Baking Soda and Vinegar Hair Care

Want to know something kind of weird? Or cool? I don't shampoo my hair. Ever.

This may come as a shock to some people, but I know I'm not alone. I have seen a lot of posts floating around the blog world about this specific hair treatment. But, whenever I mention to someone new that I don't use shampoo I tend to get a lot of questions. So this is a chance for me to organize my experience with not using products on my hair and hopefully a place where you can learn a little more, too.

I was definitely on the 'flatten and straighten your hair as much as possible' train all through high school. I have a lot of hair, which can be a bit wavy and coarse, and it has a tendency to get weighed down and frizzy. Eliminating products from my hair has really allowed me to embrace my natural hair texture, as it has much more body and lift, and is a hell of a lot smoother. I didn't even know how wavy my hair actually is until I stopped using shampoo. My hair is very happy for the change I have made.

There are many reasons to use all natural ingredients on your hair instead of shampoo. The average store bought shampoos have extremely harsh ingredients. If you do use a shampoo, try selecting one that is sulfate and paraben free. Many shampoos list as an ingredient sodium/ammonium laureth sulfate, which is a detergent (and thereby an irritant) that essentially will strip the hair of sebum and essential oils. Most shampoos contain harsh, drying sulfates that are extremely damaging for curly hair in particular. They are often foaming agents that make curly hair frizzy and uncooperative. Here is a list of other questionable shampoo ingredients to avoid. And I know what you're thinking, so shampoo is bad, but what about conditioner? Well, it is also full of unnecessary ingredients. It also binds to the hair, which can weigh your hair down drastically. The fact is, if your hair is healthy conditioner is rarely needed (if not completely unnecessary).

Did you know that modern shampoo, as we know it, was only introduced in the 1930s? And then, even still, the idea that you needed to wash/shampoo your hair everyday didn't come around until the 1970s. This mindset is reinforced by the greasy feeling of the scalp after a day or two of not shampooing. But that greasy feeling is directly related to shampoo use. Using shampoo every day removes sebum, the oil produced by the scalp. This causes the sebaceous glands to produce oil at a higher rate, to compensate for what is lost during shampooing. Can anyone else smell a marketing ploy? I doubt it is any coincidence that shampoo is recommended for daily use, of course companies want to sell more of their product. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Even just a gradual reduction in shampoo use will cause the sebum glands to produce at a slower rate, resulting in less grease in the scalp. And cutting shampoo use all together can bring a natural, healthy balance to your hair.

I first found out about Baking Soda and Vinegar as hair care (sometimes referred as 'no-poo') when I was searching for natural alternatives to various beauty products I was using. It seemed a little too adventurous for me and I kind of dismissed it. Then a friend of mine tried it and loved it, but I had a super short pixie at the time and was too chicken to try (my hair got oily very fast when it was short). As soon as my hair length was a bit longer, I got up the courage to give it a try. I'll never go back.

Things you should know if you are considering throwing out your shampoo and conditioner:

  1. Your hair will need a serious amount of adjustment to a new, shampoo-free regimen. After all, it has gotten use to producing an over-excess amount of sebum. When I first starting using baking soda and vinegar, after my first wash, my hair felt great. It was super shiny and smooth from the vinegar rinse. Then it felt awful. My hair had gotten use to producing sebum at a fast rate and it didn't quite know what to do now. It felt a little straw-like for a week or two. And so greasy. It may take 2-4 weeks for your hair to adjust to not being shampooed. It may even look worse at first. This a long-term commitment and depending on how damaged your hair is, it may take a couple weeks for it to regain its health. Stay confident through this adjustment period. Remind yourself that you are doing something great for you hair. Wear braids and buns for a week or tie it up with a scarf. It is worth it.
  2. To help your hair as it adjusting, try to slowly wash it less. And maybe consider a few coconut oil treatments to help it out. I thought I could magically start with baking soda and vinegar and only need to wash once a week. I was wrong. I lasted three days, my hair looked awful, and I caved. When I first started, I washed about every three days. Now I can go a whole week if I want to.
  3. Washing with baking soda and vinegar is going to feel really really weird. It is not going to lather all up and be all foamy and delicious. You'll get use to it.
  4. You hair will not smell. I repeat, YOUR HAIR WILL NOT SMELL. Everyone seems to think that I must smell like vinegar all day. But, once you have rinsed the vinegar from your hair and your hair has dried you will be surprised by how much it doesn't smell. In fact, it pretty much just smells like hair. That's it. This may come as a shock if you are use to hair that smells super flowery/scrumptious all day. You could try adding in some essential oils, like lavender, to your vinegar rinse if it bothers you.
  5. If you don't use one already, you may want to consider using a dry shampoo, in addition to your baking soda and vinegar. After about day three of my wash, my bangs or the area around my part will be a little greasy (I touch my hair a lot), but not to the point where I want to wash it just yet. I'll comb a bit of dry shampoo through my hair on these days. For you brunettes out there, cocoa powder is a great dry shampoo and smells delicious! I use an old makeup brush to dab cocoa powder on my hair, rub it in a bit and comb through. It works great, without looking grey/ashy.  

How to Wash Your Hair Using Baking Soda and Vinegar

Baking Soda Mix: As a general rule, mix 1 tablespoon baking soda with 1 cup of water. You may need to adjust the amount of baking soda, depending on how hard or soft the water in your home is. You want the mixture to feel kind of slimy. If it does not, you need to add in more baking soda. You can do this just before showering in a cup and just pour it over you hair. I like to use some small spray bottles for both of my mixes and keep them in the shower. This amount is good for three or four washes. Cover your scalp with the mixture thoroughly. You do not need to run this through all of your hair, just your scalp. Massage it in and give your scalp a good scrub. Rinse completely and follow with the vinegar rinse.

Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse: Mix 1 part vinegar to 2-3 parts water. When you have thoroughly rinsed out the baking soda, work into all of your hair and comb through. You can let this sit for a minute or two, if you hair is really tangled. Rinse completely with lukewarm water.

Other Tips and Tricks:

  1. When you apply the baking soda, really give yourself a nice scalp massage. It is great for stimulating hair growth!
  2. Do not comb your hair when it wet, this can cause breakage
  3. Avoid using hot tools (blow dryers, flat irons, curling irons, etc)
  4. Let your hair air dry for best results
  5. Consider a coconut oil treatment for split, dry ends (you may need to use a mild sulfate-free shampoo after, as baking soda does not remove oil well)
  6. If you work out often, and the sweat grosses you out, try just rinsing your hair with water and then using a dry shampoo once it has air dried, to avoid washing your hair everyday.

If you have any comments, concerns, or questions feel free to leave them below. I'd be happy to talk to you more.