Shampoo Free

Baking Soda for Hair (How, Why and When to use it- and when to step away)

29 March, 2016

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.

Use bicarbonate of soda for healthy hair

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.how to use baking soda for hair - healthy, shiny, clean hair

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.

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.No Poo Guide Transitional period

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33 Comments

  • Reply Emily 6 October, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    I am six weeks in and at the super waxy nothing with shift it stage in the length of my hair!
    I have the book but any find the egg/white vinegar/lemon combo recipe, what page is this on?
    Until I read this post I was thinking I would need to call it quite today, my roots are super squeaky clean but I can’t wear my hair down as it is so clumpy and sticky! This recipe may be my lifesaver!!

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 8 October, 2014 at 10:10 pm

      It is in the FAQ under WAXINESS! I think it will really help! One of the biggest things I get emailed about 🙂

      • Reply Emily 9 October, 2014 at 11:08 pm

        This was actually my life saver!! My hair was so soft and so clean after!! Only one issue, i got very hot running around at work and my hair definitely smelt quite strongly of egg! I felt like I rinsed really well but is there anything that can combat this!?

        • Lucy
          Reply Lucy 10 October, 2014 at 7:53 pm

          Oh no! Never had that. A few drops of essential oil in the mixture will help- like lavender 🙂

  • Reply Jo T 6 October, 2014 at 11:43 pm

    Great blog. You are very generous with sharing your journey so people really should BUY THE BOOK 🙂

  • Reply Janine 7 October, 2014 at 12:22 am

    I wish you had a paper version of this book! I have my laptop but no tablet so no way to easily read it on the bus/train. 🙁

    I assume you have a section on color-treated hair?
    Janine recently posted…Sunday Link LoveMy Profile

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 8 October, 2014 at 10:09 pm

      There IS a paper version! On Amazon. But it is expensive and i get about 20 cents from it! Way better to get the cheaper PDF and print it – it will be 30 double sided sheets 😀 And small bit on colour yes.

  • Reply Carlie 7 October, 2014 at 1:52 am

    @Janine, the ebook is delivered as a .pdf – all you have to do is print it off from your laptop. 😉 It’s not hugely long so is not a big hassle to print or anything.

  • Reply Anna 7 October, 2014 at 7:46 am

    Hi,
    You have a great blog, however I am a little confused, I understood you were supposed to use a dilute vinegar rinse on your scalp after baking soda to reset the ph after the alkalinity of the baking soda, but you say to just use a little acv on the ends.
    Thanks, Anna

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 8 October, 2014 at 10:08 pm

      The impact of pH levels on hair is this.. a more alkaline rinse sort of scuffs up the the scales on your hair shaft, making hair dry and staticy- an acidic vinegar rinse essentially smooths them down.
      Rinsing off well with water will mostly get your pH level back to normal, particularly if you haven’t taken out all your sebum etc. However our ends seems to need more help with this – hence the acidic rinse.
      Personally, if I do an acidic rinse on the top of my head it gets so smooth that it looks almost damp. That is the main reason people don’t tend to chuck it all over their head. But see how you get on!
      Phew, hope that explains it? V late here!

  • Reply Rosealys 7 October, 2014 at 8:41 am

    You are so right about using too much bicarb. I’ve been no-poo for just over a year now (actually, since just after I found your blog!) and for a long time I was finding my hair pretty waxy. So I kept upping the amount of bicarb in a the-more-the-merrier sort of way but it just got worse. Then I read your book and I dropped the amount it to 1/2 – 3/4 tsp each time and it’s way better. Still not perfect but waaaay better.

    I’ve read that if you have hard water then you should use boiled water to wash your hair, does that mean just for the stuff you make up the bicarb mix with, or for rinsing and all, because I don’t think I could boil enough water for the rinsing bit…?

    Just one more question, o guru, I’ve been using coconut oil after washing when the hair is dry as a conditioner / anti-frizzer, and I want to dry an over-night leaving-the-coconut-oil-in sort of deep conditioning treatment. I’ve done it twice before (stupidly on school nights,) and the next morning I couldn’t get the stuff out without resorting to some of my left-over shampoo (oh the shame!) How do you get it out without resorting to the dreaded fragrant foaminess?
    Rosealys recently posted…On and off the needles.My Profile

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 8 October, 2014 at 10:03 pm

      Oh, a bicarb paste couldn’t get it out? I have had success with that.
      However, I’d also consider just a tiny dab of coconut oil on the very ends before bed and after a wash. Just a wee bit…
      Yes, people suggest boiled water might work for hard water – it should be fine to just boil the water for the bicarb rinse alone. 🙂

  • Reply ThaliaKR 7 October, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    Keep up the great work, Lucy!
    ThaliaKR recently posted…‘I shall try to do what is right’My Profile

  • Reply Holly 25 October, 2014 at 3:02 am

    Hi I stumbled across this on Pinterest. You are so convincing!!!! Straight away I bought your book and today I am on day one!! Just wondering where YOU buy your aloe Vera juice and gel, coconut oil and essential oils from?

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 29 March, 2016 at 12:09 pm

      My local health shops if poss and the internet if not 😀

  • Reply Sarah 9 December, 2014 at 5:06 am

    I bought your book,
    from this article I’ve realized I’m using too much baking soda, for some reason my brain went at the science arse about face. I thought you increased the baking soda instead of reducing it, lol.
    I think I might have put myself back to square one and after the 8 weeks of smelliness, oh the torture, well not quite. I’m lucky I don’t live with anyone [other than my son] and I hardly socialize so the world really is a better place because (a) I’m more eco-friendly and (b) they don’t have to encounter my eco-friendly attempts, yay!!
    Thank you for sharing what you know 🙂

  • Reply Penny Barrott 11 December, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    Hi – I’ve been poo free for almost two months now and I love it!

    Being a thrifty New Englander I decided to use my old shampoo to clean the china sink in the bathroom.
    Yikes! While washing said sink with a small sponge, my hand started getting REALLY ITCHY!
    And I thought “No wonder I had an itchy scalp all these years!” Great improvement on that aspect. Thanks so much for your book, which, by the way is hard to purchase in New Zealand. (I got my copy from the library).
    Keep up the good work! Cheers, Penny B.

  • Reply Chloe 24 December, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    I reaaally want to buy your book, but i don’t have a CC. Would you put it up on google play store? That’s the only place my father would use his CC online. Thank you.

  • Reply james 22 November, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    I used baking soda on my hair and it absolutely destroyed and fried it. My hair began thinning and it has been thinning for 8 months, it super dry, damaged and the texture is completely different. I have been get frequent short hair cuts, but the hair will not stop thinning. Is there anyway to reverse this problem.

    James

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 28 November, 2015 at 10:03 am

      Ooh that doesn’t sound good! I would go hard on extra nourishing- nettle and Rosemary tea rinses and do you have a boat bristle brus? A gentle brush will stimulate your scalp and redistribute Healthy sebum

  • Reply DAY 4 -“NO POO”BICARB SHAMPOO – The Plastic Challenge 7 June, 2016 at 3:50 am

    […] shampoo. So, I thought I’d give it a go. There are instructions for using bicarb as shampoo on this blog. Essentially, you add a little water to your bicarb of soda to make a paste and then rub it into […]

  • Reply 21 days: No Shampoo – The Flipside Journal 24 June, 2016 at 11:06 pm

    […] There are several articles and posts about this method, and the effects. Take a read: http://www.thehippyhomemaker.com/dirty-hippy-truth-no-poo/ http://lulastic.co.uk/no-poo-2/baking-soda-for-hair/ […]

  • Reply Sallyann Gilbert 2 November, 2016 at 10:33 pm

    Hello I’m sure you have covered this but I can’t seem to find it. I have a color on my hair will the use of bicarb take out the colour? Thank you 🙂

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 9 November, 2016 at 11:47 am

      Yes, it will a little. I find anything does that, but bs and anything acidic especially so.

  • Reply Suellen Carneiro 10 November, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    Estou no começo, quanto a retirar o uso do shampoo da minha rotina, e seguindo firme e forte. Seu blog tem ajudado muito. Parabéns pelo trabalho! Mesmo achando o cabelo estranho (por estar no começo[menos de um mês]), irei continuar sem o uso e optando por alternativas saudáveis.

  • Reply Jeremy Vaught 28 November, 2016 at 1:02 am

    HUH! I have read about and have been using baking soda for shampoo for a couple of years. However not until today reading this blog was I aware that saponification is happening.

    I did some more research to verify, and it is indeed the case.

    This explains so many of the questions I had about why it worked. It also explains questions like, “what is the milky substance that results from putting a clear Baking Soda in water solution in my hair?” “Why does it work better the longer I go between using it?” (answer, there is more oil), I even went so long between washes once that when I added the Baking Soda I got foaming, similar to modern shampoo! “Why does it take so little Baking Soda and is still super effective?” (answer, science is happening!)

    If this helps anyone, I’ll also point out that before Baking Soda, I was water only when I had shorter hair and only started using Baking Soda when water alone wasn’t getting enough oil/sebum out.

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 28 November, 2016 at 10:17 am

      Hi Jeremy! Yes, the more I have discovered about No Poo the more I see it is based on sold principles of chemistry 😀 I have had the foam happening too – with all sorts of No Poo alternatives 😀

  • Reply jack 20 December, 2016 at 9:39 pm

    Hey Lucy, I happened to have to used to much baking soda on my hair. About two years ago I washed my hair with about 3 table spoons and half a cup of water, I completely misread someones instructions and it completely destroyed my hair. The weird thing is my hair has been destroyed for about 2 years still, I have had like 30 hair cuts in between and my hair is still insanely dry, brittle, thin,fine and stringy. Could this much baking soda have cause permanent hair damage to the scalp or hair follicles. Would my scalps pH have balanced out by now, or if not would this possibly be fixed by washing with ACV. I have had my blood checked multiple times and dermatologists don’t think I have MPB. I definitely think my on going hair problems still comes back to the baking soda!

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 20 December, 2016 at 9:52 pm

      Wow, that sounds intense. And like a pretty awful experience. I have read an awful lot about hair, but I still can’t give you a definite answer, but from what I’ve read, you can’t damage your hair permanently from applying something to it. Have you had a change in water source since doing it? Or a change in diet? What were you using before baking soda, and what after? Can you try and treat it with some oils, regular argan etc?

  • Reply jack 21 December, 2016 at 6:51 am

    Can’t be the water source since everyone else in my house is okay. Diets been pretty good. Just normal shampoo and conditionner, yeah I could try some oils. I tried that for about a month a year ago and didnt seem to do anything. My hair just seems to keep growing in very damaged and the way it was the second I rinsed my hair with the BS.

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 21 December, 2016 at 7:56 pm

      Ah, that is such a shame! I recommend (it’s obvious) ditching the normal shampoo and conditioner and trying some gente alternatives such as rye flour (see my other posts or my whole other website happyhairguide.com for other alternatives) People find their hair becomes far more healthy. Hope it works for you!

  • Reply jack 26 December, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    Do you think if I rinsed with Apple Cider vinegar it could completely fix my scalps pH or does it naturally resolve over a long period of time?

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