Wash your hair with baking soda and vinegar, and make your own toothpaste and deodorant. That was my assignment. It's simple and basic. The question I had is, "Why?" This should not have sounded unusual to me, because once I started doing Internet searches, I found posts about it all over the place. But I hadn't thought much about it before. Actually, I hadn't thought at all about it before. The reasons that were consistently given for doing this were: 1) These homemade personal care products are better for you than commercially made products that contain chemical additives you can't even pronounce; 2) it costs a lot less than buying products off the store shelf; and 3) they work better too. Numbers 1 and 2 I believed; the third one I would have to see for myself.
Some of my friends were talking about it and thinking about trying it, and then one of them put it to the challenge. Melissa Jones, publisher of an online magazine, challenged us to try it as an experiment and report our findings, which she has published in the June issue of From Scratch. You can read and compare our findings there. So, our assignment was to wash our hair with baking soda and vinegar and make our own toothpaste and deodorant. We each used the same basic recipe so we could compare results across the board. Here's the full report of my own experience.
Washing My Hair with Baking Soda and Vinegar
It didn't sound enticing to me. It didn't sound hopeful. Really? Give up a luxurious, wonderful-smelling, rich and lathery shampoo for baking soda? Trade a silky, fresh-smelling, shine-producing conditioner for vinegar? Oh boy, what was I getting into? There are a lot of different variations of how to mix and apply the baking soda. Here's how our experimental group did it:
1 T. baking soda in 1 C. water
1 T. apple cider or distilled white vinegar in 1 C. water
That's all there is to it. I decided to use the white distilled vinegar. It doesn't smell as strong, and since I have a lot of white strands in my hair, I thought the ACV might tint it. I don't know if that's a valid concern, but that's what I thought.
I use two empty 16 oz. water bottles and fill them half way with warm water. Using a funnel, I add 1 T. baking soda to one bottle and 1 T. vinegar to the other bottle. Give them a little shake, and you're ready to go. When I step into the shower, I wet my hair and then pour the baking soda mix onto my scalp and hair. What you're mainly trying to clean is your scalp. Pour the mix on at the roots and massage your scalp clean. Then let it soak into your hair. I leave it on for a couple of minutes while I bathe my body. Then I rinse thoroughly with water.
Then I take the bottle of vinegar and water and work it into my scalp and hair. I wait a couple of minutes and then rinse well with water.
I towel-dry my hair, comb it, and then let it air dry until it is just damp. Then I blow it completely dry with a round brush and hand dryer. The first time, I was amazed at how manageable my hair was and how soft and smooth and shiny it looked. I didn't use any styling products--I used to use a gel styling spray--but my hair stayed nice looking all day without it.
I've read that you should try to reduce how often you wash your hair. I've always had oily hair, and I've washed it every day since I was bout 13 years old with a clarifying shampoo, followed by a light conditioner. Since I was experimenting, I decided to try skipping a day of washing my hair. Egad! By the end of Day 2, my hair was so oily I could practically mold it. I was so anxious for the third day so I could wash it again. It turned out just as wonderful as the first day. On the days that I don't wash it, I do rinse it with water in the shower and then I blow it dry as usual. I didn't wash it again on Day 4, and thankfully it was not as oily as it was on Day 2. I continued washing every other day throughout the first week, and I found that my hair was not as oily going into Week 2.
From what I've read, my understanding is that when we wash our hair with store-bought shampoos, which are actually detergents, we are stripping the natural oils from our hair, and the oil glands in our scalp produce more oil to compensate. After a few washings with the baking soda, which is a mild alkaline, our oil glands adjust and produce normally. The vinegar is a mild acidic and neutralizes the ph levels in the hair and scalp, closing and smoothing the hair cuticles, leaving the hair conditioned. You can adjust the amount of baking soda or vinegar to meet your hair's needs. If after several washings, your hair is too dry, use a little less baking soda. If it is too oily, use a little less vinegar.
There were a couple of "experiments" that I tried within my experiment. After a couple of weeks, I did try using the apple cider vinegar for a couple of washes, but I did like the white vinegar better and went right back to it. Also, about three weeks into it, I had a scheduled appointment to get my hair cut. I thought about not having my hair washed at the salon, but I do love the lovely smelling, sudsy washing and head massage, so I had it done. Later that day, my scalp felt itchy, my hair felt dry, and I couldn't wait to wash it again with the baking soda and vinegar. Instantly better! I had read that you could add a drop or two of essential oil to the vinegar rinse if you want some scent. I tried adding one drop of lavender oil, but my hair felt a little oily for a couple of days, so I didn't do that again.
I've been washing my hair with the baking soda and vinegar for about a month now, and I still love it. I can't seem to last three days yet, but I'll keep trying once in a while. I wash my hair every other day, and I don't use any styling products. I'm 59 with greying hair. When I was younger my hair was oilier but became drier and frizzier as I got older. Since using the baking soda and vinegar, my hair is softer, smoother and shinier than it has been in many years. I just love it! I love the way my hair looks and feels. I'm saving a lot of money by not buying shampoo and conditioner. At first I missed the lather and smell, but after a while I really didn't miss it, and by now this method of wash and rinse actually feels clean and fresh.
I have tried brushing my teeth with baking soda before, because I heard it whitens your teeth. But, ick! Who can stand the taste of baking soda? I don't even like it in toothpaste with baking soda. So was I really going to try this homemade toothpaste? Yes, because I was having fun participating with my friends and had agreed to take this challenge. Here's the recipe we used:
2 T. Coconut Oil
2 T. Baking Soda
1/4 t. Hydrogen Peroxide
Flavoring (if desired)
Stevia Sweetener (optional)
Heat the coconut oil in a small bowl in the microwave just long enough to melt it (about 15-20 seconds). Add the baking soda and hydrogen peroxide and whip it with a small wisk or spoon until smooth. Then let it set until firm.
I started out with the basic recipe with no flavoring or sweetener, and no I didn't like the taste. Although, I have to admit, the coconut oil helps a little bit compared to straight baking soda. I was really hanging in there with this one. After a couple of days, my gums felt sore and were even bleeding a little. This surprised me because I've always been diligent about brushing and flossing my teeth. Maybe it was the abrasiveness of the baking soda and the hydrogen peroxide. After a few days, my gums felt better though.
I decided to try to improve the taste, and so I heated it in the microwave to soften it and added 1/4 t. of spearmint oil and one packet of Stevia. Eh, the taste still isn't that great. In fact, it is probably only a teasing reminder of good-tasting toothpaste. I actually think I prefer it without the flavoring. It is what it is.
My mouth and teeth do feel clean and healthy, and the big bonus is that after a few weeks my teeth were a lot whiter. Considering the health and cost benefits, I think I will continue using this homemade toothpaste. In fact, I just whipped up another batch today.
I was a bit reluctant about this one too. I've always used an anti-perspirant/deodorant to reduce sweating and body odor, so I really wasn't convinced that a deodorant alone would do the job, especially one I make in my kitchen! Here's how we did it:
3 T. Coconut Oil
3 T. Baking Soda
3 T. Arrow Root Flour or Cornstarch
Essential oils if desired
Heat the coconut oil in a small bowl in the microwave until melted, about 15-20 seconds. Add the baking soda and arrow root flour or cornstarch. (I used the arrowroot flour.) You can use it just like that or add essential oils for fragrance. I used a couple of drops each of tea tree oil and lavender oil. Whip the mixture until smooth. You can use an empty deodorant container and pour it into that (make sure you have the bottom twisted all the way down), or keep it in the small bowl. The coconut oil liquefies at 76° F., so if you put it in the deodorant container you may have to store it in the refrigerator or a cool room. I just store it in my bathroom in the small bowl with a lid. I use my fingertips to apply it under my arms. If it is too solid, I simply apply heat with my hair dryer for a few seconds to soften it.
Surprise, surprise, surprise! I really didn't expect it to work as good as it does. I haven't had any concerns about perspiration or body odor. Even when I'm working hard outdoors weeding or shoveling mulch, my homemade deodorant holds up and performs well. I am very happy with it and will continue to use it.
A Word About Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is apparently a wonder ingredient--one of those best kept secrets. My friend, Becky Neville, introduced us to it and taught us all about its amazing uses. Virgin coconut oil can be used in cooking, for cleaning teeth, as a moisturizer and body lotion, and it is even recommended that you eat a teaspoon of it every day for its internal benefits. You can read more about it on Becky's blog, Thoughts From a Daughter of the King. Besides keeping a large jar of it in my kitchen, I now keep a bowl of it on my bathroom vanity to use as part of my daily personal care routine.
For other reviews of these recipes, read Meredith's review at Green Grove Circle and Becky's review at Thoughts From a Daughter of The King.
Update: OK, I really feel the need and obligation to update my review of these home remedies at this point. For a month, everything was fantastic, as I said above. Then all of a sudden it felt like the bottom dropped out. The toothpaste and deodorant are still great, and I'm continuing to use them. But after about 4 or 5 weeks of washing my hair with the baking soda and rinsing with the vinegar every other day, my hair suddenly fell flat. It lacked the shine and softness that I was experiencing and thrilled about for the previous month. A hairdresser suggested that at first the baking soda was removing build-ups in the hair but that after that it was probably too harsh to use so frequently. I'm going to be looking for a natural shampoo that doesn't have all the sulfate additives and try using the baking soda just once or twice a month.
I have a crazy side note to add. I've had a large wart on the top of my foot for over 20 years. I had it surgically removed, but it came back and brought a friend. I've tried every remedy under the sun to remove these warts, as I am self-conscious of them. I just noticed that they are completely GONE, without a trace! About a week ago, my feet felt particularly dry so I massaged a generous amount of coconut oil on them before I went to bed. That must have been the cure. I've read about the natural anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties of coconut oil. Amazing!
I just wanted to add this update to give you a more complete review. I'll report any additional discoveries I make. If you have any suggestions, please do leave a comment!
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