By Jc of The Nat­u­ral Haven

This post comes cour­tesy of a reader’s ques­tion. Bak­ing soda  was for a time a pop­u­lar alter­na­tive to con­ven­tion­al sham­poos but the tide began to turn as nat­u­rals began to seek out low pH prod­ucts. There are two sides to the bak­ing soda sto­ry and here are the facts for you to weigh out

1. Irritation

Pro:  Sham­poos con­tain sur­fac­tants which remove oil from skin and hair and cause irri­ta­tion. For exam­ple a clar­i­fy­ing sham­poo rich in SLS can be very irri­tat­ing even with­in the ide­al pH range of 4–7. Although pure bak­ing soda has a high­er pH, it may not be as irri­tat­ing as it is not clean­ing by remov­ing oil. Soap and sham­poo bars also have an alka­line pH and some nat­u­rals will find them gen­tler than sham­poos.

Anti:  There is a rela­tion­ship between high pH and skin irri­ta­tion. Although some sham­poos can be irri­tat­ing, switch­ing to a dif­fer­ent one may be a solu­tion. Bak­ing soda at pH 10 is like­ly to irri­tate skin in some indi­vid­u­als because of the pH.

2. Hair damage

Pro:  Skin and hair only changes mild­ly when exposed to alka­line soap or bak­ing soda. It will also nor­mal­ly recov­er back to nor­mal unaid­ed quite quick­ly with­in 45 min­utes to 3 hours (British Jour­nal of Der­ma­tol­ogy, Vol­ume 76, Issue 3, pp 122–125, 1949). Although sham­poo is with­in the pH range of 4–7, it does con­tain neg­a­tive charges from sur­fac­tants which may lift the cuti­cle. Whether you choose to use sham­poo or bak­ing soda,  a hair con­di­tion­er is use­ful to cor­rect this poten­tial dam­age.

Anti: Out­side the pH 4–9 range hair can expe­ri­ence struc­tural changes (for exam­ples cuti­cle lift­ing exter­nal­ly and some changes to the inner fibre) (J Soc Cos­met Chem, pp 393–405, 1981). Although no study specif­i­cal­ly shows that this hap­pens when bak­ing soda is used, it is a pos­si­ble out­come.

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21 Comments on "Is Baking Soda Too Harsh for Natural Hair?"

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hi girls ; does bak­ing soda strip sebum ?


This arti­cle cor­rect­ly points out that bak­ing soda does not remove oils. It also leaves wax­es intact, so sebum remains undis­turbed (which this arti­cle also points out will be part of the rea­son it’s not as irri­tat­ing as sham­poo).

Accord­ing to Pinke­cube of the MHM, it should dis­solve low build up (and there­fore MHM-friend­ly) hair prod­ucts though, so along with lots of con­di­tion­er (which *does* remove some oil) you have a thor­ough yet non-strip­ping hair and scalp wash, with mois­tur­iz­ing ben­e­fits for those of us with low poros­i­ty hair. :D


Half a lemon as a replace­ment for a table­spoon of vine­gar is a very fea­si­ble option. It con­di­tions and soft­ens, as well as the bonus of the lemon’s innate oils nour­ish­ing your hair.


what about adding bak­ing soda to con­di­tion­er and using that as a shampoo/conditioner all in one?

Thank you for the post. I recently(yesterday) made a hair mask with Olive Oil and Hon­ey. I don’t seem to get the oili­ness out of my hair. So I am won­der­ing when using coconut/olive oil as a con­di­tion­er, is there a secret to it? I have now tried BS and WV(white vine­gar) rin­se for the first time.. It didn’t remove the oil from my hair. But.. My hair is real­ly soft and man­age­able though. I just hate the smell of the Vine­gar, how big of a dif­fer­ence will essen­tial oil make to the smell? Is there a nat­u­ral alter­na­tive to the… Read more »
I use bak­ing soda almost every wash (when i’m not using an oil treat­ment). I use bak­ing soda in it’s nat­u­ral form, as a solid. i gen­tly scrub it to the scalp and let it be for 5–10 mins. To bal­ance the pH i use vine­gar. I use a solu­tion of vine­gar + water after wash­ing off the bak­ing soda. AS the final wash i squirt about a 1/4 of a lemon to 300 ml of water. Since i’m cur­rent­ly liv­ing in Mid­dle east i use drink­ing water to wash my hair ( the water here is hor­ri­ble — it’s… Read more »

Thank you for say­ing how long it took for the hair to return to nor­mal after being exposed to alka­line prod­ucts. I often won­dered if it was necce­sary to close the cuti­cle back with some­thing acidic after rais­ing it. I’m low poros­i­ty and have just dis­cov­ered that adding a pinch of bak­ing soda to prod­ucts has done WONDERS for my hair. Like my hair lit­er­al­ly hangs longer because its FINALLY prop­er­ly mois­tur­ized! I raised the ph of my con­di­tion­er to co-wash and of my leave in with bak­ing soda and I am in love with my hair again! :)


Thanks for read­ing my blog,around $250 per head, i use Olym­pus XZ1.Please “Like” my fao­cobek as well to keep updat­ing my


[…] some nat­u­rals (because of its high pH), it’s a high­ly effec­tive clean­er for oth­ers. Check out this post weigh­ing the pros and cons of bak­ing soda to deter­mine if it’s the right option for […]


I use a mix of 1 part Bak­ing Soda, 1 part water, 1 part Con­di­tion­er and 1 part Olive oil as a deep con­di­tion­er twice a mon­th. I have thick coarse hair so i leave it on for about an hour or so and it does won­ders for my hair!!:))) I also add a cou­ple of drops of laven­der to mask the odd smell:))

Angel Renee'

Dur­ing my first year of being nat­u­ral, I used bak­ing soda all the time. With the pH craze that has tak­en over the nat­u­ral scene, I imme­di­ate­ly speed using the alka­line bak­ing soda. It’s nice to know that bak­ing soda has its excep­tions and its effec­tive­ness ulti­mate­ly depends on the head of hair. Great insight!

peace & love,
Angel Renee’


I used to use castile soap but now I use Shea Mois­tures African Black Soap Purifi­ca­tion Masque as a hair wash. It removes buildup with­out strip­ping my hair. Plus My scalp feels clean all week.


My hair loves bak­ing soda as well (and hates oils), my hair is low poros­i­ty, so may­be that has a lot to do with it.

The Natural Haven

Out of curios­i­ty — Do you real­ly mean your hair hates all oils or would it be ok with a very light oil/very lit­tle oil?


May­be Starr’s hair is like mine? I’m low poros­i­ty and oils just pre­vent me from get­ting mois­ture into the strand. Every­thing *includ­ing the oil* just sits on top so the hair is not only hard and dry but greasy too. Coconut oil was one of the worst offend­ers, and once you get it on, it’s hard to get it off with­out sham­poo. A ter­ri­ble vicious cir­cle, that.

Many of my nat­u­ral friends are opposed to using bak­ing soda but I’ve found that noth­ing else takes away the buildup from my hair. I’ve tried ACV and all kinds of sham­poos and noth­ing cleans bet­ter than bak­ing soda. One thing to note though is that I get buildup on my scalp very eas­i­ly. It is a lot less now since I start­ed using all nat­u­ral organ­ic prod­ucts but if I don’t wash my hair for two weeks and only only use con­di­tion­er to cow­ash, I end up with an itchy scalp and a lot of build up that takes… Read more »
No ma'am

Not for me. I love bak­ing soda, it’s makes my hair soft, shiny, and gor­geous. I get a deep con­di­tion­er, reg­u­lar con­di­tion­er, 2 tblsp­ns of Extra Vir­gin Olive Oil, two tblsns of hon­ey, two- three tbsp­ns of bak­ing soda, run it all through my hair, let it set for 2 hours and my hair is just amaz­ing. ;)


I am going to try this, I added bak­ing soda to my sham­poo to remove excess col­or my hair soaked up last night and my hair is SHINY AND SOFT!!!! Ok! I used to look at oth­er people’s nat­u­ral hair like what are they using, how come my hair is always so frizzy and dull. No more hon­ey. Add the above, which I will NOT be sham­poo­ing on a reg­u­lar I’ll just b.s. it, to my Curly Twists con­di­tion­er and BOOM! I am set.


I do the same thing — my hair loves it too. Every­thing ain’t for every­body. :-)


my hair actu­al­ly love bak­ing soda.. i do acv rin­se after to bal­ancee the ph


I too used to do this with suc­cess (bak­ing soda rin­se fol­lowed by ACV rin­se). I was also a big user of (dilut­ed) Dr. Bronner’s for years. How­ev­er, late­ly, and large­ly by acci­dent, I’ve found that using prod­ucts that are close to hair’s nat­u­ral pH seem to be mak­ing a dif­fer­ence.