Thanks to YouTubers, conversations on natural hair forums, and the need for non-toxic product choices, products for our hair and skin are hot these days. And when it comes to a natural solution for combating dryness, gently removing buildup, and growing hair, one component appears again on curly girl hair threads: baking soda.
Baking soda (followed by apple cider vinegar) is said to help reset your scalp’s pH, which encourages hair development, eliminates product buildup, and even softens hair strands, according to Redditors and curly girl forums. It’s also in a few of our favorite dry shampoos.
We enlisted the help of scientist and trichologist Dominic Burg, as well as board-certified dermatologist Dr. Anna Guanche, M.D., to distinguish reality from myth. They both explain the chemistry behind baking soda, its impact on hair, and the components to look for when it comes to hair and scalp health.
GET TO KNOW THE EXPERT
- Dominic Burg is évolis Professional’s head scientist, hair biologist, microbiologist, and trichologist. He specializes on hair and scalp biology, especially hair cycle signaling.
- Dr. Anna Guanche is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Bella Skin Institute. She also hosts the Dr. Beauty Podcast.
Haircare With Baking Soda
- MAIN BENEFITS: Resets the pH of your scalp, reduces dandruff and scalp irritation, and relieves scalp dryness.
- WHO SHOULD USE IT: Baking soda is suitable for most hair types.
- HOW OFTEN May YOU USE IT: Depending on the texture of your hair, baking soda can be used weekly or monthly.
- THIS INGREDIENT DOES NOT WORK WELL WITH: This ingredient does not work well with essential oils.
- DO NOT USE WITH: Apple cider vinegar can be used after baking soda, but not together.
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The Advantages of Baking Soda for Hair
Baking soda (also known technically as sodium bicarbonate) is an exfoliating agent that, when combined with apple cider vinegar, may help balance the pH levels of your scalp.
Burg claims that your natural pH is somewhat acidic, but a pH that is too high (i.e., more basic than normal) produces brittleness, while a pH that is too low (more acidic than usual) degrades color. As a result, returning your hair and scalp’s pH balance to normal can assist with a variety of conditions, including dandruff, scalp irritation, dryness, and more.
One of the most significant advantages of using baking soda in your hair is that it reduces buildup: Guanche claims that “Baking soda for hair advantages include leaving it clean, shining, and soft since it helps eliminate buildup of oils, soaps, and any remains of hair care products. Baking soda removes superfluous oils and hair products from the skin, leaving it clean, smooth, and shining.”
She goes on, “Baking soda, contrary to popular belief, does not encourage hair growth; but, it helps clean the scalp and hair, avoiding the buildup of oils and hair care products. It’s worth noting that baking soda has a pH of 9, which is greater than the pH of our hair. When applying a chemical with a higher pH than the hair, exercise caution since you do not want to remove the natural oils of the hair, resulting in breakage and fragile hair.”
Considerations for Hair Type
Baking soda, according to Guanche, may be used on most hair types. However, it should be noted that over usage of the substance might be harmful. “There is no specific hair type that is recommended or contraindicated when using baking soda on hair.
The one thing to keep in mind while using baking soda is that it might make the hair more delicate, producing more dryness and breakage since it can deplete the natural hair oils “she claims “In moderation, baking soda can clean the scalp and hair, exfoliate the scalp, and diminish semi-permanent hair coloring. It will not affect the pace of hair development, which is crucial to note because there is misunderstanding about the benefits of baking soda on hair.”
How to Apply Baking Soda to Hair?
“Baking soda may be used in your hair care routine on a regular basis to wash and exfoliate the hair and scalp, especially if you have an oily scalp. It should not be utilized on a daily basis “Guanche says.
To use baking soda on your hair, simply combine it with water until it creates a paste. Apply it on your scalp and through your wet hair. Allow it to rest for one to three minutes before rinsing clean.
Apple Cider Vinegar and Baking Soda
Apple cider vinegar is a popular method for removing baking soda from your hair. Why is apple cider vinegar used?
“Baking soda and vinegar are fundamentally two reactive chemicals: sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), which is a weak base and hence alkaline, and acetic acid (CH3COOH), which is a weak acid. When you combine them in equal parts, you obtain water (H2O), carbon dioxide gas (CO2), and sodium acetate (CH3COONa) “Burg claims
“Because the fizzing helps loosen debris, this is a basic reaction that can be useful in simple domestic cleaning activities. On their own, the acid in vinegar and alkaline soda may be good cleansers.”
“Your scalp and hair pH are somewhat acidic, with the pH of the scalp being 5.5 and the hair shaft being around 3.7, and adding too much acid or alkali might push them too far beyond their potential to rebalance themselves,” adds Burg. High pH opens cuticles and causes brittleness, whereas low pH damages color. “On the scalp, pH abnormalities can upset the balance of healthy and harmful bacteria, which can lead to additional issues, such as scalp irritation and dandruff,” he adds.
There are, however, techniques to maintain the pH of your hair and scalp. “The key thing we should focus about is the follicles: the microscopic organs that generate your hair,” Burg says. “Because the follicles of the scalp are extremely sensitive to changes in their environment, keeping a healthy scalp is critical for hair health.
The follicles create hair in a precise rhythm known as the hair cycle, with intervals of growth, rest, fall, and regrowth that recur throughout your life. This cycle is readily interrupted and out of balance, resulting in a short growth phase and excessive shedding “—which a DIY cure might do.
The Bottom Line
A DIY baking soda shampoo may work with the appropriate ratios, but according to Burg, you’d need to get the quantities precisely right. There’s nothing wrong with continuing to utilize an at-home baking soda cure that works for you. However, if your scalp or hair is acting strangely, Burg’s advice will come in helpful.
And, as a general rule, Burg warns that just because a substance is natural doesn’t imply it’s not hazardous. “Some essential oils, for example, include allergens that might cause reactions in some people. Acids may produce chemical burns regardless of whether they were fermented or manufactured “he claims “All-natural medicines still include chemicals and might cause harm if taken inappropriately.”