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 Pure-Castile Soap and Organic Sugar 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 Organic 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 Organic 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 Organic 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 Organic Hair 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 Organic Hair Rinse. Whether to use the pure Castile Soap or the Organic Sugar Soaps. (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 Organic Hair 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.)

Because there are many variances in our hair types and preferences, you may have to tinker a bit to figure out what works best for you.  For more ideas, I highly recommend this Definitive Hair Washing Guide written by Dr. Bronner’s Content Editor, Rafi Loiederman.

627 thoughts on “From Shampoo to Soap – My story

  1. Can I still use Dr. Bonners soap on my hair even tho it is colored? Are you saying it will strip the color or will damage the hair?

    • Hi Linda- Unfortunately, we do not recommend using our soaps on color-treated 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.) The Environmental Working Group (ewg.com) is a great resource for finding color-safe shampoo.

  2. Hi ma’am I received my Dr bronner almond castil soap (liquid form). But the ingredients seems to be different than what I see in the website. It reads as : aqua, potassium cocate (saponified coconut oil) , potassium palm kernelate (saponified palm kernel oil)……..
    I’m a bit worried if it’s the actual product. Cause here it shows organic. So is it the original one. Please guide me Ma’am. Thank you.

    • Hi Devanshu- Different countries have varying requirements for listing ingredients on the label. It sounds as if you are looking at a European label, which differs from that of the U.S. label. The soap ingredients are the same, but potassium cocoate, palm kernelate, and potassium olivate are listed this way because they are reacted with potassium hydroxide during the soap-making process.

  3. Hi,I have bleached highlights, can I use Dr. Bronner as a shampoo???

    • Hi Valerie- Yes, you can. The issue with color treated hair is that a true soap opens up the hair follicles which can allow color to drain out. With highlights, color is taken out, not added in. There is no stored dye to worry about.

  4. Hello,
    I’m a little bit confused. Am I supposed to use the 1:1 ACV and water mix all over my hair after I use the Dr. Bronner’s soap as shampoo, or just on my ends and not my scalp? Also, I only shampoo my hair about once per week usually, is it safe for me to completely switch over to Dr. Bronners unscented liquid soap as my weekly shampoo? Thank you for any help!

    • Hi Ana- I use an acidic rinse – either ACV or the Dr. Bronner’s Citrus Hair Rinse – on my entire hair and scalp. After I have thoroughly rinsed out the soap, I dilute the rinse in a cup and then pour it over my head and work it through and rinse thoroughly. During the couple weeks of transition, especially if you’re coming from a conventional shampoo/conditioner regimen, you may need to use another crème conditioner after the rinse.

    • Hi Lillianna- A true soap, like our Castile Soap, cleans hair very well, but it can leave a tangly look and feel. An acidic rinse tamps down the cuticles in your hair and give it a smooth and silky after feel. But, my husband and son, both of whom have very short hair, use the soap to wash their hair and neither one bothers with the acidic rinse. If you have longer hair, you’ll want to follow with an acidic rinse though.

  5. Do you have any recommendations for very oily hair. I use a traditional shampoo and conditioner, and within hours my hair will be greasy again. If I go to sleep with wet hair, I will wake up with greasy hair. I’ve been doing a lot of research, but I fear my hair getting dried out. Thank you!!

    • Hi Shae- For oily hair, I recommend the liquid Castile Soap. The Lavender or Citrus are good moderate ones to start with, but if your hair is still oily, consider the Peppermint or Eucalyptus. 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. I also recommend the “Definitive Guide to Washing Hair with Dr. Bronner’s” written by my colleague, Rafi. It’s a great trouble-shooting guide in itself, and the comments are full of good tips too. https://www.drbronner.com/all-one-blog/2017/03/definitive-guide-washing-hair-dr-bronners/

  6. Thanks a lot Ma’am. That’s really helpful. And Thanks a lot for the quick response. Also few last doubts if you could clarify please. People suggested me that peppermint is too strong. And for hair almond wil be the best. And my hair has dandruff, not much. So would this be fine. And please if you could tell how much should I squirt in my hands excatly. And if not rinse it with apple cider vinegar. Would water be fine.
    Thanks a lot Ma’am.

    • Hi Devanshu- Peppermint essential oil is drying. If you have dry scalp, a less intense scent like the Almond Castile would be better. Castile Soap is concentrated, so if your hair is short, use a couple of drops. If longer, use about ½ Tbsp. (7.5 mL). Rinse the soap out of hair with clean water, follow with the dilution of half apple cider vinegar and half water, then rinse again with water.

  7. I am thinking to buy this product. Liquid castile ( pepermint flavour). But I am really confused and tired searching everywhere of how to use it. So please help me out with this. I generally want to use it for washing my hair ( as a shampoo). And I shampoo once per week. So how to prepare or how much should I dilute it with water. And I’ll be buying it in liquid form. So it would be really helpful. Thanks a lot.

    • Hi Devanshu- That’s great that you plan to use the Castile Soap for hair washing! To do that, squirt a small amount in your hand, then work through your wet hair. The water in your hair will dilute the soap all on its own. Rinse soap out and then follow with a rinse made with of half water and half apple cider vinegar.

  8. I have some chemical allergies and want to find a shampoo and conditioner that don’t make me itch. My hair is fine and thin. Do you have any suggestions that could help?
    Thanks,
    Sharon

    • Hi Sharon- From our line, our simplest soap is the Unscented Baby-Mild Castile, which may be a good option. Slightly more moisturizing is our Unscented Organic Sugar Soap. The ingredients are super mild. For a follow-up, I recommend for you an Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse. Dr. Bronner’s has a Citrus Hair Rinse, but that may be too intense for sensitive skin. Try diluting apple cider vinegar at 50% and pouring over the hair after you’ve rinsed the soap out. Then rinse out the apple cider vinegar. This is a way of shampooing & conditioning with completely natural ingredients. For other ideas check out this thorough article on hair care written by my colleague: https://www.drbronner.com/all-one-blog/2017/03/definitive-guide-washing-hair-dr-bronners/

  9. Hi. I use an organic, Aloe based shampoo. Can your Organic Hair Rinse be used with this type or other shampoos, that are not castile? Or is it just meant to be used with your castile/bar soaps to complement the alkalinity and PH of ones hair?

    • Hi Mimi- The Citrus Rinse can be used with an shampoo. Since acidity makes our hair smoother, you’ll definitely get the benefits.

  10. Would this be considered as a clarifying shampoo? I am thinking of doing a hair treatment on my hair and was wondering if I could use this as a clarifying shampoo. Does is deep clean your hair?

    • Hi Cielo- Yes, it really would. In fact, sometimes people say too much so, but I like how clean my hair gets. It will remove any buildup you have on your hair.

  11. I am interested in using Dr Bonner’s soap as a shampoo. I have not tried it yet. My hair is only about 3″ long & I never use conditioner or any kind of rinse, just plan ole water. Is this a problem if I don’t use a rinse?

    • Hi Nadine- It all depends on hair type. My husband and son both wash their hair with the bar soap and nothing else. I would say to try it and see how it goes. Using a rinse might make your hair smoother afterwards, but then again, you might not need it.

  12. What would you recommend for LONG, thick, oily hair? Conversely, what for children with long, fine hair?

    • Hi Natalie- Either the Castile Soap or Sugar Soap for both. Choose a more mild scent for children, such as Unscented, Almond or Citrus, while Peppermint oil is naturally drying on oily skin and hair. In either case, you’ll want to do an acidic rinse. Use either our Citrus Hair Rinse or half apple cider and half water. For children, use just a little bit of rinse, focusing primarily on the hair and not on the scalp.

  13. Hi, I read a couple of replies where you suggest that the apple cider vinegar rinse is supposed to be 50/50. I am confused as this is not what is said in the “Definitive guide to washing your hair with Dr Bronner’s” by Rafi Loiederman. In the comments he suggest 1/4 or 1/3 of a cup of vinegar for 1 cup of water. Can you enlighten me?

    • Hi Catherine- The correct dilution for the apple cider rinse comes down to personal preference. Hair type and hardness of water are just two influencing factors on this. I recommend starting off with a 50/50 dilution – although you could just as easily start with Rafi’s recommended dilution – and adjust the concentration as needed. If your hair is rough, increase the concentration. For dry scalp, you may need to dilute more. It takes some time and tinkering to figure out what works for your hair’s unique personality.

  14. Hello, Lisa! Excellent work with the Bronner Soaps (well, I guess thanks to Gpa. Bronner 🙂 Wondering how I can cleanse my hair ends better with Castile Soap?? I can get my scalp squeaky clean, but the rest of my long hair from about two-three inches below the scalp is difficult to clean and ends up looking greasy from lack of cleansing. For my scalp I usually dilute the soap and then cleanse. Should I simply add a few drops or the Pure Castile to my hands and apply to the length of my hair? Thanks

    • Hi Rebecca- Yes, a few drops in your hands to wash the ends works great. You’ll also want to do an acidic rinse, using either our Organic Citrus Hair Rinse or a 1:1 dilution of apple cider vinegar.

  15. Hi Lisa. My husband and I moved onto our boat, full time about 6 months ago (this forced my hand into a full “green” personal care routine). I followed the guide on switching to Dr B for my hair. With trial and error it is near perfect and I am absolutely pleased. However with the change in weather my long, brown hair has become drier. I switched to baby and it seems to have perked up (it is actually fuller!). Are there any issues with mixing liq castile scents? I would like to keep washing with the double oil but find it may too much on some days. Perhaps equal parts baby and lavender??

    • Hi Rene- What a wonderful adventure! There are no issues with mixing scents. In fact, its a fun way to create your own personalized scent.

  16. I am 55 years old and I have been noticing that my hair is not growing back and is getting progressively thinner. This has been going on for about 10 years…. about the same time as I started to use DR. Bronner for my shampoo. I was wondering if anyone else has had this experience. I am not saying it is Dr. Bronner. I am just investigating. I dont know what is creating this problem and so I dont know how to fix it.

    • Hi Heather- I’m sorry to hear this. That is no fun! I don’t personally have any experience in this area, and there are so many factors that affect scalp and hair health. Maybe some other readers can weigh in with their experience.

    • Heather – I think the changes in your hair are due to normal aging and not to use of Dr Bronner’s. My hair still grows like crazy, but in my mid 40s I did notice that it WAS growing thinner. I don’t yet use Dr B for my hair so I know the changes weren’t caused by that. All my life I’ve had EXTREMELY thick hair. So thick that my Mom always had the hairdresser thin it when I was little [just so she could cope with it on a daily basis] and I was alarmed that it was getting thinner, but my hairdresser explained that most people’s hair does thin as they age – so I was at least glad that it was super-thick to begin with. I do have friends who use Dr B for their hair & several have mentioned that they notice improvements in thickness & manageability once their heads become adjusted to the Dr B formula. If I were you, I’d try using something else for several months to see if you notice your hair becoming thicker. If so, you could reasonably assume that Dr B’s was at least partially to blame for your thinning. But I’d be quite surprised if that turned out to be the case.

    • To combat thinning hair as you age consider diet as well. I started losing my hair as my thyroid threw a tantrum. I started taking Biotin, which is a form of vitamin B, and the hair grew back in not just on my head, but eyebrows and lashes as well. Good luck.

    • Thinking hair can be caused by so many things! Please consider getting blood work done. I would suspect hormonal changes (and an increase in androgen) being part of the problem here.

      I have washed my hair with bar soap on and off for the last 14 years and have had fluctuations in hair thickness during that time. However, I personally feel they have been more impacted by stress, illness, and health changes that have also been reflected in skin, nail, overall physical health. My hair always falls out when my testosterone or thyroid levels are off but has always grown back when things improve.

      I DID freak out a bit over high pH causing hair breakage when pH balanced being key was all over every hair and skincare article and wrote to Lisa about it ages ago. I found some decent peer reviewed studies showing hair has no problems at all in pH 4-9. Our tap water (we have a well) is already at 8.8 so I figure the soap is not causing any more breakage than the water. And most importantly, I find waaaaaaaaaay less hair in the drain trap when I wash with soap than with pH balanced shampoos and conditioners (I did try going back to shampoo for a good 6 mos. It was miserable. My scalp was irritated, my hair was snapping, it was expensive to buy the ones with ingredients I found acceptable, my showers took much longer, my hair took so much longer to dry, and the amount of plastic bottles I went through was awful to behold. I even tried silicone-based conditioners again and those were awful! And I just hated knowing that I was washing such nasty crap right into our waterways). My hairdresser consistently is astounded that my hair is in such great shape–it’s some of the healthiest she has ever seen. And that’s with significant health issues, multiple surgeries in the last year, and long hair (below bra line). To be fair, I don’t dye my hair. But I do brush it wet and blow dry it in the winter because I don’t like being cold.

      TL/DR: So I’m a huge proponent of soap for hair. ❤️

    • I had this experience too several years back. Although, admittedly, I never read dilution amounts and think I burned my hair; I used peppermint full strength. It has been about 5 years now and it has never grown back, so I don’t really know if it was the Peppermint soap or coincidence. Since I had cancer last year my hair is changing yet again and I am thinking about trying the unscented diluted, or the bar. I use Dr. Bronner’s soaps for all sorts of things but only found their blog recently. I’m looking forward to trying some of the recommendations here.

  17. Question. My daughter swims competitive Junior Olympic level daily at 30 hours a week. He hair is somewhat healthy dispite the chlorine. I have her rinse her hair prior to swim to absorb water prior to pool treated water. Its not the platinum color as other blonde haired swimmers are mainly because she rinses prior. We decided to step into this soap for skin and body but all in 1 for hair as well. How do we use this product properly for her Blond stright hair, med thickness, 13 years old. Also rinse vinegar etc.

    I started on my beard and hair to test I can afford the hair loss if so.

    Thanks much love.

    • Hi Joshua- Castile Soap and our Organic Hair Rinse are great for ridding hair of chlorine. People with thicker or dryer hair sometimes prefer the extra moisture of the Organic Sugar Soap or Shaving Soap. Your steps before swim sound excellent for preventing chlorine damage. If her hair needs more protection, use the Organic Hair Creme as a protectant before going in the pool. It’s excellent for daily moisturizing and smoothing as well.

  18. Hi Lisa!
    Thank you for this post – it was really interesting!
    I am planning to move from conventional shampoos to Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castille all-in-one bar soap.
    I use body soap for a few years now so not worried about that.

    I worry about the hair – mine tends to be oily in the scalp but the ends get rather frizzy and kind of dry.
    Do you recomend any specific bar soap, of the various available?
    Thanks a lot!
    Vera

    • Hi Vera- As you’re washing, concentrate on the scalp and avoid scrubbing the ends of your hair. Apply the Organic Hair Creme only to the ends of your hair to moisturize hair and tame frizzies. As for a specific scent, try something middle-of-the-road moisturizing wise – such as Citrus, Lavender or Tea Tree. For more moisture, you can go to Rose, Almond or Unscented. For more great tips, see the Hair Washing Guide on the Dr. Bronner’s blog at https://www.drbronner.com/all-one-blog/2017/03/definitive-guide-washing-hair-dr-bronners/.

  19. Is there anything to keep in mind when using the soap with naturally gray/white hair?

    • Hi Lori- We hear from customers that Castile soap keeps gray and white hair from yellowing. You’ll want to follow with an acidic rinse of either our Citrus Hair Rinse or a 50/50 dilution of apple cider vinegar and water. Let me know how it goes.

  20. Hi,
    I have a question about drying the hair. I use liquid soap and ACV rinse, and everything is perfect until I use blow dryer. I have a curly hair but I like it straight. When I start to straight it up, it becomes waxy and sticky immediately.
    Do you have any tip? Thanks!

  21. Hey 🙂
    Can I use unscented Bronner bar soap directly on hair as a shampoo? (I am a man BTW)
    Is it okay to not use conditioner afterward?
    Thanks 🙂

    • Hi BNS- My son does this. Just wash and go. He does have short hair though. If you have longer hair, you’ll want to follow with an acidic rinse. And not only is the bar convenient, it is slightly more moisturizing than our liquid soaps.

  22. We’ve used your soaps for over a decade except as shampoo. Do your soaps work for seriously sensitive scalps? Have been trying shampoos all year for my 16 yr old. Dandruff shampoos make it worse. Chemicals leave redness.

    • Hi Tina- I’m sorry your 16 year old is having to go through this. Our soaps are gentle on the scalp. I recommended either the Castile or Sugar Soap in either the Unscented or Tea Tree scents. A helpful resource on this is the Definitive Guide to Hair Washing on the Dr. Bronner’s blog, https://www.drbronner.com/all-one-blog/2017/03/definitive-guide-washing-hair-dr-bronners/. Another option, that I haven’t tried myself, is the “No Poo” method in which hair is washed with an alternative to shampoo, such as baking soda or apple cider vinegar.

    • Or conditioner, or just water. Use diluted vinegar as a rinse if her scalp is ok with it, otherwise, maybe try a conditioner? Either in the shower or as a leave-in or both. There are lots of alternatives for shampoo – my hair has never looked better since I stopped using it, but it has taken some trial and error to find what makes my scalp happy. It may take some time to adjust. You truly don’t have to use anything harsh, though. Good luck!

  23. Do you have recommendations for those of us with hard water? When I dilute the Castile soap in water it becomes cloudy and I can’t get a lather, just lots of residue.

    • Hi Emily- I too have hard water. These days, I’ve been wetting my (pretty long) hair really thoroughly and then squirting about 1/2 Tbsp. directly on to it. If you like to pre-dilute, use distilled water to avoid the cloudiness. Another option – albiet the most involved – is installing a point-of-use water softener to your showerhead.

  24. I noticed you said that the soaps are not ideal for color treated hair. Can I use the Citrus Rinse after using a shampoo for color treated hair?

    • Hi Nerissa- Yes. The issue with the soap is that it’s alkaline which opens up the hair follicles, allowing color to bleed out. The Citrus Rinse is acidic.

  25. Hello I had a few question is their a ratio you would recommend for putting the soap in a squeezable bottle ? Or should I just use a cup like you did ?

    • Hi Angel- These days, I’ve been wetting my (pretty long) hair really thoroughly and then squirting about 1/2 Tbsp. directly on to it. If you pre-dilute, start with 1/2 Tbsp. in 1/2 cup of water. Diluting the soap does shorten the shelf life, so make in small batches.

  26. Hi,

    Have the hair care products been tested on ethnic hair? I’m curious how the products will work on my hair being that I am African American.

  27. Dear Lisa,
    I have a really dumb question for you.
    After washing your hair with the soap, do you rinse your hair with water before applying the apple cider vinegar rinse?
    Or, do you rinse the soap out of your hair using the apple cider vinegar?

    • Hi Donna – Not a dumb question at all! In fact, I also have felt that I haven’t been clear on this exact point. You do need to rinse out the soap completely before applying the Apple Cider Vinegar or any acidic hair rinse. This is important because the acidity of the vinegar will react with the soap and form and oily, waxy mess that you definitely don’t want on your hair. You can read more about that chemistry in, “A Word of Caution About Vinegar and Castile Soap”.

    • Hi Karen- I recommend checking out the EWG Cosmetics Safety Database, which is a great place to find info on any personal care products. You can look up shampoo for colored hair there and see their ratings.

  28. Do I understand that we are not to use Dr. Bronner soap on colored hair? I have to stay with my old chemically loaded shampoo?

    • Hi Brenda- The alkalinity of the soap opens up the hair follicles, allowing the color to drain out. It is safe for highlighted hair though. But there are many color-safe shampoos on the market without the chemicals. To find one, check out the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, which ranks products based on ingredients, environmental impact, etc. https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

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