The Problem with the No Poo Method
If you google “no poo method” you’ll get testimonials about the miraculous results of this hair care method. The before and after pictures were enough to convince me to try the baking soda and ACV. Although I only used the No Poo method for about two months, it did take a toll on my hair. My scalp was getting flaky and irritated and my hair felt slightly brittle.
When I posted that I was trying the no ‘poo method on Facebook, many of you wrote that baking soda had actually ruined your hair. Curious–and scared–I began researching. Evidently, baking soda is very alkaline and, although it may make hair soft in the beginning, it will overtime damage hair. This is the reason the No Poo method fails for many people: it is not pH balanced for the scalp or hair.
One dermatologist wrote 3 Reasons Why Baking Soda and ACV Destroy Your Hair:
With a pH of 9 – one hundred times more basic than water – baking soda is a known alkaline irritant (Journal of Cutaneous Pathology, 1989). According to renowned dermatologist Dr. Audrey Kunin, M.D., “The first principle of shampooing: make sure your shampoo says it is pH-balanced and avoid those that are alkaline. Alkaline shampoos strip the hair’s natural oils and disrupt the acid mantle, causing dehydration and leading to porous, fragile hair.” (The DermaDoctor SkinStruction Manual, 2005) SOURCE
While I don’t agree with the product plug at the end of her article, she does bring up good points. Namely: don’t use harsh ingredients on your hair, even if they are from your kitchen cabinet.
Recently, Robin at Thank Your Body shared the importance of using a pH balanced shampoo. Like me, she was using a natural but very alkaline replacement for regular shampoo: castile soap. A reader commented and explained why these alkaline substances at first soften hair but then make it dry and brittle:
Using highly alkaline solutions on your hair (baking soda, bronners soaps, etc.) though it feels soft and manageable that is really the disulfide bonds in your internal hair structure being weakened by the alkaline solution… To then bring your hair down to it’s proper pH a acidic solution (apple cider vinegar) when using a alkalinic cleanser is used, this is called clarifying. This dual process is not healthy for your hair or your scalp. — Amanda, a TYB reader.
Can baking soda or vinegar be used on the hair?
Due to the strong alkalinity of baking soda, I believe it has no place in hair care. The basic pH of baking soda can damage hair even when it is followed by the acidic vinegar. Many would disagree with me, because they have fantastic results with the No Poo Method. My goal is not to demonize No Poo here, because if it works for some people, then more power to them. But if you aren’t having success with No Poo, it’s not your fault because the baking soda is harsh! So if you want an alternative to the No Poo method, I would encourage you to explore the holistic hair care options I discuss below.
But what about raw apple cider vinegar? Since a healthy scalp is slightly acidic, between 4.5 – 5.5, a diluted apple cider vinegar rinse can be safely used. Dilute 1 – 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in 1/2 cup of water to create this rinse. The gentle acidity of this rinse helps promote a balanced scalp and can prevent the common fungal overgrowth which leads to dandruff.
Use this rinse after the honey shampoo method (discussed below) or after using a gentle, pH balanced shampoo (these are fantastic options for pH balanced shampoos!). Always rinse with water after using the diluted vinegar on your hair.
Update as of January 2014: What I’m doing now
My natural hair care journey has been a long and adventurous one, as I tried the No Poo Method, then various other DIY hair care recipes, then ACV rinsing. I went more than a year without purchasing shampoo. I was ready for a change and, quite frankly, was ready for the convenience of a pre-prepared shampoo. Finally, I found 100% raw hair care products that met my holistic philosophy – including balancing the pH of the scalp. I was so amazed by my results with the products that I shared them on the blog with a review. While I still eagerly share the honey shampoo recipe, because it works extremely well for many people, I have switched to this raw hair care method.
Do you use homemade hair care? Have you used the no ‘poo method?