There is no shortage of suggestions on how to get beautiful hair, and using baking soda is part of the “no shampoo” or “no poo” trend. However, just because baking soda is natural does not mean it is safe.

While anecdotal evidence suggests that baking soda helps to clean the hair, the medical community is undecided about whether this is healthy.

In this article, we look at possible risks and benefits.

Possible benefits

baking soda in a bowl which may be used on the hair
Using baking soda on the hair may leave it clean, shiny, and soft.

Baking soda dissolved in water helps to remove any buildup of oils, soaps, and other ingredients in typical hair care products.

By stripping away this buildup, baking soda can leave hair squeaky-clean, shiny, and soft.

Also, the powdered consistency of baking soda makes it an exfoliant, so it can help to remove dry skin from the scalp.

People concerned about the additives in commercial shampoos, or the cost, may prefer baking soda as an alternative.

Some people rinse their hair with apple cider vinegar after washing it with baking soda. Baking soda has a high pH, and rinsing with vinegar is an attempt to restore the scalp’s natural pH balance.

A person may try this technique every day, but many use it once a week.

Some people who wash with baking soda report good results. However, scientific evidence does not support them.

Risks

Because of its abrasive composition, baking soda is a good cleaner for grills, stoves, and stainless-steel sinks. However, the small crystals of baking soda may be too harsh for the hair.

Baking soda is also much more alkaline than commercial shampoos, and it has a higher pH level than the scalp.

Risks of using baking soda on hair include:

Dryness

While baking soda does clean well, it may also strip the hair of natural oils, which can lead to dryness.

The amount of oil in the hair varies among individuals. Although too much oil can make the hair look greasy, some oil is needed to keep the scalp healthy.

Stripping away all the oil can make hair look dull. Typical commercial shampoos contain ingredients that moisturize the hair and keep it clean.

Using a natural conditioner containing coconut or argan oils can help to restore moisture.

Breakage

Baking soda is a type of salt and consists of tiny, abrasive crystals.

The hair is delicate, and these small crystals may tear hair fibers, leading to split ends and breakage.

Scalp irritation

Baking soda may also irritate the scalp. It is not recommended for people with dry scalps, dry skin, or conditions such as eczema.

What the evidence says

Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate. It has a pH of about 9, which is considered a strong alkali or base. The pH of the scalp and the rest of the skin is about 5.5.

Research suggests that using a product with a pH higher than 5.5 may damage the scalp.

Products with higher pH levels may also increase static electricity and friction between the hair fibers. This can damage fibers and lead to frizz.

Finally, baking soda opens up the hair cuticles, which causes water absorption. While some moisture is good for the hair, too much absorption can weaken it.

Other natural shampoos

Coconut oil in a jar
Coconut oil is a recommended natural ingredient for hair care.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it is best to choose a shampoo based on the hair’s type.

Before selecting a product, consider whether the hair is thick, thin, or oily. People who dye their hair should find products designed for color-treated hair.

For those who prefer to use natural products, baking soda is not the only option. Many products on the market are suited to specific hair types. Natural ingredients for hair care may include:

  • Coconut oil: This can help to seal in moisture and may be good for people with dry hair. Most natural food shops carry products containing coconut oil. These are also available for purchase online.
  • Aloe vera: This contains an enzyme that can stimulate hair follicles, leading to growth. It may also soothe dry, irritated scalps.
  • Jojoba oil: This may be similar to the oil produced by the scalp, and it can help to balance oil production and treat dry hair. A variety of jojoba oil products can be bought online.

Takeaway

Baking soda has a pH of 9, which is far higher than that of the scalp. Using a product with such a high pH may harm the hair.

Over time, baking soda can strip the natural oil from the hair, lead to breakage, and make the hair fragile.

People with very oily hair may see some benefits from using baking soda, but it should only be used for a brief time and with caution.

It is important to keep in mind that just because something is natural does not mean it is the right product for the job.

While baking soda may help to remove excess oil, it is probably not the best choice for most people.