What research says about using baking soda as a no poo method

no poo method and baking soda

As of the no poo method more people are interested in finding natural options. Baking soda is one such natural options but is it actually better for your hair? Before you choose to make it your regular regime, let Nutrafol give you some insights.

What are the benefits of using baking soda on your hair?

Popularized by the no poo method, baking soda is a hair fad that’s replaced commercial shampoos. It is said that when dissolved in water, baking soda can remove excess oil and buildup, soften your hair, and restore shine. But the method is not foolproof — if used without caution, over time, severe damage can be caused to your hair.
Nutrafol took a closer look so keep on reading to learn what research says about this treatment and if you should use it.

DOES IT WORK?

What the research says

Does baking soda soften your hair and restore its shine? Some researchers say yes, other say no, but there is however no evidence that baking soda can soften your hair or restore shine. There’s more research to support baking soda as a risk for hair damage and skin irritation. In what way you may ask?
The average scalp has a pH level of 5.5, and the hair shaft has a pH level of 3.67. Maintaining this balance helps with hair health obviously, but baking soda has a pH level of 9. And that is the answer to your question in what way may baking soda damage your hair. According to research, products with a high pH level can increase the following:

  • cuticle damage
  • hair breakage
  • frizz
  • irritation

So what about the pH level then…

It is not only your scalp that has a pH level of 5.5, your skin also has that. One study for example found that an alkaline soap (pH 9.5) significantly decreased the skin’s fat content and irritated the protective layer of the skin.
But it is possible for baking soda to produce benefits at first, that is certain. Ingredients with a high pH are effective at removing buildup and drying out the scalp. It is the long-term use as mentioned before, that can be harmful for the hair. This is because it strips your hair of its natural oils and irritates the scalp after a while.
Your scalp’s pH level does not benefit by using the no poo method. In fact, it may even stress out your scalp when you introduce a high and low pH level so quickly together. So avoid no poo if you:

  • have dry or brittle hair
  • chemically treat or color your hair
  • use heat to style your hair
  • have sensitive skin

In general, baking soda is abrasive and can leave your hair and scalp dry. It is effective for people with extra oily hair but people with dry hair should consider following the rinse with a conditioner to moisturize the scalp.

No poo method and baking soda
Is baking soda doing your hair a favor or is it actually making it worse?

What to use instead of the no poo method

The good news is that hair and skin care has increasingly improved since the no poo method. So if you do not dare to go no poo, there is some hair care products out there that does magic. How you choose your hair care products, from shampoos to sprays, should depend on the following:

  • hair damage (chemical treatment, blow dryers, grooming habits, and environmental exposure)
  • hair strength (resistance to breakages)
  • type of hair, such as thin, thick, strong, curly, or straight
  • scalp type

Use a clarifying shampoo: If you want to remove product buildup and oil, use clarifying shampoo. Shampoos like these, contain surfactants such as sodium laureth sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate, which removes product buildup. And the best part – research shows that these ingredients do not strip moisture from hair.

Try coconut oil: Good ol’ coconut, always so efficient. But what does it do to your hair? Coconut oil  penetrates the hair shaft and prevents hair breakage. And it also works pre- and post-conditioner. Avoid an oily look by not overusing it.

Buy a good conditioner: Conditioner helps create the sleek, frizz-free look many people want. It also seals the cuticle and creates softer hair. The ones to recommend is the ones with silicones, keratin, or oils like argan or jojoba.

What have we learned?

Long-term us of baking soda as shampoo, has more risks than benefits for your hair. Some people may love this natural method, others not so much. Overall, research tells us that, replacing shampoo with baking soda, might in the end not be as good as you thought it will be for your hair.
But, there are many other products and ingredients you can use for hair health.
Taking vitamins for your overall health and for stronger hair growth is one thing for example. Why not try these supplements if you want to try something natural for your hair? In contrast to what research are telling you about the downside of using baking soda, the research about nutraceutical supplements can tell you right the opposite.

Photos: Aqua Mechanical via Flickr.

Dennis Tang via Flickr.