Dr. Bronner’s Soaps Work Well on Highlighted Hair

I think of myself as a blonde. In my mind, my hair looks like this:

Lisa Bronner at 6 years old

Here’s a more recent picture:

Lisa Bronner and daughter

I’m the one who is not the baby. The one who is not blonde.

Faced with this reality, I needed to change either how I thought of my hair or my hair itself, so I took the easier route. I became a highlighter. Otherwise I would have had to change my driver’s license.

Time out! Let’s step back a bit to what I wrote about my personal conversion from shampoo to soap. It ended with the somewhat devastating disclaimer that soap, due to its alkalinity, is unsuitable for color-treated hair. The higher-than-7 pH of the soap – 8.9 to be exact – causes the hair follicles where color is stored, to open up, allowing the color to escape. There has been keen disappointment in the comments over this disclaimer, and I absolutely hate disappointing people. Now I’m here to offer some hope. Hope in the form of highlights. But how can I get away with highlighting and still wash my hair with Dr. Bronner’s soaps?

Think of highlighting as a controlled color-stripping process wherein color is strategically removed to look like naturally occurring highlights. Color is taken out, not added in. There is no stored dye to worry about. Aha! A new day has dawned!

Warning: If you never, ever venture into the world of hair color, you may want to look away from this paragraph. The world of color is no simple sphere, so let me spin your head some more. When hair is professionally highlighted, stylists sometimes add lowlighting back in. This is more subtle streaking of color that creates depth. So, if your hair is lowlighted as well as highlighted, then you’re back in the “color added” category and the soap is not for you.

Breaking this down:

  • ➢ Highlights only = Dr. B’s soaps OK
  • ➢ Highlights and Lowlights = soaps not OK
  • ➢ Color-treated hair = soaps not OK

All of this to say, Dr. Bronner’s Castile and Shikakai soaps are safe on highlighted hair. Allow me to say that again: Dr. Bronner’s soaps are safe on highlighted hair! Release the confetti.

If you have never dabbled in the realm of hair color, I probably lost you at the first “blonde”. By the time we hit “lowlighting”, you had crossed the state line. However, if you are a highlighter, or are looking for a way to change your “look” but still want to use an organic, Fair Trade soap for shampooing, Dr. Bronner’s has your answer. As always, follow up a Dr. Bronner’s Castile or Shikakai hair wash with the Dr. Bronner’s Citrus Conditioning Hair Rinse. It balances out the pH which is always necessary to keep our tresses happy. And the Dr. Bronner’s Leave-In Conditioning Hair Crème adds extra moisturizing.

And I am happy to be a blonde again.

Lisa Bronner

53 thoughts on “Dr. Bronner’s Soaps Work Well on Highlighted Hair

  1. Dear Lisa,

    I don’t highlight my hair, but I would like to share that it has been two years since I started using Bronner’s castile soap, the rinse and sometimes a bit of the creme on my naturally curly hair. I have never been happier. My curls look beautiful–defined but not weighed down or slick. And I no longer have dermatitis on the nape of my neck. Gone. Totally. After fifteen years of itching and prescription steroid creams. What a relief! I think something in conventional shampoos and conditioners doesn’t agree with my skin. I wonder how many people have similar “disagreements” with product and think it’s a skin condition.

    • I did. When I stopped using commercial shampoos and soaps and laundry detergent all my skin issues went away. The more natural products may cost a little more at the outlay, but I find them just as economical in the long run.

  2. When we moved into our new old home ( before plumbing redo) my hair turned orange from the rust in the water. I used Dr. B’s castile soap in peppermint and all gone pumpkin head. I imagine it would work great with green hair from chlorine. I didn’t have the conditioner but used Bragg’s apple cider vinegar and it worked great.

  3. I color my hair pink (using Manic Panic – “tested on celebrities, not animals!”) and use Dr B’s Castille Soap (both liquid and solid) as my shampoo. It lasts just as long with Dr. B’s as it did when I used “name brand commercial” shampoo.

    Seriously, my hair stays pink for 2 months.

    … and I love the Conditioning Hair Crème, I just wish it came in other scents.

    • Great to know! I’m a Manic Panic pink girl too (cotton candy pink for the record)! I hope I have the same luck keeping the colour when I switch to Bronner’s!

  4. I just used the hair rinse for the first time. I love how it worked on my hair, but it was thick and gloppy and extremely hard to get out of the bottle. Is this normal or did I get a bad bottle?

  5. Born a towhead, I tried to let my hair darken naturally with age. The result however was horrid as I am very fair and look terrible with dark hair. I even tried red, it no avail. So, this “natural” blonde is a towhead once more!

    Thanks SO much for the clarification on highlighting! Now that I have the full story will ask my hairdresser just exactly what she uses so I can compare her notes with yours. I love Dr. Bronners.

  6. Great stories, everyone! Thanks for sharing!

    Brea – I know it’s kinda odd looking, but that’s what the hair rinse can look like, especially when it gets cold. The coconut oil in it solidifies at 67 degrees on its own. Mixed with everything else, it just gets really thick. The color is from the Shikakai extract.

    All the best,

  7. So very disappointed to learn that Dr. Bronner’s soaps will not work with color-treated hair. Don’t you have anything that will work? I extremely desire a chemical-free, safe, non-toxic cleansing agent for my hair. But I do color because otherwist I am the gray-haired old witch on the block! Got anything? Even a referral for a mostly non-toxic cleaner? I am so disappointed. I love Dr. Bronner’s in my bath. I love the clean rinse with no soap scum. Oh!…so disappointed.

    • I color my hair and I wash it in Almond Dr. Bronners and it does just fine. The Almond adds just enough moisture to keep my hair from drying out. Works for me!

  8. Following…salon colored, no highlights and I’ve been using SOME DR. Bronner’s in my Burt’s Bees shampoo because it seemed like it wasn’t cleaning my hair!

  9. I know that Dr. Bronner’s soaps (and hair rinse) don’t work on chemically colored hair, but do they work on hair colored with Henna?

  10. Thanks for posting. I have had my hair colored for over ten years and I like to look for some good hair colors on this page.

  11. Hi MC1R – I hate disappointing people! However, an excellent resource is the Cosmetics Safety Database run by the Environmental Working Group, an independent research organization. http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com If you search for “shampoo”, or “color shampoo”, you should be able to find non-hazardous recommendations. You’re looking for something with an acidic pH, which will be a detergent, but can still be mild and non-toxic.

    Hi Dana – Check out that EWG database as well.

    Thanks, Nicole! I’ll check your site out!

    Hi Lara – My understanding is that henna is a different sort of stain that is not stored in the same way in the follicle as conventional hair color. I’ve been told that our soaps are safe on henna and will not pull it out. One of these days I intend to try it for myself. If you give it a go, let me know what you discover.

    All the best,

  12. Very interesting post. And I think it’s very important to choose the right color for different skin tones.

  13. I’m tired of paying top dollar for hair color at the salon. I’m learning to color my hair at home.

  14. I am seriously adding this now just in case it helps someone-

    Dali- do you live outside the US or use well water? I just learned that the ph of water from wells is sometimes different enough from urban treated water that there can be an uncomfortable reaction between the products and you can feel it on your skin. I noticed this when I would shower off pool water when I lived in the Bay Area of California and it would literally fizz on my skin when the two waters would mix. (Gross, yes? So gross.) Anyway I know this because when my sister moved to Germany when the Air Force transferred her husband the other people living there mentioned that she needed to switch to German-made products.

  15. I just started using dr bronner’s soaps in lavender. The big concern with hair color are stripping agents since Dr Bronner’s doesn’t have any sulfates added to it I don’t think it would harm processed hair. The oils are actually very healthy. Washing and rinsing hair with cool water keeps the cuticle sealed and the color in.

  16. I could not find the citrus conditioning hair rinse, so I bought a different organic conditioner. Will it have the same effect? Or do I need the citrus conditioning hair rinse?

  17. I just wanted to share my method of use for the citrus conditioning rinse. I have long hair and really mostly need the conditioning on the ends, so after washing with (I love the lemongrass lime) shikaki soap I put about a half capful in a solo cup and fill it with water. Then I squeeze any excess moisture out of my hair and sunk the ends in the cup and let it sit for a few seconds. Then I squeeze it out and dunk it again. Then I knot it at my neck and soap up my body (with that same yummy soap) and rinse it with my bod.
    I also no longer have acne on the nape of my neck or at my temples since the switch to Bronners. So that added with super soft, full, healthy hair I am a happy lady! I <3 all things Dr. Bronner

  18. Hi Lisa,
    I just started using the Dr. Bronner’s unscented hemp baby soap in the 32 oz. bottle. (I’m 65). I use it on my face, hands and as a shower gel. It’s delightful! Would it be good for gray hair? I normally use one of those purple shampoos to eliminate yellow tones so my hair stays silver/gray. Do you think Dr. Bronner’s unscented hemp baby soap would keep my gray hair looking good?

  19. Seems I’m late to the hair color party. Just my two cents: I have a bit of BLUE streaks running throughout my hair. Think of frosting, but with blue. Dr. Bronners kept it BLUE for the entire bottle. Dam if I didn’t run out. within 3 “normal” shampoos – my beautiful blue streaks were a light blue – almost green. Time to reorder and head BACK to the salon.

    • Great to know, Dawn! I’d love to see a picture of your latest color. Can you post one here?

  20. I use a semi permanent colour in my hair and I’m wondering if I added some lemon juice or citric acid ( low PH ) to Dr Bronner’s diluted baby mild shampoo ( high PH ) …… could this work?

    • Hi Jan – Lowering the pH of the soap with an acid, such as citric acid or lemon juice, will cause a reaction that will “un-saponify” the soap, which is my term for undoing the soap formula. I wrote about it here: http://www.lisabronner.com/a-word-of-caution-about-vinegar-and-castile-soap/. Unfortunately, soap is not a great option for traditional hair color. I have heard, but haven’t tried myself, that henna dyes are not affected by the soap. Otherwise, a detergent shampoo will preserve your color. You can search for less hazardous ones on the Environmental Group’s Skin Deep database, http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com. Just type in “shampoo” or a specific brand to get info.

  21. Hi~
    I love Dr. Bronners liquid soaps!
    I accidentally ran across a bottle of each of these ~ sandalwood & jasmine ~ green tea ~ and lastly cherry blossom (favorite) and was sad to see they were only available in Austraila. *sad face* Any chance they will come to the U.S. Any new fragrances on the horizon?

    • Hi Lynn – We test market new fragrances on our smaller international market before launching full scale in the States. Based on the success of the Cherry Blossom, we are testing it States-side in Whole Foods this month to see how it goes.

    • Oh wow, I really REALLY hope we get them in England, too!!! <3

    • I found the cherry blossom one in TJmaxx. You could check Marshall’s as well if you have those stores near you.

  22. Will Dr. Bronner’s be ok to use on blond balayage hair? I’m unsure if it’s lowlights or highlights.

    • Hi Ashley – I really don’t know. Balayage is a gorgeous look. You might want to ask your stylist if any color is added back in.

    • Ok, thanks for replying! I will ask them next time I’m there!

  23. I use vegetable dyes like the previously mentioned ‘Manic Panic’, Stargazer, Directions, Adore, etc. Also known as fashion dyes, unnatural colour dyes, temporary dyes, and a few other names, I think. There is absolutely no chemical process in these dyes, so would they react to the soap more like henna than regular box semi-perm dyes? Possibly why they weren’t affected in the previous posters comments? I recently bought some Rose liquid Castile soap, and was double checking the fact sheet before I used it on my hair today, when I got sucked into the blog, glad I saw this! I’m still going to use it, of course, and will record the results 🙂

    • Hi Cherry – Definitely let us know! I’m very curious.

    • So I FINALLY got around to washing my hair today… I had a few setbacks concerning my homemade rinse, and I don’t think it turned out too well. Never mind, I’ve ordered the official Dr.B’s citrus rinse now! So, as for my multi-hued purple hair, I can report that the Rose castile didn’t suck out any more dye than an ordinary evil-sulphate-laden shampoo would… Except for the roots… My roots are COMPLETELY naked! HAHA! I can probably safely put that down to the rigorous (over-kill, tbh. I need to quit that!) scalp massage that I tend to give myself, as I often suffer from dry scalp problems and so want to exfoliate as much as possible. Needless to say, my roots are the first to fade normally anyway, just not usually all at once! Oh well, lesson learned!

  24. I color my hair with Ion Color Brilliance’s Permanent Cream Color in Jet Black & I use the Unscented Baby Mild Castile Soap to wash my hair daily. My color stays vibrant, dark & never washes out. May not work for lighter hair types but since black is so hard to get out the hair in general it may be why this fantastic soap doesn’t destroy my color.

    • Hi Priscilla – That’s great to hear! Thank you for sharing it here!

  25. Hi Lisa!

    I’m somewhat confused about the affects of the soap. I am a natural brunette, and have only dyed (too-toned) the underneath half of my hair black about 5 year ago. I recently purchased the 4-in-1 Sugar Tea Tree Organic Pump Soap to use on my body and hair. Is this soap okay to use in my hair?

    Looking forward to hearing back!

    • Hi Krissy – The Organic Pump soap’s pH is slightly lower than the castile soap’s, and in general, I advise people not to use it on colored hair, although you’ll see some customer testimonials in these comments about the soap’s working fine with their colored hair. In your case, if your dye has been able to stay in your hair for 5 years, I think it’s pretty steadfast and the soap will not affect your color. I also learned from another customer that black dye in particular is very steadfast and tends to stay put.

  26. Hi Lisa,
    I just bought the citrus orange castile soap..i did a keratin treatment on my hair and i was wondering if it is safe to use the castile soap on my hair?is it going to strip off the keratin treatment from my hair?

    Thank you

    • Hi Sandy – I really don’t know much about keratin treatments. I understand they’re for straightening hair and that you need to use a sulfate-free shampoo, which our castile soap is, but I don’t know how they work and if there’s a residue on the hair strands that needs to stay put. I’m sorry not to be of more help.

      Perhaps another reader can weigh in here?

  27. Is Dr Bronner’s Lavender liquid soap safe to use on hair after a Keratin Treatment?

    • Hi Joanne – I’m sorry, I really don’t know. I’m not familiar with how a keratin treatment works.

      Can any other readers help with this question?

  28. I believe that most “highlights” are actually color placed on the hair in strips, not just color removed? What if this is the case?

    • Hi Sharon – It definitely depends on what you’ve had done to your hair. In my case, I’ve just had color removed. However, if lowlights have been added back in, then our soaps are not recommended for that.

  29. Ok so you said coloured hair, I’ve got bleached blonde hair, Dr Bronner’s ok or not ok? Coloured means turned darker correct?
    Where it gets tricky is I have light purple highlights and a toner to make my hair more platinum, I’m not sure how it would react with that… Seems like a pricey experiment haha!

    • Hi Mandy – Wow! Your hair sounds awesome! You’re right that if color is taken out – through highlighting or bleaching – the soap will not affect that. However, your purple highlights may be affected. You might want to try a shampoo specifically for colored hair – one with a lower pH – just to be safe.

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