July 19, 2011 10:26 AM Subscribe
Chemists: I'm using baking soda and vinegar to wash my hair. What exactly are they doing?
posted by BrashTech to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (10 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I've been doing the shampoo-free thing for a couple of months, and like it, but dislike the fact that the no-poo movement is a cavalcade of woo ("OMG toxins absorbed thru ur scalp!" "SLS causes brain damage!") and contradictory advice ("Apply vinegar only to the ends!" "Use honey instead!" "You must make a stiff baking soda paste!" "You must make a weak baking soda solution!" "Leave it on several minutes." "Rinse immediately.") As I troubleshoot my formula, I thought it would be useful to know exactly what the stuff I'm putting on my head is doing!
I scrub my scalp and roots and the middle part of my (long, very thick, straight hair) with 1 tablespoon of baking soda dissolved in 1 cup of water. I know I've got enough baking soda in when my hair stops feeling plain-wet-hair-sticky and feels slippery.
When I've thoroughly rinsed out the baking soda, my hair feels very sticky. (Some no-pooers stop at this point, but while I have not tried to comb my hair in this state, it feels like a very bad idea.)
I then rinse my hair from root to tip with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar diluted in 1 cup of water, and rinse thoroughly in plain water, after which my hair feels slick and comb-able again.
What are these two substances actually do? Is their function in any way analogous to shampoo and conditioner? Is there any benefit to leaving either one, or both, on my hair for a few minutes in the shower, or can I save time by rinsing immediately?
(Snowflakey Details: My hair gets clean, and it stays cleaner longer than it used to, so I'm happy overall, though I'd like to work toward less greasiness. My ends are fine, but my hair is just a bit oilier than I would like near my scalp and in the middle regions. I do have a boars-bristle brush that I try to use to distribute the oil. The advice I'm reading says to avoid greasiness, you should use less vinegar, but then it seems my hair stays "stickier" and I get more tangling and breakage when I comb it out. I'm not so much interested personal experience or what works for your hair; I can find plenty of anecdotes and helpful suggestions on the web. I'd really like to know about the chemistry!)