A Definitive Guide to Washing Your Hair With Dr. Bronner’s

Washing your hair with Dr. Bronner’s can work really well, but the truth is that it often involves a bit of tinkering to get it right. (Your hair type and water quality alone can greatly affect the results!)

Here,  we try to cover all the basic concepts and offer some troubleshooting tips as well. Much of the information presented here was compiled from customers who commented on Lisa Bronner’s original hair-washing post, and a handful of excellent natural beauty bloggers—most notably, Almost Exactly’s thorough post on the topic.

We’d love to hear about your own personal experiences and help you along your hair journey, so be sure to leave your questions or feedback in a comment below!

The Basics

If there’s one important thing to remember about washing your hair with Dr. Bronner’s, it’s that you need to follow up with an acidic conditioning rinse. We recommend our Organic Conditioning Rinse, which is specially formulated for this purpose and uses a base of organic lemon juice—but you can also use diluted apple cider vinegar in a pinch.

Dr. Bronner’s soaps clean your hair and scalp amazingly well, but they can also leave your hair feeling tangly and matted. This is because the outside of your hair is made up of cuticles: layers of cells that lay over each other like roof shingles. Washing with our soaps disturbs these cuticles but an acidic conditioning rinse will fix the problem beautifully: it tamps these cuticles back down and gives your hair a soft, silky feel.

While this rule generally holds, it’s not universally true. Some folks find that their hair feels fine washing with just soap, and they don’t need an acidic rinse. Others found success after combining our  soap with some coconut milk, and shampooing with that, so that they don’t require a rinse either. If the basic routine doesn’t seem to work for your hair, see our troubleshooting guide below to figure out how best to tweak it.

Photo credit: Instagram @litaisraw (Lita is raw)

The Transition

Conventional shampoos and conditioners (which is nearly all of them… even the ones that claim to be natural, botanical, etc.) usually contain silicones and waxes that coat your hair and give it that smooth feeling.

So if you stop using these products and switch to washing your hair with Dr. Bronner’s it will very likely take your hair some time to adjust. Most transitions last between 2 and 4 weeks. Initially, your hair may feel greasier than normal. After a couple of weeks, your hair may even start to feel drier than normal. Some hair takes to the Dr. Bronner’s routine right away with no transition, which is great! But if you are like most, you may need to withstand a few weeks of bad hair in order to reach the promised land. The reward is a completely natural hair routine, and for many, the softest, silkiest hair they have ever experienced.

Which Dr. Bronner’s Soap Should I Use to Wash Hair?

Our classic liquid Pure-Castile Soaps work great for many folks. However, some of our other soaps may offer specific advantages for your particular hair type or water condition. Here’s a list of the soaps we currently make, along with their unique benefits:

18-in-1 Pure-Castile Soaps (Liquid)

Our original liquid soaps are the go-to for many folks. One advantage is that this is probably the soap you currently have in your house and is the most readily available. Which scent should you use? Your choice! For hair washing, the various scents will function pretty much the same—although Baby Unscented does contain double the amount of olive oil.

Pure-Castile Bar Soaps

Bar soaps offer a few advantages for hair washing. For one, hemp & jojoba oil are added after the coconut, palm, and olive oils have been saponified. This means that hemp oil and jojoba oil remain as oils in the bar instead of being turned into soap, which makes our bar soaps slightly more moisturizing than our liquid soaps. This can be good for thicker or dryer hair types.

Bar soaps also seem to help in hard water conditions. Hard water is very tough on our soaps, as the minerals in the water can break down our soaps and can sometimes lead to buildup or residue on the hair. We’re not exactly sure why bar soaps help with the buildup/residue issue, but have heard from many customers that they’re effective in preventing residue from occurring. We think it may have to do with the added salt that’s in the bar soap formulation.

Organic Sugar Soap

Our Organic Sugar Soaps (formerly called Organic Pump Soaps) are terrific for washing hair. While these soaps begin with our pure-castile liquid soap base, we add a good deal of organic sucrose and organic grape juice. The sugar acts as a natural humectant, helping skin and hair retain moisture. We’ve found this to be good for all hair types, but can be especially beneficial for thick or dry hair.

Organic Shaving Soap

Even more sugar than our Organic Sugar Soaps! For the most moisturizing soap of the bunch try the Organic Shaving Soap. It’s super deluxe.

How Much Soap Should I Use?

While the exact amount you need will depend on your hair type, here are some basic dilutions to get you started. Keep in mind that diluting the soap can help distribute the product evenly throughout your scalp—a little water can go a long way!

Pure-Castile Liquid Soap: You can either apply ½ Tbsp. of soap directly to your scalp or dilute ½ Tbsp. of soap in ½ a cup of water for a thinner consistency

Pure-Castile Bar Soap: Work up a lather in hands and apply directly to scalp

Organic Sugar Soap: One pump, applied directly to scalp

Organic Shaving Soap: Start with a nickel-sized amount in your palm, and apply directly to scalp

Deep Conditioning

For many—particularly those with dry, curly or kinky hair—a regular deep conditioning routine is key to healthy hair. The basis of a deep conditioning routine is to mix a combination of moisturizing ingredients (ex. coconut oil, olive oil, aloe, honey, avocado, banana, apple cider vinegar), apply this concoction to your hair for 15 to 20 minutes, then wash/rinse your hair as you normally would. How often you deep condition really depends on your hair’s needs and your routine, but between once a week and once a month is a good ballpark. For specific deep conditioning recipes, check here.

Water

Water hardness/softness, as well as the exact composition of trace minerals in your water, can greatly affect both your hair and the effectiveness of the products you use to wash and rinse your hair. In particular, hard water seems to present issues for any hair care routine that includes our soaps, as the minerals in hard water can react with our soap in ways that ultimately make it less effective for washing hair.

Water softening is a good solution. Even if you aren’t able to buy a water softening system for the entire house, there are water-softening shower heads available that can yield good results. You can also keep some distilled water around specifically for diluting your soap or acidic conditioning rinse.

Troubleshooting: Oily/Greasy Hair

If you’re in the transition period, we urge you to stick with it, as your hair should eventually reach its natural balance. If you’re several weeks into your routine and still experiencing oily or greasy hair, here are a few things to try:

  • Use less conditioning rinse, or rinse less frequently
  • Use diluted apple cider vinegar instead of Dr. Bronner’s Organic Conditioning Rinse
  • Mix in some baking soda with the soap when you shampoo
  • Massage your scalp firmly, but not vigorously, in the shower while shampooing

Troubleshooting: Waxy Hair or Build-Up

If you’re still in the transition period, this might be product build-up. To help with this, try using a natural bristle brush.

If you have hard water, it could be that the soap is reacting with minerals in your water and leaving a waxy film on your hair. In this case, you can use a water softening shower head or switch to using our bar soap, which seems to perform better in hard water conditions.

A couple other things to try:

  • Use the conditioning rinse more often. Alternate between using the soap and rinse together, and using just a rinse
  • Try clarifying your hair with a baking soda paste, followed by an acidic conditioning rinse

Troubleshooting: Dry/Brittle Hair

If you experience dry hair when washing with our soap and rinsing with an acidic conditioning rinse, you may need to increase the frequency of your deep conditioning routine. If you’re still experiencing dry hair on a regular basis, try changing the balance of your soap and rinse. As a general guideline, think of the soap as a drying agent and the conditioning rinse as a moisturizing agent.

Things to try:

  • Use less soap, or cut out the soap entirely from your routine and just wash with a conditioning rinse. Remember that vinegar or lemon juice still have excellent cleansing properties and will effectively clean your hair on their own!
  • Wash less often, or alternate with washing with just water
  • Add some coconut milk to the soap to give it some extra moisture. Wellness Mama has a good recipe here.
  • Use a small amount of Organic Coconut Oil on your hair after it has dried

Troubleshooting: Dry/Itchy Scalp

Itchy scalp can have several different causes and, depending on the underlying issue, may require a different approach. If your itchy scalp is associated with dry hair (and not oily hair or dandruff), then focus on making sure your scalp is moisturized enough. Deep conditioning will likely help, along with some of these techniques:

  • Dilute the soap and the conditioning rinse: it could be that full-strength is too strong for your scalp
  • Use organic aloe vera directly on your scalp: leave in for about 15 minutes, then rinse with cool water. This will moisturize your hair and help cut down on itchiness
  • Rinse with water in between wash days

 

Author Profile
Rafi Loiederman

Rafi Loiederman is Content Editor at Dr. Bronner's, and has been using the company's products for over 20 years. He enjoys recording and performing music, is an avid hiker and naturalist, and an erstwhile linguist.

See all stories by Rafi Loiederman
  • WiseOldCelticHippie

    I have been making my own shampoo using Dr. Bronner’s peppermint liquid soup, green tea, honey and olive oil. It works well, but I don’t over due it.

    Example- Monday wash with shampoo mixture, Tuesday no wash, Wednesday wash with baking soda/water mixture and rinse with Apple Cider Vinager/water/rosemary mixture, Thursday no wash, Friday wash with shampoo, Saturday no wash, Sunday wash with baking soda/water rinse with ACV mixture.

    It has been working for me for the past 4 years. The baking soda/water mixture exfoliates so no dandruff. The key is to REALLY rinse hair so you don’t leave any baking soda on your scalp.

    Recipe for shampoo:
    1 cup of green tea steeped for 30 minutes
    1 teaspoon honey mixed into tea while it is hot
    1 teaspoon olive oil mixed in tea after it has cooled
    1/2 cup Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap (we love the peppermint. It tingles!) added to cooled mixture
    Stir well and pour into container. Shake shampoo before each use.

    But in a pinch, or when camping, a bar of Dr. Bronner’s soap works great too!

    ALL-ONE!!! Thank you!!!!

    • Sabienne

      Thank you for sharing your recipe. I will try it.

    • Ferlee

      can you share your Apple Cider vinegar recipe too?

      • WiseOldCelticHippie

        Of course! I boil 1 1/2 cup water (in all my recipes I use filtered water) and remove from heat. Then I add 1 or 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary and let that cool. I remove the rosemary and add 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar. Than I put the mixture in a container to use. Always shake before using. I use it after the baking soda wash.

        By the way, using raw apple cider vinegar that has the “mother” can be tricky. Nothing says wake-up like a blog of “mother” landing on your head or clogging up your container’s pour spout! You might want to strain the A.C.V. before adding.

        Here’s a trick I picked up: Focus baking soda mixture on the scalp, leave on for a minute and rinse well. Then apply the apple cider vinegar on mainly the ending of my hair and leave on for about 5 minutes, rinse with cool water.

        You can use dried rosemary, but unless you put it in a reusable tea bag, you have to strain out the bits of rosemary.

        I hope that helps! Peace and ALL-ONE!!

    • Lola Marr

      Can you share your baking soda wash please and do you use the apple cider wash as soon as you wash off the baking soda?

      • WiseOldCelticHippie

        Of course I’ll share! It’s real simple: 3 tablespoons baking soda to 2 cups of water and then shake. I use one of those squeeze bottles with a pointed application tip for all of my mixtures.

        Yes, I use the apple cider mixture right after I rinse out the baking soda wash. In fact, yesterday was my day for using the baking soda wash and apple cider rinse and my hair is shiny and soft. Today is a no wash day, so I put my hair up in a bun while I shower so it stays pretty much dry.

        Peace and ALL-ONE!!

  • Sabienne

    What works best for me is to use the organic conditioning rinse FIRST. Then use a large-tooth comb to smooth out any tangles. Rinse it off. After that, wash using whatever kind of Dr. Bronner’s soap you prefer. Finish by using the organic conditioning rinse again. Gorgeous!

  • Deborah Thelen

    Hello, I have been using Dr Bronners 18 to 1 Castile Soap for a couple of years, at least, and just recently noticed greasiness, I have seen the vinegar solution in another blog and was going to try it and see if it helps.

  • Erika

    I have seborrheic dermatitis on my scalp and wanted to know if the liquid soap is good to use as a shampoo?

    • Sabienne

      Erika, use either the tea tree castile soap or the tea tree sugar soap. Also, if you’re not already taking a good probiotic, I would encourage you to start. A compromised immune system can contribute to seborrheic dermatitis. Eating organic food will be helpful as well.

  • Bizmark

    I mix Dr Bronner soap (any kind) half and half with distilled water and add a little jojoba oil and glycerine since I have dry hair. Wash. Then I spray all over with acv and distilled water (in a spray bottle) and work it into my hair till tangles are all gone. Comb hair. ACV is the best conditioner ever.

    • Tracy Rue

      What is your ACV to water ratio for the spray bottle please? Thanks!

  • Gemma Seymour

    Right now, I have gone back to a specific hair shampoo and conditioner, because it just makes my hair so wonderful, but I also use Dr. Bronner’s soap on my hair occasionally, especially when my scalp gets a little oily, because nothing cuts through half a week’s worth of crud in my hair like Dr. Bronner’s, without making my hair feel as if it’s been fried. My hair is usually OK just using the liquid soap, and I have found the conditioning rinse too heavy for my hair, because I have very fine Southeast Asian hair, so I use a very dilute lemon juice rinse, since I dislike the smell of acetic acid in my hair.

    I have tried the Shikikai soaps, as well, but I never thought to try the shaving soaps. I’ll try that when I get a chance.

  • Paige Plucker

    If you use the citrus liquid soap, is it as important to use the citrus rinse?
    Thanks!

    • Rafi Loiederman

      Yes, no matter which soap you are using, it is always a good idea to use either our Citrus Rinse or diluted apple cider vinegar after washing.

    • Yes, it is still important to use the citrus rinse or apple cider vinegar. The citrus soap only has citrus essential oils, which are not acidic enough to have the desired effect.

  • Heather

    I am a fairly new player to using Dr Bronner’s soap and so far loving it. I am starting to make some of my own household cleaners including laundry powders, spray cleaners, etc. Some recipes call for Dr Bronner’s liquid soap. I would like to use an unscented liquid soap and add my own essential oil for the fragrance option. Can you please advise whether baby unscented liquid soap is just as effective for cleaning as the scented liquid soap. I am wondering whether because it is for sensitive purposes it is not as strong for household cleaning.
    Many thanks, Heather

    • Yes baby soap is just as effective! The only difference between the soaps is the essential oil (baby soap also has a little more olive oil in it to make up the difference, but this does not effect its ability to clean).

  • Michelina Matarrese

    I have bright pink hair and I would love to know if any other rainbow heads have used Dr. Bronners to wash their hair. I would imagine it would strip color quickly, but if there is a hack for that, I’d love to know. I currently just use a conditioner most days and a low-suds shampoo once a week.

    • Scarlet

      Hey! So my hair is purple and I use Dr. Bronners. I wash with a homemade shampoo: 1/2 part Bronnners, 1/4 honey, 1/8 oil blend (coconut and olive) and 1/8 aloe gel, with a splash of Vitamin E and Essential oils. This does NOT fade my hair, but I only shampoo once a week. I typically pin my hair back for my daily shower, and when it must get wet, I spritz it with my ACV blend and skip the ‘poo.

      • Amber Diamond

        Acv blend? I have my hair dyed blue (demi) and I miss using Dr bronners. My scalp itches so much more with the dye friendly shampoo and my hair feels dirty quicker. I would love any tricks or tips you might have. Thanks.

    • In our experience, it really depends on the type of coloring used. Some products do just fine and do not fade when washed with the soap, while others don’t fare as well.

  • Christina

    Hi there!

    I have thick, wavy-curly hair and am hoping to transition to an all natural routine. Like many curly-headed peeps though, my hair is not dry/brittle. wondering if there are any other ladies with similar hair/texture that have any tips/pointers or can vouch for these products! As far as my curls go, I am most concerned about losing my curl definition or increasing in the frizz department. Am open to any/all suggestions and willing to try anything. I realize this transition will take a lot of fine tuning an am willing to put in the time and trudge through weeks of unruliness to get there. As of now, I wash/condition my hair pretty much everyday and use all conventional drug-store products. THANK YOU IN ADVANCE! xo

    • Charlie

      Yes! I am a month in and it is a process! I use the 18 in 1 Castile soap in a foam pump bottle. I like my soap more concentrated so i do 1/2cup castile to 2 cups of water. Wash hair in the shower, use a ACV rinse to get what will feel like residue out. After wash i brush hair and apply coconut oil generously. I wash once a week. I hope this helps I had no idea about the acid rince at first so my hair was looking like carpet lol…

  • Kira

    Hi people new to this as well. Just wondering is the deep conditionar the acidic rinse as well? Its says to do the deep conditioning anf then wash/rinse as normal. Does this mean you use the deep conditionar then wash with the castile soap and then a vinagat rinse? I never saw a section saying acidic rinse so what the dilution. I was thinking wash with castile soap then rinse with acidic rinse (not sure of acv dilution) for every day and then once a week do i do the deep conditionar then the castile soap then a acidic rinse? Thanks sorry a bit confused.

    • Hi Kira, the deep conditioning is not the same as the acidic rinse. So yes, the order is (1) deep conditioning, before the shower, (2) soap (in the shower), and (3) rinse (in the shower). As for the ACV dilution, you can try about a 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup of ACV in a cup of water. Basically, you want to dilute it enough so that you can easily cover your hair with it and so that it doesn’t sting your scalp. Your frequency of conditioning, washing and rinse sounds fine, although many people find that they don’t have to wash as frequently… maybe every other day or every few days. But this is really a matter of personal preference and hair type. Hope this helps!

      • Kira

        Thank you very much!

  • Shaylene McPhee

    But what if my itchy scalp is associated with oily hair or dandruff? What troubleshooting methods then?

    My scalp remains itchy whether it’s oily or not. It doesn’t go away until I use chemical shampoo for a couple weeks and then I have to go through the transition phase all over again!

    • Sounds really troublesome! I’m wondering if you’ve tried Aloe Vera? I’ve read that Aloe Vera can help with both controlling dandruff and with reducing the associated itchiness. You can apply aloe vera gel to hair and scalp before shampooing with the soap.

  • Destiny

    Does anyone know if Dr. Bronner’s 18 in 1 liquid Unscented Baby soap is safe for colored hair? I plan on dyeing my hair silver and would really love to stick to using Dr. Bronner’s on my hair

    • It seems to really depend on the coloring. Some people with dyed hair report no problems using our soap to wash hair, while others have reported that it does remove some of the color. We usually recommend washing a small area to see if the soap removes the specific dye you are using or not.

  • alexraye

    hi dr bronner’s team! alexraye from the Almost Exactly Blog here. THANK YOU for sharing my content. i’ve used your products for years, be it in the shower to in the kitchen. thank you for being such a great and trustworthy company! much love!

    • Hi Alex!

      We really appreciate your blog 🙂 Please email me at rafi (at) drbronner.com as we would love to send you a thank you gift.

  • judith

    I am 82 years old. My hair is very fine and thinning along the side and the front hairline. (It’s quite thick at the back). I’ve been using Dr. Bronner’s soap as shampoo for the last 6-8 weeks. After I wash, my hair feels stripped, and my scalp is frequently very itchy. When I brush, a lot of tiny flakes come out (which I didn’t have before.) and when I scratch my head, even just after washing, a residue of something builds up under my fingernails. I only just found out about diluting it–the label is very hard to read. What else should I do?

    • Hayaat Sk

      Hi Judith, it sounds like your scalp might just be dried out from not diluting! While this article recommends diluting “½ Tbsp. of soap in ½ a cup of water for a thinner consistency”, I would suggest that you might use less soap to water? Also though, are you using the liquid soap or the bar soap? I find the bar soap, just lathered into my hands and then used like a normal shampoo, keeps build up, like flakes and residue away! BUT afterwards, I always rinse my hair with a mixture of water and apple cider vinegar ( I mix about half a cup of water with around a table spoon of the stuff in a little bottle, and then slowly poor it over my head in the shower. I let it sit for a minute or two, then rinse it, and finally brush my hair in the shower). If you have already bought the liquid soap then you probably don’t want to just go out and buy the bar, but I would at least for sure try out the apple cider! It is really helpful in smoothing my hair and making it feel nourished! Good luck!!

      • judith

        Hi Hayaat,

        Your comments are very helpful. I’m using the liquid soap. I also found on Dr.Bronner’s web site a suggestion about rubbing my scalp with straight aloe vera gel, leaving it for 10 minutes and then rinsing with cider vinegar. Result: no more itch, and I now have soft, silky hair. I will dilute both the soap and vinegar as you suggest. Many, many thanks. I’ve had an itchy scalp for years. I can’t begin to list all the shampoos and conditioners I’ve tried. This is the first time anything has actually worked.

        • Hayaat Sk

          Glad your scalp is feeling less itchy!!

      • Great recommendations Hayaat!