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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Sandra says:

I washed my hair in Dr Bronners and used an ordinary conditioner. I didn’t know about the need for an acidic rinse etc. We have very hard water here. My hair feels TERRIBLE. What should I do now ? Help..

christina says:

Hi Lisa! I love Dr. Bronner’s! I’m 28 and recently started switching to Dr. Bronner’s for everything, and all my horrible chemical induced allergies are gone!!!! Yay!!! I’ve always had a very sensitive scalp and I have long blonde hair with some highlights. I never thought of trying Dr. Bronners as shampoo but now I definitely will! Just wondering how much ACV to use as a rinse? I know you’ve mentioned diluting it by 50%, but I’m not sure if I should pour on about a cup or what? I have about shoulder length really dry hair from swimming and using bad chemically shampoos and conditioners on it. I’ve tried a zillion shampoos and conditioners that are “natural” and they all either seem way too drying or just don’t work every well in general and leave my hair a gross tangled mess. Thank you for making such a versatile and amazing product!!!!

Amanda Brown says:

What is the difference between using the pump soaps and the castile soaps for hair? I just purchased a pump soap, the rinse and the hair creme, but I was just curious if there is a difference between the two soaps? My hair is pretty oily, but I know it’s going through the transitional phase right now… anyways I’m absolutely loving Dr. Bronner’s products so far.

Sanjay Rajvanshy says:


My name is Sanjay and I’m from Bangalore, India

I am new to Bronners. I have bought a new Lavender castile bar soap along with citrus organic hair rinse and Lavender coconut organic creme .

The water I use is hard and treated with chlorine.Kindly let me know how to use afore-mentioned products on my hair ?? How often should i wash my hair in a week ??

Celina says:

I live in Kenya at the moment and can only find the bar soap. I tried it a few days ago with a lemin rinse and my hait came out stringy. How can I get it look healthy again? I tried Dr. Bronner’s because I want to stay away from SLSs and I love the idea of as few ingredients as possible. I want to keep on using the soap. Any help? Thanks!

Joa says:

Hi! I use 1/4 of Dr. Bronner’s soap and 1/4 of coconut water, then I rinse it up with apple cider vinegar (one table spoon of acv with a cup of water) and with all of this my hair is awful, it’s greasy and it’s no longer shiny. Please help me, I know that this soap is great, it has been great with my skin, but not with my hair. Thank you so much! (I know I just post this, but I don’t know what happen that i blocked it or something, so sorry)

Joa says:

Hi! I use 1/4 of Dr. Bronner’s soap and 1/4 of coconut water, then I rinse it up with apple cider vinegar (one table spoon of acv with a cup of water) and with all of this my hair is awful, it’s greasy and it’s no longer shiny. Please help me, I know that this soap is great, it has been great with my skin, but not with my hair. Thank you so much!

Ali says:

Hi there,
I very much want to continue using Dr. Bronner’s soap… I currently use the bar soap because I’m a little neurotic and avoid using plastic bottles as much as possible. I shampoo with the boar soap and then spray my ends with a diluted vinegar/water mix. My hair does feel dry so I add a little bit of coconut oil to the ends and it usually feels alright. I’m not real big into looking good; I work at an animal shelter so it’s not a big part of my life, haha. But my problem is that I have dandruff 🙁 I’ve never really had it before and I’m fairly sure its the Bronner’s soap, but I don’t want to believe it is! I’m not sure what to do. Every so often I’ll shampoo with T-Gel meant for scalp build up and it clears it up right away. But as soon as I use the Bronners soap again, it shows up.

Any ideas? I don’t want to give up Bronner’s soap… it appeals 100% to my thoughts and feelings, but my scalp is making me unhappy about the whole thing 🙁 *sigh*

Robert says:

Hi, I read a great number of the questions and the responses and did find anything similar to my question. I just bought Citrus liquid Castile soap any feedback or knowledge on how it has work on African American hair (uncolored and un-relaxed)? Best Regards

Amir says:

Hi I am 28 years old man my hair is falling very fast i used Dove soap for two months i am using soap a lot i used shampoo as well but no improve Now i m confuse what should i use soap or shampoo i used Lux soap alot
I tried different oil as well .

Jannell says:

Do you have any suggestions for using this soap on afro hair, like would you still suggest a follow up rinse even though our hair is naturally dry and not greasy? Also could a follow up rinse make naturally dry hair feel greasy?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Jannell – If hair is naturally dry then I would definitely recommend using the rinse. Sometimes you may need only the rinse and no soap. If, after washing with soap, hair feels soft and not dry, tangly or matted, then there is no need for rinse, or at least less rinse. I have seen some recommendations to dilute the soap for afro-type hair, which is probably another way of dealing with dry hair. Another recommendation for dry hair is using our pump soaps or shaving gels, as the sugar in those helps to moisturize.

K Goodwin says:

Hello. I would like to say I’ve read all 400 something of the comments, but I haven’t. I switched over to the lavender liquid soap about a month ago. I have fine, straight, almost waist length blond hair. The first wash I did, my hair felt great. Second, well a bit greasy. I searched and found this page. Since then, I’ve been rinsing with 1/2 ACV (1 c. ACV: 2 c. water). Still, my hair looks stringy, greasy and flat. I’ve been at this for almost a month now, washing about 2x a week. I really would like to continue with this, but I’m getting frustrated with my hair. The up side is my hair is far less tangled than it has been; it is as though I just had my ends trimmed! Sure would appreciate any insight. I do realize this may have been addressed in the past. Please forgive me for not taking more time to go through all of the comments.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi there – I don’t blame you for not reading all the comments. They’re daunting, even to me! A couple thoughts: Make sure the soap is very thoroughly rinsed out before doing the rinse or else the rinse reacts with the soap and forms oil. Not what you want left on your hair. Make your ACV solution stronger and leave it on your hair longer before rinsing it out, or do a second round of the rinse. It sounds like this is a pH problem, so if you can get the pH lower by more acidity, you’ll have better results.

K Goodwin says:

Thank you for taking the time to get back with me! I will be sure to try again, with your suggestions!

Misba says:

I have dry hairs and have recently started using soap. My hairs r falling much less while washing as compared to shampoo but once they dry, it feels even more drier and frizzy and it falls like anything while combing . I want to avoid shampoo and at the same time want my hairs to be normal what do I do?does conditioner do same damage to hairs as a shampoo.
Thanks in advance.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Misba – We recommend following up the soap with either our Citrus Conditioning Rinse or Apple Cider Vineger. At the moment, I’m using the apple cider vinegar. I dilute it in half with water and then after I’ve rinsed the soap out of my hair, I pour on the vinegar solution. It leaves my hair very soft and smooth and doesn’t damage hair at all.

Mark Trail says:

Hi, my daughter has very thick hair. We have tried so much different shampoos and conditioners to detangle it and make it clean, But without success. It gets really tangle and dry after washing. Is there any dr.bronner recommended soap and conditioner that can help? Thanks

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Mark – I used to think I had thick hair until I braided the hair of one of my daughter’s friends and I realized that mine was nothing in comparison. I’m guessing your daughter’s hair is similar. Washing with Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile and then following up with an Apple Cider Vinegar rinse (diluted in half with water) works really well at smoothing out unruly hair. Then, while the hair is still wet, our Hair Creme works really well at detangling and smoothing. It’s what I used for my daughter’s friend.

Gracie Chaffin says:

Hello, just curious if the liquid Castile soap has to be diluted before using as shampoo, or if it can go straight onto hair?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Gracie – I don’t pre-dilute the soap before I put it on my hair. I make sure my hair is really saturatedly wet and then squirt on about a half tablespoon or so of soap.

Kristen says:

Hi Lisa!

I have just started using the Baby Mild castile soap on my hair and it feels INCREDIBLY oily and stringy. (I’ve only used it twice so far) I am also using the citrus rinse. Is this because my hair needs to get used to it first? I love the idea of the completely organic, multi-use soaps but I am getting worried about the greasiness! My hair literally looks dirtier after I wash it than before. 🙁 The soap works beautifully on my daughters hair, no greasiness at all. Also, do you recommend the citrus since on her hair as well? She is 2 1/2 and has fine, ringlet curly hair.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Kristen – There is definitely a transition time, and as I noted in the article, I alternated between what I had been using and the soap for a while before I switched completely. Give Apple Cider Vinegar a try instead of the Citrus Rinse. I use that from time to time when my hair seems to respond better to it. Dilute it in half. The vinegar smell disappears completely when it drys. I don’t use the rinse on my daughter. I don’t know enough about hair to explain how children’s hair differs from adults, but it seems to have different needs. If her hair is doing fine with the soap alone, I’d just go with that.

Charlotte Tataryn says:

Hi. I haven’t used a Bronner’so product on my hair BUT have been shampoo free for more than a year. I had colored my hair forever … 45 years … as I didn’t suit my naturally reddish color. At some point the dye chemicals started causing discomfort so I had to stop it. There was grey I’d been pretending wasn’t there but water only did something quite magical. The grey became silver and the unnatural red turned a dark brown with reddish highlights. My very straight hair became beautifully wavy, even curly, on the ends and it was shinier, fuller and SO HEALTHY. Give the NO chemical hair cleansing method, whatever that method may be, a chance and you will love your hair and it will love you back.
Great blog by the way.

PD says:

I must tell you that I washed my hair with the organic peppermint pump soap for the first time, and followed up with apple cider vinegar as a rinse, and my hair may never have felt better after washing! Thanks much!!

Diane says:

I have used the baby liquid castile soap on my hair, but the previous bottle did not have palm oil in it and now it does. I’m worried it will effect my hair differently and I have liked the way its worked in the passed–no dryness or frizzy problem, and easy to comb out. Is it going to effect my hair differently? I don’t think I can use the conditioner, I have MANY allergies to products and can’t find much I can use.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Diane – While palm kernel oil has always been an ingredient in our bar soaps, it is a recent addition to our liquid soaps. Palm kernel oil has a nearly identical fatty acid profile as coconut oil, and produces a very rich, copious lather. We did many blind comparisons to make sure it did not affect the quality of our soaps. For a conditioner, I find that Apple Cider Vinegar works very well as a follow up to our soaps. I used it this morning and my hair brushed out smoothly.

Viviana says:

Hi, I have highlights in my hair…can I still use castile soap for shampoo? if not what can I use? I have dry flaky scalp and ALL shampoos makes my scalp worse. I bought tea tree to give it a try but I just want to make sure I can do it with high lights. And how much apple cider vinegar should I use?


Amanda says:

Hi Lisa!

So I have eczema and back a few years ago I alternated the lavender Castile soap+ACV as a once a month thing (I wash my hair once a week) then used a prescription shampoo in between. Once we got my eczema under control I was instructed to use mane and tail. Have for about three years now and have been out of college (there for way lower stress levels) for two years this spring. I recently chose to dread the bottom half of my hair as my research has shown it to help with the dryness of my skin and lower my maintenance routines to help keep my scalp healthy 100% of the time.
I’m looking for answers on which soap (I have both the Castile and the pump soap) would be best for both loose and dreaded hair and how to use each. I have hair just past my shoulders in length and it is VERY thick.

Thank you!!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Amanda – We recommend cleansing dreads with our Pure-Castile Soap (dilute 1:1 with water—choose Baby Unscented for a fragrance-free, extra moisturizing lather). Then, follow up with a diluted apple cider vinegar rinse (1/4 cup ACV in 2 cups water). There was some debate here between our liquid and bar castiles for dreads, and there was some preference for the bar soap. I use the castile on my loose hair, followed by the ACV, and that works great, too.

Melissa says:

Is this soap residue free when used as shampoo? I have dreadlocks so I have to use a residue-free shampoo.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Melissa – Yes, Dr. Bronner’s Castile works great for dreadlocks – in particular the bar soap. Cleanse with our Pure-Castile Soap (dilute 1:1 with water—choose Baby Unscented for a fragrance-free, extra moisturizing lather). Then, follow up with a diluted apple cider vinegar rinse (1/4 cup ACV in 2 cups water).

Rebecca says:

Hi Lisa,
I had asked earlier about how the rinse would work for grey hair. We didn’t seem sure so I’ve been trying it out. I use the Dr. Bronner’s unscented liquid Castile soap as my shampoo then the Dr. Bronner’s orange rinse. Unfortunately the orange rinse and regular apple cider vinegar give my grey hair a slight (very slight) orange/light brown tint. If I was going to hide or camouflage my grey this would be a great solution. Since I’ve decided if I’m going grey I am going all out so the tinting wasn’t working for me.
I’m just beginning to use regular vinegar for my rinse (sticking with Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap) and I’ll see how this goes. Grey hair can yellow or look dull but I haven’t been able to find any purple tinted shampoo or rinse that didn’t contain at least one nasty chemical.
Do you think that there could be a Dr. Bronner’s rinse in the future that used say blueberries to help people tone the yellow dullness of their grey and help it shine? I would absolutely buy that!
Thanks very much, Rebecca

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Rebecca – Thank you for the update! Customers give us the best ideas, and this is one I have not heard before. It isn’t on our radar at the moment to have a blueberry infused hair rinse, but that sounds very intriguing. I will certainly pass it along to my brothers. I hope the regular vinegar works better for you.

Diahnne Duberry says:

Positive feedback: recently I broke out in my face and since my job is dealing with the public it was super embarrassing, i actually picked at one of bumps and it bled, had a band-aide on my face for the day…. Anywho,
I saw a post on YouTube of someone using Tea-Tree oil to medicate their face… (NOTE: I am all about natural products because i break out easy and I am a dread locked person).. So I decided to purchase the Castille Tea-Tree soap for my face and my face in less than 3 days has cleared up, smooth, I do put a very tiny amount of Castor Oil(good oil) on my face after (WORKS FOR ME)…. this regiment is day & nite… I am very grateful…. Now doing my research on the Rose or Almond Liquid soap or bar soap for my hair… My scalp is the same, anything on my scalp makes me itch tremendously…. but I have very dry hair (Island girl living in GA), so double drying hair….. I have found though, that Rosewater & Vitamin E oil works well and coconut oil on my dreads only works…. I was using a bar soap I found at our Earth Fare (Whole Food Store) which has worked well for me so far but I am truly intrigued to use the Dr. Bronner’s Liguid or bar soap…. Thank you for all of the questions, feedbacks, responses….
I have decided to do the Tea-Tree or Almond Liquid or Bar Soap with the Citric Acid Rinse… (not a fan of acv too much, only in extreme cases I use it to cleanse my scalp)!!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Diahnne – Awesome! Thanks so much for sharing and I’m super glad that the soap came to the rescue!

Sherry says:

Hi there- I truly hope someone can help me. I have been battling the itchy, flaky scalp for close to thirty years. Not sure why it’s taken me this long to get to the point where I can’t function like this anymore. I go through cycles of trying to find the right DIY home remedy, giving up, and eventually coming back to Pantene. I would give my right arm to find a solution that gives me great hair AND a healthy scalp and I just can’t find it. I’m out of patience and I’ve spent hundreds of dollars trying to find something that works. Last attempt with the castile soap two weeks ago was progress for the scalp but I hated how sticky and limp my hair was. The bar soap might be my lasts ditch effort before finally caving in and paying a doctor to tell me I’m allergic to shampoo. I am exhausted from all this witchdoctory and I just want to feel normal. My question is- I know lemon juice and baking soda are drying to the skin but would coconut milk add some moisture? I’m thinking of mixing a small amount of the Bonners and an even ratio of lemon juice and coconut milk. Any thoughts or suggestions?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Sherry – I’m sorry to hear of all you’ve been going through. That sounds very frustrating. I hope my thoughts here give you some help. First off, don’t combine Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap with lemon juice. They react with each other and form a mess. It’s not toxic, but it’s not helpful. You can read more about that here: When you tried the soap previously, did you follow up with some sort of acidic rinse such as the Dr. Bronner’s Hair Rinse or a dilution of Apple Cider Vinegar? If not, your hair was left with the wrong pH, which makes the individual strands kind of like velcro. Not what you want. My next thought is to suggest you try a scalp treatment like massaging in some coconut oil into your scalp and letting it soak in. Use about 1/2 tsp. of oil and gently but thoroughly massage it in. If your hair is long, you might want to put it up in a clip while you wait so that your oily hair doesn’t get your clothes or furniture oily. After about 10 minutes, wash your hair thoroughly with the castile soap. At this point you may or may not need the acidic rinse. I hope these ideas help!

Melissa says:

I used the unscented castile soap and after about 2 weeks time I definitely had an improvement. Unfortunately, it did not completely fix the problem and I did go to a dermatologist and get prescribed a shampoo that also helps as well as an ointment to help with the irritation (called fluocinonide-maybe see if you can find something like it OTC). I do use the unscented castile in between uses of the medicated (only use 1-2 times a week). I think the trick is also finding the right conditioner. My hair is pretty fried from color and bleach damage in the past 2 years so I have to use a good deep conditioner with both shampoos used.

My scalp has been a mess for about 5 years myself and it never goes away either so I feel your pain. I tried Nizoral (you can find at Walmart, Target, etc. in the dandruff section) and it helped a little. The prescription Im on is basically a stronger version of that brand. Maybe give Nizoral a shot. You probably will only want to use about twice a week) Good luck! Im still not 100% but slowly getting there with this routine!

Brook says:

Sherry another option you might want to look into is food sensitivities/allergies. I battled with a dry, itchy, flaky scalp for years before I found a really good dermatologist who told me to cut corn and wheat out of my diet, which dramatically improved all my skin irritations.

Deb Standard says:

Been a fan of Dr Bonner’s soap for my hair for almost four years It takes patience to adjust to the Bonner’s. I find the bar soap the best. My hair is short and I use white vinegar as a rinse. Dr Bonner’s skin lotions are wonderful. Leaves my skin soft. I found it really softens my feet. The company is wonderful and socially generous. Thank for many years of great products. Deb Standard, a true Dr Bonner fan

Tiffany says:

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for the information. How much diluted ACV would you suggest to use as a rinse?

Thank you!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Tiffany – I find that a cup of the 50% dilution works for my long hair.

Karena says:

Hair likes an acidic rinse, but it is possible to drop the pH too low and cause damage – play around with it and use the least amount that you need to achieve the results that you like. I’ve tried 50%, but get the same results with ~20% – I’ve used even less for a leave-in (no rinsing – probably around 5-10%).

I use ACV as my staple, but I’ve also had good luck with regular white vinegar and with lemon juice.

Michelle says:

Hi Lisa! I haven’t used this soap on my hair as of yet. I do, however, use the mild baby Castile liquid soap for cleaning my makeup brushes. It works amazingly and leaves no makeup residue or anything. I’m just not sure if I need to add something to moisturize them. I saw a mixture that someone did on Pinterest with Dr. B’s mild baby Castile soap and olive oil. Worked pretty good but left an oily residue on my brushes. Didn’t like that at all. Any thoughts on a moisturizer for them?
I want to try this on my curly hair. I do color treat it but I’m at the point where I don’t really care if I lose the color. It won’t hurt to try it right?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Michelle – Since you want your make-up brushes to be free of residue, I don’t think you should add anything to them that would leave a coating behind. Either the castile or the Sal Suds would be a great option, and that’s all I would use.

It certainly won’t hurt to try the soap on your hair. Be sure to have an acidic rinse on hand to follow up – either a 50% dilution of apple cider vinegar or the Dr. Bronner’s Hair Rinse. Also, if you’re switching straight from a conventional product, your hair is probably got some silicone coating on it. The first thing the soap will do is strip this off and your hair will not like it. Give it time. Maybe do an alternating wash to ease the transition or a weekly deep conditioning.

Jacqueline Ambrosio says:

I just recently found a DIY Green Tea Shampoo recipe on a website that I would like to try because my hair has been falling out for quite a long time, its dry, oily, and I have dandruff as well. But in the recipe it includes Castile soap and I don’t know which one to use. Can you please help me choose the correct one? Thank you. Also, here’s the recipe that I found:

Steep green tea bags in a cup of hot water for 25 minutes and then let it cool down. Now add 1 cup of green tea water to 1 cup Castile soap and one tbsp of olive oil in the mixture. You can also add a few drops of essential oil like lavender or rose oil to add a nice fragrance.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Jacqueline – Promoting hair growth involves healthy scalp and hair. Many conventional shampoos coat your hair and can clog your pores and hair follicles, which inhibits hair growth.

It’s a good idea to look for a shampoo with tea tree oil, which naturally disinfects the scalp and removes build up. Consider coconut oil and wheat protein. Both of these shampoo additives work to strengthen the hair follicle and the hair strand as it grows. Protein is the main ingredient in the hair shaft, so their high protein components really work to boost overall hair health and help with growth.

A diet rich in protein and vitamin B is a good idea too. I would recommend trying our tea tree classic liquid soap for washing your hair, followed by our citrus hair rinse.

Naomi says:

I have lavender liquid soap + im really keen to use as shampoo (i love it as body wash) but cant quite get it right! I have pretty thick waist length hair.
Castille alone = dry, almost sticky
Castille then lemon rinse = unmanageable greaseball
Coconut oil then castille = tangly and greasy.
Ive persisted for 3 ish weeks (resorting to store bought shampoo a couple of times when i could barely brush my hair) and im still getting flaky scalp and losing more hair when i brush than normal. im close to abandoning it – any hints? Am i missing a crucial step? Everyone says its amazing – i want to be part of it too!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Naomi – Try the soap with a follow up rinse of Apple Cider Vinegar diluted at 50% with water. Lemon juice isn’t a great option alone because of the sugar content. Residue on your hair can also cause bleaching in the sunlight. There’s also the Dr. Bronner’s Hair Rinse too.

Amanda says:

I’ve been thinking of switching to this from my traditional shampoo, how does it work with color treated hair, or do you not recommend it for that?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Amanda – Unfortunately, we do not recommend it for color treated hair. A good resource for looking up safe hair care options is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database: Type in the product you’re looking for and it will give you options with hazard ratings.

Sue says:

Dear Lisa, I started using Dr. bronner’s Castile soap for my hair a week ago but I didn’t use any acidic rinse until 2 days ago when I found out I’m losing lots and lots of hair. Is that the reason why I’m losing hair without the rinse? I stopped using the soap for two days and just washed my hair with water and added a lemon juice rinse. But I’m still losing hair. I’m concerned. Please advice! Thank you kindly!
P.s. But the soap is great for my face though, it didn’t dry up my skin. Will definitely use it for skin care!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Sue – I apologize for not addressing your concern earlier. The soap itself does not cause hair loss. However, when you use the soap without an acidic rinse, your hair strands will not be left smooth and will more easily tangle with each other. This tangling could cause strands to pull on each other resulting in greater hair loss. The lower pH of an acidic rinse, such as Dr. Bronner’s Hair Rinse or apple cider vinegar, causes strands to smooth out and not catch one another. How have things been now that you’ve been using the rinse?

Sanjay Rajvanshy says:

Hi lisa,

This is sanjay from india .. I have started using your company’s castile soaps .it is said that the soap will also work as a shampoo. I tried but my hair got very dry and started falling.. As u said in the article, i guess i also need to user hair rinse after shampooing ..

But what is the PH value of your soaps ?? While surfing the web, it is found that your soaps have very high PH value ?? Why is it ?? The higher the PH value the more the chances of losing hair and is dangerous to skin ?

Please clarify

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Sanjay – I’m sorry to hear about that. The pH of our soap is around 8.9. All soap is alkaline, i.e. higher than neutral pH. Only detergent shampoos or body washes can have an acidic pH. Although the soaps do an excellent job cleaning the hair, our hair does like to be left with an acidic pH. This is why we recommend the Dr. Bronner’s Hair Rinse or a 50% dilution of apple cider vinegar as a follow up.

Lisa A. says:

Thank you for responding so helpfully to posts from customers. I have used the Shikakai Soap, and it is time to buy again. I don’t, however, see it on your site. Does it just have a new name or have you stopped producing the Shikakai option? Maybe I am not looking in the right place. I like to use it for shampoo and then follow with the citrus rinse. I like being able to easily use the pump, and it did not clog.

Gabrielle says:

Hi Lisa,
I see that on the Dr. Bronners website the Citric rinse is temporarily out of stock. I desperately need to wash my hair but I always have used the citric rinse, is there a website you think is trustworthy that I can order more from, and/or is there a home made mixture I could use to substitute? I dont know how long it will take to restock this item.
Thank you so much for your time, I am in love with everything “Dr. Bronners”, it truly changed my life years ago.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Gabrielle – Apple Cider Vinegar makes a very good substitute. Dilute it in half with water and use it as a rinse. We’ll have our rinse back in stock soon.

Lena says:

I have fine hair, and have been using the lavender version with the organic hair rinse for about a month. I always feel like there is an oily residue left in my hair afterwards and it is not very soft. I’m following the directions of the rinse bottle, only using one capful and diluting. I’m wondering where I’m going wrong. I feel like I’m rinsing it out pretty well… Any advice?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Lena – Depending on your hair type, you might need more than one capful. My hair is quite long at the moment, and I use two full capfuls. Alternately, try using apple cider vinegar as a rinse instead. Dilute it in half with water. This makes for very shiny hair.

rachael george says:

Im only using sunlight soap my hair is 95 percent grey my hair is so healthy now i have stopped using all the other normal shampoos

Rebecca says:

Hi, Do you mean Sunlight the dishsoap? or another product? My hair is only about 75 % grown out but I want to start using good products for it now so that I don’t damage what is growing.
Thanks, Rebecca

Appy says:

Does using shampoo soap bar on hair means no oiling?
Is there a need to still oil your hair and effectively rinse it off with a soap bar?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi there – I don’t have my own experience with oiling hair, but from others I haven gotten good feedback that the Castile Soap works great alone and gets rid of the need to oil the hair. If you do still want to oil your hair, the soap will also be able to wash it out.

Jan says:

well I have to reverse my question about the hair rinse availability in Canada !!!!
the store where they’ve said it wasn’t available is NOW available … a happy customer
am I now

Edice Durham says:

My husband uses head & shoulders and has for years, what would you recommend as a replacement?

Lisa Bronner says:

HI there – One of our team wrote this excellent overview various scalp difficulties. Perhaps it will be of help to your husband:

The first step is to figure out whether you have dandruff or if it is actually dry scalp. Many times the two are lumped together, but they are actually somewhat different, and need to be treated differently. How can you tell? Flakes from dry scalp are usually white in color, and people with dry scalp will often have dry skin on other parts of their body as well (and the condition is made worse by dry or cold conditions). Dandruff is a symptom of oily skin: the scalp produces too much oil, and dead skin cells form oily clumps, which is seen as dandruff. These clumps are often larger than the flakes produced by dry scalp, have an “oily” consistency, and can be yellowish in color. People with dandruff often suffer from oily skin on other parts of their body, including eyebrows, eyelids, ears, and nose.

Unfortunately, many people with dandruff have a tough time finding natural remedies, but it is worth trying a “drying” regimen. Our soaps are naturally drying, so that could work, using less of the acidic conditioning rinse (which moisturizes). For dandruff, many people also recommend changes in diet and supplements. If the problem is dry scalp, then a moisturizing regimen is needed. Many people have success skipping the soap entirely and washing with acidic rinses, such us our Citrus Conditioning Rinse or diluted apple cider vinegar. The acidic rinses help to moisturize. In addition, treating the hair and scalp with something like coconut oil, can help keep the skin moisturized and prevent dry scalp from occurring. We recommend doing more research on websites such as, where people discuss symptoms and recipes in detail. Everyone’s hair (and scalp) is a little different, and often finding a natural regimen that works requires some tinkering.

Grace says:

Another question- I have been trying the Shikakai soap in conjunction with the citrus rinse for quite a while now, and have noticed that the reason it is leaving a horrible residue in my hair is because I have hard water.
I am not prepared to use bottled or filtered or boiled water, so I am wondering if I still have any chance of getting the soap to work on my hair? If so, how? If not, any alternative no chemical shampoo I can use?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Grace – Try switching over to our Pure Castile soap instead. It is a simpler soap, and I find that it does not weigh down the hair as the Shikakai soap might. The Shikakai is extra nourishing with the addition of the Shikakai extract. If hair is prone to dryness, it is a great option. However, for normal to oily hair, the pure castile is a better bet.

RebeccaC says:

Hi, I am growing my hair out to my natural grey. What I don’t want is grey hair that is also flat or dull, do you have any ideas how the Dr. Bronners castile soap and citrus conditioner might work on grey hair? My ends are still a terrible orangey color from henna but in one to two more hair cuts I should be fully salt and pepper grey. I have developed a skin sensitivity to hair dye, even the ‘less toxic’ ones give me a terrible rash. I need to go natural and am trying to find way to feel positive about it.
Thanks for posting this I appreciate the photos too.
Sincerely, Rebecca

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Rebecca – That is a great question and I don’t have an answer for you. I haven’t had experience with this yet, but I would think that there are readers out there who have.

Is there another reader out there who can weigh in on this one?

Catherine says:

My hair is greying. I’ve just started using castile soap for shampoo. It’s still in the transitioning stage. But after one week the worst was over. My grey streaks don’t look flat or dull. Give it a try! Good luck

Jennifer says:

Hi Lisa,

After 2-3 years of using organic shampoos I found that my hair was becoming more and more greasy so last week I decided to go no-poo using Dr. Bronner’s lavendar Castile soap & ACV for rinse. I’ve been pleased thus far, I’m just wondering what you use to moisturize as I can see my hair getting a little dry. Thank you.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Jennifer – I’m glad to hear of your success! Dr. Bronner’s makes a Leave In Conditioning Creme that is a great light moisturizer for the hair.

Lynn says:

I know this can’t be used on colored hair, but what about blonde hair with highlights? Are highlights the same as colored hair? Can this product be used on blonde, highlighted hair?

Kat says:

I was reading about so many benefits of using castile soap as a shampoo,as Im intended to free myself from a mainstream products I gave it a try haveing big hopes. Unfortunatelly it leaves my hair “dirty” and greasy 🙁 no matter how I use it. Whats wrong with my hair 🙁 ? Some people say it dryes their hair up,i wish it happen to me instead of awfully greasy residue it leaves…

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Kat – I am so sorry not to have gotten to your question earlier. Are you using an acidic rinse afterwards? Either apple cider vinegar (50% dilution) or the Dr. Bronner’s Hair Rinse. The greasiness is probably either from hard water reacting with the soap or from the pH of the soap causing the hair strands to be rough. An acidic rinse will solve both these problems.

Thu says:

I had the same problem as Kat. I did rinse my hair with apple cider vinegar as suggested but it is still very greasy. I use Organic Pump Soap – Lemongrass Lime…

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Thu – I have had much more success with the Pure Castile on my hair. It does take a couple weeks to transition, though, from a more mainline shampoo and conditioner.

Joyce Green says:

My daughter is a swim instructor/life guard and the chlorine/salt in the pool water leaves her hair very damaged and her skin very dry (which makes her skin break out). Any suggestins?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Joyce – I apologize for my delay, especially as swim season is well underway. I have seen the same situation myself – damaged, irritated skin is much more likely to break out. I find coconut oil to be the best aid in fighting the damage. It sounds funny to fight acne with oil, but in this case, the skin is overreacting to a lack of nourishing oils, so if you can keep it nourished with good oils, it won’t freak out. Apply a small amount of coconut oil (a little goes a long way) to clean skin before sunscreen. Let it absorb for 10 minutes or so. Then apply sunscreen over it. Also apply coconut oil to the hair before swimming. I would do about 1/4 tsp. to medium length hair. This will protect the hair from the chlorine. After swimming and showering (very important to get that sunscreen and chlorine off), apply coconut oil again. If you use too much coconut oil, it will stay on the surface of the skin and get clothing or bedsheets greasy, so be sure to use just a bit.

Rhianna says:

Vitamin C/Ascorbic Acid powder diluted in water is very effective at removing pool chemical buildup from skin and hair. Once a week I dilute about a half teaspoon to a teaspoon in a cup of water, and let it sit on my hair for a minute or two. The Vitamin C powder is very inexpensive, although you have to mix it with water each time because the Vitamin C is only viable for 12 hours. I then wash my hair with diluted Bronner’s and then follow with an ACV rinse or Bronner’s Citrus Conditioning Rinse. There is a product you may buy called Swim Spray, but it is expensive because the manufacturer figured out how to make the Vitamin C shelf stable in dilution. I haven’t used it because I am happy with my Vitamin C powder.

Melissa says:

I have had a really dry, itchy, flaky scalp for quite some time now and nothing seems to be working for me to change that. I was considering trying one of the castile liquid soaps as a shampoo with ACV for conditioner. How much castile liquid soap should I use on my hair? Is there a recommendation to specific instructions on how to do so as a shampoo? (directly on scalp? agitate? co-wash? focus only on scalp or good for both hair and scalp?) Also, would you say all of the castile line/scent options would work as good as the others or should I specifically only attempt with Tea Tree or Peppermint, etc? HELP! Please and thank you =)

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Melissa – Because your scalp sounds already a bit irritated, I recommend one of our milder castile soaps. All of them have the same base, but the added essential oils really differentiates them. The Peppermint is the most intense, so steer away from that one for now. The Tea Tree is great, or even milder would be the almond, and the mildest of all is the unscented (which does have a higher ratio of olive oil in the soap base). This is good for both scalp and hair. The amount totally depends on the length of your hair, but you want enough so that your hair feels soapy. For my fairly long hair, I use about 1 Tbsp. of soap, washing it every other day. Work it in to your hair, massaging it into your scalp with your fingertips. Rinse it out and then apply a diluted Apple Cider Vinegar rinse (cut in half with water). I like to let that sit for a minute or two if I have time, and then rinse it out. Give your scalp a week or two to heal and adjust to this gentler regimen before you decide if it’s working. Let me know if you have additional questions.

Deb Standard says:

I have been using Dr Bonners for many years. It takes awhile for your body and hair to adjust Dr Bonners. I find almond and lavender the least harsh. The bar soap works well as a shampoo. I have scalp issues that have been resolved by using Dr Bonner soap bars. My hair is short. Be patient your hair will adjust in a month or two. It’s worth the wait. I find if I use a commercial shampoo my hair now really looks and feels strange.

Rizvi says:

I have a oily hair, But what i can shampoo I using for the best luxurious, strong, super-shiny hair ?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Rizvi – I recommend for oily hair Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile liquid soap. The Lavender or Citrus are good moderate ones to start with, but if your hair is still oily, consider the Peppermint or Eucalyptus. As I mention in the post above, you’ll need to use an acidic rinse after each washing, such as apple cider vinegar or Dr. Bronner’s Citrus Hair Rinse. If you’re transitioning from conventional shampooing, it may take a couple weeks to make this transition.

Julie Taylor says:

I have been using the hemp and peppermint as a shampoo it is leaving my hair very dry. When applying I am putting direct on scalp shampooing then rinsing and using a conditioner. I don’t like the feel of my hair, am I using the product correct? Thank you.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Julie – A regular conditioner will not properly balance the pH of the soap and will leave your hair feeling dry or sticky. Your conditioner needs to be acidic, such as apple cider vinegar or the Dr. Bronner’s Citrus Hair Rinse.

Mary Lombardi says:

From what I have read about the using the soaps you are supposed to dilute it with water, not put it directly on your hair.

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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