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

Leave a Reply to Kelsey Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Elizabeth – Definitely a hot topic! The peppermint castile has the same pH as all of our castiles, 8.9. The essential oils do not affect the pH of the soap. The peppermint might be more drying, though, than some of the milder essential oils, just due to the nature of peppermint oil. I checked out the blog link, and the recipe she gives sounds exceedingly nourishing. I bet it feels absolutely awesome! My only concern is that there is nothing in the recipe that is actually a cleaner. Soaps and shampoos (and detergents) all work in a similar way in that they bond with dirt/grease at one end of their molecules and with water at the other end. This is how dirt/grease is removed from whatever it is you’re cleaning – hair, in this case. The recipe of coconut milk and aloe vera gel will not be able to do this.

Robin also raises the issue that swings in pH will damage hair in the long run. She is exactly right in the way modern hair dying works, using a strong alkali to open the hair follicles and inserting dye into them. However, Dr. Bronner’s castile does not have nearly the extreme of pH as is used in the hair coloring process. There are many, many hair types, and while I can say that the regular use of an alkaline soap and acidic rinse has not damaged my hair, perhaps it might for someone else. In fact, I feel that my hair is stronger than ever.

I still like that coconut milk idea for a deep conditioning treatment and will probably be giving that a try.

All the best,

Kyoung11 says:

I have oily hair, but still needed a conditioner at the same time to protect my color treated hair – and the Shielo Color Protect line works perfectly. Even if you do not put color in your hair. It makes my hair shine and the shampoo is not heavy. This is one of the first shampoos that has really worked for me, and the Shielo conditioner did not leave my hair oily at all.

Elizabeth says:

Lisa, Thanks for the great article! I’ve only recently been swapping out my personal and household products for more natural solutions and have a couple questions.

Over the last two weeks I made the switch from commercial shampoo/conditioner to a homemade castile shampoo and ACV rinse. I’ve been using the Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint scent for shampoo but read that over time using castile soap can actually damage and dry out hair, especially since you are forcing the ph to go up so high and then immediately bring it back down with something like an ACV rinse.

Are you able to shed some light on this issue? Also, does the peppermint Dr. Bronner’s have a lower ph than other scents?

Just for reference, here is the link I found that raises the above issue:

My hair is dark, long, thick and curly. So far it hasn’t been too bad, but definitely more difficult to get the tangles out in the shower. It doesn’t have that smooth ‘you know there are lots of chemicals in your hair’ feel. And is it sad I miss that?

Lisa Bronner says:

Awesome, Deb! I’m glad our products are such a help! Yes, the unscented Baby Mild body balm would be a great option for a scent-free moisturizer on your trip. Hope it’s fun!

Hi Louann – ACV and the Dr. Bronner’s Hair Rinse serve the same purpose of giving an acidic balance to the alkaline soap. If you want to try both, use whatever order works best for you.

Hi Danielle – This is a totally tough time because if you were using conventional products, your hair had been covered in a silicon coating. The Dr. B’s soap has stripped that all off. Time will help your hair recover its own vibrancy, but it is a tough spot for a bit. Definitely fiddle with the amount of hair rinse. There is not one piece of advice that works for everyone. Also, try apple cider vinegar in place of the hair rinse, if you’re still getting the greasy feel after a week. Another technique is to use the hair rinse in less water – like only a half a cup. Or let it sit in your hair longer before you rinse it out. That greasy feel isn’t actually a residue left on your hair, but the follicles on the strands sticking out.

Let me know how it’s going!

All the best,

Danielle says:

I purchased the shikakai soap in mild mild and also the hair rinse and have used it twice now. It definitely left my hair super greasy both times. I have been used 1/2 Tbsp of the soap and just one cap full of the rinse and my hair is still pretty greasy (not as much as it was when I used 2 cap fulls). I’ve also diluted the hair rinse in 1 cup of water. My hair is to my shoulders and it’s thick. I was wondering if maybe I should use less of the rinse since my hair is pretty short? Also, reading back through the comments I noticed that I’m not getting any suds when I use the shampoo (1/2 Tbsp)-so should I use more? I’m trying to give this two weeks so any help would be appreciated. Thanks!! 🙂

Louann says:

I recently starting using Dr. Bronners soap as shampoo and the shaki rinse. If I were to add apple cider vinegar rinse also, do I use ACV before or after the Shaki rinse?

Deb Standard says:

That every interesting and reasonable answer. I am going on a long retreat and perfumed body care products are not permitted. I will bring your baby blue soaps. I wanted a Bonner’s lotion. Could you suggest an alternative. Maybe the blue body balm. Anyway my hair grows fast but now that my hair care products are strictly Dr Bonner’s my hair grows even FASTER! No problem because my skin is softer and my acne outbreaks have virtually disappeared. My hair also is shiny and soft. I love the hair rinse. There’s a definite difference between the soap bar and the liquid as far as my hair’s response. I might suggest that you make a laundry soap and softener. My life would totally completely Dr Bonner’s. A real Dr Bonner’s lover!

Lisa Bronner says:

Thanks, Phil! Good point about the difficulty in applying it. I can see that would be a challenge. Along with Karena’s great suggestion, look for a bottle that squirts up with just a squeeze. Also, you could try putting just a little bit of rinse in your wet hands and working that through your wet beard and see how it goes.

Hi Deb – Fabulous! I’m so glad the soaps and rinse are working out for you. Unfortunately, it’s a “no” on the fragrance free body and face lotion. The reason is that we use organic ethanol in them, which acts as a solubilizer, which means it holds all the moisturizing oils together with no separation. However, legally, the alcohol must be denatured, which means we have to add something to it to make it really untasty, so no one can get drunk off of it. The essential oils serve this purpose in the lotions.

Hi Revha – Yes, any type of Dr. Bronner’s soap makes a good shampoo alongside an acidic rinse. Choose your preference: castile soaps or pump soaps.

All the best,

Karena says:

You can buy them pretty much anywhere, and they don’t cost much (I’ve seen them on sale at the grocery store for about a buck).

Phil says:

Good idea Karena. I will have to keep my eyes open for a bottle like that.

Karena says:


A suggestion: maybe mix the hair rinse in one of those bottles with a pointed spout on it – you can squirt it into your beard with much more control.

Phil says:

I just wanted to give one more update about using the Castile Soap and now the Hair Rinse on my beard. I got the Hair Rinse about 2 weeks ago and I have to say I am really impressed. I only wash my beard with soap ever 3 days or so, but there was a HUGE difference in how my beard felt and looked after using the hair rinse. Prior to the Hair Rinse, after drying my beard (towel and air) it would be super poofy, with hairs sticking out all over the place and my beard just felt more wirery (is that a word?). Anyway, after reading your post here about the hair rinse I thought I would give it a shot. I was impressed after the first time. After drying my beard laid much more flat, not like weighed down flat, but more like I think my beard likes to be naturally. Plus it was Much Softer to the touch. If I had any complaint about it, it is that it has to be mixed with water so it is very runny. That makes it kind of difficult to apply to my beard, and with it being that watery it does not lather up or anything so it can be difficult to tell if it has been worked through my entire beard. I am sure after using it a few more times I will be used to it.

Revha says:

Hi Lisa , what a great web site 🙂
I would like to ask something? can i use any kind of pump soap (dr.bronner’s of cource 🙂 as a shampoo. After pump soap, I will need to add some “acidic” to my hair, right? so should i use pump soap and hair rinse? have a nice day .

Deb Standard says:

I have been using Dr Bonners for my hair for about two years and will never go back to shampoos and rinses. I do use the Dr Bonner’s hair rinse even though my hair is short. I alternate between the liqiud soap, bar soap and the hand and body pump. All give me great results and my hair is very soft and shiny. I am going gray and proud. When I go to the hair salon for a cut I do not have my hair washed. I suppose I could carry a little bottle off the soap to the salon. All the soaps really have healed a skin condition on my scalp and body. Once with Dr Bonner’s always with Dr Bonner’s. Is there a chance you all could offer a fragrance free body and face lotion? I love all your products!

Phil says:

Absolutely, I have no problem with you using my comment. I have the hair rinse on the way, hopefully I will have it in a couple of days.


Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Adam – To get you the best info, I talked with Shauna in our office who has had beautiful dreads. Here’s what she said:The Peppermint Soap would be considered residue free. I never had a problem with it when I had dreads and I think it actually helped my hair dread up, plus the peppermint always felt so good on my scalp. I would recommend not using a conditioner when starting the dreads and if they do decide to use a conditioner, I would recommend our Citrus rinse (or apple cider vinegar)

Hi Tracy – I’m sorry to be late in responding. You may have figured something out here already. Itchiness could come a couple sources – One option is that you are changing products which provide different levels of moisturizing. I’m thinking you might have had some over-moisturizing issues between your previous products and your own scalp’s production – indicated by the dandruff and the oiliness. The itchiness might be coming from a drop in the moisture level. However, once this gets balanced out, it may also solve your frequency issue. I think the Dr. Bronner’s can solve both of these issues if you stick with it for a bit. Another cause of itchiness could be the acidity of the ACV. I’ve heard that some people are more sensitive to it than others although I’ve not used it myself. Try transitioning to fewer washings gradually. Drop down to every other day for a couple weeks and once that is working out, drop down to every three days if you want. It’s all about your scalp producing the right amount of oils. Every time you wash it, your scalp knows it needs to produce more. So wean it off of the higher production schedule it is on. I don’t use the Leave In Conditioner regularly. If your hair is really fly-away, you may need it, but it doesn’t sound like you do. Go easy on that.

Hi Mirry – I hope the transition is going well. Yes! You can use Dr. Bronner’s on highlighted hair. That will be the topic of my very next post!

Hi Tammy – None of our soaps will work for color-treated hair. Soap is naturally alkaline, and alkalinity causes the hair follicles wherein the dye is stored, to open up and the contents drain out. You’ll need to look for a shampoo that is acidic. If it says “for colored hair”, it will be acidic. You can check out the Cosmetics Safety Database, http://www.cosmeticsdatabase, run by the Environmental Working Group to see if they have recommendations.

Hi Kelsey – Our hair likes its pH to be balanced. Because Dr. Bronner’s soaps, as are all soaps, are naturally alkaline, you’ll need to balance that with something acidic. Our Hair Rinse was developed fro that purpose. If you are swapping Dr. Bronner’s soap for conventional shampoo, that shampoo (which is a detergent) is probably acidic. Most people need the Hair Rinse. I do run across some users who have success without it, but by in large, the Hair Rinse is needed. Try it out both ways, though, just to see.

Hi MCIR – I’m sorry to hear of your frustrations! They do sound like a pain. When you tried using the soap as a shampoo, were you coming straight off of conventional products? If so, the soap would strip the coatings off of your hair that the conventional products leave behind, and it reveals a lot of damage to the hair that needs to heal. A second possible culprit for the “Grease” look would be what you used after the soap. Did you have a conditioner? A main purpose of conditioners is to balance the pH of the shampoo, which is why every shampoo bottle encourages you to pair it with that same brand of conditioner. The conditioner is designed specifically to match the pH of its shampoo. Dr. Bronner’s soaps are the same, and even more so. The soaps are alkaline, which is the opposite of most conventional shampoos. As such, they require an acidic conditioner, which is our Citrus Hair Rinse. They really don’t work well without an acidic rinse. Some people are able to use apple cider vinegar, which is also acidic, in place of the Dr. Bronner’s Rinse. Regarding the dishwashing, the film is caused by the soap’s reaction with particularly hard water. The film is a mineral deposit, not leftover soap. Either dry the dishes thoroughly after washing to remove the hard water before it dries, or opt for our Sal Suds all purpose cleaner, which is an excellent, non-toxic, very mild detergent. It is very clean rinsing and highly effective all over the house. I hope these tips help! Let me know if I can answer other questions.

Hi T – I’m sorry to hear about your little guy’s troubles. On babies, I recommend using a washcloth fro their hair. Get it wet, add a few drops of the castile soap and massage it into their scalp. If you want more scrubbing action, use one of those super soft baby hairbrushes with the really soft, dense bristles. Get it wet, add some drops of Dr. B’s, and rub that in circular motions over the scalp. Hair loss in babies is not all that abnormal. One of my sons was born with a pretty good head of hair and then lost most of it. It came back in a different color, but it took a while. No long term problems, though, and he’s 10 now.

Hi Madison – There is definitely an adjustment period. For me it was about two weeks. During this time, I had to do a double rinse with the Dr. Bronner’s Hair Rinse. Are you using that? If not, the waxiness you’ve described is from a pH imbalance caused by the alkalinity of the soap. The alkalinity causes the follicles on the hair strands to stick out. This causes them to feel kind of sticky, look dull, and tangle easily. If you are using the rinse, make sure you’re blending it with warm water. Try a slightly higher concentration (either less water or more hair rinse) in the mixture and let it sit on your hair for a couple minutes in the shower. I found at first that I needed to blow my hair dry for maximum softness. All of these extra steps are unnecessary for me now. Now I can just wash with castile, do one hair rinse, brush it out and go. Let me know how it’s going.

Thank you, Tracy! I should have read your response before typing mine! That’s exactly right.

Hi Kathleen – There is a lot to learn at first. It made my head spin for a while. Eventually it will be old hat, though. Stick with it. For the dishwashing (by hand), laundry, and all-purpose cleaning, Dr. Bronner’s also makes Sal Suds which is an all purpose cleaner. I use it for all of these purposes. If you click on “Sal Suds” on the top right of the screen, you’ll see the many uses of this one product. For body and face, Dr. Bronner’s has a line of lotions that provide excellent daily moisture. I go for the Lavender Coconut which is the lightest. There are also body balms for a deeper moisture, as well. See! Dr. B has you covered!

Sounds great, Stephanie!

Hi Kim – I’m so glad it is working out for you! Although I’m super glad you’re using Dr. Bronner’s, I do want to mention that the pH is not recommended for color-treated hair. It could cause your color to leach out prematurely. (Yes, I’m actually cautioning you against using Dr. B’s. Whose side am I on, anyways?!)

Hi Phil – I’m so glad you’ve commented! I now have a testimonial to use to talk about beard care! If that’s all right with you? I get asked about everything, so no doubt this will come up!

Whew! All caught up. For today.

All the best,

Phil says:

Awesome Post. I have recently switched to your bar peppermint castile soap. I have been growing my beard out longer and wanted something better for my hair than just “regular” soap. Anyway, I have noticed that after my beard dries (no hair on top of my head so I only have the beard hair to talk about) it is really “Poofy”. After reading through these comments it appears that is because of the follicles, and that I should probably try your Hair Rinse in my beard. I was going to recommend to my wife to make the switch, but she does color her hair to cover gray hair. So from what I am reading here, that does not sound like a product she should use.

Thanks again for all the great info!

Kim says:

Hi, a friend recommended Dr. B and I’ve been using it for about a week. My hair is coloured and typically fine textured but now it’s lovely and thick, like “beach hair”. I’m not using the rinse as suggested. I have a spray in detangler from Aveda that I use to detangle. The roots look a little greasy if I don’t brush it regularly. I used to have dry patches at the base of my neck, I think an allergy to soap or fragrance. It’s improved immensely. Thanks you so much! I’m converted!

Stephanie says:

I have now been no poo for 5 weeks. The best combo I have found for my hair seems to be baking soda 1T to 1 cup water ratio, with a few drops of Bronner soap in it (i use peppermint). Follow that with the ACV rinse, sometimes I drop 5 or so drops of essential peppermint oil in that. It leaves my hair SUPER soft. It’s still oily the next morning, but not near as much as it was when I shampooed. I have tried to do straight Castille, diluted with water and I do not like the result. Even with the rinse it still feels clumpy in spots. I try to mix it up so my head doesn’t get irritated. Also been using straight Peppermint Castille on my face, and I love it! I am not so oily in the morning, enough that I don’t feel the need to immediately wash my face, and that’s a big step for me in the oil department!!!

Madison says:

Tracy, I will try that next time I wash my hair. Thank you so much!

Kathleen Patterson says:

Thank you, Tracy, I see now. I think I will just use the Bronner’s for body (maybe face) showering; and hair with the rinse. There seems to be drawbacks to every process, product, etc. Dr. Bronner’s will do just fine for certain uses. You are kind to reply. Now I need to find a dish wash, laundry soap, and general cleanser; oh!… and a body and face moisturizer. Whew! going green/organic/chemical-free “ain’t” easy.

Tracy says:

MC1R, and Madison,
I am not Lisa but I have an answer to both of your questions. 🙂 Because the PH is 9, of Dr Bronner’s Castille Soap, you need to use something with some acidity in it to bring down the PH of your hair. This could be either the Dr Bronner’s Citrus rinse which is specially formulated to balance out with the castle soap OR a dilution of Apple Cider Vinegar and water. (try 2-3 TBSP ACV per cup of water) Wash your hair with the diluted Castille Soap and rinse really well with water. Once you have rinsed really well and gotten all of the soap out, then you need to do a rinse with either the diluted ACV or the Dr. B’s citrus rinse. Pour the ACV rinse over your head gently massaging into your scalp so it gets all over your scalp and hair. Wait 30 seconds or so then rinse the rinse out well. This will lower the PH of your hair and make it silky smooth. (Just like regular conditioner would make your hair feel) If you read back through the posts (I know, there are MANY) you can see that you must use a rinse or the result of just the castle soap alone is a greasy, thick, mangy, mess. 🙂 Use a rinse… you will see a COMPLETELY different result .HTH! Good luck!

Madison says:

Hi Lisa! I know this is an old post, but hopefully you are still able to help answer my question! Thanks for all of the great info and advice. I just have one little concern. I have recently started using Dr. Bronners liquid rose soap to shampoo my hair. Before this, I had only used conventional shampoos and conditioners. Unfortunately, every time I wash my hair, it is left feeling waxy and looking extremely greasy. Will this go away after my hair adjusts? I want to love this product, but my hair is not feeling clean or healthy after I use it. Thank you so much!

T says:

Hi, I have a 10 mth old son who had eczema and was prescribed steroid cream by his dermatologist for his scalp and excessive hair loss around the hair line. What can you tell me about your 18-in-1 soap and how exactly should I be using it for my sons scalp?

MC1R says:

I am very new to Dr. Bronner’s. I was shocked at the outcome to using the castile liquid soap as shampoo. I could have starred in “Grease”. Why is it so difficult to use these products, and are all natural, organic, carcinogen-free products just as difficult. I would love to stay with these products as I have read and read many, many websites for such products and am so confused at this point I could just give up. But I really want to live chemical-free, as much as possible. I also tried the castile liquid soap for dishes — not pleased – it leaves a greasy residue.

What am I doing wrong. These products are not exorbitantly expensive but they will take a bite out of my modest budget, so I must purchase properly, whichever products I purchase.


Kelsey says:

Hi! , I’ve been searching high and low for the perfect shampoo and the ingredients in your soaps is a dream come true!
. I only shampoo every 3-4 days and use pure coconut oil as a daily conditioner along with some other hair oils. I have very coarse thick curly hair. So what I’m wondering is, is the hair rinse needed as a follow up for using your soaps or am I safe just swapping my shampoo with Dr Bronners. I think I’m a bit confused by the hair rinse, if it’s mandatory when using the soaps.

Tammy says:

Great blog! I have ultra sensitive skin, and I am converting from regular soaps and shampoos to natural products. I enjoyed reading our blog and think it was very informative. However, when I got to the end and noticed that it doesn’t apply to color treated hair, I was frustrated. What natural products do you sell for color treated hair and how do you use them? My search and research has left a lot of questions about this problem.

Thanks for the input!

Mirry says:

Hello Lisa
So last month I convinced hubby that once we move into our rental property whilst we are here in not so sunny Florida working, we were going green. I have spent the month researching blog after blog and website after website, making notes all over the place, then researching. I don’t know how many times I found what seemed to be great recipes, only to read more comments and then scratch out what I had been writing down. One blog I really enjoyed was Live Renewed and Emily mentioned Dr Bronner products and here I am. Well after a month of endless reading etc I placed my order and am eagerly awaiting my delivery, but, now I want to kick myself because after reading in the hair care section, you mentioned that you cannot use it on coloured hair, i’ve spent days trying to find something else to use. I figured if I am going to go green then lets go all the way and do it properly. I am putting this down to so much reading I am boggled eyed and my brain is in a whirl, I do not have my hair coloured, I have it highlighted, duh. Back to the website to order items for my hair care.

Thanks for a great site, it has made things much easier for me to understand and everything I need is all in one place, should of learned about Dr Bronner earlier, but better late than never.


Tracy says:

I just purchased the Dr Bronner’s peppermint castille soap and shampooed up this morning and followed with a diluted ACV rinse because I couldn’t find the citrus rinse locally. I diluted the soap with a 1:10 ratio of the soap to water. The ACV rinse I diluted 1 parts to 4… I used 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar to 1 cup of water for the rinse. As people said after I washed my hair with the diluted soap it felt like a heavy, thick, stringy, tangly mess in the shower. I rinsed well and then did the ACV rinse. Hair was much smoother after I added the rinse in the shower. I rinsed the ACV rinse out as well as I could. It had a really strong vinegar smell and kinda sort of still does even now that is is completely dry. Doesn’t smell to pleasing according to my kids. HA! I have medium / long length hair with no coloring added. So far, my hair looks fine….I mean.. I just washed it this a.m. so it should! LOL However, I have noticed my scalp is really, REALLY, itchy when normally it is not. Thoughts?

The reason I decided to try to switch from regular shampoo is because if I did not wash my hair every day it was a greasy nasty mess… only at the roots of my hair so it would just look gross by the next morning. I did have dandruff (as you described in a previous post somewhere WAY near the top) where my face, nose, eyelids, are also oily so I’m guessing I have an oily scalp as well. The excess oil causes the dandruff flakes which would explain why I had to wash it every day. I’ve never had noticeable dandruff but the end of every day if I would look at my scalp through my hair part you could see flakes and by the next morning you could see lots of flakes. I am guessing it’s all about the oily scalp issue?

My end goal is to not have to wash it every day due to the oily ick near my scalp. Even if I could go every 3 days (more would be fantastic) I would be thrilled. Do you recommend using both the citrus rinse AND the conditioner? So how long should I go before I shampoo with the peppermint soap again? Until I can’t stand it anymore? Does the dilution sound OK for the shampoo? I am going to order the citrus rinse but wanted to hear your thoughts before I did incase I wanted to try the deep conditioner too. How often should you use the conditioner? After every washing and citrus rinse? Thanks in advance for your help. Sorry, I know it was a lot.

Adam says:

When used for hair is the peppermint soap completely residue free? I’m going to dread my hair soon and I must use rescue free soaps or else the dreads will not lock.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Janice – It is very common for hair, once it has lost its color, to have less moisture than it did with its color. I do not know why this is. I do have a couple of recommendations for you. And I have not tested these on white hair, so you’ll have to let me know what works. I do think the Dr. Bronner’s pump soaps with Shikakai will provide more moisture. The hair rinse is a really dark brown because of the Shikakai powder in it. I don’t think it would turn your hair yellow, but if it does, an acidic vinegar rinse would also allow for a smooth, silky look. For extra moisture, Dr. Bronner’s also has their Hair Creme, which is white.

Hi Heather – The castile soap would help fade the dye, and return the hair to its natural color. It probably wouldn’t remove the color completely, but it would certainly fade it.

Hi Janet – If your hair is particularly oily, you may need to wash more than once. However, I find that once is enough in general.

Hi Carrie – It sounds like you’re on a great path.

Hi Chrissy – I think the Dr. Bronner’s pump soaps would be a great option, especially to get everyone on board. They are easy to use and don’t leave quite the same mineral deposits behin. You do not need to dilute it in a cup – just wet your hair down well, add the soap and lather it up. I think the tea tree woould be a good option for you. For a facial moisturizer, I use the Dr. Bronner’s Lavender coconut lotion during the day and pure coconut oil through the night.

Hi Jess – Your cycling tour sounds fantastic! The castile soap will fade color out of your hair, which sounds like it could be both a help and a hindrance to you. In order to be sure that your desired color stays intact, you’ll need an acidic shampoo, which most conventional are. However, in order for it to be also biodegradable, you’ll need to do some extra research. I always start such research at the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Safety Database. I searched for “color” and “shampoo” and came up with this list: Hopefully that’s a good starting place.

Hi Jody – Awesome! I’m glad for you hair, your pups, and your hands! Thank you for sharing.

All the best,

Jody Chavez says:

I have been using the Almond for the last two weeks and I love it!! i have not found the rinse at the store so haven’t had a chance to try it yet. I have short hair which I spike though, and the almond give me much texture and volume which I need! Maybe it would not be what I would want with long hair but with my short hair it works great even without the rinse. I just tried it on my two Yorkies hair also along with mixing both the Almond and the Lemon Grass and their hair also volumized a lot!! Smells great still!! I love the Lemon Grass and will have to try that on my hair also. Very pleased! My hands have gotten soft in the process also which usually extremely dry in winter months!

Jess says:

Hi! I’m in the process of buying some of the castile soaps to use on a cycling tour for clothes/dishes/body/hair and probably several other uses I discover along the way! However having just read this post (whilst trying to find a UK supplier for the hair rinse) I saw your mention that the castile soaps aren’t good for dyed hair? This is both really useful for me (as I put crazy colours in my hair sometimes and it’s good to know a fast way to get them out!) and frustrating because I dye my hair white blond and don’t want the shampoo to affect that. Considering they dye is fully permanent and I’ve never had it fade, would the castile soap still affect this? If so do you have any suggestions for similar alternatives that are natural and biodegradable so I can wash my hair whilst camping without leaving nasty chemicals in the environment? Thanks!!

Chrissy says:

Hi Lisa,

I tried reading through all the comments, but the kids would not allow 🙂 I want to switch over our shower soaps to Dr. Bonners. We have very hard water and our skin becomes very dry. I would like to use one soap for hair and body then add the rinse for hair. Would the Shikakai be better for that? We won’t stick with it if we have to dilute hair and body soap in a cup. I need simple to convert the husband. Also, we both have flakes so would tea tree be best or does that matter? I have been using the tea tree for my acne and it has worked great! My face is very dry after though. Do you use a facial moisturizer? Thanks!

Carrie says:

I tried the no – poo thing a few months ago using baking soda and ACV. I gave up on the baking soda (made it through the transition period but my curly hair ended up being a tangled mess). I ended up just using a good natural shampoo with ACV. I just found the hair rinse and love it so far. Once I’m out of the shampoo I have I’ll switch to Dr. Bonner’s castile soap. I’ve found by using ACV, and now with the hair rinse, that I don’t need any styling products. Hopefully this keeps up with using Dr. B’s!

Janet says:

Hi Lisa – I was wondering whether when using the liquid castile if I should wash my hair once? Or twice? The proverbial LATHER RINSE REPEAT that’s on nearly every bottle of conventional shampoo. Would washing twice with Dr Bronner’s be too much? I wash my hair like you – about every other day. Thanks for your help.

Heather Yingling says:

Hi!! I just recently started the ‘no poo’ thing and bought unrefined coconut oil for a deep conditioner, and Dr. Bonners Castille Soap to use after the deep conditioner to get all of the oil out (since baking soda doesn’t get all of the oil out leaving your hair greasy) with an apple cider vinegar rinse after the shampoo. My hair is dyed but I also want to grow the dye part out and it is grown out a little. What would use Dr. Bronners do the dyed part? Would it just go back to my natural hair color?

Janice frey says:

I have searched for years for the answer to my situation. I am Native American and have silver white hair – when I was able to get white organic shampoo it really looked great but with most shampoos it turned out a ghastly yellow grey Yuk! that really adds age to my face. Recently I tried Dr. Bronner castile lavender and while the bar soap makes my hands so soft the shampoo seems to dry. I am so glad I have been reading the blogs and will try the hand soap and also dilute the soap. My big question now is the rinse. If it has orange and lemon what is the color of the rinse? Will it turn my hair that ghastly color? Right now I use the castile with lavender and add a drop of tansy to it and then rinse with the hair styler. If I rinse it out completely the hair is nice and soft but still dry looking. Thanks so much for your wonderful advice

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Steph – Oils can be a great deep conditioner, but I have been in your shoes as well, and had difficulty washing it out of my hair. For this situation, you’re going to need to use a more concentrated dilution. Personally, I would get my hair sopping wet and then put the soap straight onto it. Probably about 1 Tbsp. of the soap. Really work it in and let it sit for a few minutes before you rinse the soap out. You may still need to do this again. I had to do it 4 times. I had used too much coconut oil in my deep treatment. I’ll only use about 1/2 tsp. next time.

Hi Carol – Yes, you absolutely need an acidic rinse. The soap in general does not do well by itself on hair. However, with the right rinse, the soap is fabulous. Stick with it!

All the best,

Carol says:

Day 2 of using Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile peppermint soap as shampoo. I’m having the same reaction as others. My hair is just a big thick mess. But after reading all the comments above, I’m going to stick it out for 2 weeks. I’m also going to try the ACV rinse. This morning I had to use a spray-in conditioner just to get a wide tooth comb through it, then rubbed in some shea butter lotion after I dried. It doesn’t feel quite as frizzy as yesterday, but my scalp feels greasy and my hair feels extremely heavy and not shiny. Luckily in the winter the humidity is low and that should help with the frizzies.

Steph says:

Lisa, I started no poo about 6 days ago. This morning, I did a jojoba and peppermint hot oil on my hair, and attempted to use Dr. Bronner Peppermint soap 1 part to 10 parts water diluted, to wash it out. Attempted this twice. I have been using baking soda and ACV the last 5 days. My hair is still really oily. If I continue to wash with just the Peppermint soap, how long will my hair take to get all the extra oil out. It feels nasty slick, and I rinsed it for 20 mins!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Ang – Color treated hair needs an acidic shampoo. Dr. Bronner’s castile soap is alkaline and will strip the color out of your hair.

All the best,

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Sam – I’m sorry I missed your comment all those months back. You may be in a completely different spot from when you wrote it, but I’ll still share my thoughts. When you first use the soaps, it strips all the coatings off your hair that conventional products leave behind. The soap fully exposes your hair underneath, which may not be a pretty sight. Once your hair has had some time to transition, it will definitely rebound. Your scalp will kick in gear and start balancing the oils as well. As you and I have both said, everyone’s hair is different. I love the idea of the weekly coconut oil treatments. It works awesomely on my hair. Easy does it on the amount of oil, though. I use about 1/4 tsp. and work it through my hair and let it sit with a warm towel around it before washing it out. Also, try using the crème all the way up the hair. Lastly, the Dr. Bronner’s Shikakai pump soaps are more moisturizing than the castile. That might be something to try.

Hi Karena – Excellent tips. Thanks so much for sharing them.

All the best,

Karena says:

I’ve been “no-poo” for about 2 years now – and I’ve done a lot of experimenting! I do like Dr. Bronner’s (either the castile or Shikakai) for cleansing – the baking soda treatment didn’t work out for me at all. I do also use an apple cider vinegar rinse – an acidic rinse is absolutely necessary after an alkali washing – or even just a water washing. I soap my hair only about 1-2 times every month or two – I just use water the rest of the time – but I ALWAYS use the ACV rinse. I also do not rinse out the vinegar – the conditioning is much better, and the smell completely disappears once your hair is dry (it stays gone even if your hair gets wet again). There is a definite adjustment period for most people – years of chemical abuse damages your hair and trains your scalp to over-produce oil in an attempt to compensate for the dryness – in general, if your hair gets greasy if you miss a washing, it’s not because it needs to be washed, it’s because it’s getting washed too often. Allow your natural oils to distribute and coat your hair – it is protective. Once your scalp adjusts, it will slow down the oil production. You don’t need soap to wash away sweat – water is adequate – soap only if it’s dirty! (I do mechanically scrub my scalp with my fingertips even when I’m just using water.) My hair looks amazing – I have more curl than I’d ever realized, it’s soft and manageable, and I never get hat-hair – it always springs back to full volume. (My hair length extends more than halfway down my back.) I think that my experience is particularly important to those with color-treated hair – if you do not actually need to soap your hair more than, at most, once or twice per month (and I do use it diluted), any color fade from the treatment is probably not very significant. Also – and I speak from research but not experience – a pre-no-poo treatment of coconut, olive, and/or avocado oils (allow to rest and absorb for as long as possible – up to a day, if you can) might also be beneficial for preventing color fade – any of these oils will be absorbed into the hair shaft (most oils will coat, but not be absorbed) – this will help prevent the soap/water from penetrating as much and thus washing out the color. (Again, a little bit of informed speculation there – I don’t color my hair so I haven’t tried it myself.)

Oh – I know it was mentioned before, but I would like to emphasize the importance of making sure that you thoroughly rinse out any soap that you do use – if you still have soap residue on your hair when you add an acidic rinse, you will get a greasy mess (Lisa explains why above)!

sam says:

hi Lisa!

its been 5 days now and my hair still shows no improvment. I noticed using 2 cap fulls of the rinse does make my hair greasy, along with too much of the leave in cream ( 2 drops) so i tried using less, still did not work. My hair is very frizzy and very tangeld. I even tried using coconut oil instead of the cream and that didn’t work either. Im about ready to give up, i can’t keep going to work with this kind of hair, it has never looked / felt this unhealthy.

sam says:

Hi Lisa!

i started using dr.bronner’s products and im pretty happy, but i have some questions. Today was my second day and i found that just putting 1/2 tsp amount of the castile (lavender) soap works for washing, no need to dilute. when i diluted it yesterday ( 1 capful to 5oz of water) there was no suds and my hair looked and felt slightly greasy at the end of the day. My hair looked alright though. After i wash i then use the citrus rinse. To dilute the rinse i use two cap fulls in half a water bottle ( 4-5oz of water)then i shake it to get rid of the chunks in it. After the shower i follow up with the leave in cream ( pepermint) i use two nickel size drops and work it through the lower part of my hair ( my ears and down) from what i was reading, people were saying it makes thier hair really greasy if they use more than a dime size amount so i wanted to keep it away from my face just in case since im using more then what others said to be using. AFter the cream i let my hair air dry, i don’t use any heat products. For some reason its still not enough though? my hair is still really dry ( slightly fulffy) looking and even more frizzy, but not greasy at all and my waves are pretty :). I think its becuase my hair is so thick, maybe? I have really thick, wavy hair that is a little longer then armpit length. What can i do to get more moisture? should i use more rinse and not dilute it? should i use more leave in cream? i think im going to start doing weekly oil treatments with my coconut oil maybe that will help? also! i did color my hair about 3 months ago but im not worried about the color getting taken out, i would actaully like it lol. Again, i understand everyones hair reacts differently and it might take some time to figure out what works for me but i thought maybe you had some ideas for me? to help speed the process of finding what works up.

thanks 🙂
Sam ~

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi V – I am sorry to hear of all that you have been through. I am glad you are on the road to recovery. The greasy feeling is not from a residue, but rather from your hair’s reaction to the pH of the soap. I do recommend an acidic rinse – Dr. Bronner’s Hair Rinse was formulated for this purpose, but you can also try a diluted vinegar rinse. Also, Dr. Bronner’s Shikakai soaps are more moisturizing than the castile. Many people prefer them for the hair.

Please let me know if I can be of further help.

All the best,

V says:


I came across Dr.Bronner’s soap online and started using it two months back. Last year around May I had lost about 90% of my hair to Alopecia Areata, and it is slowly starting to grow back, and I have close to 95% of my hair back. My hair is very very short now due to the re growth, yet I decided to go wig free. Since I started using bronner’s peppermint, my hair is very very greasy that I am having to wash it everyday. I have very silky fine hair, and it looks very bad given how short it is now. Everyday shower has become a must. I love the soap both for my body as well as for my hair, because it all natural, and I can actually pronounce all the ingredients, unlike other shampoos. Is there a way around the greasiness? I am worried about over washing or overly using products after whT I have been through. it is nothing short of a miracle that I am wig free today. What are your suggestions? How do I protect my fragile hair from over washing with bronner soap?

Lisa Bronner says:

Jessica – It can be clumpy in the bottle. I know it’s a startling color and consistency. Especially if it is a little cold, the rinse will clump. It is because of the coconut oil.

Debbie – I love it! The fact that the castile soap takes out color is often viewed as a negative, but in your case, I think it will help! The castile soap should help fade your color and transition you out. I don’t think it will take it out completely, but you should notice a difference. Keep me posted!

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.

Learn about my book, Soap & Soul!

Learn More