Homemade Salicylic Acid Shampoo (for Seborrheic Dermatitis – Dandruff)

By Cat, June 2019 (image, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

Dr. Bronner’s liquid Castile soap

A few weeks ago, I noticed a lot of itchiness on my face, ears and scalp. And then dandruff and redness with scaly areas on each side of my nose (near bottom) and chin; that got my attention. I haven’t had eczema (seborrheic dermatitis) on my face in over 40 years, but I recognized its return, right away. Last time, my Portland naturopath tried several herbs (that treat the liver and are anti-microbial) which helped, but every time I washed my face, the symptoms returned. So then he suggested homeopathic 6x Oregon grape; the problem was gone in 2 days!

When I tried the homeopathic this time, it isn’t working as well as before. I’m in Montana now so cannot consult my former naturopath, so decided to do some research on my own. I’m using a combo of honey, coconut oil and tea tree oil on my face, and want to try a salicylic acid shampoo for my scalp. The following is the result of my research into how to make that, since I don’t like all the synthetic ingredients in commercial versions.

I should note that I know eczema is the result of the liver being overwhelmed with toxins, so excretes them through the skin. I am working on the source of those toxins (diet and food sensitivities) to get at the cause, in addition to supporting my liver and treating the symptoms on my face and scalp.

See also: 1. Natural Healing Methods and Personal Care Menu; 2. Notes on Natural Health Topics Menu; 3. Seborrheic Dermatitis (Dandruff, Facial Eczema)

Homemade Salicylic Acid Shampoo

This recipe (below) is adapted from Hairguard (1). They recommend using it twice per week.

Test the shampoo for allergic reaction on a small patch of skin before use on your scalp. The most common side effect is skin irritation (redness, itching, and burning). Seek medical help immediately if you suffer from signs of anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction (2)), including hives, difficulty breathing and/or swallowing, swelling of the mouth, tongue, lips, or eyes, or nausea/vomiting.

The tea tree oil (essential oil) is added because it has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal activity that improves symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff. (5)

I highly recommend using real Castile soap, such as Dr Bronner’s brand (3), (see also Amazon ASIN B005Z798TW and image, above right), because it does not contain any synthetic or questionable ingredients. I plan to use the one scented with peppermint, because the menthol in peppermint has a cooling effect.

Or, you can use a commercial shampoo (instead of mixing your own), and add the willow bark extract (see below) and tea tree oil as described in the recipe. The best commercial shampoos do not contain sodium lauryl (or laureth) sulfate, which is a harsh detergent and may irritate your skin.

White willow bark extract is available as an alcohol-free liquid, for example, Nature’s Answer brand (iHerb code NTA-00683 or Amazon ASIN B00014H5OE) or as an extract powder (for example, Amazon ASIN B00GH0EH9M). The original Hairguard recipe (1) uses a liquid extract. Or make your own liquid extract, starting with ground willow bark: add undiluted apple cider vinegar, and let steep 3 – 4 weeks, or more; see Homemade White Willow Bark Extract (non-alcoholic), below.

[NOTE: you could make a dried extract, but it is a lot more bother and requires the use of plastic trays; see Foundations of Herbalism article (8) for details.]

Another option is to use aspirin (acetyl-salicylic acid) instead of white willow bark (salicylic acid). Use 2 aspirin tablets for each 1 oz of shampoo. (4)

Ingredients & Equipment

  • Distilled water (1 cup)
  • Liquid Castile soap or your favorite liquid shampoo (4 Tbsp)
  • White willow bark extract (2 tsp of liquid)
  • Tea tree oil (10 drops)
  • Equipment (if starting from scratch):
  • small mixing bowl

Mixing Directions:

  1. If making your own willow bark extract (see Homemade Willow Bark Extract below), it needs to steep at least a month before using. I suggest making a cup or more and store it in a dark, cool place, so you can use it for many shampoos.
  2. If using your favorite shampoo, skip the next step and go to step 3.
  3. Combine the water and liquid Castile soap in a small mixing bowl, stirring until you get a soapy solution.
  4. Add the white willow bark extract and tea tree oil, to your shampoo or soapy solution, and stir until combined.
  5. Transfer to a half-pint mason jar or 8-oz glass bottle with lid.

How to use:

  1. Mix well before each use; twice a week is recommended.
  2. To apply, pour into palm and massage into wet hair and scalp. Work the solution deeply into your scalp. I recommend using a “scalp invigorator brush” (such as Amazon ASIN B07M8SNRK6) for this job. Be sure to pay special attention to the most troublesome areas of your scalp.
  3. Leave in for 2-3 minutes, and then rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water.

Homemade willow bark extract (non-alcoholic)

These instructions are adapted from Wellness Mamma (6)

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • white willow bark powder; I get mine from Swan Valley Herbs in Bigfork MT, my home town.
  • apple cider vinegar
  • Equipment:
  • pint or mason jar, with lid
  • mesh strainer
  • cheesecloth
  • bowl
  • amber glass dropper bottle, with lid


  1. Place the ground willow bark in the mason jar. Pour ACV over; it will tend to float so best to add a bit at a time, stir well and add more, until all is saturated. Do not press down.
  2. Cover jar and shake. Label jar with date, and place in fridge. Give it a shake each day and add more vinegar if needed to cover. It should be ready in 3 – 4 weeks, though you can let it steep longer, up to 6 months.
  3. Line a strainer with a couple layers of cheesecloth, and place above a bowl; pour contents of jar into the lined strainer. When it has thoroughly drained, wrap the cheesecloth around the damp powder and squeeze out the remaining liquid.
  4. Transfer extract to an amber-colored dropper bottle, with lid. Label the bottle.
  5. Compost the solids.

See Wellness Mamma (6) for more detail. Another source is Leaf (7); Note: their instructions illustrate chopped/torn fruit or herbs, not a powder.


  1. hairguard.com/salicylic-acid-shampoo/
  2. acaai.org/allergies/anaphylaxis
  3. shop.drbronner.com/pure-castile-liquid-soap#scent=Peppermint
  4. hair-styling.wonderhowto.com/how-to/make-your-own-dandruff-shampoo-0126606/
  5. draxe.com/seborrheic-dermatitis/
  6. wellnessmama.com/8168/herbal-tinctures/
  7. leaf.tv/articles/how-to-make-non-alcoholic-extracts/
  8. foundationsofherbalism.com/pdf/Pwdrextract.pdf

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