Today I want to make the case for one of the cheapest, most effect alternative to shampoos that I know! (Imagine a cheesy 1950’s advert here with me holding a tub of baking soda.) “Use Baking Soda for hair that is healthy, clean and shiny!” Lots of people ask me if baking soda for hair is a winner or whether it will destroy your beautiful locks. This is a big deal as it shows me that the world has moved WAY past the “Does it smell?” stage, which lasted about seventeen million years. (The stage, not the smell! Pahaha.) Now people have accepted that No Poo is officially A Thing and are getting down to the nitty gritty about what to use. AWESOME, WORLD! Go us!
I am here to reassure you that baking soda for hair is a WINNER, people! It can really help make your hair healthy – if used in the right time and place. In fact, if you plan on giving up traditional shampoo baking soda has a crucial role. It strips your hair of nasty ‘cones (dimethicone coats your hair shaft and is present in almost every shop-bought shampoo bottle) – allowing it to become a good conduit for your glorious sebum.
Baking soda in hair? Really?!
Bicarbonate of Soda/ Baking Soda is the first alternative people who stop using shampoo turn to. This is because the mechanism between this ingredient and your hair is pure and simple. Baking soda effectively turns the glorious protective sebum of your hair (the bit that makes it looks greasey!) into soap. Sometimes when you use Baking Soda you can feel a slipperiness all over your hair- this is the saponification (soaping up!) in process. It is also the cheapest alternative (apart from water) you can use, costing about 2 cents per application.
How do I use baking soda for hair?
The internet is chockablock with the wrong information about this. Even my own blog has been there with the inaccurate info, when I was first starting out. This is because you use different amounts of baking soda at different times. To start off with you are really trying to strip out your hair of all the silicones piled upon each hair shaft- stuff inherent to most commercial shampoos. You will need a heaped table spoon of baking soda stirred into a cup of water and then poured onto it every section of your hair. You will leave it on for one minute, massaging it through. You will need to do this kind of wash at least 3-4 times at the start of your No Poo journey. Once you start heading through the transition stage you will gradually decrease the amount you use. Once you are through transition you will be using just 1/2 teaspoon in half a glass of water and it will be making your hair as clean as it was at the start. This is because your hair is clear of extras and the baking soda is working straight on your sebum.
What will baking soda do in my hair?
A successful baking soda wash will firstly make your hair SQUEAK with cleanliness as you rinse it off. Your hair will then be shiny, bright, and light. And gradually, as your hair gets more and more used to it, it will become less greasy. You will soon be able to go a week, possibly two weeks, even three weeks without using anything on your hair apart from water.
If it is dull, waxy, heavy, flywaway or brittle then read on….
Why might baking soda for hair make it feel unhealthy and broken?
There are a few blogposts out there where No Poo-ers have suggested that Bicarbonate of soda have destroyed their hair. This is a bit of a bummer as I think as an entry No Poo ingredient Bicarbonate of Soda is the absolute business. (I literally buy it in bulk and use it for EVERYTHING! From deodorant to cleaning.) It is very hard to get wrong (unlike the egg, with which even the most die hard No Pooer has had a catastrophe with) and really truly gives a good clean up to every head of hair, particularly dealing with the waxiness of transition.
Once you understand the science of No Poo (Gosh darn, I wish there was a simple and comprehensive guide to the chemistry of No Poo! Oh wait! What is THIS?! Oh hey there! There seems to be a best selling book that covers that… written by, erm, me!) it is easy to see that using too much baking soda will strip your hair of all of its sebum and the only place that will take your hair is to the Unstoppable Ferris Wheel of Grease Over Production – the very thing we are all trying to leave behind us. If you remove your sebum this effectively frequently your hair will keep producing too much sebum to replace it. Damaging the equilibrium of your hair this way will make it dry and brittle on the ends and heavy at the top.
Avoid the damaging nature of baking soda for hair by:
- Just as you are trying to INCREASE the amount of days in between washes you should try and DECREASE the amount of Baking Soda you use. If you are already through transition and are using anything more than one teaspoon in a cup of water once a week than I’d suggest you are using too much.
- Use 1/4 teaspoon – 1 teaspoon for one wash and then use an alternative for your next wash. Ideally something with incredibly nourishing elements such as an egg.
- Rinse the absolute HECK out of it. Left over BS in your hair will feel grim
- Every month or so you should so a moisturising head mask – either with heated coconut oil, or a mashed up banana or a mashed up avocado.
- If you have long hair you need to also use something acidic on your ends in order to smooth down the cuticle layer of your hair shaft. A spoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of warm water sprinkled through the ends of your hair and rinsed off will do this. (This will solve flyaways too.)
- Try to nail the water only wash. Use hot water to massage into your scalp, scrubbing out the sebum down through your hair shaft to the very ends of your hair. Then scoot your hair under a cold rinse. The colder the better. Hollering allowed. Towel dry – hefty rubbing also helps. Use a water wash instead of another baking soda wash.
- If your hair is waxy be assured this is a natural part of transition. There comes a point when not even BS can shift the wax. For this you need the super sonic combo of egg, lemon and white vinegar – a mask that will hit reset for your hair, shifting all the wax. YESSSS!
If you want to experiment with alternatives to baking soda, I have done a bunch of hands on alternative shampoo research here and have also come up with three gorgeous homemade shampoos that bring together some of the most nourishing ingredients for healthy, shampoo free hair.
And if you are serious about cutting down on traditional shampoo, do consider buying a Boar Bristle Brush. The best boar bristle brush for you depends on your price range and hair type. I use this Kent brush, they’ve been making them since 1777 and i inherited this one from my Nana, but the Moroccan Oil and Christophe Robin brushes here are pure boar bristle too. They are pricey but consider it an investment in natural beauty that will last your lifetime!
I hope this has answered all the questions out there about using Baking Soda for hair. Now, if you want to know all there is about giving up shampoo successfuly, I reckon you could do with my my ebook, Happy Hair: the definitive guide to giving up shampoo. You know what? Read my ebook and you will be the President of No Poo University. Actually, can I be president? You can be the librarian.
All the recipes mentioned briefly here- the conditioning masks, hot oil treatments and Wax Tackling egg combo are in there. As well as suggestions for dry shampoos and loads of tips about getting through transition. It is designed to be a reference point for all the tricky stages of your No Poo journey. It is available here in every country and currency and it downloads on to all computers, Kindles and E-readers and is also ready to print, if you like something in your hands. All for a few buckeroos.