Tips for adjusting to natural shampoo bars

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Transitioning to a natural hair regimen provides many benefits, but also comes with one hurdle for some: the transition, or “breaking in”, period. For some, the first few weeks of using a natural shampoo bar result in hair that “feels funny”. Some describe it as feeling waxy, or thicker, or just “off”. But everyone agrees that once you get through the breaking in period, you’ll love your hair!

If you’re not sure what a shampoo bar is, you can find out all about them here (and you can read more about our conditioner bars here). But, let’s get back to helping you adjust to shampoo bars:

The Shampoo Bar Break-in Period.

Many of our customers have no breaking in period. However, those with damaged hair, heavily treated hair, or hair with lots of residue and build-up do experience a transitional period when switching to natural hair care products. Typical transition period issues can include:

  • Increased tangles or frizz
  • A weird waxy feeling
  • Dry or oily feeling scalp (even bouncing between the two extremes on various days)

Why do shampoo bars have a breaking-in period? And will it go away?

Yes! It will go away, and your hair will be much better for it. It’s happening because your lovely locks have been addicted to chemical-laden shampoo. They are now detoxing… literally freaking out and going through withdrawal while learning to live a natural life. Once the detox is complete, you’ll be rewarded with healthy, and silky soft hair that requires less maintenance than you thought possible.

What causes a transition period for shampoo bars?

There’s no one answer, as everyone has different hair that’s been through different treatments through life. But here are some common reasons why your hair might have a transitional breaking-in period when switching to natural shampoo bars.

Your natural sebum production (or overproduction) can cause a breaking-in period for your new shampoo bar.

Bad Hair Day

Sebum is an oily, waxy substance that our body produces to coat, moisturize and protect our skin and hair. When switching to a natural product, your hair and scalp need to learn how to re-balance its sebum production.

Commercial hair care products are typically detergent based and strip the natural sebum from your scalp and hair. After years of commercial products, your scalp has learned to overproduce sebum to compensate for all the time you spend stripping it away. With a natural product, you are no longer stripping away your natural oils, so you might end up with too much of this waxy oil until your body learns to regulate its production.

Depending on your hair type, and your hair history, this re-balancing period could leave you with increased frizz, tangles, or a waxy / residue feeling on your hair. Just have patience, and maybe don’t transition just before a wedding or other big photo day.

Hard water can be hard on your hair.

Hard Water

If you have hard water (or if your house water is chlorinated, mineralized or fluoridated) you may notice that it’s difficult to build up a good lather and cumbersome to rinse all the shampoo from your hair. You might feel a gummy soap residue in long hair…. It’s a build-up of soap and minerals from your hard water. There are a few options to solve this:

  1. Use distilled water for your final rinse. I’m not a fan of this option because, well, I’m never going to remember to have distilled water in the shower!
  2. Use a pinch of baking soda in about a quart of water to make a pre-wash rinse. This will help the shampoo bar lather better and rinse more easily. Remember though, only a pinch. Too much will soften your water.
  3. Vinegar – OMG Vinegar! I simply love using Apple Cider Vinegar as a spritz after I rinse out the shampoo. It’s a natural conditioner, and kicks that hard water’s butt! You can use any vinegar (or even a dash of lemon juice) but I prefer ACV on my hair. Optionally, you can also infuse the vinegar with hair tea for extra lovely locks.
  4. Finally, our favorite solution is to install a water filter for your showerhead. We found a low-cost option on Amazon and we were amazed at the difference in our hair after just one wash.

… and soft water can be too soft

Sounds like we’re being picky about water, but we’re not. And not all soft (or hard) water makes natural shampoo underperform, but extra soft water is worth mentioning.

Soap lathers better in soft water than in hard water, so it’s easy to use too much. And, the ions in softened water reduce its ability to stick to the soap molecules. This means it’s going to be harder to rinse the soap off of your hair and body. You can read the chemistry behind it here. And here’s a great link explaining hard vs. soft water, as well as this hard water guide that has a few tips for dealing with hard water.

Break down the build-up to reduce the breaking-in period.

Our natural shampoo bar doesn’t use chemicals to strip hair the way commercial detergent shampoos or syndet (synthetic detergent) bars do. Since they are formulated to be gentle on your hair, they may have a more difficult time breaking down the build-up that your previous hair regimen has left behind.

Baking Soda Hair Rinse

To remove the built-up residue, we recommend a clarifying baking soda rinse.

Baking soda is a great clarifier! It naturally lifts grease and residue from your hair (and your bathtub if you’re looking for a natural cleaner there too!)

To use, simply mix 1tablespoon baking soda with 1-2 cups warm water into a cup or spray bottle. Wet your hair and saturate your hair with the baking soda solution. Rinse clean and wash with your shampoo.

How to use a Shampoo Bar

Total Time: 15 minutes

Wet Hair.

If you have hard water, consider installing a simple water softener to your shower head. The results will amaze you!

Lather up your shampoo bar.

You can either later with your hands or swipe the bar over your hair to generate the lather. Start small, and lather up more only if you need it.

Massage the lather into your scalp and work your way down.

Avoid promoting tangles, and don’t pile long hair on top of your head. Just massage the lather through your hair.

Rinse. Rinse. Rinse!

The number one reason why people feel like natural shampoo bars are not for them is not rinsing enough. Rinse as you normally would, but then rinse again, and maybe one more time. Kandra (who has 3-4 feet of hair) rinses for about a full minute.

Clarify (an extra rinse) with an acidic rinse.

We like Apple Cider Vinegar, infused with our herbal hair and scalp herbs. You can also use beer, kombucha, white vinegar, or pure apple cider vinegar. The low PH of these rinses will help wash out any residue in your hair as well as help your hair cuticles lay flat.

Repeat as needed.

Once you start using a natural shampoo bar, you may find that you need fewer washes each week. We all wash our hair only 2-3 times per week. You may need more washes per week if your daily life dirties up your hair, or if you use styling products that promote buildup on your hair.

2 thoughts on “Tips for adjusting to natural shampoo bars”

  1. I want to try using more natural soaps and shampoos. Thanks for explaining that I will want to rinse my body off a little more than normal once I start using them. I didn’t realize that will help my skin and hair adjust to using them.

    1. Hi Penelope –
      The extra rinsing is for the hair. Synthetic detergents rinse off really easily, so most people aren’t used it a bit longer of a rinse. Natural (real) soaps don’t need extra rinsing off skin, and if you have short hair, you probably will not need to rinse your hair as much either. Hope you find a natural bar that you love,

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