Reader Questions: Modifying Shampoo and Baking Soda Danger?

Q: Nedra (lovely name!) has been cowashing but really needed to clean her hair, so she modified her shampoo by adding honey and olive oil. The effect she says is that her hair felt moisturized. She asks, 'So is it possible to use shampoo in this way without all of the drying effects?'

A: The reason why shampoo leaves hair feeling dry is because it is supposed to. It is designed to dissolve oil. I will repeat that. Shampoo is designed to DISSOLVE oil.

Why dissolve oil you ask? The oil on hair (whether self-made or applied) attracts dust and dirt. Do you ever find that your hair collects lint over time? If you have oily hair or regularly add oil to your hair, the reason why the lint is there is because, it is attached to the oil.

There are two known safe ways to dissolve oils, one is to dissolve it in another oil, but this would not clean hair. The second is to use a surfactant which can force the oil into water.

Shampoo is designed to dissolve oil into water. You can learn more by looking at the surfactant and micelle posts - here and here.

Adding oil to a shampoo probably reduces its cleaning power because the surfactant will start binding to that oil instead of the one on your hair. However if the mixed shampoo is still able to clean your hair to a standard that you like, then there is no harm. Honey is probably fine since it is mostly sugar and that should not interfere too much with the surfactants in shampoo (honey safety is a wild theory I should add)

Q: Second question from Nedra, she added a small amount of baking soda to her conditioner and said that she did not notice anything except shedding which could be attributed to the fact that she had not removed shed hairs for several days. She asks, 'Is the baking soda really that dangerous?'

A: Umm...yeah (ducks!). I did do a little experiment on baking soda in conditioner and it does dramatically change the pH from a more or less neutral state to quite alkaline. The amount of baking soda required for this recipe was massive!

I personally would not recommend mixing it in conditioner. The high pH is known to affect the cuticle, causing lifting. I do know there are some ladies who do swear by its cleansing power and some even say it can relax hair. My own little experiment did not demonstrate this effect but my hair is pretty resistant to normal relaxers anyway. I would think with its high pH it is probably a good cleanser but it may come at a price.


  1. omg!! GREAT POST!!!IT actually helped me understand why I was struggling with dryness when I was locking!!So as you know I love love locs and tried several times w/o much success. So since my hair is very dry, I usually use oils everyday but also washed my hair twice a week b/c I was so afraid of build up.
    so all I had was dry dry hair and itchy scalp!
    what is a routine for locs that you recommend?

  2. I enjoyed this post. I felt the same way about using baking soda along with conditioners. When I tried it (one time only) I didn't like the way my hair felt. I did read using a ACV rinse afterwards will neutralize the pH. But I feel there are so many products to cleanse the hair why do all those extra steps.

  3. Thank you SOOOo much for getting back to me on this one. I've since cut out the shampoo and use diluted castille soap, but I still did to the baking soda from time to time thing, but i didn't like it.
    I'm now 7 months post... this is a journey indeed.

  4. You are more than welcome Nedra. It is a journey indeed. Unfortunately there is no magic product that works for all hair, so we do have to keep switching around until we find something that works!

  5. Amina - I'm going to have to do some consultation for you. I'll definitely post when I have an answer!

  6. @ Amina

    I have had braidlocs for more then 3 years. I will use a latching hook to retighten the root ( interlock) and i was free for a month or two. i could wash anytime but since i did not need any product to hold my hair i did not have any risk of buildup.

  7. Kadiane you are a star, thanks for sharing.

  8. I just tried a baking soda conditioner mix for the first time last week as a scalp detox for my seborrheic dermatitis. When I went to rinse I did notice a very alkaline smell almost like a relaxer, it was very strange. Which prompted me to follow the mix with an ACV rince because I thought it would help to balance things out. I noticed absolutely no change in my new growth (I am relaxed, but 13 weeks post) however, I did experience I dramatic improvement in my itchy scalp without an increase in dryness in my hair so I will continue to use this mix followed by ACV once a month or so. I only used about 2 tablespoons of baking soda to about 5 oz of V05 Moisture Milks--I was afraid to use more than that.


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