One of the biggest questions I get asked these days about giving up shampoo is about whether Baking Soda (or Bicarbonate of Soda) will destroy your hair. 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!
However, it is also a big deal as it tells me that people haven’t read my book. WHAT? WHY? IT IS LIKE TWO QUID AND EXPLAINS EVERYTHING, I mean EVERYTHING about No Poo and Baking Soda and what to use and why and the ins and outs of all the alternatives without being confucius. Read my book and you will be the President of No Poo University. Actually, can I be president? You can be the librarian.
Oh. Am I being a little, erm, intense?
Why Bicarbonate of Soda?
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 soapification in process. It is also the cheapest alternative (apart from water) you can use, costing about 2 pence per application.
How do I use it?
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 bicarb 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 something close to a heaped table spoon of bicarb 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 bicarbonate of soda is working straight on your sebum.
What will it do to my hair?
A successful bicarbonate of 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 it be bad for my hair?
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?!) it is easy to see that using too much bicarbonate of 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 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 steaming 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!
I hope this has answered all the questions out there about using Baking Soda for happy, healthy hair. Now BUY MY BOOK GODDAMIT.
I jest, I jest. But if you WOULD like to become an expert on your own hair please consider it. 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 couple of bucks.