommend using it more than once a week. Be sure to use an acid afterward – this will help with the tangles and bring the pH back down. Salicylate safe acids include kefir (dairy, non-dairy, or water), buttermilk, rice wine vinegar, and malt vinegar. Lemon juice used to be low-sal, but it’s now been categorized higher. It’s probably ok to use a little bit diluted in water as a rinse – do note that it can lighten your hair when exposed to sunlight, and possibly not in an attractive way.