Natural Hair Care: Baking Soda and Apple Cider Vinegar
Natural Hair Care
I have curly, frizzy hair and have always felt trapped using expensive shampoos and conditioners to try to manage my curls. Meanwhile, my straight-haired friends complained of finding good hair products that would leave their hair soft but not weighed down. Add in a concern for all the strange chemicals found in many hair products—from DEA, an irritant and a carcinogen, to DEHP, a compound that contains formaldehyde—which can make their way into your breast milk and are sometimes hidden within the ingredient list as "fragrance," and it was time to find an alternative.
How to take care of my hair and body, while still looking (something like) normal, though? Turns out the answer is as easy as apple cider vinegar and baking soda. Try this out and use it as your regular hair care method or as a weekly treatment.
How It Works
Essentially, when we wash our hair we're trying to get the gunk off while keeping it strong and soft. Here's how baking soda and apple cider vinegar work.
Benefits of Baking Soda:
Baking soda is known as a fantastic cleaning product in general. Its main benefit is the fact that it is a mild alkali with fine, slightly abrasive particles. These two factors work together to break down dirt and grease incredibly effectively, leaving your hair super squeaky clean. It also is not a common irritant and so should not cause issues for most people.
Be aware that baking soda can be rather drying, so you'll want to keep it to the scalp. Don't rub it into the tips of your hair.
Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar:
Apple cider vinegar works in complement to baking soda incredibly well. As a more acidic product, it balances out the alkalizing effect of the baking soda to restore your hair's natural pH levels. It also helps kill bacteria (great if you have dandruff issues!) and is a natural humectant, which means that it helps hold in moisture.
How to Use Baking Soda to Clean Your Hair
So now the question is, how do you actually do this? Do you sprinkle some baking soda on your hair in the shower? Do you awkwardly cup it in your hand? There are a few different methods, but here's what I like to do.
What you need:
- A squeeze bottle (I used an old hair conditioner bottle—don't need that anymore!)
- Baking soda
There is debate over what ratios of baking soda-to water to use. I don't overanalyze it—I just put several (probably 4-5) spoonfuls of baking soda into the squeeze bottle (mine is 400 ml) and then fill the bottle the rest of the way with warm water, with just enough space at the top that I'll be able to shake it up to mix it all in.
When in the shower:
- Get your hair all wet.
- Shake up the water and baking soda mixture to make sure it's evenly mixed.
- Squeeze it out right onto your scalp - I separate my hair into sections sort of like at the hair dresser's and squeeze it right onto my scalp.
- Rub it in well and let it sit for about a minute (during which time you can do something else—I shave my armpits. Too much information?)
- Rinse well.
Remember to keep the baking soda at the scalp level as much as you can. You won't destroy your hair if you rub it in root-to-tip, but it can be rather drying and so you should only do that if you have serious product build-up that you need to clean off.
How to Condition Your Hair with Apple Cider Vinegar
Here's the part that I really didn't believe would work - sure, baking soda will clean, but there's no way my curly, frizzy hair will be conditioned with apple cider vinegar. I used to use deep conditioner treatments almost every day.
Turns out, I was wrong.
What you need:
- A spray bottle
- Apple cider vinegar (ACV)
The ratio here can vary depending on your hair, but generally about 1:4 of ACV to water. Some people use a squeeze bottle for this as well; I found I got much more mileage out of a batch with a spray bottle instead with the same effectiveness.
When in the shower (after you've rinsed out your baking soda mixture, of course):
- Squeeze excess water out of your hair.
- Grab your spray bottle and spray away! I start off focusing on the scalp, separating my hair into sections again, because I have dandruff and want to the ACV to get in there.
- Make sure you really cover your hair, right into the ends.
- Rub it in a bit, and, like with any conditioner, let it sit for a moment.
- Rinse well.
Before you ask, yes, the ACV kind of stinks. Like, kind of a lot. This is not a great option if you're doing a sexy "let's wash each other's hair" type shower. However, the scent does rinse out well. You can try adding some essential oils to your mixture if you would like to try to mask/alter the scent.
How to Choose Essential Oils for Your Hair
Lightens blonde hair
Good for dry hair
Lightens blonde hair
With heat, a lot of lemon can turn hair orange
May irritate very sensitive scalps
Great for normal or dry hair
Good for oily hair
What to Expect
You will find after you wash and condition in the shower, your hair will feel a little like it isn't properly clean or just kind of weird—DON'T FEAR! Once you get out of the shower and dry your hair, you will find it softer and smoother than you ever expected.
Afterwards, feel free to style as normal. Some of my friends who use this method found they don't need to use any styling products afterwards. I still need to follow my usual post-shower hair routine, but found my curls bouncier, shinier, and softer as a result of this technique.
Warning: This technique should not be used every day. I already only wash my hair 3-4 times a week, and that's about as often as you should use this method of hair care.
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© 2013 Andrea