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.
I’ve been using the citrus rinse and my hair still isn’t taking to it. It’s still heavy and greasy feeling after I wash, condition and blow dry it. If anyone else has successfully dealt with this, I’d love to hear suggestions. I’m bummed, but I might have to give up natural hair care 🙁
I combine 1/4 cup Dr. Bronner’s liquid castille soap with 1/4 cup of aloe vera juice and 1/4 teaspoon olive oil for a shampoo. This is gereat as it doesn’t dry the hair. Hair has a little moisture but is not oily. The aloe vera juice works on hair follicles to restore health and promotes new hair growth, its a great treatment for hair loss.
Hi Beth – Things definitely get better with time as your scalp starts to do what it’s supposed to. However, I’m not sure what you’re using as far as Dr. Bronner’s products. There is the Citrus Rinse, http://www.drbronner.com/DBMS/SD0701/CitrusConditioningHairRinse.htm, which will balance the pH of the castile soap and prevent the sticky, tacky, matted feeling. And then there is the Styling and Conditioning Creme, http://www.drbronner.com/DBMS/SD0801/LavenderHairConditionerStyleCreme.htm (there’s also a peppermint one), but this is only for after washing and rinsing to be used as a styling add or extra moisturizer. Too much of the creme can be greasy. As I mentioned in the post, I used a more conventional shampoo and conditioner once a week for a while to ease the transition. It was a Burt’s Bees product. So, don’t feel like you’re falling off the wagon if you need to go back and forth for a while.
Hi Allison – I’m a bit stumped. I agree completely that I need to see lather to know what I’ve scrubbed and what I’ve missed. I don’t know why you’re not seeing this lather. I use a regular wet washcloth with two quick squirts of pure castile soap. This works for my skin from head to toe. I use about 1/2 Tbsp. in my hair. Could you try out a washcloth and let me know how that goes? Water hardness can affect lather, but not that much. And the bar soap does have a creamier lather as well. That’s what I’ll use for shaving when I don’t have the shave gel on hand. Please get back to me.
All the best,
Hello. I have been trying to transition to using Dr. Bronner’s for everything. So far, I have managed to make foaming hand soap and use it plain as toothpaste. Which has been the best use of it so far..
Every time I use it, aside from toothpaste, it will not lather, at all. I used a net poof thing that helps things lather..but I can literally dump a bunch of undiluted castile soap on my body/head and scrub but it will not lather. Does the bar lather better? I need it to lather because otherwise we waste too much product ensuring we covered our bodies completely. Ultimately, the lather helps us feel clean; a sign we have used enough product, and rinsed it off completely. I have also used a ACV/white vinegar/lemon juice rinse that works amazing, but I find that the mix is always too cold because it’s been sitting in the shower. Any advice?
So I’ve been off commercial shampoo for about a month now. My hair is definitely better, but it still isn’t great; it still feels heavy and sticky in places. Sometimes I’ll have a patch of sticky in the back and sometimes in front, but it’s always there. I’m using Dr. Bronners to shampoo and alternating between ACV and the citrus cream rinse to condition. I’ve found that the ACV by itself is too drying and the citrus cream rinse by itself leaves my hair too greasy. My question is about the stickiness. Will that go away eventually, or is that normal for hair sans commercial shampoo? Is there something else I can try to take care of it?
Hi Everyone – Wow! I’m behind the comments here. It looks like you all are doing pretty well working this out. I definitely agree that Jenny needs to start this transition before she leaves, and you’ll need some sort of rinse. I may have mentioned this above, but once a week when I was transitioning, I did a deep moisturizing treatment with a Burt’s Bees product, so. At the time, Dr. Bronner’s didn’t have the coconut oil, but I think I would have used that if I had it. Go easy on the coconut oil, though. A little goes a long way.
When you’re using the castile soap alone, the “greasy” feel is really not from oil. It is just how it feels when our hair follicles are all sticking out and tangling with each other. I also agree that the olive oil should not be a regular treatment – maybe an occasional deep treatment.
I promise that my long, fairly straight hair, has fully adapted to just the soap and the rinse. I can now wash, rinse, brush, and walk out of the house. It dries fine. (If I want my hair straighter, which sometimes I do, I have to blow it dry.)
Consider how many years have you been using conventional shampoo. And now you’re doing something different, and your scalp is saying, “Hey! Wait a minute!” Perhaps in a certain sense, the scalp has become lazy, as far as regulating its own oil production. Products have been doing that for it. It seems to take a while for the scalp to get back in shape. I think I said two months.
Also, with the Styling Creme, again, a little goes a long way, and I find that if I apply it after my hair is dry, it cuts down on any greasiness. If I put it in while my hair is still wet, I face the greasy look.
Did I address everything? Let me know if I skipped something.
All the best,
@ Jenny – I really wouldn’t plan on doing this without some kind of transition period and especially not without a rinse to balance out the pH. Alone, the soap will make your hair an awful texture, completely unbrushable and built up from the mixture with hard water and it doesn’t sound like you’ll be someplace where you’ll be able to control the type of water you’re using….that’s not to mention the transition from shampoo build up even without the hard water/chemical issue. Maybe, if your hair is VERY short, you won’t care, but if there’s any kind of length, you will not be happy with it. Until I started using enough ACV, I had a difficult time even pulling it up into a ponytail and a braid would have been entirely out of the question. Honestly, if I hadn’t had access to rinse agents to balance the pH, I would have chopped my hair off, and I’m not saying that to be dramatic. I’m certain that if you never use hard water that it would be better, I can tell that a lot of the build up is from that reaction, but if you won’t know for sure what kind of water you’re using, you won’t be happy. Even with the ACV or rinse, or without hard water, you will not have any version of nice hair without going through a significant period of transitioning, both getting your scalp used to it and figuring out what works for you. I’m sorry to sound harsh, but I love my long hair and I have struggled with sticking to this and that’s with unlimited ways to vary my methods. My experience, is that I would have been miserable if I had stuck myself down this road with no way to turn back and not the tools modify my methods.
Thank you Michelle! I’d stopped with the baking soda, but I’ll try adding that back in and using even less rinse. We definitely have hard water, but washing my hair with bottled water is simply not going to happen realistically so I need to find a way to make this work with what’s coming out of my shower head. I tried finding a filter, but they all say that they don’t impact the elements that make water hard anyway, but I’ll keep looking into that too since it looks like you found one.
Allison – I posted a huge detailed comment on May 29 on what I’ve been doing to shampoo successfully with Dr. Bronner’s soap and hair rinse. If you’ve been at this for less than 2 months, it’s normal for you to be dealing with greasy/waxy hair. I have long, fine-textured hair that shows everything, so wearing my hair up became the norm. I also have hard water, which is a big obstacle. I found that I can come out with grease-less hair if I do a baking soda wash before I was with Dr. Bronner’s soap. Basically, I make a thick paste with baking soda and water (the amount of baking soda depends on the length of your hair), and then I work it into my hair and let it set for a minute or two. Rinse the backing soda, and then shampoo with Dr. Bronner’s and let that sit for a minute or two as well. When you rinse this out, your hair should feel squeaky clean and tangly. Lastly, I use half-a-cap-full of the hair rinse (even though my hair reaches half-way down my back) mixed in 8 oz of water. When my hair is wet, it’s tough to brush out, but it then dries and looks normal. I’ve been only using a wide-tooth comb now because it’s easy to clean when it pulls the gunk out of your hair. So hang in there, you’re not doing anything wrong. It just takes time for your hair to let go of the years of regular shampoo.
@Allison- I actually read your post a couple of days ago, and decided to try washing my hair more than once during my shower yesterday. Mind you, I have been experiencing the same flat, weird textured scalp issue for a couple of months (definitely “ponytail only” hair).
Specifically, I washed my hair with the soap and then rinsed with ACV… and then simply repeated. The hair closest to my scalp does not feel flat and heavy with gunk and the rest of my hair feels nice as well. I am awaiting my next batch of the citrus rinse and will try a similar process with it.
And now to add a bit of my own experience in the mix- I have noticed that, during this learning process of trying to figure out Dr. Bronner’s and my hair, using the hair creme on my wet hair only led to an even greasier ending. After I perfect the soap and rinse protocol for my hair, then I will try and figure out the creme.
Now I’m just being annoying, but I really would like to get Dr. B’s to work for my hair. I’ve gotten the rinse and the cream and have used them a few times, varying the amounts. Anyway I twist it, my hair is ending up stringy and greasy. I’ve been able to calm the grease down with corn starch enough that I can wear it down in scrunched waves after sleeping on it, but I usually have smooth, straight, shiney long hair and the way it’s working now, I couldn’t just shower and go out of the house with it. Any ideas on how I’m doing this wrong?
Thanks Alison! It’s getting better (although I washed with regular shampoo a few days ago), but it’s still not great. I’m going to leave out the oil and see how that goes. I diluted the acv quite a bit and that seems to help a bit too.
Beth – My hair is still doing the same thing and I don’t think it’s still adjusting. I just ordered the rinse too and am hoping that will fix the problem and in the meantime, I figured out how to beach wave my hair so that I can wear it down without it looking terrible. Also, corn starch helps absorb some of the scalp oil. It doesn’t (at least for me), do enough to make it actually nice, but it does enough to wear it down with curls and not look greasy. You might want to try eliminating the olive oil too. I was using flax seed oil and it did make it more oily than just the vinegar. Instead, I’ve deep conditioned when it seemed like it needed it (I used egg and coconut oil), and every other or every third day, washed with Dr. B’s and ACV rinse. A second wash helped too. I don’t quite get why, but Dr. B/water/Dr. B/water/ACV/water seemed to do better than just one round of soap.
I’ve been washing my hair with a mixture of Dr. Bronners lavender, water and olive oil for about a week now. I know it takes time for my hair to adjust, but it’s been sticky and matted feeling. I just learned about the conditioning rinse and ordered a bottle. In the meantime, I decided to try an acv rinse and it left my hair much softer, but really stringy and greasy looking. Is that still part of my hair’s adjustment process? Will the conditioning rinse do the same thing? I actually ended up having to wash my hair with my old regular shampoo so that I could go to work!
I didn’t read through every single post on here, so sorry if someone already asked something like this! Basically, I’m going to be traveling in another country for the next 5 months, so I bought the castille soap as a cure-all soap for all my basic needs (laundry, face wash, shampoo, etc). I was reading everyone’s comments on the hair rinse and using ACV, but I don’t think I’d have room in my pack for extra items (I’m only bringing a backpacking pack). Just wondering if you think using the soap will completely ruin my hair w/o using a conditioning/pH balancing agent? I’d probably buy the mild unscented soap since you said it’s more moisturizing. I’m also bringing a cure-all skin moisturizer (if anyone’s interested, here’s the website for it: http://www.thentix.us/), not sure if that could also be substituted for a conditioner…any opinions? It’s ingredients include: Aloe Vera, Panthenol (vitamin B5), Calendula, Jojoba Oil, Pure Natural Honey, Royal Jelly, Ginseng Extract, Vitamin A, Chamomile, Vitamin E, Avocado Oil, Grape Seed Oil, Safflower Oil. Sorry, I realize that is a long list and if you have no experience with the product you may not have an opinion. Just thought I’d ask to see if anyone has any suggestions/knowledge in this area. I suppose I could always try to buy some vinegar while I’m there! Thanks!
Thank you for your input and for maintaining this blog. I would never even consider using a different castile soap, no matter the cost difference, just because this is blog and being able to get input from you is such a cool (service – but that doesn’t seem like the right word to use). At least for someone who is trying to go no ‘poo, it’s very helpful and comforting to have somewhere to direct questions, since it’s such a bizarre experience to begin with. Also, knowing that the company is still obviously run by the Bronner family makes me glad to do business, especially since I’m transitioning into using castile soap for almost all of my household and personal products for my family. I just ordered the rinse and styling cream so hopefully it works out!
Hi Allison – I’m glad you’re giving this a try. It sounds like your hair is a little lighter than mine, but otherwise similar. I haven’t used the ACV, so I can’t give tips in particular to that. The Dr. B’s Rinse is a surefire way, and it does take a couple weeks to transition, to give your hair a chance to recover. If you do try the Dr. Bronner’s Rinse and don’t like it, let me know and we will refund it.
All the best,
Hi Lisa, This is a great blog! I have very long, straight, blonde hair and I’m trying to transition out of using damaging shampoo. I started with baking soda/vinegar, but that was terrible. I am using Dr. Bronner’s for all of my other products, so I’d like to just use it for hair too. I’m diluting it 1:1 with water. My hair feels super clean and with an ACV rinse, it’s really greasy and flat and isn’t smooth at all. I’m willing to purchase the rinse, but I like the convenience factor of the ACV being something that I all ready have around the house. My whole transition out of shampoo started 2 1/2 weeks ago so I don’t know if I should give it a little more time to transition or tweak my method now. Any ideas of how I might be doing this wrong or input about how long my hair should take to transition into how it’s going to behave in my new routine?
Thank you for having this forum!
Hi Valerie – Soaps are not created equal. There are some soaps out there that are not well made or are made from harsher ingredients, so no sweeping statements can be made about soaps being dangerous. Dr. Bronner’s takes several precautions in its soap making process to make sure the soaps are the mildest yet most effetive possible. These include using incredibly moisturizing and skin-compatible oils such as coconut, olive palm, jojoba, and hemp, testing individual batches for ph and balancing them out, and doing countless tests for uses and situations to make sure the soaps are safe and gentle. Because our soaps are very concetrated, if you use too much, you ayfind them drying. Personally, I can tell you that my hair is stronger and healthier than it has ever been. However, none of this matters compared to your own experience.
Water has too high a surface tension to be effective against oils and dirt in our hair. Baking soda is a good scourer and I’ve read some interesting articles about using it instead of shampoo. I haven’t done it, but if others have, please add your thoughts here.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes.
Hi Cari – I can only try to imagine how drastically different the setting in which I’m writing this is from the setting in which you’re reading this! It’s great to hear all the places the magic soap goes. An acidic rinse will definitely improve your hair texture. I haven’t used the vinegar myself, so I’m hoping someone else weighs in here. Try a half vinegar/half water solution. Regarding washing frequency, I think you need to read your hair. Mine would dry out if I washed it everyday , but this was true before I switched to castile. I have a riend who washes hers every day and it would look terrible if she didn’t. If your hair needs it, wash it. Hope this helps!
All the best,
I’ve been using Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap exclusively for about 10 months now, and I’ve been having some of the problems I read about in these comments. After reading some of your posts, I recognize that my hair feels tangled and less smooth because of the alkaline pH of the soap. I also have the “residue” problem–after brushing my hair, the brush is full of white/grey residue (my hair is not colored). I’m currently in the Peace Corp and don’t have access to the citrus Hair Rinse you recommend, or any other brand-name items, besides the almond castile liquid soap I brought with me. I’m going to try to start using diluted apple cider vinegar after washing to balance the pH, but do you (or anyone else) have any tips on how to best dilute it, how often to use it, or if there are any other/better acidic alternatives with easy-to-find basic ingredients?
Also, I’ve seen mentioned a few times that it isn’t ideal to use Dr. B’s every day. On the other hand, after working in the field or running under the hot sun, I can’t imagine not washing the sweat out of my hair when I bathe. Should I be concerned about using Dr. B’s every day?
I just found your blog, it’s great! Because I have some problems with my hair since a few months, a dandruff which I can’t get rid of, I’m beginning to go no poo now. I have a question about the Dr Bronner’s Soap, I bought a Neutral Mild one and want to pair it with ACV, because the Citrus Rinse is not available in Germany, but I read on some websites or blogs that the Soap is one of the harshest cleaners and not really suitable for on hair use? I’m a bit worried now that it might worsen my problems… I was wondering if Baking Soda might be much more mild but of course it would be not so much fun to use 😉 Or would it be even better to go Water Only? Confused…
Would be great to hear from you!
Hi Danielle – Glad to hear it your progress. It can take a while for hair to recover from years of mistreatment. It sounds like you’re well on your way. I had to wean myself off of the Burt’s Bees stuff I was using. I eventually ran out and didn’t bother to replace it.
I am also working on how to use coconut oil as a hair mask. When I get those amounts figured out, I’ll blog about it.
All the best,
Hello Lisa and friends,
This is my sixth week using Dr. B’s Castile Soap and Citrus Rinse in my hair. I notice that my hair is becoming progressively less flat and oily in appearance (and feel). The hair closest to my scalp is always worse than the rest of the length… but I’ve also noticed that my hair looks and feels better the day after the wash.
I use the rinse with a plastic cup- a couple of cap-fulls with some water for the top layers of hair and then one more cap-full for the bottom. I like the smell of it just fine, and I don’t have any stinging/burning sensation on my scalp. That is awesome considering I have extremely sensitive skin.
I also, once a week (or as long as I can stand to not use it), use Nature’s Gate shampoo and conditioner. Though not as bad as most commercial hair products, there are still a couple of things I’m guessing aren’t the safest in the world.
I figure that my fine hair will probably take a decent amount of time to “detoxify” from the years of harsh chemical exposure (plus, according to what a lot of people describe in terms of the transitioning process, I’m prepared to wait several months).
I will say this, though- I recently graduated from nursing school and of course, my hair needed to look great. So I went to the salon, got my highlights filled in, got washed with normal shampoo and conditioner, and got my hair styled. It came out looking pretty good and lasted for two days. After finally washing my hair with Dr. B’s (I scrubbed it down pretty well), I was shocked that my hair, when dried, looked normal. No gunky, oily scalp. No stringy ends. I let it dry on its own and it felt like the hair that I remembered…
I can’t wait for that to last!
Hi Josephine – Thank you for that information. I’d like to try this out myself someday – a henna color and then washing with castile soap. If others have tried this, please share your experience.
You’re right – going chemical free has a steep learning curve!
All the best,
Thanks for your reply Lisa I’ve done a bit of research and Castile soaps are fine if nit preffered on henna coloredhair. AT the moment I’m using your castil soap with citrus rise and my hair is still adjusting as I did color my hair , so at the moment I’m seeing if I can embrace my greys and maybe just highlight or go henna. Not easy going chemical free.
I’ don’t know if you have covered this but from what I understand is that the Castile soap removes the color from colored hair, Is this the same for henna color. Im Trying to search for a chemical free way to cover my greys henna appears to be the only option.
i love this product! i believe i received an email response from Lisa after i had written to tell you that i have switched to non-toxic EVERYTHING in order to holistically heal a liver problem i have. dr. bronner’s is amazing for shampooing, and it took about 15 washes before my hair/scalp finally started ‘understanding’ what it was meant to do. i watched the dr. bronner’s documentary and loved the part where Dr. Bronner is showing how he “showers”…soak towel in a sink full of water and peppermint bronner’s and basically gave himself a “sink” bath. i tried it and LOVED how amazing my skin felt. thank you for being a bronner!
Hi Marissa – I’m glad to hear how your journey has progressed! My grandfather’s towel washing method is a great thing, too, for people who for whatever reason can’t take a full shower – health, time, resources, whatever. I can’t really take credit for being a Bronner, but thanks anyways!
Hi Josephine – Henna is a different process than conventional color for hair. Henna attaches to the proteins in the hair follicles, rather than sitting inside the follicles. So, the soap should not have an affect on it. However, I have never had henna dye, so I don’t speak from experience. Can someone else?
All the best,
Well, I have been using the soap in my hair for the past few days. I don’t really have a set schedule (I wash my hair after clinical, just because of how disgusting hospitals are), but the first three times were tortuous! I tried the lavender liquid soap and, of course, it left a grimy muck on my scalp and I felt like I had dreads forming. The bar soap wasn’t any better.
Today, though, I remembered that we had some apple cider vinegar in the pantry that we hadn’t used in a while. So, I washed my hair with the liquid soap, brushed it out in the shower, and then diluted the vinegar with some water and poured it onto my hair. The difference in feel was almost instantaneous!!! I could comb my wet hair with my fingers (and I hadn’t been able to in a week, so that was awesome). It still feels a little greasy, which I am expecting, but I’m pretty sure I won’t wake up looking like Medusa.
The only issue is that my hair still smells a bit like vinegar- not an issue for me, but my husband is upset! Good thing I’ve already ordered the Dr. B’s conditioning hair rinse (as well as the lavender hair creme and the lavender body lotion). Can’t wait to try it out!
I have recently started using the soap (lavender) to deal with my hair issue. I have thinning hair but oily scalp. the soap cleans well but it does make it hard to brush. Anything you can suggest? I do highlight my hair ( to conceal)
Thanks for your time.
Thank you! So when I try this, should I still apply the coconut oil before I shower and wash my hair with Dr. Bronner’s? Or should I use it afterwards, like a regular conditioner?
Hi Neeyati – I would still apply the coconut oil beforehand because it would be a little heavy for a conditioner afterwards – just use it sparingly. You may find that you’ll only need to use the coconut oil once a week or so. Keep us posted on how it goes!
Hi Lyndsey – Are you rinsing with an acidic rinse after using the soap? The Dr. Bronner Hair Rinse (http://www.drbronner.com/DBMS/SD0701/CitrusConditioningHairRinse.htm) is formulated specifically for following the soap. However, an apple cider vinegar rinse would also help curtail the tangles. Regarding your highlights, if your hair is highlighted merely to remove color, then the soap is a great option for washing it. However, if you have added color (which to conceal, it sounds like you are), the soap will remove the color from your hair over time. If you’re not sure if color was added, check with your stylist.
Hi Danielle – Yep. The acidic rinse is pretty crucial. Apple cider vinegar does have that lingering apple smell, although it could be stronger if the vinegar was really old. The rinse should do much better, and I don’t notice a lingering smell, especially once it fully dries.
Let me know how things keep going!
All the best,
I figured I would share my experience with you because it seems like it’s hard to find any information on how to get started on washing your hair with Dr. Bronners Soap. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that you don’t want to wash your hair everyday. You will be able to go 3 or 4 days without washings. The next thing is that your hair will start to feel greasy and waxy when you start going no poo. You are not going anything wrong, it’s just that your hair is transitioning or detoxing from years of shampoo and chemical build up. It’s taken my hair a little over 5 months to finally stop coming out waxy, or for residue to collect in my hair brush. Ponytails and hair clips will become your friend.
The next thing I did was buy a wide-tooth comb for brushing my hair. It’s easiest to clean the residue out, and it’s cheap to replace. I would try to brush my hair before I washed it so that I could distribute my natural oils as well as trying to remove the residue my hair is trying to get rid of.
Once in the shower, I would use quite a bit of soap on my long hair. The soap I would work into one side of my scalp, wouldn’t work over to another side of my scalp so I would pour more in my hand and keep working until I knew my hair had sudsed completely. I also have hard water, so that also causes me to use a little more soap than normal. I’ve also done a quick second wash with baking soda after using Dr. Bronners to help my hair get through the detox a bit quicker and I’ve also done a hair mask with bentonite clay. Either way, I feel as though my hair needs to feel squeaky clean in the shower before I move on to the citrus rinse.
I used to think I had to be freakishly careful about the amount of Citrus Rinse I used, but I found that mixing somewhere between 2/3 a cap and 1 full cap in a travel-shampoo bottle that holds about 8 oz of water works great. The cap of the bottle allows me to squirt the hair rinse all over my head to make sure I cover every bit of my hair. Then I hang out for at least 30 seconds before I rinse.
I did install a water filter in my shower. It doesn’t filter everything, but I’m sure it helps a little. It was $20 at Lowes, so it didn’t break the bank.
So hang in there! I know it seems like Dr. Bronners isn’t working in your hair, but it is. You’re hair is now able to release the years of shampoo, so you need to give it time to do that. Also, some of the previous damage might become more apparent so you may have to get a few trims to keep your hair under control. It will be worth it!
Hi Alexandra – Like Michelle says, there is a definite detox time. Tweaking to individual hair types is also necessary – possible more or less soap, or more or less rinse, longer sitting time. You’re probably doing this, but definitely rinse the soap out thoroughly with water before adding the rinse to your hair. Please stick with it!
Hi Neeyati – I tried using coconut oil on my hair, and I had a very difficult time washing/rinsing it out. I think I used too much coconut oil, so take caution. However, once I did get all the coconut oil out – after four washings – my hair was incredibly soft and I didn’t need the hair rinse. If you do use the coconut oil, use much less than you think you need. Once again, tweak the method to your own hair needs.
Hi Michelle – Thank you so much for sharing your hair testimony and encouragement! I think the hardest moment for me was when I realized what my hair actually looked like, when it wasn’t coated with all the concealers in conventional products. I saw it for what it really was because the soap stripped off all those concealers, and my hair was damaged and lackluster underneath. It took some time for it to recover, but it has, and I’m glad I went through it.
All the best,
Hi, I’ve been wanting to stop using conventional shampoos for a long time now, but I keep hearing conflicting ideas about what to use instead, so I haven’t taken the leap. What I’m thinking of doing is 1) putting coconut oil in my hair before I shower, then 2) rinse it out, 3) shampoo with Dr. Bronner’s, rinse, repeat, and 3) rinse with diluted vinegar. I would do this 3-4 times a week. Does that sound like a safe and effective option? I’m not sure!
I have been using the peppermint soap and citrus rinse but have found that it doesn’t seem to clean very well and leaves my hair dried into weird waxy strands. Is this because I haven’t managed to rinse the soap out properly before using the rinse?
I have hard water and read you can add baking powder into the water you use to help soften it; do you know if this will help? Or would a bar be a better idea for hair?!
Hi Danielle – The Skin Deep database, run by the independent organization the Environmental Working Group, is a great place to look for safe personal care products. (www.ewg.org/skindeep) Do a search there for “shampoo”, and you’ll get some good options. You might have to do a bit of trial and error to find the right one, but it will set you down the right path. And the Dr. Bronner’s Styling Creme is safe for color treated hair. (http://www.drbronner.com/DBMS/HAIR.htm)
Hi Rosita – If you had color in your hair, that is exactly what you found coming out of it when you used castile soap. I’m glad that’s what you wanted! The information you received about castile soap is a bit off. Castile soap, by definition, is made of vegetable oils. Finding a castile soap that is made without oils is impossible. Any cleaning product that is made without the oils would be considered a detergent (yes, even for use on the bodies) and often has petrochemical sources. Our castile soap uses coconut and olive oils, with the addition of palm oil in our bar soaps. This has always been the case from back when my grandfather was making it through today. Saponified coconut oil (i.e. coconut oil that has been turned into soap) always lathers. There is nothing we add to our soap that makes it lather additionally – the saponified coconut oil does it all by itself, and always has. The oils in the liquid castile soap are completely saponified, which means there isn’t an oiliness to them, or any residual oils on your body or hair.
I can’t entirely answer for the effect that the other company’s product had on your hair since I don’t know the ingredients. However, if you wash your hair with Dr. Bronner’s soaps, you might get a dull, greasy feel to your hair. This is not due to leftover oils coating the hair, although it does feel like that. The problem is actually caused by the pH of the soap, and just like with conventional shampoos, you need a conditioner to balance this out. (Think of how our hair does if we just wash with a shampoo and no conditioner. In general it doesn’t work well.) Dr. Bronner’s makes its own Citrus Hair Rinse which is specifically formulated to balance the castile soap’s pH. Some people use their own rinse made with apple cider vinegar, but I’ve heard mixed results with that, and I’ve never tried it myself. I do, however, wash my hair exclusively with the castile soap and rinse with the Citrus Hair Rinse.
I’ve not heard of the baking soda/vinegar detox method. It doesn’t look like it would be a problem, but neither am I sure it would help. It might be best to get the soap/rinse system worked out first before you try adding another cleaning regimen.
I hope I answered all of your questions. Please let me know if I can be of further help.
All the best,
Hi Lisa, I just read all the comments but I’m still not sure about a few things… please help me. I bought a castile liquid soap with peppermint oil for my body/hair from another company and it looked like I dipped my hair into a vat of oil after I washed my hair – super gross. It didn’t smell but it looked dirty and after brushing my hair my hairbrush had oily black residue. At first I thought all the grease was the peppermint oil, but the when I saw the black buildup on my hairbrush I thought wait a minute maybe my hair IS dirty and I returned to my normal shampoo! :_
Well, after reading your comments I realize that it may be that the color is finally coming out – thank goodness! I had used Just for Men temporary hair dye because I believed their ‘just covers the grey hair technology’, but that’s baloney because my whole hair turned black! So now I think that what I saw is the grease and dye which is a good thing for me because I couldn’t get it to come off and I haven’t redone it in over 6 months!
I also noticed that the liquid soap I bought didn’t spread so I used more but my hair got greasier. Now I think I should get a bar of soap without any added oils so I can rub it over my hair. Do you have just a bar of soap without any additional oils? I want to avoid adding any more oil on my hair and can live without any scents until I fully detox which bring me to ask more our scalp ‘detoxing’. What is in the castile soap that makes it detox? I just can’t believe that my scalp has that much oil, or toxins and I want to know what’s pulling it out. I don’t mind doing it but before I cut my long hair and play up the ‘wet look’ I really want to know what’s going on! lol
In the meantime, I called that company to complain that my hair was greasy and mentioned Dr. Bronners soaps lather because she said that real castile soap is not supposed to lather. She said that Dr.
Bronners didn’t lather before and that surely your company had changed the original formula but are stating it on your label. So please tell me the truth is castile soap supposed to lather or not. Do you have a soap without any oils that doesn’t lather?
Finally, I also learned about a process to get rid of oily buildup, residue, chemicals and odd coloring out of your hair fast in order to speedy up the process. I haven’t tried this, but here it goes: work baking soda into hair and scalp, and then pour small amount to start foaming action (full strength, any type ) over scalp and gradually cover the whole head. When the foaming is finished, wash hair with a gentle castile soap. Please tell me what you think about this and if it will detox my hair ASAP. :_
Lisa- thanks for the clarification! I’m not sure if I have just highlights or if my stylist added in some low lights as well. Next time I get my hair done, I’ll be sure to ask. I’d very much like to try a no-poo lifestyle.
I have loved reading all about going shampooless! Something I definitely want to try. However I have been coloring my hair since I was 20 to cover the gray and wondered if you know of an alternate method. I read about baking soda but wasn’t sure. Also would the styling creame work on colored hair? Any tips would be appreciated! Thanks!
I bought a $40 water filter from amazon (this one: Sprite Industries HO-WH High Output White Shower Filter). After that, I realized, that with my oily hair, I only needed 1/2 cap full of the rinse. VOILA! I don’t have to watch every other day anymore.
Hi Lisa! I am pretty new to Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, but I am definitely loving it so far.
I just had a question about the Conditioning and Styling Creme. In a previous response, you explained that the creme was not a good replacement for the castile soap because it was not as acidic. I have highlights in my hair and would like to maintain them for a while longer. If I were to use the creme as a styling product for my hair, would my color be safe?
Hi Danielle – I think I had mentioned the the Conditioning and Styling Creme (http://www.drbronner.com/DBMS/SD0801/LavenderHairConditionerStyleCreme.htm, also available in peppermint) is not a good replacement for the Citrus Hair Rinse. The purpose of the Citrus Hair Rinse is to balance out the pH of the castile soap. The soap is alkaline (about 8.9) and the Hair Rinse is acidic. The Creme which has a more neutral pH, would not be able to balance out the soap on its own. Regarding highlighted hair, the creme would be perfectly fine to use. It would not dull highlights. It is good to know what kind of highlights you have, though. I have highlights without any low lights (I grilled my stylist on this one), which means no color was added to my hair. Only that color was taken out. Therefore, I am can still wash my hair with the castile soap.
@ Elisa – That’s a great tip! Definitely goes to show you the effect of hard water.
All the best,
I have been using Dr. B’s for years on my body but only a few times on my hair without very good results. I do not think I knew what I was doing anyway. I also have a serious case of seborrheic dermatitis and have been using fairly harsh shampoos.
Recently, I had to cut a lot of my hair off because it was so damaged. I was so sad. I decided no more chemicals for me. I have been using Dr. Bronner’s ever since along with an ACV massage on my scalp for the seborrhea. It has been working and my hair looks lovely but greasy. I have used the ACV rinse too.
I just found this thread and cannot believe you answer all these posts personally. How awesome! I am on my way to the store to look for some of your citrus rinse to see if I can solve my “greasy” problem…which I understand is not grease.
I also realize now after reading your posts why the top of my head where I have been using the Dr. B’s is getting lighter and grayer. It has probably been a good thing for me. I have colored hair but have not colored in 6 weeks. I will use the Dr. B’s more now on the rest of the hair and hopefully I can remove more of the color in the rest of my hair. I plan to henna it soon so this might work out better in the long run.
I will let you know how this all works out.
Hi Michelia – If you can’t find the Citrus Rinse in stores, you can get it from the Dr. Bronner’s website, http://www.drbronner.com. With and order of $20, you get free shipping, too. And do let me know how it goes!
All the best,
I just started using the Castile Lavender soap as shampoo and this blog has been super helpful. Thank you so much for the info Lisa! Today was actually day #1 with no shampoo, conditioner or styling products. All I used was the Castile Lavender soap and my hair looks pretty darn good and only feels slightly greasy. I will be using a rinse moving forward to get even better results. It feels great to be using natural products but I wonder how my mother (a hairdresser!) will take the no-shampoo news, lol. 🙂 Thanks again all.
Hi, Lisa! I was intrigued by the idea of using the Castille soap on my hair, especially because I really can’t stand how fruity all the shampoos on the market smell. In addition, I had recently been noticing that my short hair did not feel clean lately. I don’t use a lot of hair product, but I do use some and it just didn’t feel like my shampoo was getting it all out even when I’d wash it twice. So, I got hold of some hair rinse and a container and went to work. I used the Baby mild liquid and followed that up with 1/2 a capful of hair rinse diluted in a small container with a top (so I can shake it up). My hair felt so clean and, even better, it looked great after I blow-dryed and styled it! I began to think after a while that maybe my hair had just needed a “break” from my usual shampoo so I switched back and…Yuck! My hair felt dirty again and it looked absolutely awful for two days. On day three, I ran out and bought more hair rinse at the Bronner store and hurried home to shower. It felt wonderful and, ever since, I have had beautiful hair (that smells great thanks to the hair rinse)!
Hi B.B. – Great testimonial! So glad you shared.
Lisa…hi! Quick question, what happens if I use the hair rinse after using something other than castile soap?
It’s all a matter of pH. Generally, it’s a good idea to stick within one brand for washing and conditioning hair because our hair is so picky about pH. One brand’s conditioner will be specifically formulated to match/balance the pH of its own conditioner. Since Dr. Bronner’s soap is alkaline (8.9), the hair rinse is equally acidic. So it depends what you’re using the hair rinse after. If you’re using it after a straight baking soda wash, it will probably help because baking soda is also alkaline. If you’re using it after a conventional shampoo, you won’t get great results because conventional shampoos are almost always acidic.
Hope that helps!
Thanks so much for posting all this, it really helped me while I was making a huge deal on a simple decision involving toiletries for an upcoming backpacking trip. Tonight, as a trial run, I washed my hair using diluted Dr. Bronner’s. At first it felt a little waxy, and I was worried my hair wouldn’t deal with the transition well, so I used a apple cider vin rinse. This is the first time I’ve ever attempted to go poo-less, or conditioner-less, and I’m so happy with the results. It’s very fine and thin, mid-back length, and typically it either frizzes or acts limp and dead. But after the Dr. Bronner’s and ACV, it’s bouncy, lively, and not frizzy at all.
Hi Lauren – Glad to hear it! Whenever I hear people say, “This is a great soap. I use it every time I camp.” I always want to reply, “But it’s good for so much more than camping!” It sounds like you’re on to that, too. I hope you have fun!
All the best,
Michelle, I think the number one problem for me is that hard water. I have relatives in Minnesota who all have a water filter, so the water in their home is soft. It makes such a difference for my hair. I don’t have to wash it until the 5th day! It’s so great. If I wasn’t military and we moved all the time, I’d seriously look into a water softener. I hear you can get them for $600, but I have no idea about the upkeep (if you have to continue to pay $$ to keep them working well).
I think the big issue that we all get confused about is when our hair starts to deal with the transition or detox. We all think we are doing something wrong, and we want to know how to fix it. I did some digging online and I found that giving your hair a bentonite clay mask can help, so I ended up trying it, and it did help detox some the build up of regular shampoo from my hair but there is some detoxing for my hair to do. As mentioned in my previous post, I find it strange that my hair is taking over 5 months to detox since I barely used product or heat in my hair. Maybe the fine texture hung on to the chemicals of shampoo more than someone with thick hair. I’m also trying to determine the correct amount of Hair Rinse to use on my hair. I know that too little will not balance the Dr. Bronner’s Soap and my hair will be a bit tangly, but I find that too much makes my hair greasy. I know that Dr. Bronner’s works in hard water, but I’m really debating if I should buy some distilled water and try washing my hair with it to see if my problem is a mineral build-up in my hair from hard water instead of a chemical build-up from regular shampoo.
Yes, I meant to say, that I have to wash every OTHER day. Today I changed it up a little. I did the rinse only with 1 capfull of the orange bottle rinse. Maybe doing 2 capfulls in 2 cups water was too much. I’m still sticking with it! I’m not giving up! My scalp is less itchy and flaky on the day after shampooing. I will email you if I keep having issues..but I think the scalp just needs to get used to the new routine. I’m not going to quit as long as I have the magic soap bottle…and I have a lot! =)
@Elisa – Catch me up on exactly what you’re up to now – is it just the castile soap with the Citrus Hair Rinse? Are you putting anything else on your hair after you wash it? And lastly, how long has it been since you’ve started washing with the soap and Hair Rinse? I hope I’ll be able to help you tweak your method. (If you want to take this off of the public comments, email me at email@example.com)
All the best,
Hey Lisa – I’m back. Sad to report that my hair is now VERY greasy on the second day and I absolutely have to wash it on the 3rd. I wonder why this is? I wonder if my hair is now just overproducing? I still have a few flakes once it gets time to re-wash. I was hoping I could find something that would keep it nice longer before I have to wash it.
Update: Hey Lisa! I just wanted to let you know how I like my new hair rinse.
After suffering for years of millions of dry white flakes in my hair every day, without any dandruff shampoo or other treatments working, I thought I’d give Dr. Bronner’s magic all in one soap a try. Actually, a friend gave it to my mother, who gave it to me. I would have never thought to try it. We live in NE, pretty hard water, and I did not like the greasy way my hair felt after using the liquid almond scented soap. I did more research and found this article. I ordered the rinse in the orange bottle.
The first time I tried it, I added 1 tablespoon jojoba oil to the soap, thinking this might help my scalp. Then I shook up the rinse, poured 2 capfulls into a cup of water. I poured it over my hair and massaged it in. My hair was a greasy mess for 2 days.
The second time I tried it, I used ONLY Dr. Bronner’s magic soap without added jojoba oil. Then I poured 1 capfull of the rinse into a cup and poured that over my hair – over the top of my head. Then I poured another 1 capfull of the rinse into a cup of water, flipped my head down and poured it over the back of my head and scalp. I massaged it in a little, then combed it with my fingers.
I let it sit on my hair while I washed my face and body, about 5 minutes. Then I rinsed it out with my regular hard water.
Result: My hair felt really light, soft, and shiny. No oily residue what-so-ever. BEST THING: NO WHITE FLAKES. This method has healed my scalp. I will still get flakes after 2 or 3 days when I need to wash again.
There is a small downside: I don’t care for the citrus scent of the rinse. It is too strong for me. The rinse seems to irritate my neck and chest a little – more like a tingling feeling. I just rinse my shoulders after I pour it over, and let it sit on my hair. Neither of these 2 small issues are bad enough for me to quit using it. I will still use it. I love the way my hair feels and looks and I am thankful that I solved my dandruff/dry scalp issues without dumping unhealthy chemicals onto my body.
Thank you, Lisa!!
@ Elisa – Thank you for sharing your experiences! I’m glad the products on their own are working out for you. I, too, occasionally experience the tingling from the Hair Rinse. This is due to the acidic nature of the product. We feel the pH especially during these dryer times of the year for our skin. You have the right idea to rinse if off of your shoulders and back while it’s sitting on your hair. The scent of the Hair Rinse is inextricably linked to its performance. The citrus juices and oils that are in it contribute the shiny softness of the hair. We couldn’t change the scent without changing the effectiveness of the product. I’m glad you’re willing to power through that, and in time it will probably become the norm for you.
All the best,