It’s been 12 years since I originally wrote about washing my hair with Dr. Bronner’s soap, so I thought it was time to update this post and let you know how it’s going. I’ve washed my hair quite a lot since then.
I still wash my hair with soap, and I love it even more now than I did then.
I love that I can wash myself with one product from head to toe. In my early morning pre-tea fog, I appreciate this so much. Most of the time I use the Castile Liquid Soap—usually Almond, sometimes Citrus. If my hair is feeling extra dry, I go up to the Organic Sugar Soap—Lemongrass Lime—with its sugar and Shikakai powder to give extra nourishment. (Sugar is a humectant which draws moisture into skin and hair. Shikakai softens skin and hair.)
And when it’s really dry here in Southern California, like when the Santa Ana winds roar out of the desert, sucking every last drop of moisture from all forms of life, I use the Organic Shaving Soap. That’s the most moisturizing of the Dr. Bronner’s soap line, and great for more than just shaving.
So let me take you back to the beginning. To why I started washing my hair with soap instead of shampoo and how I survived the transition.
When I started learning about problematic ingredients in personal care products, I noticed a disturbing trend. All the ingredients that populated the “12 Worst” and “Avoid These” lists were common in shampoos. Ethoxylated compounds like Sodium Laureth Sulfate (not to be confused with its cousin Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, aka SLS), Polyethylene Glycol, and other -eths with the carcinogenic stowaway 1,4-Dioxane. Quaternium compounds and Ureas which are common allergens and formaldehyde-releasers, another known carcinogen. Ethanolamines, aka DEA, MEA, TEA, which readily react with nitrogen compounds in the air or in other ingredients to form skin-penetrating carcinogenic nitrosamines.
It was time to find another way to wash my hair. But I still wanted my hair to look good. Who doesn’t?
Choosing an acidic rinse
I knew that one key to success was going to be an acidic rinse. A trait that differentiates soap from shampoo is its pH, which is whether something is acidic or alkaline. Soap is always alkaline. Shampoo is acidic. The keratin scales of hair strands raise up in the presence of an alkaline (soap). I’ve heard people describe their hair feeling sticky or tacky after washing with soap, or it’s dull or easily tangles or it feels like Velcro. All of this is because of the raised keratin scales. The scales must be smoothed back down with a balancing acidic rinse.
Here are three great options, and my dilutions. Bear in mind that I have fairly long hair. Shorter hair may need less or even none, as I’ll discuss with my husband and son:
- Dr. Bronner’s Citrus Hair Rinse: 1 or 2 capfuls diluted in 1 cup of water
- Apple cider vinegar (ACV): ½ cup in ½ cup water
- Lemon Juice (filtered to remove all pulp): 1/3 cup in 2/3 cup water
- (Take note that lemon juice is not shelf stable and needs to be kept in the fridge.)
- Wash hair with soap of your choice. Rinse out.
- Apply rinse of your choice, finger combing through the hair. Let it sit for 1-3 minutes. Rinse out.
My first hair wash with soap (anticlimax)
The first time I washed my hair with soap I was frankly horrified. What I realized is that conventional conditioners had been coating my hair with silicones, usually dimethicone, which accounted for that slippery post-shower feel. However, not only did those weigh down my hair, but also they concealed its neglected malnourished state. So the first time I washed my hair with soap which removed this coating, my hair looked awful. By the end of that day, it was completely limp and lifeless. It was full of static and didn’t even feel clean. I was so discouraged that I gave up the attempt.
My second hair wash with soap (months later)
It was several months later that I decided to try again. I washed my hair with soap, again found my hair to be the same tired overworked mess, but I had a different resolve.
I knew my hair needed to heal.
Tactics I used to ease the transition
- Once a week I did deep conditioning treatments, where I left a masque on my hair for about 10 minutes. Hair strands are comprised of two or three layers. Fine hair has only two layers. The outermost layer, or cuticle, is made of keratin in an arrangement of overlapping-scales. This covers the inner cortex, which is solid keratin. Thicker hair has a central shaft called the medulla. I needed a deep conditioning treatment that would penetrate into these layers. At the time I used a brand of conditioning masque that isn’t now available, but now I use coconut oil (a pea-sized amount on my long, thick hair) or the Dr. Bronner’s Hair Crème.
- I doubled down on the five lifestyle habits that most impact hair (and skin!): good nutrition, plenty of water, plenty of sleep, exercise, and laughter. When these are not in place, the hair is sure to show it.
- Once a week I used my previous shampoo and conditioner. This might have been more of a psychological help than a restorative one to my hair. But using the old comfortable stuff once a week made me feel better about the whole thing and got me through, so that’s worth something.
- I let the acidic rinse sit on my hair for most of my shower to give my hair lots of time to smooth.
- I used 1-2 pumps of Dr. Bronner’s Organic Hair Crème after each hair washing, which is a leave-in conditioner that is like lotion for hair. I would apply it while my hair was still damp after I had brushed it out, concentrating on the lower half of my hair which tends to be dryer since it is further from the sebum-producing scalp.
Over a period of two weeks, my hair got stronger and stronger. It became soft and silky. I think my scalp realized it needed to wake up and supply some necessary oils, too. Without those silicone residues, my hair does not feel slippery when I’m done, but it is tangle-free, and when it dries, it is smooth and soft.
I also discovered that my hair is much wavier than I knew, now that it’s not weighed down by all the conditioner residues. That’s been kind of fun. I have discovered that if I gently scrunch the Hair Crème into my hair and let it air dry, the waves are more pronounced.
My other takeaways
I use a dab of the Hair Crème to smooth flyaways on dry hair, especially if I am going for more of a structured style like a braid or twist.
I also have found that I don’t need to wash my hair very often. The most I’ll wash it is every two days, but sometimes I go three or four with it still looking nice. I’m really pleased with my hair now that I’ve gotten used to this different system.
Remember that for me, it wasn’t an instant switch. It took some time for my hair to adjust, for my scalp to adjust, and even for my own norms to adjust. But it has so been worth it. My hair is healthier, stronger, and most importantly, I like how it looks.
Hair washing with Bar Soap
The Castile Bar Soap also works excellently for washing hair. Two members of my household use it regularly: my husband and my son. The only reason I do not is that it takes a while to work it all the way through my long hair. However, when traveling and I haven’t wanted to bring the liquid for risk of spilling, or when for some reason I don’t have the liquid on hand, the bar soap has been a great substitute.
Another great way to use the bar soap on hair is to make up a batch of Soap Cream, which is a semi-liquified bar soap. This would work through the hair more quickly.
Washing traditionally colored hair
If you’ve been on board with this whole discussion of soap for hairwashing, I may derail you: it is not recommended to wash traditionally colored hair with an alkaline cleanser. Soap is always alkaline. The reason goes back to the fact that the alkalinity of soap opens up the hair follicles. This is precisely where traditional hair dye is stored. The color will drain out and fade quickly. Colored hair needs acidic products only. Check the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database for healthy color-safe hair care options.
Washing Henna-dyed hair
Henna-dyed hair does not have this same caution and can be washed with soap. Henna works by staining the outer keratin of the cuticle, rather than storing the dye inside the cortex. Soap will not affect this stain.
Washing highlighted hair
Highlighted hair also is safe with soap. Highlights work by removing some of the color of hair, not by adding color in. Unless you have also added lowlights back into the hair, you can wash highlighted hair with soap. I have highlighted hair myself and cover this topic in greater detail in another article.
Finding what works best for you
It takes some time and tinkering to land on a routine that works best. Our hair is all so very different from one another. And what we want from our hair is different. What one person calls sleek, another calls flat. What one person calls full of body, another calls wild and out of control.
You will need to decide whether to use the Castile Soap or the Organic Sugar Soaps or the Shaving Soap. Which rinse works best and 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. I hope that seeing what worked for me will get you started.
For more tips and tricks on hair washing with soap and to find your perfect method, check out my colleague Rafi Loiederman’s excellent overview, The Definitive Guide to Washing your Hair with Dr. Bronner’s.
My hair is highlighted but I have been having my hair dresser add low lights in an effort to get my hair close to my natural color, a dark blond/light brown.
I know you said multiple times not to use the castile soap in colored hair as it isn’t acidic enough to prevent color loss; my question is this, what about using the citrus Bronner’s liquid soap? Is there enough acid from the citrus to keep it from stripping the color?
Maybe this makes no sense and I’m way off base… any help would be appreciated!
@Christiana – Beautiful name! The Citrus soap is scented by the essential oils of orange, lemon, and lime, rather than the juices from these fruits. These oils are not acidic, unlike the juice which are acidic. (I’ve recently learned that the whole “acid-base” spectrum is only applicable to water soluble liquids, so oils cannot be classified as either.) The pH of the Citrus castile soap is still alkaline (8.9).
I, too, have highlights. I need to write a separate post about this because I’ve gotten the highlights since I wrote this post. Highlights are the result of lightening the color of thin or thick locks of hair. No color is added to the hair. Therefore, you can still use Castile soap and maintain your highlights. This is only true if all you have are highlights.
My advice remains unchanged, though, for any hair treatment that involves adding color into the hair follicles. This would include whole hair dyeing or lowlights. Do not use the castile soap if you have either of these treatments.
Hope this helps!
Lisa – Thank you so much for writing all that up for me. I really appreciate it. I think it is actually dry scalp. I ordered 2 of the orange rinse bottles and they will be here soon. I also washed my hair this morning w/ the almond scented dr. bronner’s magic soap and added a bit more jojoba oil and really rubbed it into my scalp. I had MUCH less dry flakes in my hair today..so that is the FIRST time I’ve seen any improvement at all. I can’t wait to try the rinse. I think it will help. Thank you so much for your website and for getting back to me. =)
@Elisa – Glad to hear it! Let me know what you think of the rinse.
All the best,
Dear Lisa, I’m so happy to have found your website. I was given a bottle of the magic soap, the one in the big bottle w/ the green labels, with the almond scent. I don’t like the way my hair is, but this rinse might be the trick. I guess I was wondering if you just put a capful in a cup and then you add water? I have terrible dandruff issues and nothing has helped. I’m hoping this helps. Thank you for any information you can give me.
@Elisa – I keep a plastic cup in the shower and dilute 1 capful of the rinse in a cup of warm water. I pour this over my head slowly, working it in with my other hand. However, I want to share with you something that was posted on our Facebook site that may be helpful to you:
“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. Hope this helps.”
Let me know if I can be of further help!
I bought Dr B castille with hemp and tea tree oil yesterday at a local heath food store. I had been reading about it everywhere I searched for solutions about scalp psoriasis or seborreah. I have been fighting a losing battle with my scalp for 2 years and can’t get any 2 doctors to concur on a diagnosis. I just knew that the ketaconzaole shampoo for seborreah was about to kill me. My scalp was so dry and irratated I couldn’t smile or frown without pain. I had been dying my hair red for many years and about 6 months ago decided to try henna. The reason no saloon will do it is because of the time involved. You have to mix it the night before then sit with it on your hair for at least 4 hours. The results are worth it, my color is perfect and my scalp is not torn up by peroxide. I’m impressed with Dr. B. I have very dry hair aqnd while it feels a little oily, I can stand it. I did use ACV as a rinse but am going to get the citrus rinse since reading these posts. Dr. Bonner, you have a new fan!!!
(Sorry–posted this comment on the wrong blog post originally) Hi Lisa, I tried the lavender castile soap as shampoo out of sheer curiosity and to try going greener. I have very curly hair and am a psycho about the texture and definition I like–smooth but not greasy or plastered to my head, defined but not crunchy curls. This was wonderful! I used the soap undiluted, foaming up about a teaspoon in my hand before applying to wet hair. I didn’t get a greasy feeling in my hair, but each strand definitely felt fluffier; I see what you mean about the cuticles opening up. I didn’t have the shikakai rinse on hand to use after, so I improvised with much-diluted white vinegar in a perineal irrigation bottle. (The bottle you get from the hospital to irrigate down under after an episiotomy. They’re a couple of bucks and distribute liquids perfectly.) After the vinegar rinse my hair behaved as though it were thoroughly conditioned, but not limp. I used my normal styling product and had wonderful results. Great body and texture. I ordered some shikakai rinse as well as the styling creme and can’t wait to try them, too.
@ Torea – The color of the Shikakai soaps is due to the color of the Shikakai extract itself. (As a sidenote, if you ever see a product that claims it has Shikakai in it, but is not this color, then the amount of Shikakai must be miniscule.) I have no idea if it will stain your hair. I haven’t heard of that happening, but it sounds like your hair is particularly light. You may want to go with the pure castile soap, which is what I use, just to be safe. I would not add baking soda (an alkali) to the soap for the purpose of reducing residue. I think that would worsen the residue, since it is vinegar (an acid) that rids surfaces of the residue. Don’t add the vinegar directly to the soap, but a routine spraying down of the surfaces with a vinegar solution will get rid of any soap scum.
@ Sarah – If your hair has any color added, don’t use soap on it, Dr. Bronner’s or otherwise. We do not make any product for color-treated hair. It would need to be slightly acidic which would only be possible with a detergent (shampoo). If your hair is high-lighted in the sense that color is only removed from the hair, then the castile soap will be fine. This is my situation – I’ve had my hair highlighted with no color added, and the soap works great and my highlights have stayed put.
@ Rhea – I really think the Dr. B’s hair rinse is what you need. It is perfectly pH balanced for the soap. It will remove any mineral residue from your hair as well, which is probably the greasiness you’re noticing. If you order the hair rinse and you don’t like it, you can easily ask for a refund – this goes for any product. Email my sister-in-law Erin Trudeau-Bronner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
@ Michelle – I, too, have heard that the most important part of the hair to wash is the scalp. However, if you use any products on your hair, even the Dr. Bronner’s Style Creme, you’ll want to wash that out of your hair as well by working the soap through the whole length. The heavy/waxy texture you describe is a result of the soap’s pH causing the follicles to stand our on the strands and tangle with each other. An acidic rinse is needed to counteract this – either Dr. B’s hair rinse or apple cider vinegar or something like that. The white build-up is probably the mineral deposits that are caused when the soap reacts with minerals in hard water. The acidic rinse will treat this as well.
Let me know if I can be of further help!
All the best,
Hello Lisa and all Dr. Bronner fans,
I’ve read through all the comments, and I apologize if I’m asking something that has already been gone over, but I want to make sure of the proper way to wash one’s hair with the Magic Soap since I’m newly converting. With regular shampoo, I’ve always been taught to use the shampoo only on my scalp, and then only use the conditioner on the length and ends of my hair since I have long, fine hair with an oily scalp. So far with Dr. Bronner’s, I have only worked it into my scalp, and have done a “water only” rinse on the length and ends of my hair (since I have not yet gotten to purchase the Hair Rinse). It does clean up my scalp amazingly, but then the length and ends get that heavy/waxy texture where I did not use the soap and my wide-tooth comb picks up a bunch of white build-up when I take the tangles out. We do have hard water, so I don’t know if that’s part of the cause. My question is if I should be using Dr. Bronners throughout all of my hair, and then use the hair rinse throughout all of my hair rather than the previous way I have been washing my hair.
I appreciate the help!
I have been using dr. bronners almond liquid soap for two weeks now… my hair was feeling very frizzy and tangly, and greasy all along… then I read these comments, and I started today using diluted vinegar as a rinse after the soap. My hair immediately felt better (less frizzy).. but when it dried, it was still greasy! Im not sure what to do! I think I will try adn buy the hair rinse that you have mentioned… I hope it works!
I had been using the bar soap before and it seemed to be a lot less greasy on my hair.. but the liquid is so much more convenient!
Also @Jane — my brush is the same way!!! Its almost looks like lint? Its like a whiteish build up of soap it seems… not sure why it is still in my hair haha…
I just bought my first bottle of Dr. Bronners Lavender Liquid Castille All in 1 Soap and stumbled upon this before using it. Thank you for all the information!
There is a lot here, and I haven’t read it ALL, so I apologize if you have already answered my questions. I want to transition to chemical free hair products like Dr. Bs, but my hair is color-treated with high-lights.
If I want to keep the color, I should not use the castille soap on my hair? And, if that is true, is there a Dr. Bs product that is safe for colored hair?
Im searching for an alternative to “traditional” shampoo and conditioner. The standard baking soda and ACV routine did not work for me and I really want to try Dr. B’s soap and rinse for my routine. However, I have natural platinum blonde hair that is highly susceptible to dyes and colorants. Im wondering if the Skikakai may be too tinted to use on my hair? Does it impart color at all?
Also, we have fairly hard water here. I have read that you can add baking soda to the soap to avoid the scum that gets left behind with hard water. Is that something you would recommend if I were to use the liquid or solid soap as shampoo?
Thanks for taking the time to answer. I will try rinsing my hair longer. I don’t color my hair and it is both long and thick. It doesn’t look or feel dirty but the build up on the comb is amazing. I might try just using the soap and not the rinse to see if it makes a difference.
I have been using dr. b’s lavender soap with the citrus hair rinse for a couple of weeks now. Why does my comb get so dirty when I comb my hair out? There is so much dirt on the comb even on day I wash it that I have to clean the comb daily. Do you have any idea what causes this? I want to keep using method because I believe your products are superior to commercial shampoos. Thanks
I have two theories on this one. It’s probably not dirt since the castile soap is really good at cleaning the hair. However, my first theory is that it could be the Shikakai extract that you’re seeing on your comb. It is a very dark brown powder. It gives the Hair Rinse its color. Perhaps giving your hair an extra thorough rinse in warm water after applying the Hair Rinse would help. I find that with my long hair I need to rinse it longer than I had conventional conditioners.
My second theory is that if you have colored hair, the castile soap is removing the color from your hair. It’s a big drawback to the castile soap that it can’t be used on colored hair – unless you don’t like the color and are trying to get rid of it.
Let me know if I’m off base with these two and I’ll keep thinking about it!
All the best,
Just spent the last 45 minutes reading all the above comments.
Could you kindly explain how exactly to use the products and which products in regards to washing the hair?
Thankyou sooo much!
@ Rach – Quick summary: Either pure castile or Shikakai soaps – choose your favorite scent. Wash your hair with enough soap to lather. For my long-ish hair, it’s about a 1/2 Tbsp. Rinse it out. Take a capful of the Dr. B’s Citrus Hair Rinse and dilute it in a warm cup of water. Pour that over your head and work it through the hair. You can choose to let it sit or rinse it out right away. Either way, rinse it thoroughly, and you’re all set!
Short and sweet!
Lisa – Thanks for the tips! I, too, read about the coconut oil and will consider it or the EVOO as options.
I have been using the soap/hair rinse regimen for my hair for about a week and a half now and LOVE it!!!! Definitely a transition the first few times… a “weighted” or somewhat “greasy” feeling when my hair dries (both air and blow-dried) but I think it’s getting better. Either that, or I’m just used to it. I have noticed my hair can hold up even longer with this new regimen — 2-3 days instead of just barely 2!
In regards to a heat protectact, I talked with a lady at the natural store I go to (and bought the hair rinse “special order” from) and she wasn’t sure sure on anything either. However, she thought that if my hair is getting enough conditioning from the hair rinse I probably wouldn’t need anything since I iron only every other day (so only about 15 times per month).
So… I haven’t been using anything as a “heat protectant”, just wash with soap & rinse, then blow dry and iron. I use a tiny bit of pure shea butter to calm my frizzies and will consider the Dr. Bronner’s Hair Creme as an alternative.
I just can’t get over how great this stuff really works – even had my husband sold on it within just a couple days of hype after lots of research! I can’t explain just how great it felt to get rid of all of our old, synthetic products and make the change to ONE product! (Well… several right now because we’re trying out all the scents :-))
Thanks so much!
So glad to hear it, Julie! And about your husband’s switch, too!
I’ve been reading that olive oil (among other oils) might be good heat protectors..? Not sure on the need to dilute or not, but interested to hear what others are doing.
Thanks for sharing all or your experiences with these products. I bought my first bottles and bars of Dr. Bronner’s last week and can’t get enough of them! I’ve got the hair rinse on order (expecting it today or tomorrow) and can’t wait to start the trial and error (minus the ugly transition hair period of course).
I think I’m set on how to wash and condition thanks to all of the sharing here, however, I’m concerned and intersted to know how everyone styles afterwards. Particularly whether or not the use of hot tools (straightner and/or curling iron) is OK? I have naturally frizzy, semi-curly, short, thick hair which requires some extra TLC to smoothe out. If hot tools are OK – what is recommended for an organic protectant from the heat for my hair? Will the style cream work? Or pure Shea Butter?
Appreciate any and all feedback!
@ Julie – I’m hoping someone will weigh in here who uses hot tools for the hair frequently. I use them so rarely, that I can only answer theoretically. I think either olive oil or the Dr. Bronner’s hair creme would be safe. I don’t foresee any damage from either. If you’re trying the olive oil, I would go for extra virgin olive oil rather than plain olive oil since it is lighter feeling, and also doesn’t have as strong a smell. Coconut oil is another option. Dr. Bronner’s has a food grade coconut oil (a higher grade than body care) that could definitely be used. It smells like coconut – maybe a plus, maybe not. When cooking, coconut oil does better at high heat than olive, but I dont’ know exactly how hot hair tools get. The Dr. Bronner’s Hair Creme is great for calming frizzes, so you might want to check it out, too.
Some feedback would be great once you’ve experimented a bit!
Hi Lisa! Thank you for sharing your experience. I was just wondering if you think the tea tree soap would help with dandruff/dry scalp? This product is pretty much oil based, how does your scalp feel after you use it?
@ Linda – Thanks for writing! The unscented Baby Mild is slightly more moisturizing than the other castiles, so if you want the gentlest option, start there. The bar soaps might be slightly more moisturizing since the oils in them are superfatted instead of saponified. (Next blog topic will go into that difference.)
The Shikakai soaps, though, were designed to be even more moisturizing, so you might find those worth a try, as well. There’s an unscented Baby Mild Shikakai.
All the best,
I’ve been using the rinse for a while – have just finished the bottle and ordered 2 new ones – and have been alternating between two organic shampoos and the almond bar soap (I’m finishing up the other shampoos, nearly there!) My hair is better than it has been for years – lots of curl, tiny little frizz on top, styling cream coming to fix that, but so soft. So easy to manage, I wash every three to four days and just roll out of bed and finger comb some days. It’s long hair too and very shampoo ad shiny right now.
My only ‘complaint’ is that the rinse is mostly solid and ends up chunky when diluted, even in really hot water. The last few days with warmer weather it’s actually poured rather than glugged so I’m guessing that’s just a cold weather thing? (Our bathroom has no heating.) I did try leaving the bottle in hot water half an hour before a shower one day, but there’s too much organisation needed to do that! Otherwise it’s been great. I’d definitely recommend sticking with it, I’d guess the transition from conventional shampoo/conditioner rather than organic would be harder too, but so worth it.
@ Cheryl – I’m glad to hear the rinse is working out for you! The consistency of the rinse does vary, and temperature is one of the factors. It’s also the nature of working with pure botanicals – there are always slight variances in each plant depending on season, region, etc.
To deal with that, if it’s really thick, I break it up with my fingers in my cup of water. If it’s really runny, I put it on my hair without diluting it. It runs through fine on its own.
All the best!
So I have been using baby mild soap for 3 days now and my hair looks better each day. I forgot to mention that I used Pantene conditioner and Silk oil after I washed my hair with the soap first day. It was impossible to brush it and was so greasy looking the next day. Second day I rinsed with ACV and I could brush my hair easier but it still looked very greasy the next day. Third day I used a lot more soap and washed my hair about 4 times to make sure I got rid of the grease. Brushing it was a breeze but it still looks a little greasy and not very shiny. How thick is the soap supposed to be? It seems very liquidy to me. I will go through a lot the way I use it. Are you suppose to dilute it? We have hard water, will that always leave film on my hair while using bronner’s soap?
@ Michaela – Sorry for my delay here! The soap is supposed to be liquidy. Any thickeners would be artificial and interfere with the effectiveness of the soap. The soap is still very concentrated, though. (A quick test for this is to leave a small amount in a cup and see how quickly it solidifies. There is only enough water in the soap to keep it liquid. If your soap ever does solidify, just add a bit of water, or use it as a solid soap.) Anyhow, back to your hair. The greasy feeling you mention is not due to anything left on your hair. It is due to your hair follicles sticking out of your hair strands. You need more of the acid rinse to calm them, not more of the soap. I have pretty thick, long hair, and I use no more than 1 Tbsp. per washing. I’ve never used the ACV, but the Dr. B’s hair rinse definitely works. If you can’t get the ACV to do the job, you might want to check that out, since it’s specifically formulated for the soap. Also, no conventional conditioner will help since they are formulated to balance conventional shampoos, which are slightly acidic. Dr. B’s castile soap is alkaline. Hope this helps!
I just bought the baby mild soap and used it on my baby’s hair and body and I and it made my hair to look greasy but it was full of volume and had more curls (kind of like I used to have in high school and long time before I started coloring it). I thought maybe I used too much… I came across this blog when I was trying to find some info about this soap as abshampoo and I am sad that it will never work on colored hair as I have really dark hair and lot of greys…
I will consider switching to henna though, I am just afraid to do it myself…and no one in hair salon will color my hair with henna.
However, my baby has a lot of hair and hers wasn’t tangled or greasy looking. It was soft and shiny. That tells me, it wasn’t how much soap I used or how hard our water is, my hair looked awful because it’s somewhat damaged and colored…
So if you want to use it on your kiddos, go right ahead.
Anyway – great post!
I will keep trying, it’s worth it!!
@Christy and Rachel – The rinse is pretty crucial to avoiding the frizz or the heavy, tangled, stringy scene. Both are caused by the pH of the soap, which causes the hair follicles to stick out. You need to rinse with something acidic. ACV might do the trick – I haven’t tried it but others have. The Dr. B’s Citrus Hair Rinse is what I use, and it works great every time. I’ll tell you, though, when I rinse out the hair rinse, my hair does not have that slippery feel as it did after conventional conditioners. Nonetheless, it is easy to brush and dries very smoothly. I have only rarely heard of people who have used the soap as a shampoo without also using a rinse of some sort. I don’t think there’s much benefit to adding tea, etc. to the soap. The soap already has jojoba and hemp oils in it – at the right balance. Adding more is only going to leave the oiliness you’ve discovered, Rachel.
Also @ Christy – There are days – and I don’t know if it’s some change in my water or some change in my hair – that it takes more soap in order to suds up. I start with about 1/2 Tbsp., and if that’s not sudsing enough, I use another 1/2 Tbsp.-ish. The harder the water, the more you’d need. Other contributing factors – thick hair, long hair, oily hair, lots of products in the hair, etc.
@ Andria – I don’t have any sort of filter on my shower. However, the acidic rinse removes the residue – from any surface. The film you are experiencing might be dryness – in which case massaging in some of the hair creme on to your wet scalp would definitely help.
@ Elizabeth – At best Borax is an irritant, at worst it is toxic. I wouldn’t recommend using it on the body. It is included in the realm of natural house cleaning because it is readily biodegradable. The only place I use it is in the toilets. For shampooing, try the Dr. B’s by itself, followed by a rinse, and see how that goes. If you want something more, try adding baking soda to the soap.
Let me know if I can address anything else!
Lisa and Others,
I have been using the Dr. Bronner’s for about a week and a half and the first recipe that I tried called for equal parts water and castile soap, plus 2 tablespoons of jojoba and some essential oils for fragrance and nice effects, but that recipe left my hair crazy greasy and oily. After 3 days of this, and a “talking to” from my boss I washed my hair with my regular shampoo again (no conditioner). After that one regular shampoo I decided to try again. I distilled the Dr. Bronners (2 tablespoons to 1 cup of distilled water) and that seemed to work SO much better! But now my hair is feeling like that heavy/greasy/stringy feeling again–about 7 days now, since I wash my hair every other day. Am I just in the transition period or do I need to start using an acidic rinse on my hair after shampooing with Dr. Bronner’s? I have long, thick hair and I just feel like it’s not clean! I want this to work but are there other things I need to try like a ACV rinse or a water filter (I have moderately hard water).
Also, does Dr. Bronner’s work best when not combined with anything? I’ve heard of people (online bloggers such as myself) steeping chamomile and rosemary and other things into the distilled water to make a sort of tea and then using that in combination with the Dr. Bronner’s.
Hi Lisa — about a year ago I started losing my hair (falling out). Have not been able to figure out why. Previously it was very thick, so even though I have lost about half of it, most people would not notice. But I do, and I’m worried. I don’t want it to get worse. I do not color my hair or use a blow dryer. It is naturally thick (long) with large, loose corkscrew curls.
I stopped using all shampoos and have been washing my hair daily for about a month now, with either borax OR baking soda (about 1 T in a cup of water), rinsing, then following up with an ACV rinse. My results have been mixed; my hair has felt dry, frizzy and tangled. Once a week I put a mixture of castor oil, lavender and tea tree oil on and leave overnight. The next morning it is very greasy and hard to remove. (as for the hair loss… no luck yet but I am persisting. I realize this takes time. I’m doing other things, too, like vitamins and avoiding fluoride although my tap water including water I use to bathe in is chlorinated and fluoridated, taking an iodine supplement, etc.).
I had been using the Dr. Bronner’s peppermint bar soap on my body, and bought some of the liquid soap but hadn’t tried it. This morning I added a small amount of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap (peppermint) to the cup of diluted borax water for my hair. Immediately, the water turned cloudy so I knew some sort of chemical reaction occurred, which I’m curious about. I used this mixture on my hair and could immediately feel the grease being removed. The entire mixture felt “slippery” and not sudsy — we have hard water, and this is the feeling I would get from washing hair in “soft” water (so I guess that means the mixture is alkaline?). I used this liquid on my body as well, and rinsed off. I followed up with the usual ACV rinse (I leave it in and let it dry naturally).
Two hours later (I am writing this), my hair is almost dry, and it is much less frizzy than usual, feels soft and not as parched, with an appropriate and attractive level of volume (not too flat, not too fluffed!). I don’t know if this is from the Dr. B’s or from the Dr. B+borax. That is the only change I made.
So my question is this: is there a harmful chemical reaction going on between the borax and the Dr. Bronner’s peppermint liquid, that I should avoid? Would it be better/safer to just use the Dr. Bronner’s without the borax added?
I remember from your video regarding hard water that you do have hard water, correct? Do you have a filter on your shower head? I know you said that you don’t see the mineral reaction so much on your skin but what about your hair? Every non-SLS shampoo I try (or soap) reacts with the water and leaves a film on my scalp. (It’s probably on my hair too but I can’t see it there.) What I do see is a buildup of minerals on my scalp that looks like dandruff when you scratch at it. Just curious if you have a filter/softener or maybe you don’t have a problem with that. Thanks!!!
@ Daphne (or others) – I have just started using Dr. Bonner’s Tea Tree soap this week. I’m really trying hard to wait out the ‘adjustment’ period because I really want this to work as my shampoo. My hair just feels very greasy and heavy – although the control I have in styling my hair is wonderful – it stays wherever I put it! When I’m washing I’m not getting very many suds. How much have you found to be ideal for shampooing? 1 tsp? Are you diluting? Has anyone found a ‘foamer’ dispenser to help with sudsing?
@ Daphne – I’m glad you kept experimenting! Sounds like you have beautiful hair.
@ Frances – I use the hair rinse on my kids (ages 20 months to 7 years), but it does sting if it gets in the eyes. (Not as bad as the soap stings, though) So, take care. With that superfine baby hair, it doesn’t take much of the rinse. I usually just stick my finger in the bottle and use that on their really wet hair. Hard water does react more with the soap – I have a video demonstration of that here: http://lisa.drbronner.com/?p=365. It’s not really a problem on our bodies – we’re not shiny enough to see the residual film, but you would notice it on glass or shiny metal and porcelain. I also have a blog about removing it – http://lisa.drbronner.com/?p=343. Hope that helps!
I started using dr. bronners as shampoo and body wash on me as well as my whole family. We all have greasy hair as well, can I use the rinse on my children (age: 2 years and 6 months)? Does hard water have an affect on the soap? I live in Hawaii and our water is really hard.
I figured out very quickly the regular conditioner wasn’t going to work! LOL! I also figured out my hair was so heavy because I wasn’t using enough soap! After posting I reread some of the comments and other blogs and everyone was talking about how much the soap suds up. I wasn’t getting that. The next day I used a little more and got MUCH better results! I also started using an apple cider vinegar/water rinse and I’m SUCH a happy girl now! I diluted the vinegar maybe four parts water to one vinegar and it’s working so well. I’ve been using the soap every day and love it. Today I even skipped my volumizing mouse and my hair looked better then ever. Thank you SO much! This is going to save us so much money and I can already tell my hair is a lot healthier!
@Michelle – Everyone’s hair is different, and everyone’s standards are different. I go for every other day because every day is really drying on my hair. If your hair is more oily, or if you’re working really hard (i.e. sweating), you might need more often. I use one capful as well. Keep fiddling with it til you have it right for you.
@Daphne – As far as I’m concerned, it’s perfectly fine to use Dr. Bronner’s every day, but you need to ask your hair instead. Your regular conditioner will not do one bit of good with the Dr. Bronner’s. Regular conditioner is formulated to work with conventional shampoos, which have a much lower pH than our soap. The pH is the key here. You need to be using something acidic that will balance the 8.9 pH of the soap. Some people have good results with vinegar or lemon juice. I like our Citrus Hair Rinse the best. The reason your hair is thicker and heavy is because all the little cuticles on each strand of hair are standing straight out. This is what the high pH does. Lowering the pH will make these cuticles lay down nice and flat.
Let me know the results!
Thanks for all the tips and info. Is it okay to use Dr. Bronner’s every day? I’ve got very oily hair and I just can’t imagine washing every other day. Maybe when my hair transitions better but now now. I’ve been using this four days now. I knew there would be a tranisition period and based on what others say, it’s normal for hair to feel greasy at first. I do need to get some of your rinse. All I have is regular conditioner and I’ve been using a TEENY TINY bit of that. Maybe that’s not helping the issue! LOL! My hair looks great and is super thick now (I always thought I had super fine hair) but it’s hard to dry with my brushes because it is so thick and heavy. Hopefully the rinse helps.
My husband recently mentioned he would like to find one product for both hair and body at the gym. I purchased the almond castile soap and I’ve been testing it out. My question is how often should I be washing my hair. I’ve read some people every 2 days, some people once a week, what’s the right answer? I’m on my 3rd time using it in a week and I used one capful of the rinse because I found the 2 capfuls too much.
Wow! Glad to see all this discussion.
@Angela – ACV is in the right ballpark for conditioning after using Dr. Bronner’s. It is acidic, which is good. However, it is not exactly the right pH to balance the Dr. B’s. The Hair Rinse is. So, if the ACV isn’t working for you, I really recommend the hair rinse. Even if I weren’t a Bronner.
@April – I’d love to hear how the transition is going. About 10% of people experience the stinging, which is due to the acidity of the rinse on more sensitive skin.
@Charisa – The smell should dissipate when your hair dries. It is from the citrus and shikakai in the rinse. I only use 1 capful and my hair is pretty long and thick. See how 1 capful works out.
@Kristen – No the creme will not work in place of the rinse. The reason the rinse works is because it is acidic. The creme is not. The creme is for controlling frizz and keeping things in place a bit. It’s a very light hold.
Thanks to everyone for sharing your tips and experiences!
Thanks for posting your experience. I want so much to use natural products, but my experience with Dr. B’s as a shampoo and wither an ACV or lemon juice rinse has been rather poor on several occasions. I’ve messed with different shampoo recipes and, whether I use straight Dr. B’s or a few drops diluted in water with a couple drops of oil (which gave me the best result), I always end up with sticky, greasy hair at the scalp. I have never tried the bar soap in my hair, so I will give that a shot. I’m also interested in trying the rinse. If I can at least make the rinse work I will be able to eliminate half the chemicals I put in my hair by washing and conditioning it.
A couple other tips – Sometimes even a baking soda rinse that you rinse directly from your hair can be too much. It’s great my my super oily scalp, but not good for the ends. You can localize the effect by mixing the baking soda into your shampoo and applying it directly to the scalp. To deep condition you hair occasionally, warm olive oil by floating a couple table spoons in a small dish (like a pyrex ramekin) in warm water. Apply it to hair, brushing it to really work it in. Warm your hair up in a warm damp towel or cover with a plastic shower cap and allow to soak in for a couple hours. Sometimes I just pull the towel off and go to bed with it still in my hair (olive oil doesn’t clog pores). Shampoo out (apply shampoo to dry hair; the shampoo binds to the extra oil better that way). You might have to give yourself an extra wash. Condition lightly if needed.
April, I think the stinging you are experiencing may be from the lemon in the rinse. my bottle has a warning on it as likely to sting if you have dry scalp.
This is my second attempt at using Dr. Bronner’s soap in my hair and I am having more success since I bought the hair rinse. The first time I used my normal conditioner and my hair just didn’t feel right, so I ordered the rinse and I am so glad I did. After a few days with the soap and rinse I can see a difference. I also discovered that if I blow dry my hair it feels much better than if I let it air dry. And once school is out, I plan on switching my childrens shampoo also. I thought I would wait so if their hair looked greasy during the switch they wouldn’t have to go to school like that. I do have a question about the rinse and styling creme. Can I use the creme instead of the rinse or is the rinse necessary?
I just wanted to edit to add that I put the 2 capfuls into a bottle of water (about 8-10 oz).
I was curious about the Rinse smell. It’s very strong! And it lingers a long time. Am I using too much? I did 2 capfuls. I just tried the rinse for the first time because I’ve been using vinegar and couldn’t stand the smell of that either.
Great tips and thanks for all the shared information. I have been trying liquid soap & Hair Rinse for a week not and I noticed that everytime I use Hair Rinse it stings my scalp. Is this normal? I have an itchy head during the summer (as well as a heat rash some part of my body) and I thought Dr.Bronner’s soap & Hair rine might be a good idea (as its all natural) to make my scalp & hair healthy. I am putting up with sting as it instantly goes away once I rinsed off hair rinse on my hair. After reading all the posts, none mentioned about this.. and I am thinking.. should I put up with sting? or shouldnt I?
Anyone has same experience? By the way, my 4th trial of using castile soap & hair rinse. Not so good so far. The tip of my hair is so dry and entangled, it takes triple times to dry (I think as of oil contents in the soap..?) Hard to comb, I can’t even run my finger through my hair. However, I decide to wait another week or so hoping my hair finally get used with the Dr.Bronner’s soap & hair rinse. At the moment, my hair is such a mess and unmanagable.Just another week, I will find out what is the verdict.
Hi Lisa, I tried Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap (Lavendar) in lieu of shampoo this morning, and like a few of your other commenters, my hair feels heavy and greasy in some areas.
I’ve been rinsing my hair with ACV instead of Conditioner and shared this tip with my readers: http://angeladigiovanni.com/2011/01/28/the-survivor/bye-conditioner-hello-apple-cider-vinegar/
A few of my commenters said I should try Dr. Bronner’s when I complained that I still haven’t found a suitable replacement for shampoo.
So it Dr. Bronner’s with a ACV rinse not a good combo?
I think I’ll try the bar soap and see if that works better for me.
Sorry I’m late in responding. Great ideas here. Thanks for sharing your own tips! I’ve not tried henna, but the info I’ve heard concurs with Mandy. Henna dyes hair differently – it’s not stored in the follicle the same way as traditional dye, so alkaline products don’t affect it.
As I had mentioned, everyone’s hair is different and takes slightly different processes to clean and look great. So it takes some playing around with the liquid castile and bar castile and Shikakai to find the right combo for your hair. Regarding your choice of acidic rinse, if you’re making your own, lemond juice can have the affect of lightening your hair. Might be what you want, might not be.
A few specific responses:
Rachael – I know hair feels greasy after washing with castile soap, but it’s not actually a residue. The problem is that all the tiny follicles are sticking out on each strand and tangling with each other because of the high pH of the soap. ACV, or any slight acid, makes them lay down and cooperate. I don’t have a homemade shampoo recommendation, although there are lots of ideas out there on the web. Keep in mind, that you’ll want something that is slightly acidic (pH<7) so that your dye doesn't leech out of the hair follicles. Vitamin E is a preservative – it's what is in Dr. Bronner's. Worth a try! When you use baking soda (an alkali), you're basically scouring the hair clean. This could be a good option if you have oilier hair, but also the pH is not good for the dye.
Monica – Try out the castile soap instead of the Shikakai, and then do the rinse. You do need to give your hair and scalp a couple weeks to adapt. Fortunately, it's hat weather! The problem with a jojoba, glycerine, and water combo is that there's nothing there that's actually going to clean, i.e. bond with dirt and carry it away like soap or shampoo does. The fancy term is that you need some sort of surfactant, or a scourer like baking soda. As you said, it's all about trial and error! I really like your idea about using the soap to get color out when it's already past it's prime. Great way to see the positive of that.
Nicole – I'd love to hear how you're doing with the soap. Even if you can't do a ponytail, hats work, too!
Thanks for commenting, everyone!
I’m on day 2 of using the Dr. Bronner’s Almond soap & the Hair Rinse. My hair looks and feels greasy & heavy, but I’m going to wait it out. My hair is colored, but has faded, so I’m not worried about losing the color. Any idea of how long it should take for my hair to become more normal feeling and not look & feel greasy? Wish my hair was long enought for a ponytail!!!
Great blog post. I too had trouble at first adapting to the castile soap and hair rinse combo, but my issue was more with the castile soap, which left my hair feeling a little greasy. I then discovered that shampooing with Dr. Bronner’s bar soap (instead of the liquid) did the trick. It lathers just like conventional shampoo and leaves my hair squeaky clean regardless of whether the water is hard or soft. It also leaves my hair good and ready for the Hair Rinse. I recommended this combo to my sister-in-law and she had instantaneous success– no weeks or months of waiting for her hair to adjust– just luxuriously clean, soft, silky and shiny hair on the first try! I also use an old, empty shampoo bottle to mix up the hair rinse (an old Dr. Bronner’s soap or hair rinse bottle works too). I just pour a capful in the bottle, fill it with hot water, put the cap on and shake it up. It’s super-easy to prepare and makes application a lot easier than using (and losing) a plastic cup in the shower. Just a suggestion for you and your readers!
Ive been using the shikaki soap and the rinse doing the same process. I find it leaves my hair coarse and stringy. Ive heard that lemon juice is not good for the hair. Also, I have colored my hair, but want to go back to my natural color without coloring again. Will this allow to naturally strip the burgandy streaks out of my hair and grow it out. Also how would adding jojoba oil, glycerine and water to make a shampoo mixture work? I know this will be trial and error, I just want the best way to get soft and shinny hair. I’ve never had a problem before cause my hair naturally carries oil.
Hi, Rachael, Lisa, & everyone.
I just bought my first All-One Unscented and stumbled in here.
As far as colour treating your hair… might I suggest henna? I haven’t tried it yet, but if I ever colour my hair again (darker anyway), I’ll be trying that. I’m told nothing will take it out, and it cannot be dyed over. You either have to cut it out or it grows out. It takes a bit longer than commercial dyes. Hope this helps.
Can’t wait to start using Dr. Bronner’s for everything! 🙂
Hi, So is that why everytime I use my homemade castile soap shampoo on my highlighted hair that I am left with a greasy mess? Because it is alkali and not acidic? It’s kinda heavy and half wet looking but mainly on the driest and more processed part of my hair. when I use an AVC rinse, however, my hair is shiny and soft. Also, I sometimes make a baking soda and water mix and then rinse with ACV and that is great on my hair but no more than once a week as a stripper. The ACV replenishes and counters the baking soda and makes for a nice pH balancer and moisturizer.
Is there a homemade shampoo that I can make for my color-treated hair that has a shelf life longer than a week like the soapwort shampoo that I have read about? Or is there a way to make the soapwort shampoo last longer? maybe adding some vitamin E to it? Any thought?
Hey Jess – I wet my hair down really well and then use the castile soap (almond is my choice) undiluted on my hair. I pour about a teaspoon into my hand. The amount depends on your hair length and type. I rinse that out and then apply the hair rinse, diluted as per the instructions on the bottle. I let that sit on my hair through the rest of my shower and then rinse it out at the end.
Hi Michelle – If you add Apple Cider Vinegar directly to the soap, it will break it down and make a mess. Basically, it will “unsaponify” the soap. There is not a way to reduce the alkalinity of the soap and keep it as soap and not a detergent.
Thanks for reading!
Can shampoo be made less alkaline by adding ACV? or does that wipe out its cleaning ability.
This info has helped me ALOT! I too will give it another shot 🙂
Great stuff. Thanks! I wish people could embrace their natural haircolor and greys, but to each their own, right! I haven’t used shampoo in months and months. It’s easier when hair is short, too… but I’m glad you found your method.
How are you using the castile soap on your hair? Do you dilute a certain amount with water? Or just pour some on your hands and work it into your scalp?
Or are you only using the rinse, and not the pure soap?
I couldn’t figure out from your post whether you’re using both or just the rinse.
I found a shampoo recipe on the Passionate Homemaking blog that uses Dr.Bronner’s soap in it. That’s what I’m using now and it’s okay, but I think it will take some time to transition, like your hair did.
I’m interested in trying the rinse you use, I’ll have to look for it at my natural foods store.