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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KJ Jamal says:

Hi Lisa, the name is Jamal 🙂 and lives in Sweden”
And i was just wondering about a concern which i have had lately when purchsing Dr. Bronners Castile Soap. I am a huge fan and user of Dr.Bronners since way back, esp. The Peppermint has been the one’ however my main concern i have encountered last few times when i have ordered is the pacaking which has left me doubt the authencity of the product i been purchasing’ cause the packaging has changed where i order it here in (sweden), hence instead of the english it is now also written on swedish ‘ and the size of it has also changed! Meaning i usually buy the 16oz size which is as equal as (473ml), but now it says 16oz (475ml)! So i am worried is it even authentic ? Should it be like that! Cause as far as i remmember it alwayw used to say on the packaging (16oz- 473) and also the context of the packaging would only be written staright english ( Dr. Bronner’s 18 in 1 HempPeppermint Pure-Castile Soap ) where now its written instead ; Dr Bronners 18-in 1 Peppermint pure castile soap and swedish comtext … för hand, hår…???? Please verify

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Jamal – The Swedish market has grown so much (due to loyal customers like you!), that we have launched an exclusive distributor there. The label has been translated and now the measurements are only in metric, which we rounded up to the nearest 5. Still the same product!

Chris says:

I am super bummed too!! I color my hair every 3 weeks. I love the idea of having one soap in the shower for everything. I did try washing my hair with Dr Bronner’s Lavender Castile bar soap and even rinsed it with Dr Bronner’s Organic rinse and some ACV. My hair did not do well with it. Then I read it doesn’t work with colored hair. I often think about letting my hair go grey and not coloring it anymore. This way I can have this clean and pure soap to wash with. I just do not like all the stuff they put in hair color, detergents and shampoos. Frustrating!! I want to go totally clean and organic. Sorry for the ramble. Thank you for all the amazing products you make and the wonderful information that helps us to go Green!! Perhaps I will re-post when I stop coloring my hair and finally get to use Dr Bronner’s Bar soap for everything!!! For now, I read and learn!!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Chris- I hear you! It’s the alkalinity of the soap that opens up the hair follicles, where the hair color resides, allowing color to drain out and fade quickly. The Environmental Working Group ( Skin Deep Cosmetics Database will help you find a color-safe shampoo.

The Only Soap You Really Need – A Challenged Minimalist says:

[…] Read Post: “From Shampoo to Soap – My Story” […]

Cindy says:

So, I’m bummed that I can’t use your soap on colored hair. Can you still use the rinse & creme on colored hair or is that pointless? 🙂

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Cindy – Yes! You can use both of these products with color-treated hair. The acidity of the Citrus Rinse (from the lemon juice) has some cleaning capacity, as well as conditioning. The Hair Crème provides good moisture and light styling. You can use it on any type of hair, either wet as a leave-in conditioner or dry to tame fly-aways.

Dr. Bronner's Soaps Work Well on Highlighted Hair says:

[…] out! Let’s step back a bit to what I wrote about my personal conversion from shampoo to soap. It ended with the somewhat devastating disclaimer that soap, due to its alkalinity, is unsuitable […]

Using Soap to Test for Hard Water (Video) says:

[…] Use a slightly acidic rinse after you wash your hair with soap.  I use a 50% apple cider vinegar solution, or a couple capfuls […]

Alicia says:

Hi Lisa,
I’m so grateful for all the hints and tips on this blog and for how widely available your soap has become. It’s much more mild than Kirk’s. I would love to see you guys consider making a coconut-free version sometime though. 🙂

I was hoping that you could reassure about using highly alkaline soap on my hair. I’ve used the Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild Bar for years as my all purpose wash (hair, body, face) as I have had terrible reactions to detergents since childhood (my doctor had us switch to Dove as a family which caused SO many problems).

In the last four years, I’ve tried growing out my hair more. Every time I do, I’ve noticed that it starts to weaken and break as it gets past my shoulders. It never did this when I was younger and I am concerned that the alkalinity of the soap may be weakening the hydrogen sulfide bonds in my hair (much like processing hair for a perm/dye job) and over time destroying the structural integrity of my hair. I do oil masks, gelatin, egg, mayo, oil, etc. treatments, use the Dr. Bronner’s Citrus Rinse (I wish this came in larger bottles!) and we have a water filter installed. Friends who have used soap for years and have long hair are starting to see similar problems with their length (they don’t have the same water we do as they live in different areas).

From what I read on your blog, it seems as though both you and your daughter have continued to be successful using Dr. Bronner’s as shampoo since 2010. Is this still the case? Any tips or tricks? I really want this to work for me because I don’t have many other options. I’ve used clay, egg, “safe detergent” shampoos, shikakai powder, soapnuts, etc. and ultimately I love being able to just grab your soap, wash, rinse, and get on with my life. I would appreciate any insight you have. I love your family’s company, it’s mission, and it’s products.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Alicia – I very much apologize for overlooking your questions from this past summer regarding hair. Thank you for your kind words, and I am so glad my blog has been of help to you. Hair is extremely tricky – partly because there is so much variety in hair types and partly because when there is anything off-kilter anywhere in our bodies or in our lives (stress), our hair is the first to show it. It would be so nice if that indicator were something more hidden, like our knee-cap or belly button. Nonetheless, it’s our hair we need to deal with. On the Dr. Bronner blog, there is this excellent article “A Definitive Guide to Washing Your Hair”. I think the Troubleshooting section near the bottom on Dry/Brittle Hair will be most relevant to you. Here are the tips for Dry/Brittle hair, but I do recommend you read the article as a whole:
Use less soap, or cut out the soap entirely from your routine and just wash with a conditioning rinse. Remember that vinegar or lemon juice still have excellent cleansing properties and will effectively clean your hair on their own!
Wash less often, or alternate with washing with just water
Add some coconut milk to the soap to give it some extra moisture. Wellness Mama has a good recipe here.
Use a small amount of Organic Coconut Oil on your hair after it has dried

Elizabeth says:

I am a newbie to Dr. Bronner products. So far the coconut oil is amazing. Love using it on my face and body. Also, use it for a deep conditioner on my hair that I leave in overnight. Just started using the Castile Peppermint in the house and hope to incorporate it into my everyday living. My question is for the hair products, I do color and high lite my hair. I am sad to read that this is not good for colored hair. Any other suggestions?
Thank you for your great products and advise.

Hannah Baker says:

I have been using the almond Castile soap with the hair rinse for 6 weeks now and my hair try’s to and oily look and feel! I find my hair looks like I haven’t showered in days and it’s feeling heavy ! I really want this to work for me, I love the idea of all natural but my hair looks gross and I’m almost ready to give up.. what should I do?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Hannah – I’m sorry you’re having a difficult transition. It takes time not only for your hair to adjust, but it can also take time to determine what works best for your hair. I hope you won’t give up! Please take a look at “A Definitive Guide to Washing Your Hair with Dr. Bronner’s” – it has so many great tips, as well as a trouble shooting guide to figure out how to make the best adjustments to your hair routine.

Ligia Caldwell says:

I. Appreciate this post so much! I’ve found some answers to my newly conversion to dr Bronner’s products and it has been a life changer for me. Sadly I have colored hair and I only wish there was one from you guys I could use. So maybe you guys would consider developing a shampoo that’s safe for dyed hair? For now I can’t thank you enough. Many blessings.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Ligia – Welcome! I’m so glad you’ve found my website and our products to be so helpful! We always appreciate suggestions, but in this case, the pH of soap (any soap) does not work well with chemically treated hair. Soap is alkaline and cannot be made otherwise. The alkalinity in the soap causes the follicles on the hair strands to open, allowing the stored color to seep out. In general, products that are considered “color safe” are acidic. So, you can see the challenge!

Ligia Caldwell says:

First of thank you so so much for the reply. I totally see the challenge now! I didn’t know, I’m not an expert : ) just a very happy customer and dr Bronner’s products have seriously been a life changer for me! Thank you so much for everything you guys do and for your Youtube channel as well! All so helpful and nice! Bless you all!

Carrie says:

I would love to use this for a shampoo but I also want to add some powders to it that help with hair loss. Please tell me how to do this. The one powder I have is a set mix of Amla, Brahmi, Coconut oil unrefined, Vitamin E, Rosemary Essential Oil, Eucalyptus Essential Oil, and Basil Essential Oil. I also want to add Bhringaraj Powder, Kapoor Kachli, Moringa Leaf Powder, Neem, honey, sea kelp powder, Black Seed Oil, green tea powder, and hibiscus.
Black Seed Oil

I want to use it in the Baby Unscented-Castile Liquid Soap to make a shampoo with a pH of about 5.5 to 6
I want to buy the 32 oz but I also want the shelf life to last.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Carrie – I’m glad to hear your interest in including the Castile in your hair care routine. Unfortunately, I am not at all familiar with the use of various powders for hair loss. In scanning the ingreidents, I don’t see any interaction problems between them and the soap. I can’t comment, though, on their effectiveness. Regarding the pH, it is not possible to lower the pH of a solution that includes our Castile. 5.5 or 6, which is an acidic pH, will break down the soap itself. Soap is always alkaline.

For shelf life, since the soap contains tocopherols (Vitamin E) and the powder mix contains additional vitamin E, mixing them shouldn’t decrease the shelf life.

Katharine says:

Hi – would you please advise whether any of the liquid cleaners are appropriate to use on nice new kitchen fixtures such as chrome faucet without scratching or dulling the finish?
thank you,

Jean says:

What I see here in these comments is tons of questions, and few, if any answers. What’s the point of having a place where people can ask questions if no one is going to give them an answer?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Jean – I am sorry you are not seeing answers. You are right that I don’t answer as quickly as social media moves. I try to get through them all in a week or two cycle. Do you have some questions I can answer?

Tori says:

Hi Lisa,

I have been trying to make the transition from shampoos that we’re not doing my hair any good to Castile soap, but I have a few concerns so far.

Like many others, I ran into the waxy feeling early on in my transition. Now my hair is so bad that I can’t wear it down outside of the house. A lot of what I’ve read shows that washing with a high alkaline soap and rinsing with an acidic rinse shocks our hair’s natural ph level? I was really excited about the transition, but I can’t afford the high priced “organic ph balanced” hair washes out there. So I was hoping you’d have some input that’s helpful for me! My hair used to be extremely oily and curly, but after moving to California it’s only a little oily and lost most of the curl. I don’t really have the time or physical strength to make daily mixtures of refrigerated ingridients either, so I’m hoping there’s a simple solution. Something I can dilute the soap with besides water to make it more ph balanced?


Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Tori – It can be frustrating how finicky our hair can be. Changes in water or humidity really affect it, and everyone’s hair is slightly different. Although I don’t know where you moved from, it sounds like California’s notoriously hard water combined with extremely low humidity is wrecking havoc on your hair. Let me throw out a couple ideas and hopefully one of these will help you:
Consider washing your hair less often.
Use our Sugar Soaps instead of the Castile. The Sugar soaps are more moisturizing.
For the acidic rinse, use a 50% apple cider vinegar solution.
Read this hair guide from the Dr. Bronner’s blog, which may help: A couple of the ideas there that might help you are the occasional deep conditioning treatment and the water softening shower head.

You can’t adjust the pH of the soap without breaking down the soap itself. Keep adjusting your regimen until you find what works for you.

Jenny says:

Hi tori! I also recently moved to California from the Midwest and was also experiencing some major issues with my hair, having used the dr Bronner’s for a few years already with success. Unfortunately, even though I tried for months to get my hair to adjust, I eventually gave up and switched instead to organic shampoo and conditioner. At the moment I’m using griffin remedy. It’s not my favorite, but my hair isn’t waxy anymore and it’s at least better than using commercial shampoos and conditioners. I was so disappointed that my hair could not adjust to the soap with the new, harder water. I even have a shower filter and switched to the Dr. Bronner bar soaps. I did not try the sugar soaps, so possibly that could work better for you. I hope you have more success than I did! Good luck!

Anna says:

If you used shamppo with silicones and/or mineral oils before you started with Dr Bronner’s you have to use a sls shampoo without silicone and mineral oils to get rid of the residue on your hair, if you don’t do that you will have a heavy build up

Lindsay says:

Hi Lisa, just tried washing my hair today with the lavender Castile bar soap, then did a rinse of 1:1 acv with filtered water on scalp/hair, kept it in my hair for at least 5 minutes and rinsed it out. Rinsed soap out beforehand, as well. My hair was greasier, a little flatter, smooth enough, but I’d never had this many white flakes coming out of my scalp. I normally will have a little, but this is like fake snow, haha. What would cause this? I’ve read the dry scalp/dandruff stuff, too, and I’m just not sure what’s going on. I can also tell I probably won’t be able to go my usual week between washing.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Lindsay – This could definitely be a dry scalp thing which means you might do better with our organic Sugar Soap. It is much more moisturizing and makes a great shampoo. Another option that my sister-in-law just turned me on to is actually our Shaving Soap, which is an even thicker version of our Sugar Soap. It is really moisturizing. A bit of an “off-label” use, as they say.

Melissa says:

From what I understand and have done myself, the ACV shouldnt be rinsed out. With a 1:1 ratio it might seem a little strong at first but its really not noticeable to anyone and the smell I would notice was only when the hair was wet and disappeared when it dried. If youre hair is natural the ACV makes your hair really smooth (ive noticed when my hair was bleached/dyed, it was not as awesome. ha)

Lisa Bronner says:

There are some many variances in our hair types that you really have to tinker a bit to figure out what works best for you. Check out this Definitive Hair Washing Guide written by my colleague Rafi.

Sabine says:

One very effective way of decreasing the vinegar smell lingering in your hair after rinsing with it, is as follows:
I’m a large mason jar, add the peel of citrus fruits and let it sit in a dark cupboard for 2 weeks, giving it a good shake once a day. I use my vegetable peeler on lemons, limes etc depending on what I have in the house. You won’t believe how much it neutralizes the smell!!!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Sabine – In addition to the citrus peels, do you fill the jar up with apple cider vinegar? That sounds lovely!

Lynn says:

Hi Lisa,

I need help in tweaking the proper way to use the Castile soap as shampoo and the bronner conditioner rinse as well. I have used it for 4+ months now and my stick-straight black Asian hair either comes out heavy with a coated waxy feel (too much Castile shampoo?) or gets really oily and stringy (too much conditioner?). I have adjusted a lot and still can’t figure out the balance. I do have hard water so I use brita filtered water.
My recipe is:
1. Shampoo- 1 cup filtered water per half a cap of Dr. Bronner Castile soap. (I reduced the soap because my hair use to come out very waxy/tangled)
2. Conditioning rinse- 1 cup filtered water per cap of rinse

– I wet my hair, squirt the shampoo mix on my scalp ( I don’t saturate the full length of my hair).
– After massaging my scalp, I rinse the shampoo off with warm water
– I apply the conditioner mix to my scalp (again, not the length of my hair).
– After massaging my scalp, I rinse with cool water.

Sometimes I double condition if my hair still feels tangled after the initial conditioning, but it’s not common because my hair usually ends up oily. Now dandruff is suddenly forming when it hasn’t been an issue for years!

Is my recipe or process incorrect? Directions of the conditioning rinse state to shampoo the hair and rinse with the conditioning rinse. Does at mean I shouldn’t rinse with water between the use of each product? I assumed hair should be rinsed inbetween since the two products should negate each other if mixed together.

Any help or insight would be greatly appreciated !

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Lynn – I’m sorry to hear your frustration. Every hair type requires its own unique tricks. Here’s a couple thoughts- When you shampoo, does the soap suds up? If not, there’s not enough of it there. These days, I’ve been wetting my (fairly long) hair really thoroughly and then squirting about 1/2 Tbsp. directly on to it. I work it though well and then rinse it out. Yes, you do need to rinse the soap out with water before going on. Also, for some reason lately, my hair has been doing better with Apple Cider Vinegar. Not sure why, but it seemed to need something different. I dilute the ACV half and half with water and end up using about a cup of the solution on my hair. I keep it in a squirt bottle and squirt it all over my hair and run it through with my fingers. It is more important that the acidic rinse (whether it’s the Dr. Bronner’s Hair Rinse or ACV) get down the length of the hair, and not as important that it be on the scalp. In fact, that might be causing the dandruff you’ve described. Then rinse the rinse out thoroughly. Try some of these ideas and let me know how it’s going.

kara says:

I’ve been washing my hair with dr bronners and apple cider vinegar for over a year and will never go back to shampoo. I mix my castile soap 50/50 with coconut or almond milk (stored in the fridge). Then rinse with ACV diluted 1:3 with 1 part ACV, 1 part steeped tea (peppermint/chamomile) and 1 part aloe juice. I have long hair down just below belt line and have had no issues after the 1 week transition period in the beginning. I don’t use any other products on my hair. My only regret is that I didn’t know about this when I was a teenager.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Kara – Thank you so much for sharing your story! It is encouraging to hear different methods since there are so many different hair types.

Jen says:

Hi there, I was considering using Bronner’s as a shampoo, but after reading this, I may have to find something else, as I have color treated hair, and I am not sure what that will do to it. Any suggestions on what else to use? Does Bronner’s have a good option for color treated hair? Than, I wondered if my daughter could benefit from using Bronners as a shampoo as she doesn’t color her hair. I don’t like the smell of vinegar and I don’t want my hair smelling like it… and my daughter will not want to rinse her hair with vinegar for that same reason…its smelly. I was wondering if you could use a carrier type essential oil such as jojoba, or argan as an option maybe as a leave-in conditioner, or if the citrus rinse and/or ACV is really the only conditioner you should use with Castile soap?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Jen – I’m sorry that Dr. Bronner’s does not make a shampoo that we recommend for color treated hair. I recommend checking out the Cosmetics Safety Database which is a great place to find info on any personal care products. You can look up shampoo for colored hair there and see their ratings. For your daughter, the vinegar smell dissipates when the hair dries. The acidity of vinegar or the Citrus Hair Rinse is needed to balance out the pH of castile soap. The main difference between true soaps and conventional shampoos is that soap has a higher pH. This can make our hair very tangled unless we balance it out with a low, or acidic, pH. Lemon juice is another option. It can also cause hair lightening, though. Leave-in conditioners are great for improved moisture – I use Dr. Bronner’s Leave-In Hair Creme or pure coconut oil – but it won’t counteract the pH.

Chloe says:

Hi Lisa!
It’s been a little over a month for me (maybe week 5) and my hair has so much build up, “gunk”, stickiness to it and I am wondering what I can do to help this. I’m so determined to see this through and I know it’s supposed to take a while to transition, but I’m wondering if there’s something I’m not doing right…
I’ve been using Dr. B’s unscented pump soap and the hair rinse for the last 4 weeks, but I have recently, just this week switched over to using ACV instead of the citrus rinse. I’m pretty sure, after reading some of your responses, that I have been using WAY too much soap. I would pump at least 2 pumps of Dr. B’s directly into my hands and then scrub into my scalp. Then I’m thinking I’m maybe using too much ACV as well, like a 1:3 ratio.
Am I supposed to put the Dr. B’s soap into a separate bottle mixed with water? If so, how much?
Also, we are renting a place that has extremely hard water (leaves mineral marks on ALL my dishes)… could this be contributing as well?
I’m open for any and all suggestions.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Chloe – Good for you! I have a couple thoughts – first off hard water is certainly a key factor here. It makes things more difficult. With what you’re doing, I think you need to INCREASE the concentration of ACV. I use a 1:1 ratio of ACV to water. This in fact may be the only change you need to make. Vinegar will cut through the hard water issue, so you may even need to go with even more ACV to water than that. Let me know if that does the trick. You don’t need to predilute the pump soap.

Mi Mi says:

My hair has color on it to cover gray. Is there a way to use Dr Bonner’s products for colored hair?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Mi Mi – Our Hair Cremes make a wonderful nourisher for all hair types, including colored hair. Unfortunately, however, Dr. Bronner’s does not have a soap that we recommend for washing colored hair.

James Smith says:

Dear Lisa,

I’ve been following this post for a while, read through many of the comments, but I’m still not sure of the solution to my little problem with Bronner’s liquid soap for washing my hair. I have short light brown hair, and it’s quite thick.

I made the switch about 2 years ago. I haven’t had any itchy scalp, or greasy scalp, but still 2 years down the line I have loads of flakes falling out of my hair when I run my fingers through it. The strange thing is that I have never had a comment about dandruff, so the flakes don’t seem to be visible to others, and I don’t actually believe they are dandruff, but I know they are there and I have developed an awful habit of scratching my scalp because I’m conscious that it is always flaky.

In the beginning I know I was doing wrong – by not diluting the soap. But that period only lasted a few months. I now dilute the soap 50/50 with water, and this is my current routine, 2/3 times a week:

a) Wet hair with warm water to open up the follicles
b) Two/three squirts from my 50/50 diluted bottle of Bronners soap (I use Peppermint and Almond mostly but have also tried Tea Tree which I remember might have been better) and I lather this into my hair.
c) I wait about 30 seconds, and rinse out with warm water
d) I then apply ACV (50/50 dilution with water) all over my hair, and I am very liberal with this, making sure it gets into the hair and scalp. Always organic unfiltered ACV.
e) I leave this for about 5-10 minutes and then I rinse out with slightly colder water.

I dry my hair as normal and then within a few hours the flakes are falling out if I run my hands through my hair. Yet, in addition to what I’ve described above that it isn’t visible to others, the scalp itself doesn’t appear to be lined with white pieces everywhere.

It’s quite odd – I can only conclude that the white pieces are dead skin perhaps (and my scalp might be super irritated, but it’s never been red or itchy) and/or I am totally using the soap incorrectly after two years. And, despite reading your dilutions sheet, perhaps I am getting it all wrong still.

I would really appreciate your insights Lisa as well as reading about the experiences of others.

One final point – I’d really appreciate it if you could provide the dilutions/amount to use in fl. oz and/or millitres. I don’t have a problem with US measurements except that I really can’t understand “cups” or what your definition of a tablespoon might be.

Thank you so much for your help!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi James – I am very sorry for not seeing your comment from back in April. If it’s still helpful to you, I have some suggestions. 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. Or try out our Organic Sugar Soaps which have the moisturizing Shikakai powder in them. 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.

Are You Fascinated by Dr. Bronner's? Us Too — What's New in Dr. Bronnerland – Pioneers Discovers says:

[…] Last week on the Dr. Bronner’s blog, content editor Rafi Loiderman published “A Definitive Guide to Washing Your Hair With Dr. Bronner’s,” in part to address the hundreds of comments on Lisa Bronner’s 2010 post “From Shampoo to Soap: My Story.” […]

Desie says:

Hi, it’s not possible to use on colored hair. Does this also include henna color?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Desie – I don’t know for sure. Someone once told me that henna is more of a stain, and it doesn’t involve color being stored inside the strands. If that’s the case, the soap might be fine on it. If you ever give it a try, let me know your thoughts.

A.M. says:

I´m a German Woman with curly hair and I make conditioner wash only with Dr. Bronners Citrus Rinse….take it pur , massage on scalp & hair, rinse after 1minute…my curly love this, it works very well. My hair are blond coloured and they shine very good. Now I will testing Shiakai Lemon Soap 🙂

diane says:

After washing the hair with diluted peppermint castile soap, I use bragg”s raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and I dont have trouble with vinegar smell after I rinse it off.
I use about 2 tablespoons in a cup of water.
I also use dr bronner coconut oil on dry ends while my hair is still wet. It does not feel oily after the hair is dry.

Lisa I says:

Hi Lisa,
Thanks for your confession. 🙂 I hope all is good for you now…
In regards to my comment a few days ago regarding the residual smell of ACV, it occurred to me that one possible reason is the type of ACV I’ve been using: unfiltered. Although most internet articles I’ve read advocated the unfiltered kind for hair, the rationale seems based on the acetic acid content and not so much “the mother” content. So I wonder what the unfiltered vinegar has over the filtered kind that is better for hair, specifically? Given that unfiltered ACV has more sediment/mircobes in it, is it possible that it could be a major factor in the greasy feel and prolonged smell? I have thick, coarse and shoulder-length hair – maybe “the mother” sticks to the hair more with when hard water is also used? Perhaps I can try using filtered ACV and see what happens….. Any thoughts about filtered vs unfiltered ACV for hair, specifically? Thanks!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Lisa – This is not something that’s occurred to me and you have me curious. I’ve only used filtered. Now that I think about it, the benefit to unfiltered in general is the microbial content. This is wherein lies the potential health benefits of ACV, and these provide an active “starter” if you’re using the ACV to jump start making your own vinegar. However, I don’t see that these microbes would benefit our hair. Give a 50% filtered ACV solution a try and see what happens.

Sue Neal says:

Hello. First, I hope life settled for you some.

We are just starting on this more natural journey. I see you snd several others talk sbout a rinse. When I click the link it takes me nowhere. What is this rinse?

Also, I had previously used this on my hair some. I used to mix in some coconut milk. It made it suds, which I missed. Lol

Lisa Bronner says:

Time for true confessions, folks. It is February 9, 2017, and I have missed several months of comments for the simple reasons that things went a little crazy around here. I very much apologize. I am tackling them now for the sake of those faithful and new readers who might actually read them all. I am going to start with the most recent. Bear with me.

Lisa I says:

It has been nearly two weeks since I started using the Baby Unscented soap bar on my hair, followed by an ACV rinse. My hair has been greasy feeling, so increased the amount of vinegar in the rinse to a 1:1 ratio. However, this left a noticeable vinegar smell to my scalp and hair, even a couple of days afterwards. I’ve then reduced the amount of ACV in the rinse, ranging from 2-4 tablespoons per 8oz of water. Still, there is a noticeable smell. I do have moderately hard water at home, so I’m guessing that’s exacerbating the “transition” phase and maybe the ACV smell as well. Any thoughts or recommendations on reducing or eliminating the vinegar smell while still conditioning my hair? I’ve read that adding essential oils can help mask the smell, but I’d prefer just to get rid of the vinegar smell altogether. Thanks in advance!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Lisa – Another couple thoughts to add to what I wrote below – let the ACV rinse sit on your hair for a few minutes before you rinse it all out. Use warm water – not too hot or cold. I’m really curious about your comparison between filtered and unfiltered ACV, so be sure to let me know if that affects the lingering smell.

Lisa I says:

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for your advice! After reading your reply, I switched to filtered vinegar to see if it would make a difference on the lingering smell. It did, but just a little bit. So instead of having a sweetish-sour smell, it was just sour. After about a week, I gave up and started using the Citrus Hair Rinse. What a difference that made! The smell is much more pleasant, and it fades by the second day, (I wash my hair every two days).

The other day, I gave the ACV another try. The smell was back as well as the greasier look towards my scalp. I still get the greasy look towards the scalp with the Citrus Rinse, but definitely not as much. However, I noticed that ACV left my hair smoother and softer feeling than the Citrus Hair Rinse….

I guess my soap-bar-acid-rinse journey continues on….

Jess says:

I just switched to dr.bronner’s soap but i find that my hair is overly shiny/greasy looking even after i use a rinse. Am i doing something wrong??

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Jess – It does take some adjustment to find exactly what works for your hair type. Some people do better with the Sugar Pump Soaps instead of the Castile. Be sure it is thoroughly out of your hair before you go on to the next step. Some people need to adjust their rinse concentration. If you’re using Apple Cider Vinegar, try a 50% dilution. Let it sit on your hair a bit before you rinse it out. Give your hair at least a two week transition period as well.

Jenny says:

Hi Lisa,

Can you tell me what the difference is between using liquid and bar soap on hair? There are lots of comments on how to use the liquid soap, but I can’t seem to find any on how best to use the bar soap on hair. I would prefer to use the bar soap as it is easier and lighter to take when travelling.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Jenny – Although I usually use the liquid, I have in a pinch used the bar. It takes a little more effort to get the lather, but after that, they work pretty identically. You’ll still need the acidic rinse.

Rlb says:

Hi. I’ve just started using this for the first time and the top of my hair feels really clean. But everywhere else feels extremely greasy. Is this just the transition? Or should I dilute the soap differently. It says on the bottle to just dilute it in your hands but I’ve read a lot of people dilute it a lot more. I put a few drops into a cup of water. Is this too much water? I followed up with the rinse.

Ashley says:

I started the transition last week, and using Dr bronners as body wash and cleaning, and I think I finally found what works for me just tonight. when I do the rinse I leave it on for several minutes and comb through my hair constantly, out of the running water so it isn’t washing away. I found that if I let it run on my face it burns a little, so I lean way back. I have very thick long hair. I dilute the rinse with one capful to one cup of water, I leave a small salsa jar in the shower. I also use the cream after while it is towel dry. I blow dried my hair tonight and I’m overly impressed. Before combing it in the shower I found it was still full of tangles and not very soft even after the creme. I think I still have a good week or so left till I can air dry.

I did read where someone flips over and applied the rinse so it doesn’t get on her roots, that didn’t work well for my nappy rats nest. Hope this helps and good luck!

Sydney Kirkland says:

Hi! Just wanted to leave comments about my personal experience here. I suffer from really bad eczema that inflames greatly during the dry winter months. It gets especially bad on my scalp, to the point where the itchiness was all I could think about. In an attempt to deal with this itchiness (and keep in congruence to my minimalist lifestyle) I switched to the unscented Castile bar soap for everything (body, face and hair) and have found a significant improvement almost instantly. Thank you so so much, highly recommend for anybody with sensitive skin to use the unscented kind – regardless of how mild the almond and lavender scents may be!

Larry says:

I have eczema and use a glycerine bar soap called Clearly Natural Essentials. You can buy it at Sprouts, Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond and I’m sure other stores. I wash my skin with it. I am here researching DB for hair/body. I am currently using Whole Foods brand “365” shampoo for hair and body. I use the citrus as it has never bothered my eczema. They changed the formula and I don’t feel like it is as healthy as it once was.

The way I have controlled my Eczema:

No scents or colors in anything; laundry detergent, hand/hair/body soap, no cologne, etc. etc. I use the bar soap mentioned above for shaving as well. Just remove scent from your life.

Try to keep stress to a minimum and showers shorter/cooler.

About scent – now products that have scent in them smell very strong to me, and like chemicals. I can’t stand perfumes or colognes.

JADE says:

hi lisa!

i recently came across Dr Bronner’s Castille Liquid Soap and i will be purchasing after i get my questions sort out.

i intend to use it for:
1. handwash
2. body
3. shampoo
4. dishes
5. laundry
6. mopping
7. toilet

i have a few questions and kindly help me so that i can get starting!
1. do i dilute accordingly and then store the soap into 7 separate bottles/dispenser for the above uses?
2. do you have the dilution formula for handwash?
3a. shampoo. i recently stopped using commercial shampoo and started using a Cold Process Soap without any chemicals. 1.5 months later, i started to develop flyaway hair. i never have this problem before. i also do not use any other hair products (no conditioner, spray etc) before and during this new bar shampoo. my hair was sticky and tangly during the wash.

i read through the comments and im guessing bar soap has high pH, i gotta dilute with 50% ACV. but i cant find a scenario that relates to flyaway hair and plus, i am not using the castille soap yet.

3b. my question: do you have any remedies during this period? i also wish to switch to your liquid castille soap but am afraid that it will further damage my flyaway hair.

please help!

Jenny says:

Hi there! I have a bit of the unscented soap left, but I just bought the almond one. Is it ok to combine the two? Or is that a bad idea? Just curious. Thanks!

Art says:

I have 1 year old dreadlocks and are forming very well. Unfortunately, I succumb with a dry scalp issues but since my Dread lock journey its been nothing but experiment after experiment for the best product out there. Its like mortgage payments for these items…lol. I been told to try the Dr Bonners brand but a little hesitant, can you please give me advise on what one to purchase. Btw I do the ACV method on regular basis with baking soda with a hint of peppermint. My dreads feel/look great but need to STOP my itch.
Im of Asian decent so my hair is very thick and straight. Please help

Liliana says:

I was told that coconut milk is good for hair. Could I use coconut milk with the soap to wash my hair or maybe add an oil in the soap like almond or avocado? or do you suggest just using the soap with water? Thanks!

Irene T says:

Hi Lisa,

I have been using Dr. Bronner’s for 2 months now, and have experimented between the Citrus hair rinse and ACV 50% dilution rinse. I also have long highlighted hair. At the moment, I find ACV rinse works better for my hair.
First question: when will it start feeling smooth? My hair feels dry & brittle when I touch it. I currently use the unscented castile soap and dilute 1 tablespoon with 1 cup water. I repeat wash if my hair still feels oily/ dirty. The effect is as you said – tangly and squeaky clean. The acid wash works but takes a while, like I have to be in the shower for an extra 10 minutes for my hair to start feeling smooth. Is this something I just have to accept as fact?
Second question: will it be wise to dilute ACV rinse further? As I find the 50-50 dilution makes my hair smell like vinegar.
Lastly, I experimented with the shikkai soap first, and find castile works better, as it’s lighter. But then gives me this dry/ brittle feeling. So, will shikkai soap be better in terms of making my hair feel smooth? Is it dilute-able as well?

Lily says:

Hi,to day was my first day of using it as shampoo and after i used rinse and after towel dry hair used hear cream .
After shampoo and rinse my hair was oily and after blow-dry my hair texture is diffrent (,hard to brushand )and after blow-dry ,heavy) ,would you tell me is it normal ?
I am 58 years old with fine hair and my hair is colored and highlighted so is true I shouldn’t use this product because fade the color ? And I am USING REGAINE FOR WOMEN twice a day .
I have dry hair.

b. hope says:

hi there… I would try using less of the bronners to water ratio…or I have also heard people mixing Bronners with coconut milk. don’t give up its different for everyone….find your mix.(: good luck.

Noelle says:

Hi Lisa, thanks for this post. I just made the switch to using Dr. Bronner’s castile soap in lavender as shampoo, followed by an ACV rinse. I really want it to work, but after two times using this method, my hair immediately feels sort of waxy, as if I didn’t wash everything out. There’s no visible residue, though, and I know I washed out the castile soap very thoroughly. Do you have any tips? My hair is thick and on the oily side, if that matters.

Gupta says:

Hello Lisa,

I use castile baby soap for my baby and it suits him well. We are using it for almost a year. I am suffering from hair fall, i has lost 2/3 of my hair due to stress, so thought of using it for my hair. My hair is very dry but my scalp tends to be oily, weird right?? I do have lot of grey, so i started using color. However, I have stopped it due to massive hair fall, we do have hard water and was wondering if you can suggest me if i should use rinse and hair cream? Moreover, which castile liquid soap will be best for my hair and body (dry skin)? Thanks a lot

Jenna says:

Ive been using the dr bronner organic pump soap and the citrus hair rinse and I find the my roots are left super greasy. I try to wash it out as best as I can but my roots are always always greasy. I don’t know if this is a result of not washing all the product out or if its just a naturally occuring thing as I’m transitioning to using more natural products. Do you have any tips as to applying the soap and hair rinse and washing it out? Or a reason for my roots being so greasy.

Fi says:

Hi, I’ve just discovered the concept of using soap as shampoo after many years of struggling with organic shampoos that don’t clean my hair properly. I tried a bar soap designed as shampoo, and it had castor oil as one of the ingredients, which I thought was a fantastic idea (its other ingredients were sodium cocoate, sodium olivate, and essential oils). However, it only resulted in leaving my hair (which is very long and naturally very oily) feeling icky sticky and very fly away, and left a white powdery substance on my hairbrush, and left my hair unmanageable. I suspect the castor oil may have caused these things, but I’m not sure. I’d love to try Dr Bronners, but am apprehensive because of my experiment with this other soap bar. I do get a flaky scalp, so I’m concerned about whether Dr Bronners will strip my hair of all it’s natural oils, or on the other hand not clean it properly.
I’m in a muddly state of confusion and need some guidance please!

Elen says:

It’s all soap residue. Use a raw apple cider vinegar rinse.

Mary says:

So what do you recommend for colored hair? Will your company be making anything for that?

Laureen Wagner says:

Since most women color their hair is their any recommendation for using this soap? I have used it a couple times and LOVE it, however do not want to strip the color from my hair. Will it work as well mixing it with commercial shampoo?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Laureen, and Mary – I’m sorry I missed your question from more than two years ago! In response to both of your questions, our soaps should not be used on colored hair. The alkalinity of the soap opens up the hair follicles, allowing the color to drain out. For that reason, I don’t suggest mixing it with conventional shampoo either. For a safe alternative, refer to the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database at

Acacia Kincer says:

Hi! Honestly I didn’t read through every comment, so hopefully this hasn’t already been answered! I just started using diluted Dr. Bronners today as shampoo. I didn’t make the decision to do so until I was in the shower, saw the soap, and thought “why not!” so I didn’t use an ACV rinse. My hair actually still feels really nice though! Is it absolutely necessary to use an acidic rinse, or can some people get away with just using the diluted castle soap? Just wonderin’!
Thanks in advance for your reply! ☺

Rory says:

I have been using just Castile Soap on my hair for about a year now. It does just fine by itself for me. I see no reason to do anything but a water rinse. I wash every other day.

Hammad says:

Sir i have very dry hairs and getting bald
Doed washing hair with soap daily effect hairs?
Plz tell some home remides

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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