Home Cosmetic Science Talk Formulating General Science Effects of baking soda and vinegar, specifically apple, on hair and skin?

  • Effects of baking soda and vinegar, specifically apple, on hair and skin?

    Posted by Anonymous on July 23, 2020 at 2:42 am
    I have lots of chemical sensitivities that have contributed to chronic illness for much of my life, and a year ago found the no-poo movement. My health has dramatically improved since I’ve stopped using body chemicals, but I’m left with lots of questions about what’s actually effective and safe and what’s just hype. I’d love to hear all of your opinions and real science instead of the searches that I’ve done which pull up thousands of blogs on how awesome everything is.
    The most well known version of no-poo is baking soda to wash and vinegar to condition. The theory is that the alkaline BS strips oil but also lifts the hair cuticle, and the acidic vinegar is diluted and used to reset pH and smooth the cuticle back down.
    My questions are:
    How realistic is this theory?
    What actually happens to the hair and scalp when baking soda is used on it? Can it destroy the proteins in it like it does when used to tenderize meat? Does alkalinity lift hair cuticles, which can then be theoretically broken off or damaged if not closed? What other effects does an alkaline environment have? (I’ve never actually used BS on my hair…)
    What happens to hair when the vinegar is used on it? The common wisdom is to dilute it so it’s not too acidic. What kind of damage can too high an acidity do? What is too high? I noticed that ACV (apple cider vinegar) relaxes my very fine ringlets, making them limp and not curling as high up my head. I stopped using it and now my hair curls to my crown. What kind of damage was the vinegar doing to cause this effect? Are there long term consequences to using it, even diluted?
    When using hard water to wash, we experience the conversion of oils on our hair into what we term as ‘wax’. It becomes stiff and sticky and is extremely difficult to work with and remove. Something in the ACV helps to delay its formation and to soften it and make it easier to remove, even in the presence of hard water. Do you know why this is? Do you know of other things that could have the same effect?
    I have lots of other questions. What is the best way to format them? Should I make a new post for each related group or put them all together in a mega post?
    Thanks for such a neat place! I’ve already learned a ton while lurking, and look forward to hearing what you all say. :)
    ngarayeva001 replied 3 years, 9 months ago 2 Members · 4 Replies
  • 4 Replies
  • letsalcido

    July 23, 2020 at 3:17 am

    @PuffyTiger oversimplified: when you mix a fatty acid (or oil) with a base (alkaline compound) you create soap. The stronger the base the higher the percentage of the oil that will turn to soap. 

    These baking soda washes are probably banking on some of the oils turning to soap, which is water soluble and can then drag more oil and dirt with it. 
    Hard water contains calcium and other minerals. When soap is mixed with those minerals, it reacts and turns less water soluble (which is the scum that builds on the floor of the shower, glassware, windows… when we use soaps in hard water). So this scum sticks to your hair and is not as easily rinsable, again, because it’s not soluble in water.

    Most shower cleaners/scum removers are acidic. They react with it and make it easier to dissolve in water/remove. This is probably what the vinegar is doing in your hair, helping remove those compounds.

    These are all educated guesses. But if someone has actual data to confirm or disprove this it would be very welcome.

    In terms of whether it’s “good” for the hair, I have no idea. Someone might want to jump in and help out. My guess is that this is actually harsher than using commercial products. You’re banking on chemical reactions occurring on your hair and you’re submitting it to possibly large pH drifts, which can destabilize the proteins in it.

    It’s best to have a professional (dermatologist) diagnose your ailments and perform patch testing of common sensitizers found in cosmetics. It is likely that you are sensitive to just a couple or a few, and with knowing exactly which ones you will be able to purchase high-performing commercial products that you can tolerate.
  • Anonymous

    July 23, 2020 at 3:55 am
    @letsalcido Thanks for the response!
    I should have clarified that I’ve tried quite a few other acidic rinses and none of them help to soften or remove the ‘wax’ to the extent that the ACV does. The closest was diluted lemon juice and it was far less effective. The others didn’t appear to be effective at all.
    One of the other good remedies is an applesauce mask. I read that apples have malic acid in them that help to soften and dissolve the buildup, and I’ve wondered if ACV has it also. 
    I’m of the opinion that baking soda is terrible for skin and hair and have never used it myself. But I figured if I was going to be asking all of you scientists questions, maybe I could get some real information about that too! I’m part of a community that shares information and helps each other out and I’d love to have real science instead of hype, either good or bad.
  • letsalcido

    July 23, 2020 at 4:46 am

    @PuffyTiger a proper scientific comparison would require that both solutions be at the same pH at least. And testing the purified acids (acetic acid and citric acid) to rule out other compounds helping (or deterring) removal of build up.

  • ngarayeva001

    July 23, 2020 at 9:55 am

    Do you know that water is a chemical? Also how did you measure that your health has ‘dramatically improved’ except for ‘I feel like it’ and other anecdotal evidence? 

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