On Baking Soda and pH
In my earlier post “A Lo-Po’s BFF and Frenemy”, I discussed products that work brilliantly and terribly on my low porosity hair. To explain how I use these products and the results they yield, I thought I’d write a series discussing the items each week in detail. One item that I discovered recently that is inexpensive and readily available, is baking soda.
Baking soda is a really controversial product in the natural hair sphere. Some people think that it’s harsh, because it lifts the cuticles, which they believe does more harm than good, in the long run. Another controversy surrounding baking soda is its alkaline PH, which ranges from about 8-9. Some claim that it can alter the structure of curly hair and equate it to a straightener/relaxer.
In my opinion, this is highly unlikely, as a relaxer, which has the chemical lye or sodium hydroxide, has a PH of 14. In order for a product to chemically alter the structure and break down the bonds of the hair, it would have to be highly alkaline, as are relaxers. Relaxers are 1,000,000 times more alkaline than water and baking soda is 100 times more alkaline. See this blog for more information on baking soda and its effect on hair. I will list some blogs and sites at the end of this post, so that you find out about some of the arguments for and against baking soda.
Here is a short definition of pH:
PH is a measure of the alkalinity or acidity of a substance. It measures the concentration of Hydrogen ions (H+) measured against the concentration of Hydroxyl ions (OH-). When a substance has more Hydrogen ions than Hydroxyl ions, a substance is considered acidic. When water has more Hydroxyl ions than Hydrogen ions, the water is considered basic or alkaline. When there are an equal amount of Hydrogen ions and Hydroxyl ions (H20), the substance (i.e. water) is considered neutral (pH 7.0) [http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/PH]
Liquids with a PH less than 7 are acidic
Liquids with a PH greater than 7 are alkaline
Water has a PH of 7 and is neutral.
Why I use Baking Soda
My hair is prone to build up. I have to be very careful not to be heavy-handed when applying products. I wash my hair once a week to ensure a clean, healthy scalp. Last year I used sulfate-free shampoos to wash my hair. However, these shampoos still left my hair feeling just as dry and stripped as with sulfate shampoos. After sulfate-free shampoos, I tried using the “conditioner only” or “curly girl” method to wash my hair. This left me with loads of build-up. Looking back, this was probably due to the fact that most conditioners are acidic. “Low pH conditioners […] provide the hair with positive charge and thus more hydrogen bonds between the keratin scales, giving the hair a more compact structure (wikipedia.com).”
Because conditioners are more acidic and give the hair a more compact structure, they left my already compact low porosity hair with buildup. For a high porosity hair or even a normal porosity hair, this is great! I need a slightly alkaline product or a method (e.g. warm water) that will help lift my compact cuticles and allow me to let moisture into my hair shaft.
How I use Baking Soda
As a Clarifier
If I notice heavy build-up, flaky or white residue on my scalp, I clarify with baking soda once per month. If you plan on trying baking soda rinse, it’s best to never use more than 65 grams/ app. 4 TBSP of baking soda. I use very little and it’s still really effective.
- I place 1 TBSP – 2 TBSP of baking soda in about 2- 4 liters of warm water and mix it well. I pour this mixture over my scalp and hair, being careful to avoid my eyes.
- I put on a plastic cap and allow the mixture to sit about 15-20 minutes. Before rinsing, I gently massage my scalp, to break up any debris.
- Next, I rinse my hair with warm water thoroughly, being sure to remove all the baking soda.
- Finally, I follow this with a deep conditioner, rinse* it out with lukewarm water and style.
* I don’t always completely rinse my conditioner out, sometimes only rinse out 60 – 80 percent. I liken this to a leave-in.
This process leaves my hair clean, but not stripped. After applying my conditioner, my hair is softer and detangling is much easier. Since, my conditioner has an acidic pH, this is what I use to seal my cuticles.
As a Cleansing Deep Conditioner (DC)
If I feel like my hair does not have a significant amount of buildup, but is feeling somewhat dry, I will either replace my monthly baking soda clarifier with a baking soda DC.
- Mix 1 -2 TBSP of baking soda in 1 C of conditioner add a few TBSP of your favorite oil.
- Gently apply this mixture to wet hair, don’t rub or massage it into your hair, simply coat your hair with it.
- Cover your hair with a plastic cap and allow the mixture to sit 30 minutes.
- Rinse thoroughly with warm water, apply your conditioner of preference, let it sit a few minutes or do another deep conditioner, detangle.
I liken this to a cleansing and deep moisturizing conditioner.
There you have it. This is how I use baking soda in my regimen. It leaves me with soft, supple, clean and shiny hair. I would say, I generally use baking soda once per month. I do have other products (e.g. rhassoul clay) that I also use, so I try to switch things up.
In the next post, I’ll discuss my Lo-Po hair frenemy: Aloe vera and Aloe vera gel. As the term frenemy implies, aloe vera can give me nice results, when used correctly, however, when used incorrectly my hair is a disaster. I tend to stay away from this product, but if you like it, I hope to give you some useful tips for making it work for low porosity hair.
Further Info on Baking Soda
For your reading or viewing pleasure:
The author of this website is very leaning more towards pro, but also presents the arguments against. He also offers an alternative to using baking soda, diluted castile soap, which I haven’t tried.
Naturally curly, takes an anti perspective, then offers a recipe that suggests using a large amount of baking soda– confusing or what?
In my opinion, you have to do you research and see what works best for you. Many vloggers and bloggers probably fall into high or normal porosity category, which is why washing their hair in aloe or diluted vinegar, works wonders.
Have you tried baking soda rinses or DCs? What were your results.