‘You use WHAT to wash your hair!?’ my hair dresser barked at me today. ‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘I use baking soda as shampoo and apple cider vinegar as conditioner‘. She had already finished my hair. She even commented that my hair was looking pretty good and healthy, despite the fact that it’s been falling out in clumps. (For your information, your hair falls out in clumps after you have a baby). I mean, I sort of coaxed it out of her, like, ‘So, how’s my hair looking, haha, I don’t have any time to take care of it these days‘. Now, I know the last thing a hair dresser wants to know is that you can use something in your kitchen cupboard to wash your hair. They would much prefer you to buy the products that they use and sell…. but… I’m a DIY kind of gal and I like to live by the motto: ‘IF YOU CAN’T EAT IT, DON’T WEAR IT’!
It all started because I ran out of shampoo a couple months ago. I’ve already been using apple cider vinegar on my hair as conditioner for months: view post here. I mentioned it to my hair dresser the last time I got my hair cut (ahem… 8 months ago). My hairdresser, with huge hoop earrings and wearing ubiquitous black, only sort of raised an eyebrow. ‘To each their own!’, she said. But, today, when I said sodium bi-carb (baking soda), I could see that she nearly lost it, had to take a deep breath, bite her tongue and compose herself before she told me it’s not something I should do long term because I can really damage my hair. ‘You see,’ she said, ‘we use sodium bi-carb to strip colour out of people’s hair! It will destroy your hair!‘.
A Bit O Chemistry
Ah, now here’s where a little chemistry can go a long way. We’re talking acids and bases. The pH of water is 7, considered neutral. Anything with a pH higher than 7, is considered a base. Sodium bi-carb, or baking soda, has a pH of 8.4 and is alkaline (or basic). When wet, it will feel a bit slippery, as all alkalines do, and it’s good at cleaning things (like hair…).
Apple cider vinegar has a pH of 4.5 to 5 and is considered an acid. If you can go way waaaay back to your high school chemistry days, you will remember that if you mix a weak acid (apple cider vinegar) with a weak base (sodium bi-carb) you will get a result in something that is close to neutral. That is why it is said that the ‘no poo’ and apple cider vinegar hair washing regime is said to restore the natural pH of your hair’s scalp.
It is almost always recommended to dilute your baking soda and apple cider vinegar with water. Diluting will also change the pH, making the acid or base weaker. (Remember this stuff from high school?). The ‘No Poo’ regime has been said to clear up dandruff, dry hair, itchy scalp and a variety of other hair ailments. I even use it on my kids. The baby especially, had some pretty bad cradle cap and using baking soda after soaking with coconut oil seemed to do the trick.
Luckily, we’re talking high school chemistry and not rocket science. There is really no real way to mess up your ‘no poo’ or apple cider vinegar regime, but there are a few recommendations and considerations to making it work.
–Give your hair an adjustment period. Your hair has been working overtime for years to produce the oil that is stripped from it by using conventional shampoos. It can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks for your hair to stop producing excess oil. Mine took about 3 weeks. Combined with the post partum hair loss, I felt a bit unsightly for a while to touch. But, my husband said my hair looked fine.
–Use approximately 1 tablespoon sodium bi-carb to 1 cup water. This is the recommendation, although I tend to make more of a paste using way less water than recommended. I especially did this when my hair was producing excess grease in the beginning. Play with the ratio until you find what works for you.
–Use approximately 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar to 1 cup water. Same ratio as before. I like to keep this in a squirt bottle. But, I find that if I leave it in there for too long, out of the fridge for a few weeks in hot weather, it gets a bit slimy and hard to squirt… but I just unscrew the cap and rinse the slime and then spray away.
–Wash your hair every 3 or 4 days. I know… sounds gross, but once your hair adjusts, it’s really all you need.
-Expect your hair to feel different. When your hair is wet and you have just washed it with your ‘no poo’ regime, it won’t feel as slippery or sleek as when you wash it with regular shampoo and conditioner. That’s because there’s tons of weird chemicals in the shampoo to make it feel that way. Rest assure. Once you hair has dried, and you’re out of the adjustment phase, your hair will feel completely normal (actually, should feel great).
-Spruce it up a bit. If you want your hair to have a nice scent afterwards, just add a drop or two of your favorite essential oils, like lavender, etc. You can also give yourself an oil head massage before washing your hair and that is so nice to relieve stress and will make your hair and scalp extra soft and yummy… even nice to let it sit over night and then wash in the morning. Hmmm. I think I’ll do that after writing this post.
–Scrubbing technique. Use the baking soda on your scalp, just like you would shampoo. Scrub in forward and backward motions, not circular. Put the apple cider vinegar on the ends your hair, just like you would with conditioner. Rinse well, and I promise, you won’t go smelling like a pickle for the rest of the day. Acids and bases wash away very easily in water.
Check out another great blog post on the topic that I love: here. Up until today, my hair has been long (and is still reasonably thick), the lady who has this blog has hair that is very curly and thick.
Not only is the ‘No Poo’ regime cheap as chips (to use a little Aussie lingo), but it’s great on the environment. We’re talking less plastic bottles, less chemicals going down the drain, and less waste that unavoidably occurs along the manufacturing production line (transport, harvesting, etc.).
I think that covers it all. Give it a go and see how it feels!