Hair care can actually be one of the trickiest areas in which to go natural, especially when you are used to synthetic hair products. Luckily, we've done the hard work and made the mistakes for you (I personally tried a natural shampoo bar which left my hair looking so bad I couldn't leave the house!) To understand natural hair care it is really important to know how different products work and what they are supposed to do...
I may be stating the obvious here but the main aim of shampooing is to remove dirt from our hair... A good shampoo needs to be able to remove dirt, grease, and styling product build-up without stripping away all the natural oils in our hair, which can leave it dry and crunchy. The active ingredient in shampoos that does this is called a surfactant.
Surfactants are basically detergents - they work by removing the dirt from the hair's surface and dispersing it in the washing solution, so that it is not deposited back onto the clean hair or scalp. Foam is usually the way to do this, which is why most shampoos are foamy. Detergents are usually synthetically-produced, although they can also be derived from gentle natural sources, such as Coconut Oil, which is where natural shampoos come in!
Natural conditioner is often a much simpler swap. The active ingredients in most commercial conditioners are known as cationic surfactants. After shampooing, hair is often left with too little natural oil, and conditioners are used to fix this.
The cationic surfactants in conventional conditioners are attracted to damaged hair where keratin (the hair's protein) has been affected. The cationic surfactant fills the holes and the result is an improvement in condition. Before synthetic detergents were invented, rinses of lemon juice or cider vinegar were often used to help improve the shine and feel of hair after washing. These acidic substances help soften the water and have an astringent effect, shrinking the cuticles of the hair and making it smoother.