Friday, April 16, 2010

Why CP soap doesn't make a great shampoo.

I've received quite a few queries asking why can't we use CP soap as a shampoo. I know the perception out there can be CP soap = natural, therefore good and surfactants = processed, therefore bad, and I know I did a post on carboxylates recently, but there are good reasons we don't use even the cutest, most moisturizing cold process soaps as shampoos.

Shampoos are generally around pH 6.0, whereas soaps tend to the alkaline, over 8.0 (some traditional soaps can be pH 10). This means CP soaps are not pH balanced for our hair. After shampooing with products out of the right pH range, the cuticle of our hair doesn't lie down, and this can lead to abrasion between the hairs. This is a serious cause of mechanical hair damage, and once you have damage, it's hard to repair it, even with the most intense conditioners.

CP soaps aren't as soluble in hard water as most surfactants. Soap molecules in hard water are converted by double decomposition to form insoluble non-foaming salts like lime, calcium, or magnesium salts of fatty acids. This isn't a big deal on your skin, but it can lead to build up on your hair, leaving it looking dull and feeling kinda crunchy. They won't foam well if there are metal ions in your water - and most water contains metal ions - and they won't foam well in the presence of sebum. Given these properties, CP soap isn't going to remove all the stuff you've put on your hair and you won't get a feeling of being clean (or, ironically, your hair might feel too squeaky clean, which isn't a good thing).

Superfatting is the idea that you add more fatty acids than are needed (adding extra oils and butters), so you have free fatty acids in the soap after saponification. This enhances the lather profile, eliminates free alkali, and improves skin mildness. So you can superfat CP soap to get the pH down so it will be kinder to hair, but as I am not a soapmaker and only know what I read about it, please consult an expert soapmaker for more information on making a potential shampoo bar.

I know there's a recipe in this Voyageur recipe package for a shampoo bar (scroll almost to the end). I do have a sample of this product and it feels quite nice on my skin. I have seen people say they have used some kind of acidic hair rinse - apple cider vinegar, for example - after using CP soap and they like it.

Look for a series of posts on hair and hair care products in the very near future where I'll go into more detail about the biology and chemistry of our hair, so I'll get into more detail then!

34 comments:

p said...

Thanks for this info, Susan! In my attempt to go natural, I tried using castile soap and wasn't very happy with it, even after I started using an apple cider vinegar rinse afterward.

Do you know anything about using clays to wash hair? Terressentials makes a hair wash based on this concept: http://www.terressentials.com/haircare.html I've tried it and I really like it, but how on earth does it work chemically?? It's not a surfactant (I don't think), yet it clearly removes oils. I'm a bit worried about using it long-term because I don't know what to use to condition the ends of my long hair - I wonder if this sort of clay hair wash won't be able to remove the cationic surfactants like BTMS that adsorb to the (inherently damaged) ends of my long hair?

I'd also be curious to hear your thoughts on the other "no poo" techniques: baking soda is the other one that comes up a lot.

Your blog continues to rock! I'm going to break down any day now and buy a load of surfactants and make my own shampoo and conditioner - thank you for enabling my crafting addiction!! :)

p said...

p.s. I forgot to add that Terressentials' clay shampoo does NOT play well with silicones. It cleanses super gently and doesn't overdry the scalp, but it takes a few washes to remove any sort of buildup (e.g. silicones), and until the buildup is gone, hair is "gunky" and hard to comb. But the bonus is that I only have to wash my hair about every 5 days, and it's kind of awesome having zero buildup on the hair, though - my hair is way more voluminous when I use it, and it's super shiny where it's healthiest (near the roots), but I fear for my ends!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Clay is a great oil absorber, so it's absorbing oils on your scalp. This is different than cleaning it, though, and you'll definitely want to use a shampoo as well to get rid of the rest of the soil (like environmental stuff, skin flakes, and so on). As a note, clay also thickens the shampoo, so it offers two great things in one!

As for this product, I can't find the ingredients for this, but I understand there are no surfactants in there at all. So it's really not a shampoo by definition. If you can find the ingredients for me, I'd be happy to look at them.

As an aside, why is it I can never find ingredients for products like this? The second the word "organic" or "healthy" is slapped on a label, I have to work extra hard to find the ingredients because they rarely have them in an easy-to-find place on the official site.

I can't find any reason clay might remove any build up from your hair, and since I can't find the ingredients for this product, I can't offer any more advice. Sorry! I'm intrigued, though, so I'd love to see more about it!

As for baking soda, this is not a great idea. It's alkaline - at 1% concentration, it's about pH 8.1, and undiluted about pH 10.3 - and so it's not helping your hair at all. (Having said this, it's okay to use as a dry shampoo as you are brushing most of it out of your hair and it isn't messing with the pH of your hair when it's not diluted.)

I'm going to be honest with you - I find some of the things people put in their hair as an attempt to avoid "non-natural" ingredients astonishing. We all want beautiful, shiny, healthy hair, yet so many people are doing things that will ensure quite the opposite. I have seen far too many people in the last few days defending the use of products that simply don't work for them - as evidenced by their own comments that their hair is tangly or doesn't feel soft - but they continue to do so in the misguided notion that natural equals better.

I've said it before, but I prefer the term "minimally processed" instead of natural. If we used kaolin clay out of the ground, it'd be filled with all kinds of contaminants and tiny animals. If we used olives without processing, we'd have to rub the fruit on our skin. Almost all the ingredients we consider natural are processed in some way, and that's a good thing because you never know what's living in B.C. Glacial clay!

Natural doesn't always equal better - it can, but we need to look at the product and the ingredient.

p said...

Thanks for the reply, Susan! I know what you mean about some companies not listing their ingredients - it drives me crazy - but Terressentials is actually really good about this (it's on the page I linked to, click on the "Ingredients" link). Here they are:

Organic aloe vera juice, clay minerals, organic extract of organic linden flower, essential oils of organic true lavender and organic sweet orange, extracts of organic nettle, organic chamomile and organic shavegrass, essential oils of organic rose geranium, organic ylang ylang and organic clove bud.

I've actually been super happy using clay to wash my hair - looks great (glossy & way more voluminous than before), feels great (generally easy to comb), have to wash less often - it's only my ends that I fear for! Will write back more later....

p said...

Hi Susan! I just wanted to say a bit more about my experience with washing my hair with clay. I can say that it definitely removes dead skin cells, and it sure seems to remove environmental pollutants and dirt - I've been using nothing more than a clay hair wash + an apple cider vinegar rinse (+ the occasional oil or shea butter treatment for the ends) for over a year, and I'm not Pigpen yet, lol!

I actually really like the results - there are quite a few things that are clearly better than when I was using shampoo and conditioner (apart from how I may or may not feel about using something "natural"). Before my scalp used to get quite oily within a few days of washing... now it's less dry after I wash, and it takes longer to get oily again - my hair still looks and feels good 4 days after washing. I felt like there was a boom-bust cycle with my head's oiliness, and now things are on a much more even keel. My scalp is happier in other ways - it just feels good and healthy, and I don't get dandruff or flaking skin or little bumps on my scalp like I used to. And maybe best of all, my hair has more volume and bounce (I especially notice this close to my scalp - the shape is better, not flat against my head) - my hair is less weighed-down and is bigger in a good way! It's generally really shiny and healthy....

My one issue with it has to do with the ends of my long hair. Terressentials says their hair wash isn't compatible with other conditioners (I know from experience that it's not compatible with 'cones), so I haven't been using a conditioner, and I think my ends have suffered as a result. This I do not like! My ends are drier and a bit harder to comb (red flag!) and I think I have more split ends than I used to. To combat dryness, I use oils or shea butter on the ends, which makes them feel soft and nice for the time being, but then my hair tends to pick up dust and lint, which comes off on my brush! I think I need some cationic quats in my life. I've been learning so much about these things from reading your blog, so now I can decode labels... and better yet I can make my own products and see how compatible the clay is with those lovely adsorbtives! Oh, I also dislike that I can't use silicone styling products. Not because I use them regularly, but because it makes it impossible to go to a salon and have my hair styled without changing up my hair washing routine. It's not really compatible with the world we live in!

That said, I really enjoy trying out alternatives to the usual ways of doing things... I am convinced that there are other ways to take care of hair. My family is from India, and my mom grew up using shikakai (Acacia ???) and soapnuts and stuff like that to wash her hair - people were prejudiced against synthetic detergents, thinking they're really bad for hair, and would hardly ever use them - and man, you've never seen such long, thick, shiny, all around gorgeous hair! I'm pretty sure beautiful hair predates synthetic surfactants, so there just have be other methods out there!

Anyway, sorry for the rambling! Thank you for your response - would love to hear any further thoughts you have, especially on Terressentials ingredients and on their compatibility with conditioning agents, and on what's happening chemically when clays absorb oils. Thank you for educating me on this stuff!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi p. Looking at this list of ingredients...
Organic aloe vera juice, clay minerals, organic extract of organic linden flower, essential oils of organic true lavender and organic sweet orange, extracts of organic nettle, organic chamomile and organic shavegrass, essential oils of organic rose geranium, organic ylang ylang and organic clove bud.

...I can see a few things that might work to make your hair feel less oily in addition to the clay. Orange and chamomile are good for helping with oils, and aloe vera and lavender can soothe annoyed and itchy skin.

As for conditioning, I think the reason it isn't compatible with traditional conditioners is because this is unlikely to remove cationic quaternary compounds from your hair, which will lead to some serious build-up over time. You observed it won't remove silicones either, so I'm not really sure how you can condition your hair when using this product using cationic or silicone ingredients.

I think part of the washing is coming out of the absorbing of the oils by the clay (it can form a gel complex with oils that is washed away - a bit like an emulsification of the oils), and the other part is coming from mechanical abrasion or exfoliation. (This would explain why your scalp feels nice as it's removing the dead skin.) Some of the essential oils will help remove sebum as well. The glossiness is probably coming from the sebum left in your hair - sebum can be quite good for our hair and scalp, and definitely increases shine.

I'm not sure what to suggest as a conditioner. You could try using a leave in conditioner with low levels of cationic ingredients (say 1% BTMS) or a detangler (5% cetrimonium chloride to 94.5% water and 0.5% preservative) and see if that helps the ends. You could also try using coconut oil on the ends - it's absorbed by the hair strand, and the lauric acid likes the proteins in your hair! (Indian hair is one of the hair types that can benefit from oiling...)

Sorry this isn't a longer comment in response to yours, but I simply can't find much about washing one's hair with clay, and it seems like any suggestions I make about using conditioners will be incompatible with this shampoo.

Christine said...

Hi! Though this is an older post, I just wanted to add my experience. About 10 years ago, I bought a 'natural' beauty book, and it suggested using liquid castile soap as shampoo, followed by a vinegar rinse. It had a whole spiel about how castile soap is what people used in the magical olden days, but now we need vinegar to rinse it out because in the scary modern day our water is too hard for it to rinse out. I didn't totally fall for it, but I tried it out anyway. The first time, I liked how my hair felt. My hair is very thick and can get quite dry, and this made it feel finer and softer. The second time it was left dull and weighed down, and got progressively worse each time. I was really unimpressed. It's interesting to read here what the alkalinity of soap does to the hair. I think the vinegar was important in this process not just to rinse off the soap but to close the hair cuticle again (if my understanding is correct), but it clearly failed to do enough of either after a couple of washes.

As for clay shampoo... I recently had some bad tangles in my hair and reached for an all-purpose balm to try to smooth them out. When I went to wash my hair, the waxy/oily balm formed a barrier to my hair wetting very well, and to my shampoo sudsing up. I looked around the bathroom for something I thought might help, and grabbed a jar of clay I have to make masks with (bentonite, I believe). I mixed a big handful of that with some shampoo and it worked wonders! Really helped get the gunk out. Not only was the actual washing process easier but afterwards there was no extra oiliness in my hair (when I've used balms or lots of oil in my hair before, it can sometimes take a couple of washes before there is no residue left). So yeah it definitely seems to be good for getting excess oils out!

Alanna said...

For the last 6 months or so I've been using liquid castile (yes, Dr. Broners) soap mixed half and half with water and a spoonful of oil (currently grapeseed, because thats what I have on hand).

I to started out just with the castile (no rinses) and loved the results but over time, my hair became greasier and hard to manage.

I tried a pre rinse with a spoonful of baking soda, lather up with the castile shampoo, then rinse with the jug again making sure to keep my head away from the spray from the shower. Then follow this up with my vinegar rinse.

This seems to have fixed my problem completely. My hair is shiny, soft and lasts days longer before feeling oily and greasy than it used to. I also haven't had the change of season scalp dryness that I used to suffer from.

Its more work and effort to wash your hair, but it seems to work for me.

Christina Kessler said...

I have some CP soap I want to use up. It sounds like the main problem with it is the acidity (too basic). If I add citric acid to reach a more reasonable pH, would this solve the problem? Or are there other reasons why CP soap isn't good for hair?

I was planning to use it as I would another surfactant, mixed with water and other lovely things that are good for my hair.

It would be nice if I could use it, since it is very easy to find (grocery store) compared to other surfactants I might use (online with 2 week shipping). But I don't want to put my hair at risk!!

Leman said...

I wonder how people are getting on with the castile soap as a shampoo? Do you dilute and add anything else to it? Do you rinse with apple cider vinegar afterwards?

thanks
Leman

Mesha said...

I was fairly happy with my Cold process soap shampoo bars until I recieved one made with your recipe in a swap. OMG!! It made my hair feel so silky and luxurious- I am sold. I have been deeply perusing your files here in the haircare section and will be putting an order in to Lotioncrafter soon.

Rochelle said...

Hi Susan! This comment section has been what I was needing to hear! A while back I have tried to switch to Natural bath and body products and had been using a CP shampoo bar. I have been happy with how my hair felt, but I must admit I don't always feel like it gets my hair really clean. I have been studying you information on your shampoo bars and have been grappling with the idea that it is not "all Natural" I have started to realize though, even if it is natural if it is damaging my hair is it really better?? I loved how you pointed out above a minimally processed method is still okay. I am still studying the actual ingredients, but I like that I am finding they are often derived from plants.

So I just wanted to say thanks for easing my mind that it is okay to use things that may not technically be "ALL NATURAL" because I do also have to consider the effects it will have on my hair. Thanks for all your great info!!

Anonymous said...

I am a cold process soaper. I don't have a shampoo bar but am working on one with mineral clays. But my soaps are all a ph of 6 to 6.5 due to the superfatting process. I use a minimal amount of olive oil as I find after time it makes your hair heavy and oily with a residue. Like I said, I am still perfecting it, but I add jojoba and Argan oils too.

Unknown said...

For the anonymous cold process soaper who commented in November, there's not way in Hades you're getting your soap below 9, 8.5 even, without it turning to mush.

As for this article, this has actually given me a few great ideas on working on my liquid soap recipe. I get a lot of drag with it in my hair and I think Susan has given me the answers I need to correct this. Thanks!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marsha said...

I'm kind of curious. If the primary issue with using CP, or any real soap for that matter, is that is causes the cuticle in the hair shaft to be raised, are there any cosmetic additives that can be used in say, liquid soap, that will hep ounter act this issue? I'm trying to formulate a shampoo with my liquid soap but I'm running across the issue of my curly hair feeling like it's stripped and stiff. Some folks call it 'drag'. This causes me to have to work my conditioner in more to get tangles out. Thanks so much Susan. I know you don't make soap, but I'd love to know what I can add to mime to make it more hair friendly.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Marsha. It's the pH in the soap that causes the issue and, as the commenter above you notes, you can't reduce the pH below the alkaline level or it stops being soap. What you're experiencing with your hair is because of the pH. Sorry, there's nothing you can add to it to change that feeling.

Anonymous said...

Hi marsha, maybe adding citric acid to the soap making process would bring down the PH of the soap down for a more smooth feel on the hair due to the hair cuticles not being raised with the higher PH.
I have effectively lowered liquid soap bases with a PH of 9 to about 5,
and my curly hair barely clumped at all.

Marsha said...

Hi Anonymous! Mind sharing what you did about the fats that separated out as a result of lowering ph? I'm actually working on this and thinking a solubilizer will be needed.

jimmy frye said...

I actually made a shampoo with shea butter, castile soap, water, BTMS, moringa oil, argan oil and rice bran oil. It works great with my daughters frizzy curly hair. Is there any issues I should be worried about?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Jimmy! I actually mention a few issues in the post, such as the cuticle not lying flat and causing abrasion.

Olivia said...

Informative post! I have a question, though. Since CP soaps can be harsh on the hair because the pH of our scalp and hair is acidic while CP soap is alkaline, then is it okay to use CP soaps anywhere on our skin and body at all? After all, the rest of the skin on our body has pretty much the same pH as our hair and scalp. So is CP soap not harsh on all of our skin?

Thanks!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Olivia. I wrote about this topic in this post - Chemistry of our skin: pH and our skin care products. Some of us can handle CP soap, some of us can't...

Tiffany (Younique2011) R. said...

Thanks. I read in another blog that soaps weren't good for the hair as well. I saw that you mentioned CP soap, are you talking about all soap? What about HP soap, does that make a good shampoo bar? What about detergents like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (found in Lush Cosmetics shampoo bars).
Tiffany

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Tiffany. No alkaline soap is good for your hair. Surfactants, however, are acidic and that is good for hair.

Tiffany (Younique2011) R. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tiffany (Younique2011) R. said...

Hi thanks Susan. What are surfactants? What is a list of surfactants?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Tiffany. Check out the section called surfactants on the blog for more information.

Tiffany (Younique2011) R. said...

Sorry to comment too much. I just read a little on surfactants. What I mean is I need something that is chemical free or a less harsh chemical. I am curious to know since surfactants are chemicals, which ones are not harsh.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Tiffany. Chemical doesn't mean what I think you think it means. It only means that something is composed of elements. Since everything we touch, feel, see, love, eat, and so on is composed of elements, it means that everything in the world is a chemical. The word doesn't mean something bad - it means everything! So when you ask for something chemical free, you are asking for the impossible. Soap is composed of chemicals. Air, water, dogs, hair, iPhones - everything is a chemical.

I think what you mean is something less synthetic. All surfactants are synthetic, meaning they don't occur naturally in nature. They are altered to lather or foam or be liquid or something other than the coconut or palm oil that they once were. But then again, when you think about soap - it's been altered from being an oil, lye, and water to being soap through a chemical process called saponification.

All the surfactants I use on this blog are gentle, very mild, or mild. None of them are harsh.

K Salon Organic Beauty said...

Hi Susan,

I've bee formulating shampoos for a few months now, trying many different formulas, and one thing I've run into a couple times is the hair feeling "squeaky" clean right after shampooing. I love everything else about the formulas, except for that! What is causing that feeling on the hair, and is there anything I can do to improve the feel?

My latest formula was

10% coco betaine
10% coco glucoside
5% glycerin
1.5% GSB preservative
2% carrageenan
.25% apricot kernel oil
.2% guar conditioner
Water to 100%

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi K! Check the pH on this product. Decyl glucoside is often very alkaline, which may be leading to your squeakiness!

Gina Harlow said...

I have been using my CP hair soap on my hair for about 16 months now. I am still working on formulating my conditioner recipe. I am almost satisfied with it, but I am not sure exactly what PH I should be aiming for. I want it to be acidic to compensate for the alkaline soap, but not quite sure how acidic it should be. How do I measure the PH of my hair? I'm thinking that if my hair ends up in the right PH range after cleansing and conditioning that will let me know if my conditioner is at the appropriate PH level. So far my hair is thicker, grows, faster, and is far less staticky than it always was when using commercial products.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Gina! The conditioner should have a pH of 6 (acidic). You can't really measure the pH of your hair without some seriously cool instruments and equipment. Hair is between 3.4 and 6, depending on the damage. The pH increases with the damage. (Check out the posts in the hair care section I've written about this topic...)