No-Poo Living: The Pros and Cons of Baking Soda and Apple Cider Vinegar

Baking soda is a cheap and availalbe ingredient in this face mask.About a month ago, my daughter shared with our Facebook group her hair cleansing success with a combination of baking soda followed by an apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinse. I shuddered.

Don’t get me wrong. I love using baking soda in my homemade toothpaste recipes and skin treatments.  I wholeheartedly advocate using a baking soda wash or dry shampoo for wavy, straight, low porous, oily hair types because the hair structure and tighter cuticles benefit from its antibacterial and deodorant properties.

But I was skeptical of using baking soda in curly, kinky and coily hair types. After all, baking soda or sodium bicarbonate has a pH of about 9.5 — way too harsh for delicate textured hair types.

However, baking soda and ACV combined is a good emergency clarifying no-poo cleanser to remove oil, hair product and environmental build-up. Properly diluted baking soda can gently lift the cuticle to cleanse the hair shaft without compromising the protein bonds. The ACV will — in turn — close cuticles and replace moisture.

No One-Size-Fits-All Recipe

I changed my mind when I realized all hair types can reap the benefits of baking soda and ACV hair washes. The key is the proportion of baking soda/H20 and ACV/H20 in the  mixtures.

Most importantly, cleansing with baking soda is a 2-step process. It’s essential to follow up with an ACV rinse because it’s high acidity — 2.4 pH — brings down baking soda’s alkalinity and restores it to normal human hair pH (about 4.5 – 5.5 pH).

So, while this 2-step no-poo formula is good for all hair types, there’s no one-size-fits-all recipe. The proportions have to be adjusted for different hair types, textures and needs.

A Word of Caution

Some natural/organic no-poo enthusiasts have reported horrific experiences with this combination and for good reason. Raising and lowering your cuticle is no different than coloring, perming or relaxing your hair.This is a relatively harsh process that shouldn’t be used too regularly or else you’ll damage the hair’s acid mantle.  Long term frequent use can hurt your hair.

Some in the natural beauty community soundly discourage any use of baking soda. I don’t completely write off its effectiveness when clarifying is necessary. Moreover, you can control proportions. Just bare in mind, this is an occasional hair treatment that can remove build up, toxins and excess oils and revitalize the hair.

Moreover, the ACV rinse won’t immediately restore your hair’s pH. You may need to apply a spritz of ACV/water, aloe vera and light oils for a few days after to bring your hair’s pH and moisture back to normal.

If you need frequent hair clarifying, try mud washes, beer or coconut washes/shampoos.

The Base Formula

Once you know the base baking soda/water and ACV/water ratios, you can adjust them to your hair type.  Here’s the common formula:

Baking Soda Rinse: 1/2 tsp baking soda to 1 cup water

Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse: 1 part ACV to 4 parts water (1/2 cup ACV to 2 cups (distilled) water). Add a few drops of citrus or lavender essential oil to offset oil.

  1. Wet hair
  2. Saturate with baking soda mixture from roots to ends
  3. Massage scalp and work through hair for 5 minutes
  4. Rinse thoroughly
  5. Repeat with the ACV mixture
  6. If you want to use the ACV as a final rinse, saturate then blot dry

For Oily, Limp, Dull Hair

If you have oily hair and  suffer from constant build up, chances are you can’t go a day or two without shampooing your hair. But, remember one thing: when you use detergents like shampoos, the sebaceous glands in your scalp will react differently than you may expect.

As with skin, over cleansing to regulate oiliness can strip your skin and scalp of natural oils. So, the sebaceous glands compensate by producing more oil. The more you shampoo, the more oil you’ll produce. It’s a vicious cycle.

Instead, try using  2-step baking soda/ACV wash method using the base formula once a month. Then, find alternative no-poo solutions on alternate days. The idea is to cleanse your scalp while slowing down excessive oil production to bring your hair and scalp back in balance.

But, beware. Oil isn’t evil. Stripping your hair of oil isn’t necessarily good. Don’t overdo by adopting this method as a replacement for  mild shampooing or other gentle cleansing alternatives. You’ll regret it.

For Dry orTextured Hair

Those of us with curly, kinky, coily hair suffer from various levels of dryness. Moreover, while many with textured hair types may have low porosity, the protein bonds are weaker where the coils and kinks bend.  It’s essential for these hair types to maintain the proper protein/moisture balance or the hair will break. That’s part of the reason textured hair is more delicate than wavy and straight hair types.

It’s just as important to clarify dry, textured hair on a regular basis but not as often as with straighter textures. The combination of baking soda and ACV are a good occasional option but it’s best to use caution. Make these adjustments:

  • Switch the baking soda/H20 and ACV/H20 proportions to 1 part baking soda to 4 parts H20  and 1 part ACV to 3 parts water.
  • Use this no more than   every other month, if your hair curl type is 3a and 3b.
  • Use once every three months for 3c, 4a, 4b and 4c hair textures.

My New Appreciation

While I loudly preach the power of apple cider vinegar for it’s ability to normalize alkaline pH, baking soda, when used wisely, is equally effective in balancing acidity, especially when taken internally. You can be sure I’ll be talking more about this in the future!

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“Stop Shampooing,”

“Drinking Baking Soda For Your Health,”

“3 Reasons Why Baking Soda and Apple Cider Vinegar Destroy Your Hair and What to Use Instead,”