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Everything You Need To Know About Using Baking Soda To Clean Your Hair

Photo by Marcus Chung/Getty Images

It’s no secret that at IPSY we’re obsessed with finding everyday ingredients that can level up our beauty routines. From rose water for hair, to mango butter, shea, coconut, and more, the glow-making, shine-boosting, skin-clearing (and not to mention money saving) benefits of using tried-and-true ingredients for hair and skin are endless. So naturally, when we caught wind of this latest ingredient, we had to talk about it. Babes, baking soda for hair has entered the chat. 

Now, before we start sprinkling baking soda all over our hair routines, there are a few do’s and don'ts (after all, the ingredient can also be used as a household cleaner). And the last thing we want to do is over strip our strands and scalp. So how do we use baking soda the right way? Read up on how to safely incorporate baking soda into your hair routine below with tips from our pro. Then, reap all the glorious hair benefits. 

First, is baking soda safe for all hair?

The answer is yes and no. It all depends on your hair and scalp. If you’ve got issues with buildup, lack of shine, and lack of volume, baking soda can work wonders on clarifying and breathing life into your strands. If your hair is on the dryer side or if you have a sensitive scalp, the pros recommend using it sparingly as baking soda can be too harsh and cause breakage and irritation.

“Hair has a pH level between 4.5 and 5.0, which includes sebum produced by the sebaceous glands that coat the scalp and hair. This natural acidity prevents bacteria from growing in the hair and scalp, leaving the cuticle closed and healthy. Baking soda on the other hand, has a pH of about 8.3, which makes it alkaline. What does this mean for the hair? When baking soda comes in contact with hair, it interacts with sebum to remove excess oil and build-up on the scalp and hair, neutralize acids, dissolve dirt and oil residue, and act as a gentle exfoliant,” says Dabs Ogboru a certified trichologist in Sugar Land, Texas. 

So what are the benefits of baking soda for hair? Read up on them below: 

1. It clarifies

“The alkalinity of baking soda is what gives it the ability to clarify the scalp,” says Ogboru. The ingredient serves up serious clean minus the suds of a shampoo (aka a no-poo treatment). 

2. It boosts shine

“For straighter textures, removal of buildup from using baking soda causes light to reflect off the hair shaft creating shinier hair,” according to Ogboru.

3. It exfoliates your scalp

“Baking soda helps with exfoliating since it’s slightly abrasive; however when applying it to the scalp, scrub the mixture using gentle, light pressure, so you don’t cause irritation,” says Ogboru.

4. It acts as a dry shampoo

“Most dry shampoos contain all sorts of synthetic ingredients and alcohol. Baking soda on the other hand contains no parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, diethanolamine, dyes, or fragrances like most shampoos on the market making it a cleaner alternative,” Ogboru says

5. It gets rid of odor

Hair smelling like a campfire?  Rub some baking soda on your roots for a quick odor-neutralizing refresh in between washes. 

What are the risks of baking soda for hair? There are a few:

1. It can’t be used daily

Because of its tendency to be abrasive, experts don’t recommend using baking soda every single day. “Our scalp needs the natural sebum and oil,” according to Ogboru. Over-stripping your scalp can affect the natural ability of these oils to hydrate, grow healthy hair, and protect skin.

2. It can be too drying

“Tighter curls tend to deal with more dryness since sebum has a harder time traveling down the hair shaft, so using baking soda can strip the oils and cause further dryness,” Ogboru says. As a rule for any texture, limit your baking soda hair-apy to once a week or once every two weeks for extra dry or textured strands.

3. It can exacerbate skin conditions

If you’re prone to eczema, psoriasis, or conditions that make you prone to hair loss (like telogen effluvium), be sure to steer clear of baking soda. It can be too harsh. But don’t sweat it. We’ve got some awesome (and IPSY-adored) alternatives below. 

How do you use baking soda on hair? Here’s a DIY recipe your scalp will love: 

What You’ll Need:

  • Baking soda
  • Water
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Squeeze bottle

What To Do:

Step 1: Mix 2 tablespoons baking soda with ¼ cup apple cider vinegar and ¼ cup of water and stir. “Apple cider vinegar, which has a high pH level of 2.3, will help create a balanced solution that dissolves dirt, oils, and buildup on the scalp,” says Ogboru.

Step 2: Pour the solution into a container (we recommend a squeeze bottle for easy application).

Step 3: Working with dry hair, apply the solution to your scalp and massage gently all over. Comb the solution through hair. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then rinse. Do this once a week if you’ve got normal to oily hair and once every two weeks if you’ve got a sensitive scalp or breakage-prone strands. 

Don’t want to DIY? Try these awesome alternatives.

1. Rinse with cold water 

This trick is tried and true (and really works). The next time you condition, rinse your strands with cool water instead of warm. This trick keeps the hair cuticle closed, rather than opening and roughing it up. The result? Smoother strands and amped up shine. 

2. Hit The Bar 

There’s something about a shampoo bar that just delivers an intense deep clean feeling. Our fave? Kitsch Tea Tree Mint Clarifying Shampoo Bar. It’s got no bad stuff (like phthalates, parabens, or silicones), and helps clear up buildup without stripping away the good stuff (your hair’s natural oils).

3. Co-Wash Your Curls

For those with curly, textured strands, co-washing is key. This technique involves washing hair with conditioner to add deep moisture while boosting volume and nixing frizz. Lush Avocado Co-Wash does a kickass job. 

4. Reach For These Clarifying Shampoos

Oribe The Cleanse Clarifying Shampoo uses volcanic ash to help gently exfoliate the hair and scalp while removing oil, dirt and buildup. It’s made with green tea extract to help strengthen hair to prevent breakage. We’re obsessed with its mousse-like formulation that lathers like crazy without stripping strands. 

Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo is loaded up with vitamin E, fatty acids, keratin, vitamin B5, and Argan oil. This Arsenal of good-for-hair ingredients helps break down buildup, nourish hair and leave behind a high gloss shine. 

Want the scoop on new ingredients for gorgeous hair and skin? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

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About the author
Runa Rhattacharya
Runa Bhattacharya
Runa is an NYC-based writer and Registered Nurse with over 8 years of experience covering beauty and wellness. She’s worked for publications like SELF, Cosmopolitan, and more. She’s passionate about beauty, science, and two careers that she loves!
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Article Last Updated October 8, 2021 12:00 AM