From Shampoo to Soap – My Story

shampoo - washing hair with soap

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.

My motivation

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.)

Basic method

  1. Wash hair with soap of your choice. Rinse out.
  2. 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.

Further reading

Benefits of Shikakai for Hair and Body

Styling Long Hair with Dr. Bronner’s Hair Creme

Simplifying the Shower

Hair Masques with Dr. Bronner’s

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Debbie says:


I have thick, wavy-to-curly chin-length hair that I’ve been (professionally) dyeing red (kind of an auburn, coppery shade that’s very close to my natural color) for many years now. I would like to transition to my natural gray (I’m 63). I’ve read your (Lisa) comment that castile soap is not formulated for color-treated hair and will make the color fade early. If I cut my hair shorter (not as short as a pixie) and begin using castile soap followed by the shikakai rinse or ACV do you think the color would fade enough so I could transition to gray without a glaring line of demarcation between the dyed portion and the new growth? I realize I would have to continue cutting my hair on a regular basis until the dyed portion has completely grown out.

Thanks so much,

Jessica Lee says:

Can anyone confirm that it is normal for the Dr. B rinse to be clumpy or is mine “off”? Thanks!

Lisa Bronner says:

I am so sorry that I haven’t responded to all these comments since March! I’ll tackle them now:

Lei – Awesome! I’m so glad that Dr. Bronner’s has been such a benefit to your household. The most basic air freshening comes via frequent vacuuming & dusting to remove hair and dander that is holding the smell in your house. Also, changing the air often by opening windows. One of my favorite ways to sweeten the air, though, is to use one of those tart burners – either a plug in kind or with a tealight underneath – add 1/4 tsp. of your favorite essential oil to some water in the little basin and then turn it on/light the candle.

Dorcas – There are so many factors that can make our hair behave differently from one week to the next. The soap bar is consistent throughout, so I don’t think that has changed. It could be the water, the humidity, diet or water consumption. That greasy feel, however, is usually a sign that the follicles on your hair are sticking out – which is a pH problem. My solution is to try the hair rinse. Why do you need it now when you didn’t earlier? I really don’t know. However, it is specifically formulated to match the soap.

Danielle – That is an excellent topic I’ll tackle soon. I think the Shikakai would be a good option for you. It is very gentle and leaves hair and skin soft.

Melisa – Although I don’t get my hair cut and styled as often as you, I have paid attention to that occasionally reversion to conventional products when I’m in the salon. I have not found that it undid my conversion to castile soap. My biggest problem with it is the cloying fragrance that remains on my hair afterwards, but as for texture and such, I can keep using the castile and rinse afterwards.

Awesome, Amber! Glad to hear it!

Michele – You’ll need an acidic product, which rules out soap. You’ll need some sort of trustworthy brand – check out the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Safety Database and see what they have to say.

Melynda – The Shikakai soap is a little heavier, so switching over to the simpler castile would be a good move. I’d also recommend a less diluted rinse, though. You can even try applying the rinse directly to your hair,w hich is what I do. (this stings some people’s scalps, though). Try a capful of the rinse on your very wet hair, work it through, let it sit for a few minutes, and rinse it out thoroughly.

Christopher – Wonderful! You’re welcome! Excellent point about the damage that has been done to our hair via conventional products and such. It does take a bit for that to grow out and hair to recover fully.

Barbara – Check out my response to Michele above.

Nancy – Thank you so much for sharing your story! That’s great to hear!

Emily – Hmm. I’m glad to hear the soap/rinse combo is working pretty well, but I’m thinking of this underlying greasy issue. My first thought is that the rinse is not getting down to the underlayers in your hair. I’m really not trying to sell more hair rinse, but be sure that you’re using enough rinse that it is working all the way through your layers. perhaps dilute it a little less so that it doesn’t run through your hair too fast before the job is done.

Thank you, everyone else, for your testimonials and comments!

All the best,

Brandee says:


I just wanted to share my castile soap/henna dying experience. I have thick dark wavy hair that I used to only use traditional shampoo and conditioner with every 2-3 days. I also used to have my hair dyed at the salon. I had a backpacking trip coming up this summer, so I decided to stop dying my hair at the salon, take castile soap with me on my trip, and attempt henna/indigo when I got back.

Honestly, if it weren’t for my grey hairs I wouldn’t worry about dying my hair at all. I mean, I’m only 24. Who wants grey hair at my age, let alone period??

After using castile soap, the Dr. Bronner’s citrus rinse, and coconut oil to clean and tame my hair, I was pretty happy with the results. I only needed to wash about twice a week.

Bring in the henna/indigo experience, and I’ve since cut out the castile/citrus rinse and replaced it with baking soda and ACV rinse. The castile soap was too much for the indigo aspect of my new hair dye routine, leaving my grey hairs too orange for my preference. The first time I dyed with henna/indigo, I couldn’t get the mixture out of my hair completely without using castile soap. Big mistake. But the second time I just used a cheap conditioner to loosen it up, which can also be used for an indigo gloss.

So, to summarize my experience:
-Castile soap is great for henna, not so much indigo
-Baking soda/ACV (the traditional no poo method) is great for my henna/indigo dye mixture
-Coconut oil is still the answer to everything (along with castile soap and sal suds, of course)

Hope this helps!

vera says:

I came across your blog, which is am so glad I did. I have color treated hair and didnt realize I shouldnt use Dr Booners. I had already made up a home recipe of oils and Dr Bonner’s soap and have found it makes a wonderful body wash. instead of using soap, I now use my homemade recipe and my skin feels great. Thank you for the info on this page, it was very helpful

blanka maria says:

My hair is thick, course and blonde and highlighted. I have been using Kerastase for years and it has gotten to the point of being so dry I can barely wash it – it is hard and brittle even when wet. Silicon build up is the culprit. It doesn’t wash away and takes a while to wash out, even with a silicon free shampoo. But after one wash with the Shielo Hydrate Shampoo, my hair is back to feeling baby soft again! I love Shielo and I have never even heard of this brand! I am going to use this as my regular shampoo until it is gone. Its from the Shielo brand, called Shielo Hydrate Shampoo.

Tracy says:

I color treat my hair and I have no problems. I use both magic soap and Dr. Bronners conditioner. I get so many compliments on how healthy my hair looks. I LOVE these products and will never go back to detergents.

Jennifer says:

Just wanted to share my method for successfully using Bronner’s as my shampoo…First, I have fairly thick, long hair, but it is very fine. Just a bit wavy if it dries naturally. I have my hair colored at the salon. My hair can go greasy in a heartbeat so I really can’t go overboard on the styling products.

SO, I washed my hair the first day with Bronner’s Citrus, followed by the citrus rinse, mixed according to the bottle. When I finished,I applied a small amount (dime size) of apricot oil to the ends of my hair and went to bed. When I got up, my long bangs and parts of my hair looked greasy, so I thought maybe that was from the oil I added. I washed my hair right away, went to work with most of it wet, and upon returning home, could see in the mirror that my hair looked tangled, the ends felt frizzy and it just felt sickening to run my fingers through it.

I did an Internet search and ended up here and was so thankful to have this valuable resource!!! I read through many of the posts and decided to try my own experiment based on my knowledge of chemistry and the different players in this shampoo game.

I did not read through ALL the posts, so if this has already been posted, consider my post a support of that method….
1. Wash hair with Bronner’s. I have tried 3 or 4 scents and each reacts the same way.
2. Rinse well. I rinse two more times than I would have if I used regular shampoo.
3. Spray my hair with vinegar solution using 1 Cup vinegar plus 2 Cups water in a spray bottle. I spray it all over my hair, saturate it and squeeze my hair like a sponge to make sure it is worked in. I also make sure to get my scalp very well. When I am applying the vinegar, I am picturing this as a neutralizer and any part of my hair that I miss the application may very well end up oily looking.
4. I let this sit on my hair 1 to 2 minutes and thoroughly rinse.
5. Apply the Bronner’s rinse. I have mixed it exactly like the bottle indicated, 2 cap fulls to 1 Cup water. This amount is lasting me at least 3 to 4 shampoos.

I do not put any other products on my hair and let it dry naturally. It is not greasy, it is shiny, healthy looking and I love it!! I know this may not work for everyone, but I would hope you would try it to find out…good luck!

Emily says:

Over the past 6 months I have been making an effort to switch my beauty products to more natural options. I want to note that I started with shampoo/conditioners that were SLS/SLES free, but I didn’t care for the way any of them made my hair feel. Plus, I hated the shampoos and the fact that they didn’t lather… at all. I guess I should also note that I have pretty normal hair. Long (down to my shoulder blades), brown, and mostly straight, although it can get puffy/frizzy. My standard routine was to dry with a round brush, straighten, and use either a styling cream, Moroccan oil, etc. to help smooth it out. I very much used your traditional products. I had been using Dr. B’s Peppermint liquid as my body wash for a few months before I considered using it in my hair. I started the new process with the Peppermint liquid and the hair rinse about 4 weeks ago. I did use the soap without the hair rinse 1 time before I realized I needed the rinse, and that gave my hair that funky, waxy texture that didn’t look bad but felt awful. Adding in the Hair Rinse immediately made a huge difference. I can actually wear my hair wavy now (never in a million years would I have ever thought that would be possible!). However, I’m finding that when I do blow dry it straight, the under layers of my hair near my scalp are very greasy. They don’t feel awful, but it looks terrible. Somehow (thank goodness!) the top layer looks fine, so as long as I leave it down, I don’t think anyone would notice. BUT, there’s no way I could go an extra day without washing it when I style it this way. Anyone have any ideas? Is this something that will go away over time? Maybe I’m using too much rinse (1 cap is what I’m using now). I make sure to wash really well with the soap on my scalp in hopes to wash the grease away, and I also make sure to spend extra time rinsing the rinse out (ha). At first I thought it was the Dr. B’s styling cream making it greasy, but I’ve tried it both ways and still have this issue. I really don’t want to give up on this process, and at the very least I have committed to it until my bottle of the Hair Rinse is gone. I’m absolutely loving my hair lately, with the exception of this greasiness near my scalp. If I could solve that then I’d be a Dr. B’s hair girl forever!

Nancy says:

Hi Lisa and everyone who posted their comments,

Thanks so much for your posts. They helped me make the transition from sulphate shampoo to soap.

I started off trying the No ‘Poo method. Not a success. Then I found a recipe for homemade shampoo (Dr Bronner’s liquid Castile soap, green tea + olive oil). Much nicer smell – lavender castile soap – but again, didn’t work for me. I was also using a vinegar rinse as a conditioner and tried everything from only washing with water or using the vinegar rinse in between washes. No joy. My hair was either quite dry or felt a little sticky. No amount of tweaking seemed to help. A few weeks ago, I came very close to throwing in the towel. But before I did, I wanted to try one last thing and hooray! I’m finally in hair heaven!

Shampoo: 1 teaspoon of Dr Bronner’s liquid castile soap – I used Lavender because I like the smell but I’m keen to try the Almond one – mixed into a cup of water.

Conditioner: make a cup of herbal tea – I use organic orange & coconut – add one teaspoon of white wine vinegar. I then transfer this into a 500 ml measuring jug. I top off the mixture with cold water so I have about 500 ml worth of mixture.

(By the way, I live in a fairly hard water area. I have shortish hair – I’m growing out a pixie cut and have a short, wavy bob at the moment. My hair is dark brown.)

Method: I wash my hair with the Dr Bronner’s mixture – I don’t have to use all of it as my hair is not very long – concentrating on my scalp. Rinse well. Then I follow with the conditioner. I use a comb to comb through the conditioner (gently) and wait for about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes I towel dry my hair i.e. I DON’T wash out the conditioner. I let my hair dry naturally, brushing it and finger combing it into my usual style. I don’t have to blow-dry it to get it to look nice, that’s how well this method is working for me. And, there are NO horrible knots to untangle!

My hair has never felt softer, looked shinier or healthier. It also seems to have more body.
Initially, the idea behind using herbal tea was to disguise the smell of vinegar but it seems that the combination of tea, vinegar and water have resulted in an excellent leave-in conditioner for me.

I can’t tell you how happy I am that I’ve finally found something that works for me. Hopefully, this may work for some of you who have also been struggling. Good luck! And thanks again Lisa!


Barbara says:

P.S. to previous comment:
My hair is short, fine, and somewhat curly.

Barbara says:

Thanks so much to all of you for the great comments. It is a true education for me. I, too, find the rinse leaves my hair oily and don’t like the results. Unlike most of the comments I have read, using regular conditioner after shampooing with the Castille soap works great for me. Yes, my color fades but not to an unacceptable level and, no, I am not ready to quit coloring my hair. Maybe one day. My question is: will it hurt my hair to keep using the castille soap with my regular rinse?

Thanks for a great conversation and feedback.

Barbara says:

Hello. I just found this site and loved reading the comments. I have been using the Castille soap for hands and body for several years now. However, I only recently started using it for my hair. I am very disappointed to learn that the Castille soap should not be used with colored hair. I have been loving using it along with the Dr. Bronner rinse – and my scalp no longer itches as before. I do notice, however, that my color fades more quickly. Any suggestions for a shampoo and rinse that are not full of the toxic stuff?

Christopher says:

Hi Lisa, and folks. I know I am late in the game here, but I wanted to share my story with Bronner’s Tea Tree and Rinse. Pretty much my whole life my hair has been a fluffy, frizzy, unsymmetrical, rat’s nest that needed to be tamed severely each morning and sometimes several times afterward. I began using a flat iron on my hair to make it look they way I wanted, (yes, I know, I’m a dude, but it worked). After a few years getting tired of doing it and losing my style in the humidity and rain I found some hair product that when worked with in large amounts and time and effort produced an acceptable look. The issue was I had to use so much of it and it was costing me about $20 a week. Also, it made my scalp itch, and left a coating on my scalp and seemed to make my head sweat more. Then thankfully the product was discontinued. I began to look for an easier, more natural way to care for my hair. I began using the Tea Tree liquid, followed by the Rinse. Most people I am sure are kind of weirded out by the uniqueness of the Rinse, but I stuck with it because it made by hair more manageable and not need any styling product at all! At first it was ok, not great, but I stuck with it. I found that the more I used it the better my hair got. I think my hair was so damaged from sulfates, and heat and such that as it grew out the new growth was being exposed to only tea tree and the rinse. Now, I swear by it. I even used to get dry flaky ears and the tea tree has taken care of that. People ask me what I use in my hair all of the time and really the answer is nothing beyond this process. So I am washing and using the rinse only about 3 times per week. Since I have converted a lot of people to my process. So anybody out there who is skeptical, or only tries it once or twice my advice is to stick with it and let your hair grow out and only be exposed to these products. You need to let all of the damaged hair grow out, because without all of those silicones and sulphates those damaged sections will never look good without those tried and true products. It is a viscious cycle, but once broken it is well worth it and also much cheaper.

It should be mentioned that the rinse is needed very much if you are using castile soap, especially if you have hard water. Since castile soap isn’t a harsh detergent it will leave a kind of build-up on your hair rather than stripping it like sulphate based shampoos. This is that “tangly” feel people say they have when using castile soap. The acidity in the rinse strips that off and the low ph closes the hair’s cuticle. This is one of the reasons why it makes your hair feel great. So without the rinse you will have a build-up on your hair of soap and minerals in the water making it feel a bit waxy, more so if you have harder water because there is more mineral content.

So, with all of that, thanks Lisa!

Melynda says:

Hi Lisa and fans!

First, since this is my first comment on your blog, I just have to say that I love your genuineness and willingness to share your knowledges and experiences. I started using Dr. Bronner’s for household cleaning and now I am trying it on my hair.

I’m looking for tips from Lisa or anyone else on what to do different– I’m in that tweaking process and I’m not sure what would be best to try next. I have been using the Tea Tree Shikakai soap (takes several pumps to get lather all over my scalp) followed by a capful of the citrus rinse in 1-2 cups of water. I have been doing this routine for 3 weeks and my hair seems to have adjusted to it after the first week. I do not experience heavy, waxy, or greasy hair. It FEELS soft and clean. The problem is that it LOOKS limp, stringy, and oily/dirty– it looks like it needs to be washed. My hair is a mix of textures– it’s weird, but I have fine, medium, and course hair (in three different colors– naturally occuring highlights and lowlights!). I have oily skin and hair, but since I rarely exercise or go outside (I know, I need to work on that…) I can get away with washing hair only every other day (my hair adjusted to this years ago). It looks plenty healthy/shiny/moisturized. Maybe it is too moisturized? I have some liquid and bar Castile soap I could switch to, and I could try a half cap of rinse instead of a whole cap. Am I right in thinking those changes would make my routine less moisturizing? Any other suggestions or theories on what’s wrong and how to tweak?

Michele says:

Like the author above my comments, I too read through quite a bit of these comments, but did not see an answer for my question. I was so hopeful that Dr. Bronner’s soaps would work to shampoo my color treated hair and in the end disappointed. I am wondering if you know of the best most natural way to shampoo color treated hair…even if it is not by using Dr. Bronner’s.
Thanks so much,

Amber says:

i’ve been using dr. bronners for years but just decided to make the switch and start using it on my hair and i loved it! i’ve tried using just the soap in the past (that’s all my husband will use) and it was terrible my hair was a yucky tangled mess! then i bought conditioning rinse and it made all the difference! it smells great took the tangle out and my hair isn’t greasy at all. it just feels and looks clean. my hair is blonde and fine and long and i didnt realize how much shampoo and conditioner weighed it down, now it feels amazing! thanks for your tips!

Melisa says:

I know you’ve answered a ton of questions here already (thank you for that!), but I don’t see this one. I’ve seen a few people mention that after using the castile soap for a while, if they used their regular shampoo even once, they had a horrible mess and it was like starting over. I have jaw length fine hair and get my hair cut and styled every 5 weeks and the stylist needs to shampoo it to cut it. It just doesn’t lay right for cutting if she just wets it, even if I have just shampooed it, myself. Would this be a vicious cycle for me, starting over every time I got a haircut? I’m wondering if most people using this have long hair and don’t have to have it cut and styled so often? I already have the soap, but I’m afraid to start using it if using shampoo once every 5 weeks at the salon is going to wreak havoc.

Danielle G says:

Hi Lisa and co!

Unfortunately, after several months, I had to stop using the castile soap because my hair remained weighed down and stringy/oily, even with the citrus rinse- and I was looking for a job and needed to look presentable. The worst thing, though, was all of the hair that I lost! I guess because my hair is so fine, that the soap was a bit too rough on it.

I’ve recently moved into a new place and would like to get started again, but instead of the castile soap, I wanted to give the shikakai body soap a try. Do you think it is at all possible that my hair might react better with the shikakai soap than the castile soap? Any thoughts on it? I have yet to see a comparison/contrast discussion done on castile soap v shikakai soap.

Thanks in advance!

Danielle G.

Dorcas says:

OK, forgive me if this has already been dealt with, I did read through as many of the comments as I could and I don’t see my particular problem though it may be in there somewhere.
First of all, my hair is completely natural, I havent colored it in three years and it is about 10% gray. Now, here’s the thing. I switched to Dr. Bronners about six to eight weeks ago (its really helped dissipate my frequent headaches!). At first I tried the liquid bronners but as many of you had found I didn’t like the greasy feel it left me with. So I changed to the Dr Bronners rose bar soap and loved it. I have used it every other day for the last 6 weeks or so (with no rinse) and have had no troubles. Until now. For some weird reason the last TWO times I washed my hair I am left with the typical “Bronner’s grease”. I cant fathom it. Is it because I’m getting to the middle of the bar of soap and theres more oil in the middle?? Crazy! Today I used just baking soda to wash my hair and finished with a plain white vinegar rinse and oilla I still have the “grease”. Now, I know its not REAL grease, it just LOOKS like grease. Kind of wet looking which will disappear a little as the day wears on.But I don’t like it!
I don’t want to go back to shampoo but I need to work this out, any ideas?
Can vinegar make the hair look greasy? I have used vinegar the last two times. BUt not ACV, just white.
Any help is appreciated!

Lei says:

My husband and I switched ALL our toiletries and majority of our cleaning products to Dr.Bronners. We LOVE all of it! We are both glad to be chemical free and we ALWAYS spread the word of how it has helped us. My husband is a firm believer in “you get what you pay for” and was apprehensive with the affordability of dr.B’s products. Now he wants to try everything Dr.B’s and loves it! I feel so much betted using arounf my pets (baby mild) My husband no longer has dry skin from bathing, my frequent breakouts and rashes are gone, my hair is just so BEAUTIFUL! You really HAVE to try it all! There is an adjustment period especially for your hair. Hang in there though it will be worth it! Thanks to Lisa and everyone here for helping out with the comments and suggestions. Maybe some help with air fresheners/deodorizers? We have 16 cats and a dog.;)

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Cara-Marie – Thanks! I do use the Lavender Coconut lotion on my face when I need a little something. However, what I really love, but only do once a week or so, is to put some of the pure coconut oil on my face at night. It doesn’t go under make-up well, so is better at night. Feels great, though.

Hi Shannon – I have a little girl as well. I wash her hair usually with the bar soap just because I can control the suds more. I use a tiny amount of the Citrus Hair Rinse on her hair. Then a small amount of the Leave In Conditioning Creme is awesome when I brush it out. It also calms frizzes and helps when I braid it. I need to post about that.

Hi Jackie – Great tips! I’ll have to play around with some of those myself!

All the best,

Jackie says:

@Cara-I now use Dr Bronners for hair, face, and body. I no longer use store-bought moisturizers either. My goal is to stay completely away from chemicals. I use only natural oils on my face. It has worked miracles on my skin. My favorites are 100% Argan oil and Rosehip. But there are so many out there. I also put a drop or two of an essential oil of choice with my natural carrier oil. Do some research on carrier oils and essential oils. So interesting and actually a lot fun to play around with!

Shannon says:

Hi Lisa!
My daughter is three years old and she has very fine, wavy hair. We have a HORRIBLE time with tangles and knots! I almost purchased a really expensive organic conditioner and then I remembered the hair rinse. We already use Dr. Bronner’s castille soap on her hair but I’ve not tried a conditioner or ACV. Would you recommend the rinse or the cream for her? Can they both be used?


Cara-Marie says:

Hello, Lisa. What a wonderful blog! Love Dr Bronner’s products. I am still in the transitioning period and have been for months, but I’m starting to see the light. I have read all comments to this post and have loved all the wonderful tips. One question that I have not seen answered on here or in another post is what do you moisturize your face with after washing with the almond liquid soap? My skin is not terribly dry but I am unable to go without any moisturizer at all. I have tried the lotions in the pump bottles and they work great for my body but not my face. Just wondering if you have a suggestion. Thanks!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Spirals – Great testimony! Thank you for sharing that. And I like that technique for getting the bar soap on your hair. It’s what I use on my three year old because it does leave her hair softer.

All the best,

spirals says:

Sorry–I forgot to say: the liquid is easier to use, but if you place the bar on top of your head and duck under the water spray briefly, it helps.

spirals says:

I’ll admit I haven’t read through all the responses, but I want to post my experience. I started on palm-based bar soaps this last summer because detergent shampoos were drying my hair out. Almost instantly my shedding reduce by over 60%. That’s a visual estimation, by the way, not scientific. But I can say I no longer feel I’m going bald when washing my hair! I switched to Dr. Bronner liquids in order to make the process easier, and because the fragrances are not synthetic (another concern), and mostly because I really support this company. I was a little less happy with the results.

I then remembered Lisa posting that the bars have added salt, so, since I’d had success with bar soap previously, I started on the lavendar bar last week. Better.

I have always used a citric acid rinse, which is essentially what the Dr. Bronner rinse is. I’m stretching the budget a bit to have the soap, so I make my own rinse with acid I buy and water. I roughly calculate 5% (like vinegar or citrus juice) and keep a big bottle with a pour spout in the shower. I eyeball a couple of tablespoons into a big plastic cup, fill with water, and rinse. I do this twice, as I have thick, waist-length hair. I do use a conventional conditioner to help detangle in the shower.* I am looking for a natural replacement.

*I could comb after I get out, but that gives me stringy curls. I need to detangle in shower before putting leave-in into really wet hair and then wrapping in a towel.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Victoria! Good work! In the long term, your regimen will strengthen your hair more and more. There will be less breakage and more balanced moisture levels.

Hi Jackie – Your solutions looks just fine. There is no problem in mixing the castile soap and baking soda. Definitely keep us updated!

All the best,

Jackie says:

Hi Lisa,

I am definitely a fan of all Bronner products. I truly have and use it all now. However, I have also struggled with my hair. I have been using the castile soap for my hair, and like most others, have struggled with the adjustment period – heavy, greasy looking hair! So, I just wanted to share what I have done that has helped me dramatically. I made my own “shampoo”. I have mixed Dr Bronner’s with baking soda, chamomile tea (instead of plain water), and I added some essential oil for a nice added fragrance. I also used the Hair Rinse afterward. It looks and feels much better. I still have some heaviness and greasy appearance, but much less. I can deal with this until my hair gets adjusted to this change. I plan to try this formula with plain water instead of tea next time. I may play with the proportions of the ingredients a little to see if it gets even better for me. Do you see any problem with mixing the soap with baking soda. I read in an earlier post that you do not recommend mixing it with ACV. Please let me know. Thanks 🙂

Victoria says:

@Lisa Bronner:
Thank you for your responce!
Since last posting i have been trying to tweek the routine. It seems to be working but i wanted some advise as to whether it will be damaging in the future.

Currently am using the soap, diluted half and half with water, focusing on the scalp as recommended and just working the soap down to the ends during washing. Also using baking soda every second week as a cleanser. To rinse i use UNDILUTED white vinegar and spray it all over hair, focusing on ends.

Hair is soft, shiny, full of body and requires less washing. Curious as to your opinion on the baking soda and undiluted white vinegar.

Also, a side note: since my transition to all natural products i have converted 2 friends and my father(stubborn) to Dr.Bronners for all their cleaning and soaps! Whoop!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Lisa – With conventionally dyed hair, you should NOT use any of the castile soaps. They will fade your dye early. Switching to henna dye would change this. With henna dye, you can use the castile soaps. Otherwise, pick a shampoo intended for dyed hair because it will have the acidic pH that you need.

All the best,

Lisa from Oz says:

have just discovered dr. bronner soaps:-)
hair questions please! 🙂

Having read a lot of the above posts… am i to gather then, that:…
As i have dyed hair… (in my youth v dark – am covering lots of greys now!)
i either need to keep normal shampoos OR

1) dye hair with henna (instead of herbatint from health food store)
2) use ANY of the castille liquid soaps
3) followed by ACV (diluted)
4) AND / OR Shikaki conditioning rinse

Please would u confirm that i have got each of the four steps correct? (or correct me if i have misunderstood pls!)

many thanks:-)

Lisa from Oz

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Kristen (from November) – The apple cider vinegar seems to work as a rinse for some and not for others. The Dr. Bronner’s Hair Rinse is more of a sure fire, if you want to check that out. Either way, make sure the soap is fully rinsed out of your hair, and then let whatever you use to rinse sit for five minutes or so. If you give this a go, update us with the results.

Hi Caitlin (also from November) – I think I’ve mentioned somewhere here that I tried coconut oil in my hair as well. it took four washings, the last one with Sal Suds to get it all out. My guess is that you still had oil in your hair. How is it now?

All the best,

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Tina – It’s great to hear your success story! Regarding the lemon and orange oils, neither of them are essential oils, so they shouldn’t be a problem for the cat. They both are crucial to the conditioning nature of the Rinse, so it would be a total reformulation to a different type of product were we to try to eliminate them.

Hi Victoria – Congratulations on your mama-hood! You probably have noticed that the whole pregnancy thing has a huge impact on your hair. You may find that after the birth, or after you’re done nursing, it seems like you lose fistfulls every day, but it’s only catching up from what you don’t lose while you’re pregnant. One perk during pregnancy from all those surging hormones. Anyhow, for the apple cider vinegar rinse, try cutting it half and half with water. As you shampoo, concentrate more on massaging the soap into your scalp and the hair nearest it. This is the dirtiest/oiliest part or our head. Use very little soap and little rubbing on the ends of your hair, which are driest. The pH balancing with the Rinse, or ACV, is key, though. You might try getting the rinse online if the ACV isn’t helping. Also, another commenter above suggested using a couple drops of extra virgin olive oil in the hair – I would suggest you use it just on the ends of your hair.

Hope that helps!

All the best,

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Janie – I’m sorry to hear about all the hassle you’ve been going through with your hair! Regarding hair loss, there are so many factors that can contribute to this, such as lack of sleep, low water consumption, or poor diet, but setting those possibilities aside, it kind of sounds like your hair is in shock. (That’s a very unscientific observation.) Is the soap lathering up in your hair? If not, try adding a little more. Let it sit for a minute or two, then rinse it thoroughly. Because of the oilier nature of your hair, use maybe only 1/2 a capful of the rinse. Let it sit for a minute or two, and rinse it out thoroughly. Don’t add any of the Dr. B’s Leave In Conditioning Creme. i think that would do more harm than good. If none of this helps, let me know, and I’ll come up with a Plan C.

Hi Tom – I don’t blame you for not reading all this! It is by far my most commented on post. Glad to hear the Dr. B’s has worked so well for you! That’s a great tip about the olive oil, too.

Hi Freddie – The bar soap is more moisturizing and lathers more creamily. It does take a bit longer to rub over the head than a quick squirt of the liquid, but it does have benefits. If you are having trouble with the liquid, definitely give the bar a try. It’s a good option.

All the best,

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Heather – That’s awesome! Thanks so much for sharing your story.

Hi Karen – I know the exact feeling you’re talking about. I had a similar experience when I tried to do a deep moisturizing of my hair with coconut oil. It took me about four washings to feel like I got all that oil off my hair, and I ended up using Sal Suds (not recommended, but better than conventional shampoo, safety-wise). All of Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soaps have the same base – the only difference with the Baby Mild is that it doesn’t have any essential oils. It could be that the castile soap isn’t strong enough. Also, if you’re not using the Hair Rinse afterwards, you might also be feeling the effects of the alkalinity of the soap on your hair.

The next time I try the coconut oil, I’m going to use a lot less of it and see if that helps.

Hi Molly – I’m so glad you shared your experience. That is very encouraging. The bar soap is more moisturizing because of the palm oil, so that definitely makes sense. A great option for people having difficulty with the liquid.

All the best,

Victoria says:

Hi Lisa!

After having my daughter i started to care about what was in my house and in connection, what i was using on our bodies. I was shocked! Lots of internet research led me to Dr. Bronner line! Cleaning, toothpaste, dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent, soap, shampoo, bodywash!? Incredible.

My daughter of course didnt need transition with her perfect baby soft hair and skin, but with the soap diluted half and half with water her skin is somehow softer!

In my case, my hair is in that transition phase, which doesnt really bother me because my hair is usually up to avoid it being pulled.

I cant seem to find the hair conditioning rinse anywheree in Ottawa so am stuck with organic apple cider. From what you have read, how much do people dilute it? And do you use more or less if you hair is dry, more or less if your is ‘oily’ post shower?
Same question with the soap, should i use more or less if my hair is dry post shower?

So far my hair is dry at the ends and that oily feeling at the top.

Thanks so much!

Tina says:

Just used the Baby Mild soap and Hair Rinse for the first time and wow!! I was not expecting to get such great results! My hair is soft, clean and manageable! I have super thick and tangle-prone hair, and it is usually oily by day’s end, so I wasn’t sure if these would work for me. I have never been able to run a brush through my hair after coming out of the shower without a lot of pain and effort and with this the brush just slid right through with no pressure at all!

I followed Lisa’s technique and lathered up about 3/4 tsp of the soap in my hands, then shampooed my roots with it. The shampooing part worked great but after I could feel what everyone else has mentioned with the coarseness and roughness in my hair. I diluted a cap-full of the rinse in a cup of water and poured that on. Immediately it made my hair feel amazing and smooth. I did noticed little bits of the shikakai powder in my hands so I made sure to rinse well so those didn’t end up in my hair. I easily brushed through my wet hair after towel drying and then blow-dried as normal and it looks and feels fantastic. I know this was only one use but I hope it continues like this!

I have not used traditional supermarket shampoos and conditioners for a few years now so maybe that’s why this worked so well on me the first time. I may not have as much build up as others to have to go through a detox phase but we’ll see how things go in the next few days/weeks. Before this I was using a Burt’s Bees deep conditioner and Logona Free shampoo, mainly because I’m trying to use phyto and xenoestrogen-free products and those two were recommended. Problem is they are expensive and I really wanted to find something else that was more affordable. Hope this combination of Dr. Bronner’s products will be the answer!

I did want to ask, though, if there are any plans to make an unscented version of the Hair Rinse? Or a version without the lemon and orange oils? I can still smell it on my hair and I’m a little concerned because I have a cat and essential oils, even just inhaled, can be very dangerous to cats. (Unlike humans or dogs, cats cannot process the terpenes in essential oils.) I’m going to try rinsing even longer the next time to see if I can help the issue.

freddie says:

Can i ask whats the diff for hair use between DR B soap bar and liquid soap? what’s better?
Thank you

Tom says:

I did not take the time to read this entire thread as it got quiet long, and I’m an upfront admittedly lazy reader. My 2 cents are that I use Dr Bronner’s peppermint liquid straight into my wet hair. Rinse and repeat once more. I only use a few drops at a time. It does sud up on the 2nd application.
After towel drying my hair I massage a few drops of extra light olive oil into my hair. My hair soaks it right up, and does not leave my hair oily at all.
I used to need to use a styling product such as gel as my hair, when dry, stands up all over the place (when cleansed with common shampoo conditioner.) Now, all I need is water. My scalp is much less itchy than it used to be.

janie says:

Hi I saw this website a few days ago and I decided to give it a try. My boyfriend only really likes to use this brand of soap. I didn’t this I could use it on my hair! So I gave it a try. The first time I used the acv for a rinse since I ddint have the hair rinse. It did ok. When I finally got the hair rinse, I find that my hair has a greasier feeling to it. I typically have oilly hair. Also, I found that my hair is falling out a lot more than it did for conventional shampoo. But that was happening also when I used backing soda and acv. This really worries me since I am only 25 and shouldn’t be losing hair like this. My hair only reaches a lil past my chin. Can you give me any help?

Caitlin says:

Hi Lisa (and everyone)-
Question, I used Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint soap diluted to begin and met with ‘waxy’ results until I researched further. As soon as I finally started using a diluted solution of ACV about a week later, I had little to no adjustment like Molly above. I was absolutely in love with my new regimen. I successfully used this for a month.

One day I decided to leave coconut oil in my hair for a deep conditioner. Once I washed it out, it left my hair greasy. I decided to just get the oil all out of my hair and reverted to conventional shampoo for one wash. For the past 2 weeks after that wash, I have had waxy hair every single day! It doesn’t seem to matter that I am using ACV which initially ‘cured’ it.
Help! I feel more frustrated now than when I first started just because I expected adjustment then, now I just don’t know what to do.

Kristen says:

Hi Lisa –

First, thanks for your helpful post. I’ve been attempting to use Dr Bronners Lavender liquid and Peppermint bar soaps on my hair for about 3 weeks. I’ve tried every combination that I can think of for washing, washing multiple times, using different portions of ACV rinse, leaving in the ACV vs rinsing it out, using baking soda, etc.

Yet after all these different combos, I keep getting the same exact result: normal scalp, dry hair up by my head, waxy length/ends. Before trying this new “shampooing” method, I had an oil scalp, oily hair up by my head, and normal or dry ends. I also fully expect a transition period, but it does seem kind of backwards that my ends aren’t responding to the ACV, and it seems odd that I’m getting this same result every time (so I’m guessing this is my own user error somewhere in here).

I’ve read through all the comments on here and I know others experience the waxy feeling – but is this dry on top, waxy on the bottom thing happening to anyone else? Does anyone have any ideas for fixing this?

Molly says:

Hi Lisa/other readers,
I have been using Dr. Bronners on my hair for at least 3 weeks now…like others, the first time was an issue because I did not know about using a rinse of some type. I have since been using an ACV rinse, and I have to say my hair was sooo much better as soon as I added that component. I did NOT have an adjustment period…as soon as I did the ACV rinse (the second time I washed my hair) it immediately fixed the problem of greasiness that others mentioned.

My hair is naturally ash-blonde that (I thought) is fine textured…now it is so much thicker and shinier! After some trial and error, what works best for me is the peppermint bar soap (just “lather” it in my hands and scrub my hair/scalp, leaving it in for a few minutes) then rinse thoroughly and follow with the ACV rinse (rinse that thoroughly, too).

Re: the ACV, I don’t have measurements but I found that if the acv mix color is close to the color of the lavender liquid soap (which I use as bodywash) then I have it right. I hope that helps some people…that was the most difficult part, finding the right combo/mix levels.

I also discovered (for me) that the peppermint bar soap works better than the lavender liquid, although the liquid is still “ok” in a pinch. My hair just seems softer after the bar.

I was also using a baking soda wash on my hair (before or in conjunction with the liquid soap) but I read elsewhere that once or twice a week is probably all that is necessary for the baking soda (I noticed my scalp getting a bit itchy, probably from using the baking soda every time. Oops!)

Thanks to everyone else who has commented…I hope someone else finds this post equally helpful! 🙂

Karen says:

Hi Lisa,

I have been using oils on my hair every other night for hair loss. In the morning I wash it. I want to avoid SLS so made a shampoo with the unscented Dr. Bronner’s soap, water and chamomile. I used the shampoo three times the first day and none of the oils seemed to wash out but the rest of my hair was very dry. What would you recommend I do next time? Is the baby safe soap strong enough? I really need something good to use for oil. Also should I use something to prevent dryness on the hair aside from the scalp? Thank you!

Heather says:

a couple weeks ago I ran out of shampoo and didn’t have the money to buy more of my expensive “natural” shampoo so I decided to throw some of the tea tree dr bronners that I had already in the shower in my hair. First day I was NOT thrilled… my hair was tangled and awful when i first got out of the shower… and once it dried it still looked wet and gross… it was full of static and greasy at the same time! I threw my hair up in a pony tail and consulted the internet. After reading that many people used dr bronner’s I was convinced to continue to try to save money, time, and hassle in the shower and keep using Dr bronners. Well, days went by that I was throwing my hair in a pony tail… then one day I realized I didnt have to. My hair dried normally, it was more manageable, and actually looked shiny! I have now moved on to lavender scented and use the rinse and actually feel like I’m CHEATING because my hair is always so nice and I’m only using soap.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Beth – I’m so glad you shared your story! I know it is such an encouragement to people who are interested in the conversion to hear others’ experiences, especially about that period of transition. This really is an entirely different technique of hair care, and it requires fixing the problems created by conventional methods, waking our scalp up so that it can do its job, and just getting used to a different routine. Your hair may have “regressed” due to a variety of factors – changes in water, humidity, or own sleep or diet. Also, after my hair recovered from all the damage done by conventional products, I found ineeded to ease up on the amount of the hair rinse I was using. I also stopped using the Hair Creme except for a tiny bit to calm the frizzies. Would any of that help?

All the best,

Beth says:

I’m using the liquid lavender scent diluted 50% with water and I’ve been using it for about 5 weeks now. I have a foaming pump and I use 2 or 3 pumps and then rinse with a cap-full of the citrus rinse. I’ve also tried to rinse with ACV to cut down on the greasy feeling. I’ve used traditional shampoo and conditioner a few times when my hair has gotten really greasy looking. After about a two week adjustment period, my hair was feeling great and then went back to being heavy and sticky feeling!

Lisa Bronner says:

Thanks for sharing your technique, Sheila!

Hi Beth – Which soap are you using to wash? And how long have you been at it? It took me a couple months, and I’d still wash my hair once a week with the traditional stuff (Burt’s Bees – so somewhere in between traditional and soap). Let me know, and I’ll help you through this!

All the best,

About Lisa Bronner

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

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