Dr. Bronner’s Soaps & Highlighted Hair

Dr. Bronner’s Soaps & 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 picture from about 10 years ago:

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 Castile 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 Soaps and Organic Sugar 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 Sugar Soap hair wash with the Dr. Bronner’s Citrus Organic Hair Rinse. It balances out the pH which is always necessary to keep our tresses happy. And the Dr. Bronner’s leave-in Organic Hair Crème adds extra moisturizing.

And I am happy to be a blonde again.

Further reading:

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Lana Jaber says:

Hello Lisa,
I have been using both Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap and Sugar Soap on my hair which has been dyed by henna. Both work great and don’t seem to strip color, though there is always a bit of color that runs out even if only water is applied. I only wash my hair every 4 days and by the time my roots need a touch-up, I still have quite a bit of color present.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Lana – Thanks so much for sharing this! I don’t have experience with either, so I appreciate hearing yours!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Renee- I don’t have any personal experience with hennaed hair, but from what I hear from other customers, our Castile soap works fine with henna. I believe this is because henna stains, or coats, the hair rather than going into the hair shaft. If you give it a try, I’d love to hear how it worked for you.

Mabel says:

It’s not safe for colored hair due to its high alkaline levels. Had to wash my hair 3 times because this nasty shampoo left it feeling sticky. WARNING! DO NOT use on colored hair!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Mabel – I am very sorry to hear of your experience. You are correct that shampoos formulated for color-treated hair are acidic in order to keep the dye stored in the hair follicle. It is important to note that hair washing with Castile Soap is a different approach to haircare than what is the conventional norm in our culture, of using the creamy detergent based shampoos and conditioners, which are always acidic. Because of the mildly alkaline pH of Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap, it requires the follow up of an equally acidic rinse, as I recommend: either Dr. Bronner’s Hair Rinse, apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice. The stickiness that you described results not from the color treatment, but from an imbalance of pH. More of an acidic rinse is needed.

Again, I am very sorry to hear of your experience. Because of the color-treatment on your hair, I do recommend you look for an acidic shampoo that is formulated for color-treated hair. Should you consider using soap again for hair-washing, be sure to follow up with one of the acidic rinse options.

Anna says:

How do I use the soap for a shampoo? How much? Do I add anything to it?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Anna – There are a variety of ways to use soap for shampoo and the best method for you depends on your hair type and preferences. I share my method in this article “From Shampoo to Soap: My Story“. Another great resource is this article written by my colleague Rafi, “A Definitive Guide to Washing Your Hair with Dr. Bronner’s.

In short, I wash my hair every 2-3 days. I get it wet, lather the Citrus or Almond Castile Soap through my hair (unless it’s particularly dry and then I use the Sugar Soap), rinse it out. Then I dilute either lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in half with water. Pour that over my hair and make sure it’s all coated. I let that sit for half a minute or so, then I rinse it out. After I towel dry and brush my hair, I use 1 1/2 pumps of Dr. Bronner’s Hair Creme as a leave-in conditioner.

norma says:

I am so happy to have found your page. I am 63, and my hair is thin because of thyroid issues and post-menopause. I just got highlights/low lights, which has given me the added dimension and more body than ever. I finally feel good about my hair. I thought I had to get rid of Dr. Bonner’s Lemongrass Sugar shampoo, but I am pleased to read on your website that I don’t have to do that. I also have the organic hair rinse as well as the hair cream. Thanks for the valuable information—so much appreciated!

Lindsay says:

I have a question about the Dr. Bronner’s conditioning rinse that contains lemon juice. Will this product lighten my natural dark brown hair over time? Thank you!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Lindsay- While I’ve never personally tried it, lemon juice can lighten blond or light brown hair when left on hair and exposed to the sun for an extended period of time. The Organic Citrus Hair Rinse is intended to be used diluted and then rinsed out of hair and has no effect on lightening hair.

Tricia says:

As you know, most blonde highlights are also “toned” so that they don’t look yellow and brassy. And my guess is the Castile Will strip it?
Thanks, Tricia

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Tricia – Yes, the Castile soap with its alkaline pH is not best for hair with added tones in it. Look for a product with a neutral to acidic pH. on their Skin Deep Database is a good place to search

Amy Pagnozzi says:

I don’t understand why I can’t just mix a little vinegar into my Dr Bronners to bring the PH down to the same level as color safe shampoo. (I only use natural henna on my hair but prefer it didn’t care prematurely.

Why don’t you list the correction proportions to achieve this on this website with both ac vinegar and white vinegar?

Or alternatively one could add citric acid crystals.

I can buy PH strips and figure out the proportions for myself, of course, but many women with color treatments are looking for a way to use Dr. Bronners so it is probably better if you raise the idea.

I already add a dash of vinegar when I wash my dogs with Dr Bronners since the PH of canine skin is slightly more acidic than human skin. It doesn’t significantly reduce the Castile soap cleaning power.

(I can buy PH

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Amy- Soap is and always will be alkaline. Only synthetic detergent cleansers can be acidic. Within the alkaline range, soap can be quite mild, such as our Liquid Castile Soap at 9.3 or our Sugar Soap at 8.9, or it can soar as high as 11 or more. When you try to lower the pH of soap with anything acidic, from lemon juice to vinegar or citric acid, the acid will react with the alkaline soap and break apart the soap molecule. The pH will be lowered, but you will no longer have any soap to clean with. We can’t get around the chemistry. Likely with your dog washing, the small amount of vinegar you’ve added only reacted with some of the soap, so there is still available soap to clean. This soap will still be alkaline. For a deeper dive into the topic of pH, check out this article I wrote,

Taesha says:

I want to grow gray so I actually want to strip my hair color. Is it safe to use for my hair? Also does it work on all hair types?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Taesha- I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of this, but for conventional hair dyes, theoretically, washing with an alkaline soap (all true soap is alkaline) will speed up the color’s leaching out of your hair follicles where it is stored. You’ll need to close up the follicles with an acidic rinse, such as a 50-50 dilution of water and apple cider vinegar. Our soaps do work on all hair types, but the Organic Sugar Soap is more moisturizing on dry hair. These two posts are full of good info on transitioning from conventional shampoo to soap: and

Johanna Cohen says:

Hi. I use Dr Bronner’s Castile soap as a body wash and hand wash and wanted to try to use it on my hair too so I also bought the citrus organic rinse. However I have dark hair that is colour treated so I have realised that I cannot use the Castile soap but I wondered if I could still use the citrus organic rinse or if this would also affect my colour? Thank you!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Johanna- Glad you asked! The Citrus Hair Rinse is safe on color-treated hair!

About Lisa Bronner

My grandfather was Dr. Bronner, my family makes soap, and I share ways to use it plus tips on greener living.

Learn about my book, Soap & Soul!

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