I know all the websites, magazines, and experts say not to use soap on your hair. “Its drying and hard on hair!” They scream, but having switched to using plain homemade bar soap to wash my hair two years ago, I can tell you its no worse than shampoo, just different.
Soap is what humans have used since at least 2800 BC to clean ourselves from head to foot. In fact shampoo used to be liquified soap with added herbs to help give hair shine. It wasn’t until the 1930s that shampoo started containing synthetic surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate. According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database, SLS is a “moderate hazard” that has been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, skin irritation and endocrine disruption. Which was enough of a reason for me to stop using it. There are some shampoos on the market that don’t use these surfactants but I didn’t know that two years ago.
There are a few downsides to using soap. Experts have a point when they say that soap is drying. I now use conditioner before and after washing my hair because if I don’t my hair is dry enough to be brittle. First I soak my hair in honey and milk for two minutes (yes its is messy, but it doesn’t matter if some drips in my mouth, its pretty tasty) and after I hop out of the shower I smooth a few drops of citrus essential oil on. Because of this extra conditioning the process of washing my hair has become less spontaneous. I can’t just hop in the shower and wash my hair, I have to get the honey milk mixture made before I hop in. Its a relatively minor hassle, but sometimes it dose mean that my hair wash gets delayed a few days when I’m particularly forgetful. It also takes a bit to lather up my whole head. So the actual washing process takes a bit longer.
Switching over was not that big a deal, although there was more of an adjustment than I would have liked. My big mistake was switching off of both conditioner and shampoo at the same time. Also I tried to wash my hair as often as I did with shampoo. Shampoo often left my scalp and hair greasy even though I washed twice. Soap actually got my hair clean in one wash rather than two. This over zealous washing led to some very dry and unhappy hair days. After figuring out that I -had- to condition, it didn’t take me long to realize that I would have to wash it only once and not as frequently. Every other day was going to kill it. I ended up waiting between each hair wash to let my hair get dirty before washing it again. It took a lot longer between each wash. The first wash lasted only a few days before my scalp got greasy, the next one a few more till eventually I evened out to every other week. I figure the increased hassle of washing my hair is greatly outweighed by the infrequency that it needs to be done.
The biggest and best reason I continue to use soap is that when I stopped using shampoo, my allergies got way better. I stopped having a constant runny nose and could breath better at night. I don’t know it if was the synthetic surfactants or the fragrances, but I am much happier without them in my hair. Also I didn’t know that a lot of shampoos have gluten in them, which might have been another irritant.
Although I like soap I’m not sure its for everyone, and it does take a bit to get used to. I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who has any issues about cleanliness for example. It would lead to extremely dry hair and probably open sores. I would also not recommend it to people for whom convenience is a big priority. Still it is a viable oil free option that I am happy to take advantage of.