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Baking soda *can* clean your hair, but is it actually good for strands?


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Photo: Getty Images/esp2k

If I were playing the wellness stocks, I’d invest in baking soda. Because it can do all the things like make your laundry fresh, clean your entire home, and even save your grungy white sneakers. Since it’s such a multi-tasker, I’ve even pondered incorporating it into my beauty routine (just me?), upon learning that it’s good at helping congested skin. So since hair care is always one step behind skin care, I wondered if soon, we’d be seeing the stuff in formulas for our strands as well.

On skin, sodium bicarbonate (the sciencey term for baking soda) works to fight impurities and act as an antiseptic. Since it’s good at targeting oil, it might seem like a natural connection that it would also be good at dealing with oily roots. From what the pros tell me, because of the basic pH level (which is the opposite end of the spectrum to skin), using baking soda on the scalp actually exfoliates it. “Baking soda is good to exfoliate the hair and scalp,” says Alexis Antonellis, colorist at New York’s Eddie Arthur Salon.

According to her, it’s most effective when you’ve spent time in the pool or are finding yourself dealing with flakes. “It’s especially great for when you have lots of chlorine in your hair or buildup from products,” says Antonellis. “Also, if you have dandruff, mix baking soda with lemon juice, scrub it in, and then be sure to rinse it out very well.”

So why haven’t we all embraced the stuff whole-heartedly and run into its open arms? There are a lot of caveats and even those in the hair-care world are split on whether its actually good to use. “I’m actually not a fan of baking soda for your hair,” admits Will Johnson, owner and master stylist at cool-girl salon Whistle in New York City. “Baking soda can be damaging to your hair. Many people try using it but there are better ways to cleanse or style without being so harsh.” He notes that if you do happen to use it on your lengths, be sure to rinse with vinegar afterwards to bring back the pH balance (skin naturally skews acidic like vinegar).

Founder of Arsen Gurgov Salon, Arsen Gurgov, agrees. “I’m not into the idea of using baking soda in place of shampoo,” he says. “Baking soda is an abrasive and can be very harsh on the hair and scalp,” he says. “Instead, use a shampoo that’s sulfate-free and gentle on your hair and concentrate it on your scalp.”

If the goal is simply healthy strands, Gurgov says to wash your hair less often. “If your hair’s not dirty, instead of shampooing, simply rinse it with conditioner,” he says. “Invest in a hydrating conditioner formulated for dry, damaged, weak, and frizzy hair types as these generally contain more nourishing ingredients that lock in moisture and shine.”

Got product buildup or dull hair? Gurgov advises to avoid the baking soda for exfoliating and instead look for a specific hair treatment. “Use a clarifying shampoo once a week,” he says. Also, avoid products with silicones which are waxes that build up with repeated use and coat the hair making it flat, dull and lifeless.” The last caveat? If you color your hair, you should definitely avoid it. “Baking soda can’t damage the hair, but it sure can ruin the color,” says Antonellis.

So suffice it to say that while baking soda has so many stars in its crown, you hair might not be the very best place for it since there’s so much fine print that comes with using it. If you’re game to give it a go, however, just remember that when all else fails, there’s always shampoo.

For the basics, here are the best natural shampoos and conditioners for every hair type. And this is how to choose the right hair color based on your skin’s undertone

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