Why Baking Soda Is Actually Awful for Your Hair
Baking soda has a variety of uses other than for baking, including use as a cleaning agent, a mild disinfectant, pest control agent, odor eliminator, a method to unclog drains, pool maintenance, stomach ache remedy, and many, many more.
Recently, baking soda has gained popularity in the realm of DIY hair care remedies. You may have heard it being referred to as the “no-poo” method, which instructs people to stop using shampoo and instead use a tablespoon or so of baking soda mixed with water to wash the scalp and hair. The idea behind this method is that you are cleaning the scalp in a “natural” way as opposed to using the “harsh” surfactants found in shampoos.
However, the science behind how baking soda disrupts the pH balance of your scalp, strips hair of its natural oils, and causes irreversible damage to hair cuticles is well documented. This article will spell out why baking soda is actually awful for your hair.
The science of baking soda
Sodium bicarbonate, known as baking soda, is a chemical compound composed of sodium ions and bicarbonate ions with the formula NaHCO3. It is a white solid that is classified as a crystalline, but appears as a fine, white powder.
Sodium bicarbonate is recognized as a skin, eyes, and respiratory irritant due to dust. Moreover, when baking soda is combined with water it is converted to CO2 and sodium carbonate (a known skin irritant).
A solution of baking soda and water has a pH of 9, which makes it an alkaline substance. Potential hydrogen, or pH, is a measure of the alkalinity or acidity of a solution on a scale from 0 to 14. On this scale, a pH of 7 represents a neutral solution, a pH of less than 7 is considered an acid, and a pH greater than 7 is considered a base (alkaline).
Baking soda damages your hair in more ways than one
Dr. Audrey Kunin, M.D., dermatologist and CEO of DERMAdoctor, Inc. says the first principle of shampooing is to “Make sure your shampoo says it is pH-balanced and avoid those that are alkaline. Alkaline shampoos strip the hair’s natural oils and disrupt the acid mantle, causing dehydration and leading to porous, fragile hair.” More alkaline shampoos were called by some brands “clarifying” shampoos: working at higher pHs, these types of shampoos “lift” the hair cuticles, removing the build up better. They are NOT recommended to be used regularly!
While the purpose of washing hair is to remove excess oil and dirt from the scalp, removing too much of the scalp’s natural oils causes hair to become dry, frizzy, and prone to breakage.
Dr. Kunin refers to the acid mantle of the scalp, which is the term used to describe the acidity of normal skin, ranging anywhere from a pH of 4.5 to 6.5. The pH of skin is maintained in this range by sebaceous (oil) glands, sweat glands, normal skin flora, and more. The purpose of the acid mantle is to provide protection for the skin, such as fighting bacteria or other pathogens. When the acid mantle is disrupted (by using baking soda on the scalp, for example) the skin’s ability to fight off foreign invaders decreases, which can potentially make the skin more prone to infections.
The alkaline pH of baking soda also contributes to how it damages hair. A study that examined the effects of 123 different shampoos with pH values ranging from 3.5 to 9 found that an alkaline pH increases the negative electrical charge of the hair fiber’s surface, which leads to an increase of friction between the fibers. The increased friction can damage the hair cuticle and ultimately result in fiber breakage. The study concluded that, “It is a reality and not a myth that lower pH of shampoos may cause less frizzing for generating less negative static electricity on the fiber surface.” (Int J Trichology, 2014)
The final verdict: baking soda is actually awful for your hair
Dermatologists, cosmetic chemists and hair care professionals agree: baking soda is awful for your hair. The alkalinity of this chemical compound allows it to disrupt the acid mantle of the scalp, strip natural oils from the hair, and cause friction that can damage the hair cuticle.
Even though baking soda has been proven to be damaging to the hair, there are still some die-hard no-poo fans out there that claim baking soda is the only thing that gives them a clean scalp. Do you know why they may be correct in saying that? It all comes down to the fact that no two hair types are the same and what works for one individual may not work for another.
At Shtrands, we like to celebrate the diversity of hair while providing scientific and evidence based explanations for how to take care of your hair. If you’re still on the fence about trying the no-poo method, why not skip the risk of damaging your hair and allow the professionals at Shtrands to select a personalized, luxurious hair care regimen that will fit your specific hair needs?
Comments are closed