How to Use Green Tea as an Alternative to Shampoo to Clean Hair

By Karyn Maier

Beauty is big business, with a large portion of the market devoted to hair care products. It may feel good to step out of the shower with squeaky clean hair, but that drag you feel when trying to comb through it is the result of the natural oils being stripped from your scalp. Conventional shampoos contain long lists of harsh ingredients, many of them questionable. Parabens, sulfates, phthalates and triethanolamine (TEA), for instance, are known or suspected hormone disruptors and carcinogens. The good news is that you can safely clean your hair with green tea, saving some green in your purse at the same time.

Matcha tea in white bowls
credit: a_namenko/iStock/GettyImages
How to Use Green Tea as an Alternative to Shampoo to Clean Hair

Pamper Hair With Panthenol

Green tea contains several beneficial compounds that do a body good inside and out. Topically, these agents bind to hair to give each shaft a smooth appearance and added shine. One of these is panthenol, a derivative of vitamin B5 also known as pantothenic acid that acts as an emollient and humectant to help detangle snarls and retain moisture in both hair and scalp. Panthenol also provides protection against UV irradiation.

Stop Losing Your Locks

If the number of hairs in the bathroom sink makes you cringe, you should know that green tea can help preserve your tresses. The plant contains several antioxidant compounds collectively referred to as catechins, most notably one called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). This phytochemical also provides UV protection and helps to counter hair loss. Studies show that EGCG extends the hair follicle growth phase otherwise cut short by the degradation of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, an event that occurs in both men and women.

Trust the Process

The first step to ditching your conventional shampoo is to accept the fact that getting your hair clean doesn't require a mountain of suds. Synthetic surfactants and emollients are engineered to produce a lot of foam, which can be pretty seductive as you swirl your crowning glory into a frothy beehive. Your goal, however, is not so much to wash your hair as it is to wash your scalp. Toward that end, get used to making massage motions on your scalp and avoid unnecessary scrubbing or piling of hair that can promote breakage and tangling.

Green Your Hair-Washing Routine

Unless you add a natural preservative, like citric acid or rosemary extract, plan to brew the tea on an as-needed basis. Alternatively, you can keep a batch in the refrigerator for up to a week and let it come to room temperature before using. For each cup of tea, steep 2 heaping tablespoons of loose tea in 1 cup of boiling water to make a strong infusion (do not boil together or the active ingredients will be lost). Strain, reserving the liquid in a clean bottle. To use, pour 1 to 2 cups over wet hair and massage into the scalp with your fingertips, paying special attention to the temples and base of the skull. Rinse with cool water and style as usual. If your hair tends to tangle easily, add a teaspoon of melted coconut oil to the tea. If you wish, add essential oils to enhance cleansing power, antioxidant activity and fragrance, such as lavender or sweet orange.