From Shampoo to Soap – My story

Here’s the problem. All the bad guys I mentioned in my post about ingredients are in shampoo. Common among them are SLES and other –eth’s. (linked to the carcinogenic byproduct 1,4 Dioxane). There’s another realm of common shampoo ingredients called “quats” which stand for quaternium compounds. These little lovelies are linked to another carcinogenic byproduct – formaldehyde. However, this is our hair we’re talking about. How much variance from conventional products can it take? As moms we’ve often already accepted that parts of our bodies will never be what they once were. Do we really have to give up our hair, too, in order to be truly healthy?

When my brother first started talking about using the castile and Shikakai soaps for hair, I really thought he was taking things a little too far. I can hardly exaggerate my skepticism of this idea. Personally, I am a sucker for those shampoo commercials with the slow-motion shots of luxurious, strong, super-shiny hair. Despite what I know about what’s in conventional shampoos, I just couldn’t give it up in exchange for what I figured would be a head of dull and tangled frizz.

Once the Hair Rinse was fully produced and marketed, I finally bit the bullet and gave it a shot. At least I could pronounce all the ingredients and was familiar with them. At the time I was responding to customer service emails, and I needed to know first-hand what we were selling.

So, instant conversion? Nope. Here’s what happened. (This is based on my observations and deductions – not scientific research.) When I washed and conditioned my hair conventionally, my hair felt slippery even after it was rinsed. I thought this texture was good and meant my hair was strong and smooth. In retrospect, this slipperiness was a coating to conceal damage.

The first time I washed my hair with soap, that coating was quickly and completely stripped away, exposing my hair for the overworked, tired mess that it was. I applied the rinse, diluting it and doing the double dose that the instructions recommend. It helped detangle my hair, but my hair had no natural moisture and the strands were clearly damaged. By the end of the day, my hair was completely flat. It seemed full of static, and just didn’t feel clean. This just wasn’t going to work. I gave up.

It was several months later that I resolved to try again, this time giving the soap/rinse more of a chance. I washed my hair every two days, just as I always have. I rinsed with the Hair Rinse. I let the hair rinse sit on my hair for most of my shower, rinsing it off at the end. Once a week, I used a more conventional shampoo and conditioner, to help ease the transition. Over a period of two weeks, my hair got stronger and stronger. It became soft and silky – all on its own. I think my scalp realized it needed to wake up and do the job it was meant to do.

I also discovered that my hair is much wavier than I knew, now that it’s not weighed down by all the residue. That’s been kind of fun. My hair does better when I blow my hair dry, but that was true before I made the switch. Now that I’ve been using the soap for over a year, I only need one dose of the rinse. I no longer use any other products on my hair. It looks worse when I do.

I’m really pleased with my hair now. I got used to this different system. I keep a plastic cup in the shower for diluting the Hair Rinse (although I’ve poured a cupful straight on my hair when my cup has walked away – works OK). My hair does not feel slippery when I’m done, but it is tangle-free, and when it dries, it is smooth and soft. It is a big time and money saver to be able to wash myself from head to toe with one product. It’s a lot less complicated, too – a lot less to think about, especially in my pre-coffee morning fog.

Regarding the Style Crème, I had to do a little more trial and error with this. I found that for me it works best after my hair is dry. I use a pea sized amount to smooth any frizzies and keep things a little more in place.

Everyone’s hair has its own personality and there will need to be some trial and error in switching to Dr. Bronner’s soap and the Hair Rinse. Whether to use the pure castile soap or the Shikakai soap. (I prefer the castile because I like the almond, but texture-wise, they both work great.) How many rinses to do. How long to let the rinse sit on the hair. Whether to dry with a blow dryer or let it air dry. Whether to use the Style Crème on wet hair or dry hair. How many days you’ll need to wait for damaged hair to repair. You see what worked for me. That should get you started.

One disclaimer – don’t do this on colored hair. The alkalinity of the soap opens up the hair follicles, where the color resides. The color will drain out and fade quickly. Colored hair needs acidic products only. (Soap, by nature, cannot be acidic. Only detergents (shampoo) can be.)

417 thoughts on “From Shampoo to Soap – My story

  1. I have been using the hemp and peppermint as a shampoo it is leaving my hair very dry. When applying I am putting direct on scalp shampooing then rinsing and using a conditioner. I don’t like the feel of my hair, am I using the product correct? Thank you.

    • Hi Julie – A regular conditioner will not properly balance the pH of the soap and will leave your hair feeling dry or sticky. Your conditioner needs to be acidic, such as apple cider vinegar or the Dr. Bronner’s Citrus Hair Rinse.

  2. I have a oily hair, But what i can shampoo I using for the best luxurious, strong, super-shiny hair ?

    • Hi Rizvi – I recommend for oily hair Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile liquid soap. The Lavender or Citrus are good moderate ones to start with, but if your hair is still oily, consider the Peppermint or Eucalyptus. As I mention in the post above, you’ll need to use an acidic rinse after each washing, such as apple cider vinegar or Dr. Bronner’s Citrus Hair Rinse. If you’re transitioning from conventional shampooing, it may take a couple weeks to make this transition.

  3. I have had a really dry, itchy, flaky scalp for quite some time now and nothing seems to be working for me to change that. I was considering trying one of the castile liquid soaps as a shampoo with ACV for conditioner. How much castile liquid soap should I use on my hair? Is there a recommendation to specific instructions on how to do so as a shampoo? (directly on scalp? agitate? co-wash? focus only on scalp or good for both hair and scalp?) Also, would you say all of the castile line/scent options would work as good as the others or should I specifically only attempt with Tea Tree or Peppermint, etc? HELP! Please and thank you =)

    • Hi Melissa – Because your scalp sounds already a bit irritated, I recommend one of our milder castile soaps. All of them have the same base, but the added essential oils really differentiates them. The Peppermint is the most intense, so steer away from that one for now. The Tea Tree is great, or even milder would be the almond, and the mildest of all is the unscented (which does have a higher ratio of olive oil in the soap base). This is good for both scalp and hair. The amount totally depends on the length of your hair, but you want enough so that your hair feels soapy. For my fairly long hair, I use about 1 Tbsp. of soap, washing it every other day. Work it in to your hair, massaging it into your scalp with your fingertips. Rinse it out and then apply a diluted Apple Cider Vinegar rinse (cut in half with water). I like to let that sit for a minute or two if I have time, and then rinse it out. Give your scalp a week or two to heal and adjust to this gentler regimen before you decide if it’s working. Let me know if you have additional questions.

    • I have been using Dr Bonners for many years. It takes awhile for your body and hair to adjust Dr Bonners. I find almond and lavender the least harsh. The bar soap works well as a shampoo. I have scalp issues that have been resolved by using Dr Bonner soap bars. My hair is short. Be patient your hair will adjust in a month or two. It’s worth the wait. I find if I use a commercial shampoo my hair now really looks and feels strange.

  4. My daughter is a swim instructor/life guard and the chlorine/salt in the pool water leaves her hair very damaged and her skin very dry (which makes her skin break out). Any suggestins?

    • Hi Joyce – I apologize for my delay, especially as swim season is well underway. I have seen the same situation myself – damaged, irritated skin is much more likely to break out. I find coconut oil to be the best aid in fighting the damage. It sounds funny to fight acne with oil, but in this case, the skin is overreacting to a lack of nourishing oils, so if you can keep it nourished with good oils, it won’t freak out. Apply a small amount of coconut oil (a little goes a long way) to clean skin before sunscreen. Let it absorb for 10 minutes or so. Then apply sunscreen over it. Also apply coconut oil to the hair before swimming. I would do about 1/4 tsp. to medium length hair. This will protect the hair from the chlorine. After swimming and showering (very important to get that sunscreen and chlorine off), apply coconut oil again. If you use too much coconut oil, it will stay on the surface of the skin and get clothing or bedsheets greasy, so be sure to use just a bit.

  5. I was reading about so many benefits of using castile soap as a shampoo,as Im intended to free myself from a mainstream products I gave it a try haveing big hopes. Unfortunatelly it leaves my hair “dirty” and greasy 🙁 no matter how I use it. Whats wrong with my hair 🙁 ? Some people say it dryes their hair up,i wish it happen to me instead of awfully greasy residue it leaves…

    • Hi Kat – I am so sorry not to have gotten to your question earlier. Are you using an acidic rinse afterwards? Either apple cider vinegar (50% dilution) or the Dr. Bronner’s Hair Rinse. The greasiness is probably either from hard water reacting with the soap or from the pH of the soap causing the hair strands to be rough. An acidic rinse will solve both these problems.

  6. I know this can’t be used on colored hair, but what about blonde hair with highlights? Are highlights the same as colored hair? Can this product be used on blonde, highlighted hair?

  7. Hi Lisa,

    After 2-3 years of using organic shampoos I found that my hair was becoming more and more greasy so last week I decided to go no-poo using Dr. Bronner’s lavendar Castile soap & ACV for rinse. I’ve been pleased thus far, I’m just wondering what you use to moisturize as I can see my hair getting a little dry. Thank you.

    • Hi Jennifer – I’m glad to hear of your success! Dr. Bronner’s makes a Leave In Conditioning Creme that is a great light moisturizer for the hair.

  8. Hi, I am growing my hair out to my natural grey. What I don’t want is grey hair that is also flat or dull, do you have any ideas how the Dr. Bronners castile soap and citrus conditioner might work on grey hair? My ends are still a terrible orangey color from henna but in one to two more hair cuts I should be fully salt and pepper grey. I have developed a skin sensitivity to hair dye, even the ‘less toxic’ ones give me a terrible rash. I need to go natural and am trying to find way to feel positive about it.
    Thanks for posting this I appreciate the photos too.
    Sincerely, Rebecca

    • Hi Rebecca – That is a great question and I don’t have an answer for you. I haven’t had experience with this yet, but I would think that there are readers out there who have.

      Is there another reader out there who can weigh in on this one?

    • My hair is greying. I’ve just started using castile soap for shampoo. It’s still in the transitioning stage. But after one week the worst was over. My grey streaks don’t look flat or dull. Give it a try! Good luck

  9. Hi,
    Another question- I have been trying the Shikakai soap in conjunction with the citrus rinse for quite a while now, and have noticed that the reason it is leaving a horrible residue in my hair is because I have hard water.
    I am not prepared to use bottled or filtered or boiled water, so I am wondering if I still have any chance of getting the soap to work on my hair? If so, how? If not, any alternative no chemical shampoo I can use?
    Thanks,
    Grace

    • Hi Grace – Try switching over to our Pure Castile soap instead. It is a simpler soap, and I find that it does not weigh down the hair as the Shikakai soap might. The Shikakai is extra nourishing with the addition of the Shikakai extract. If hair is prone to dryness, it is a great option. However, for normal to oily hair, the pure castile is a better bet.

  10. My husband uses head & shoulders and has for years, what would you recommend as a replacement?

    • HI there – One of our team wrote this excellent overview various scalp difficulties. Perhaps it will be of help to your husband:

      The first step is to figure out whether you have dandruff or if it is actually dry scalp. Many times the two are lumped together, but they are actually somewhat different, and need to be treated differently. How can you tell? Flakes from dry scalp are usually white in color, and people with dry scalp will often have dry skin on other parts of their body as well (and the condition is made worse by dry or cold conditions). Dandruff is a symptom of oily skin: the scalp produces too much oil, and dead skin cells form oily clumps, which is seen as dandruff. These clumps are often larger than the flakes produced by dry scalp, have an “oily” consistency, and can be yellowish in color. People with dandruff often suffer from oily skin on other parts of their body, including eyebrows, eyelids, ears, and nose.

      Unfortunately, many people with dandruff have a tough time finding natural remedies, but it is worth trying a “drying” regimen. Our soaps are naturally drying, so that could work, using less of the acidic conditioning rinse (which moisturizes). For dandruff, many people also recommend changes in diet and supplements. If the problem is dry scalp, then a moisturizing regimen is needed. Many people have success skipping the soap entirely and washing with acidic rinses, such us our Citrus Conditioning Rinse or diluted apple cider vinegar. The acidic rinses help to moisturize. In addition, treating the hair and scalp with something like coconut oil, can help keep the skin moisturized and prevent dry scalp from occurring. We recommend doing more research on websites such as mothering.com, where people discuss symptoms and recipes in detail. Everyone’s hair (and scalp) is a little different, and often finding a natural regimen that works requires some tinkering.

  11. well I have to reverse my question about the hair rinse availability in Canada !!!!
    the store where they’ve said it wasn’t available is NOW available … a happy customer
    am I now

  12. Does using shampoo soap bar on hair means no oiling?
    Is there a need to still oil your hair and effectively rinse it off with a soap bar?

    • Hi there – I don’t have my own experience with oiling hair, but from others I haven gotten good feedback that the Castile Soap works great alone and gets rid of the need to oil the hair. If you do still want to oil your hair, the soap will also be able to wash it out.

  13. Im only using sunlight soap my hair is 95 percent grey my hair is so healthy now i have stopped using all the other normal shampoos

    • Hi, Do you mean Sunlight the dishsoap? or another product? My hair is only about 75 % grown out but I want to start using good products for it now so that I don’t damage what is growing.
      Thanks, Rebecca

  14. I have fine hair, and have been using the lavender version with the organic hair rinse for about a month. I always feel like there is an oily residue left in my hair afterwards and it is not very soft. I’m following the directions of the rinse bottle, only using one capful and diluting. I’m wondering where I’m going wrong. I feel like I’m rinsing it out pretty well… Any advice?

    • Hi Lena – Depending on your hair type, you might need more than one capful. My hair is quite long at the moment, and I use two full capfuls. Alternately, try using apple cider vinegar as a rinse instead. Dilute it in half with water. This makes for very shiny hair.

  15. Hi Lisa,
    I see that on the Dr. Bronners website the Citric rinse is temporarily out of stock. I desperately need to wash my hair but I always have used the citric rinse, is there a website you think is trustworthy that I can order more from, and/or is there a home made mixture I could use to substitute? I dont know how long it will take to restock this item.
    Thank you so much for your time, I am in love with everything “Dr. Bronners”, it truly changed my life years ago.
    -Gabrielle

    • Hi Gabrielle – Apple Cider Vinegar makes a very good substitute. Dilute it in half with water and use it as a rinse. We’ll have our rinse back in stock soon.

  16. Thank you for responding so helpfully to posts from customers. I have used the Shikakai Soap, and it is time to buy again. I don’t, however, see it on your site. Does it just have a new name or have you stopped producing the Shikakai option? Maybe I am not looking in the right place. I like to use it for shampoo and then follow with the citrus rinse. I like being able to easily use the pump, and it did not clog.

  17. Hi lisa,

    This is sanjay from india .. I have started using your company’s castile soaps .it is said that the soap will also work as a shampoo. I tried but my hair got very dry and started falling.. As u said in the article, i guess i also need to user hair rinse after shampooing ..

    But what is the PH value of your soaps ?? While surfing the web, it is found that your soaps have very high PH value ?? Why is it ?? The higher the PH value the more the chances of losing hair and is dangerous to skin ?

    Please clarify

    • Hi Sanjay – I’m sorry to hear about that. The pH of our soap is around 8.9. All soap is alkaline, i.e. higher than neutral pH. Only detergent shampoos or body washes can have an acidic pH. Although the soaps do an excellent job cleaning the hair, our hair does like to be left with an acidic pH. This is why we recommend the Dr. Bronner’s Hair Rinse or a 50% dilution of apple cider vinegar as a follow up.

  18. Dear Lisa, I started using Dr. bronner’s Castile soap for my hair a week ago but I didn’t use any acidic rinse until 2 days ago when I found out I’m losing lots and lots of hair. Is that the reason why I’m losing hair without the rinse? I stopped using the soap for two days and just washed my hair with water and added a lemon juice rinse. But I’m still losing hair. I’m concerned. Please advice! Thank you kindly!
    P.s. But the soap is great for my face though, it didn’t dry up my skin. Will definitely use it for skin care!

    • Hi Sue – I apologize for not addressing your concern earlier. The soap itself does not cause hair loss. However, when you use the soap without an acidic rinse, your hair strands will not be left smooth and will more easily tangle with each other. This tangling could cause strands to pull on each other resulting in greater hair loss. The lower pH of an acidic rinse, such as Dr. Bronner’s Hair Rinse or apple cider vinegar, causes strands to smooth out and not catch one another. How have things been now that you’ve been using the rinse?

  19. I’ve been thinking of switching to this from my traditional shampoo, how does it work with color treated hair, or do you not recommend it for that?

    • Hi Amanda – Unfortunately, we do not recommend it for color treated hair. A good resource for looking up safe hair care options is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/. Type in the product you’re looking for and it will give you options with hazard ratings.

  20. I have lavender liquid soap + im really keen to use as shampoo (i love it as body wash) but cant quite get it right! I have pretty thick waist length hair.
    Castille alone = dry, almost sticky
    Castille then lemon rinse = unmanageable greaseball
    Coconut oil then castille = tangly and greasy.
    Ive persisted for 3 ish weeks (resorting to store bought shampoo a couple of times when i could barely brush my hair) and im still getting flaky scalp and losing more hair when i brush than normal. im close to abandoning it – any hints? Am i missing a crucial step? Everyone says its amazing – i want to be part of it too!

    • Hi Naomi – Try the soap with a follow up rinse of Apple Cider Vinegar diluted at 50% with water. Lemon juice isn’t a great option alone because of the sugar content. Residue on your hair can also cause bleaching in the sunlight. There’s also the Dr. Bronner’s Hair Rinse too.

  21. I just recently found a DIY Green Tea Shampoo recipe on a website that I would like to try because my hair has been falling out for quite a long time, its dry, oily, and I have dandruff as well. But in the recipe it includes Castile soap and I don’t know which one to use. Can you please help me choose the correct one? Thank you. Also, here’s the recipe that I found:

    Steep green tea bags in a cup of hot water for 25 minutes and then let it cool down. Now add 1 cup of green tea water to 1 cup Castile soap and one tbsp of olive oil in the mixture. You can also add a few drops of essential oil like lavender or rose oil to add a nice fragrance.

    • Hi Jacqueline – Promoting hair growth involves healthy scalp and hair. Many conventional shampoos coat your hair and can clog your pores and hair follicles, which inhibits hair growth.

      It’s a good idea to look for a shampoo with tea tree oil, which naturally disinfects the scalp and removes build up. Consider coconut oil and wheat protein. Both of these shampoo additives work to strengthen the hair follicle and the hair strand as it grows. Protein is the main ingredient in the hair shaft, so their high protein components really work to boost overall hair health and help with growth.

      A diet rich in protein and vitamin B is a good idea too. I would recommend trying our tea tree classic liquid soap for washing your hair, followed by our citrus hair rinse.

  22. Hi Lisa! I haven’t used this soap on my hair as of yet. I do, however, use the mild baby Castile liquid soap for cleaning my makeup brushes. It works amazingly and leaves no makeup residue or anything. I’m just not sure if I need to add something to moisturize them. I saw a mixture that someone did on Pinterest with Dr. B’s mild baby Castile soap and olive oil. Worked pretty good but left an oily residue on my brushes. Didn’t like that at all. Any thoughts on a moisturizer for them?
    I want to try this on my curly hair. I do color treat it but I’m at the point where I don’t really care if I lose the color. It won’t hurt to try it right?

    • Hi Michelle – Since you want your make-up brushes to be free of residue, I don’t think you should add anything to them that would leave a coating behind. Either the castile or the Sal Suds would be a great option, and that’s all I would use.

      It certainly won’t hurt to try the soap on your hair. Be sure to have an acidic rinse on hand to follow up – either a 50% dilution of apple cider vinegar or the Dr. Bronner’s Hair Rinse. Also, if you’re switching straight from a conventional product, your hair is probably got some silicone coating on it. The first thing the soap will do is strip this off and your hair will not like it. Give it time. Maybe do an alternating wash to ease the transition or a weekly deep conditioning.

  23. Hi Lisa,

    Thanks for the information. How much diluted ACV would you suggest to use as a rinse?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Tiffany – I find that a cup of the 50% dilution works for my long hair.

    • Hair likes an acidic rinse, but it is possible to drop the pH too low and cause damage – play around with it and use the least amount that you need to achieve the results that you like. I’ve tried 50%, but get the same results with ~20% – I’ve used even less for a leave-in (no rinsing – probably around 5-10%).

      I use ACV as my staple, but I’ve also had good luck with regular white vinegar and with lemon juice.

  24. Been a fan of Dr Bonner’s soap for my hair for almost four years It takes patience to adjust to the Bonner’s. I find the bar soap the best. My hair is short and I use white vinegar as a rinse. Dr Bonner’s skin lotions are wonderful. Leaves my skin soft. I found it really softens my feet. The company is wonderful and socially generous. Thank for many years of great products. Deb Standard, a true Dr Bonner fan

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