…by Susan Walker of Earthtones Naturals
I was speaking to a lovely young woman a few weeks ago and discussing the care of her hair. When I asked her about shampooing her hair she informed me that she ran out of shampoo and used baking soda to wash her hair. I looked at her with surprise and thought to myself, “why would someone want to use baking soda to wash their hair..?” And then I remembered this fear that some natural women have of using shampoo to wash their hair, causing them to look for alternative cleansing methods that they believe is doing something wonderful for their hair when it may be leaving their curls and coils open to more damage.
Sodium bicarbonate or baking soda is becoming a popular cleansing method among naturalistas. A few tablespoons of baking soda are usually diluted in water and applied to the hair. Some women report that their hair appears softer after cleansing with baking soda. But how does this work and why would anyone want to use baking soda?
In a previous post on shampoo it was discussed that ingredients other than surfactants or cleansing agents are often not enough to remove dirt, debris and build up from the hair. Baking soda is gritty and abrasive which can be damaging to the hair; it can scratch the cuticle.
Additionally, the pH of baking sodium is alkaline. In the post on pH it was discussed that alkaline substances cause the cuticles to lift and the hair shaft to swell and open. While hair fiber swelling is a normal part of the cleansing process, baking soda washing can significantly increase the amount of hair swelling that occurs. This can result in dry looking tangled hair that doesn’t hold moisture well. Lifted cuticle scales can expose the cortex, which can weaken the hair and lead to damage.
Even though you may be looking for other ways to cleanse your hair I recommend keeping the baking soda in the kitchen and using it for what is does best – making your culinary creations light and fluffy, not your hair.
Susan is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor and the Founder and Creative Director of Canadian based haircare and bodycare line Earthtones Naturals.