The Pros and Cons of Cleansing Your Scalp With Baking Soda Shampoo

This All-Natural Mix Saves Money

Making baking soda paste, mixing powder with water in bowl, close-up
••• Russell Sadur/ Dorling Kindersley/ Getty images

If you're tired of forking over big bucks for commercial shampoos with questionable ingredients, there's a simple, healthy alternative. These products often contain any number of chemical agents, many of which may not be safe or healthy for continued use.

The following recipe may be the most simple shampoo mixture in existence, as it requires only two ingredients that can be found in just about every household.

The Pros and Cons

Many pros exist when it comes to using baking soda shampoo. It can give your hair more volume and body than commercial shampoos, and over time can improve a dry or oily scalp, reducing or eliminating itchiness and dandruff. It also works as a clarifying shampoo to remove any product buildup on your hair.

The only potential con stems from overuse, and you can get too much of a good thing. Washing too often with baking soda could disrupt your hair's naturally-more-acidic pH balance and cause your strands to become dry and brittle.

If you have color-treated hair, take care not to wash too often. Baking soda shampoo may strip some of the color out unless you've been using it for a while and your hair's adjusted. Over time, the decreased need for washing your hair actually helps your color stay vibrant for longer, as your hair will go through fewer washings overall.

Directions

To get started, just grab a box of baking soda and get ready to make your new shampoo.

1. Mix together 1 part baking soda with 3 to 4 parts water to form a paste. Experiment to see what thickness of the mixture you like best.

2. Gently massage the paste into your hair and scalp. Let it sit for a minute or two, then rinse clean.

3. Finish with an apple cider vinegar rinse.

You can enhance this natural alternative shampoo by adding a few drops of lavender essential oil or other beneficial essential oils such as chamomile.

The Chemical-Free Benefits

Using baking soda shampoo has many benefits. It doesn't create build-up, it works as a natural hair deodorizer, and it helps to keep your hair and scalp free of dandruff

You won't need to worry about your new shampoo containing any parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, DEA/diethanolamine, dye, or fragrance. Instead, it consists of a single, all-natural ingredient, called sodium bicarbonate.

About pH Balance

Your hair's health depends in part on keeping it at a healthy balance between acidity and alkalinity. The pH balance of healthy hair typically ranges between 4.5 and 5.5. Many shampoos and conditioners disrupt the pH balance of your hair, making your scalp susceptible to fungi and bacteria.

Shampoos that are too alkaline cause your hair's cuticle to open, causing it to become too dry. Baking soda has a pH of 9 which is slightly alkaline, although mixing it with water lowers the pH somewhat.

If you've ever heard of people using a vinegar rinse for shiny hair, here's why: Vinegar has a pH of about 3. Rinsing your hair with it can compensate for bathing water that's too alkaline, and also makes a great rinse after a baking soda shampoo. The acidity of the vinegar closes your hair's cuticle and seals in moisture.

You can also dilute apple cider vinegar, using one part vinegar to three parts water, in a spray bottle and use it as a leave-in conditioner to spray through your hair after a shampoo. Allow the vinegar mixture to dry on your hair.

When you wash your hair with baking soda, you might experience oiliness at first, until your scalp adjusts its oil production. Rinsing with vinegar helps with this process, and over time you'll notice that you don't need to wash your hair nearly as often anymore because it won't become oily as quickly.

Tips and Warnings

The following tips can help you have a successful experience with baking soda shampoo:

  • This shampoo does not create any lather, which may take a little getting used to.
  • After experimenting, you may find it helpful to use a more diluted mix if you tend towards having dry hair.
  • Baking soda shampoo works best when it's mixed right before you use it. Pick up a small travel-size bottle or reuse a bottle that you already have and make just enough for a single wash. Add the baking soda, a bit of water, and a quick shake, and you're ready to jump in the shower.
  • Commercial shampoo strips your hair of its natural oils, causing your scalp to produce more and more. Baking soda doesn't do this (and that's a good thing), but it will take time for your body to adjust its oil production. Don't be surprised if your hair feels greasier (or drier) than usual when you first make the switch.
  • As with any shampoo, avoid getting the mixture in your eyes.