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.

593 thoughts on “From Shampoo to Soap – My story

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

    • 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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, 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

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