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While doing research for a natural hair treatment to calm a pretty bad seborrheic dermatitis flare up I’ve been experiencing recently, I stumbled upon a DIY scalp mask made with baking soda. I almost didn’t try it because the testimonials seemed evenly split down the middle between raving reviews and angry backlash! Some naturals said it broke off their hair and swore never to use it again on their tresses while others claimed to have finally found their holy grail hair product. I spent hours trying to figure out which camp to believe more. Out of desperation for wanting to relieve my itchy, inflamed scalp, I ultimately decided I had NOTHING to lose (given all the ups and downs and downs and downs my hair has gone through in the last two years). And, I have to tell you, I’m so glad I did!
months years, I have been struggling to maintain the moisture:protein balance of my hair … and failed miserably! I would spend most of my free time attempting to moisturize my dry, parched mane … to no avail most days. I grew weary of trying various hair moisture products, techniques, and trends—all of which didn’t seem to do much, at least not long-term. After a few mildly successful short-term fixes, I inevitably ended right back where I started, with dry hair and an inflamed scalp!
I initially started out with a 50:50 ratio of baking soda to conditioner (½ cup each), but the mixture was a little watery. So, I ended up adding another 2 ounces (¼ cup) of baking soda to the mixture. However, it still wasn’t quite thick enough for my liking, so I ended up sprinkling more baking soda into the mix until the thickness I wanted was attained. So, I probably ended up using about 1 cup of baking soda to ½ cup conditioner. The application process was pretty simple. I started by pre-pooing with my Honey Blowout treatment, then I layered on my Pantene Moisture Boost Shampoo. After rinsing out my hair, I used my microfiber turban to soak up the excess water. Next, I mixed the baking soda and conditioner together in an applicator bowl. I tried to localize the application of the mask to my scalp, but that proved impossible, so I ended up applying the mask from root to tip to ALL of my hair.
I created workable segments by dividing my hair into quadrants. I used an applicator brush, and applied the mask to my scalp and hair in small sections (like you would a relaxer). After each section was completely coated, I smoothed it from root to tip to make sure all of my hair was coated. I repeated this process for the remaining three quadrants of my head. When I was done, I popped on a processing cap and waiting an hour.
I instantly noticed that this scalp treatment seemed to have a similar effect as henna on my hair in that my curls became very defined and super elongated (as long as the mix remained in my hair). Unfortunately, although the application process was easy, it was SUPER messy! Messier than henna treatments! The baking soda/conditioner mix got everywhere … on the bathroom counter … the floor … the wall … everywhere! It was sort of a nightmare. I also felt like I almost needed to take a shower again. I had so much baking soda on my face and my neck that I had to use several facial cleansing cloths to remove it!
I later found out that I should have let my hair dry to about 80% before applying the mask, but who has time for all that (LOL)? After an hour, I rinsed the mask out of my hair without much incident. Next, I deep conditioned my hair for 30 minutes with ion’s Summer Solutions Deep Conditioning Treatment, and rinsed it out. I would say that I detangled my hair next but, honestly, after the baking soda mask and deep conditioning treatment, my hair basically detangled itself. I ran my fingers through my hair from root to tip, and it was virtually tangle free.
This baking soda treatment instantaneously assuaged my itchy, flaky scalp, and calmed all inflammation. After two weeks of a brutal seborrheic dermatitis flare up, that’s no small victory! I also noticed a difference IMMEDIATELY in the look and feel of my hair. Before even using the LCO method to moisturize my hair, my fine, low porosity strands were noticeably smoother, less frizzy, and slightly elongated. Days later, my hair was still moisturized and only started to feel slightly dry (on the ends of my hair) on day 3! Can you say, “game changer”?
I used VO5’s Tea Therapy Blackberry Sage Tea Revitalizing Conditioner. I initially thought that next time I should use a slightly thicker conditioner, so the process won’t be quite so messy. However, upon reflection, my final mixture was fairly thick. So, I’m thinking the fact that I didn’t let my hair dry sufficiently before applying this baking soda mask is what caused all of the mess. Next time, I’ll try not to be in such a rush and will wait at least an hour before applying the mix to my strands. Other than that, my scalp loves the results!
I think the reason this worked so well is that I have (1) extremely low porosity hair and (2) product buildup. Even though I wash my hair weekly and have a shower filter, I live in a very hard water area. Over time, I think my hair just became coated with mineralized water and too much product. I think that may be the reason why I have been struggling to moisturize my hair in the last two years! Honestly, I didn’t think I had any product buildup, but because my hair is low porosity, it is more prone to it. One of the things I haven’t really been doing consistently the last couple of years is clarifying my hair. I’m realizing now more than ever that clarifying is a must for my fine, low porosity strands. So, I will probably start doing it on a monthly basis (in combination with a healthy rotation of deep conditioning and protein treatments) from now on to better maintain the moisture:protein balance of my hair.
Need a hair reboot or scalp refresh? Here are the basic steps:
- Wash your hair with a sulfate-free shampoo or gentle cleanser.
- Let hair dry to 75-80%. Avoid using this mask on dripping wet hair. (You’ll thank me later!)
- Mix baking soda and conditioner. Baking soda is a “weak alkaline” with a pH of 9. However, how much you use will depend on your hair’s porosity, how fine or thick your hair is, and how adventurous you feel. So, you will likely need to play around with ratios. Some only use 1 TBSP of baking soda to a ½ cup of conditioner. Others, like me, go full strength and use ¾ cup to 1 cup of baking soda to ½ cup of conditioner. If you have high porosity, relaxed, or colored hair, I would use a smaller amount. If you have low porosity hair, you can probably get away with using more. When in doubt, be cautious and start out small. You can always build up to a stronger mix later if you feel your hair needs it.
- Divide hair into quadrants, apply the baking soda mixture from root to tip. Working in sections makes the application process go much more smoothly.
- Don a processing cap. Wait 30-60 minutes.
- Rinse hair with warm water.
- Deep condition hair with a moisturizing hair mask for 20-30 minutes, and then rinse out with warm water. Because I have low porosity hair, I always deep condition under a hooded bonnet dryer.
- Use an apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinse (or other hair neutralizer) to rebalance your hair’s pH level. I used a 50:50 ratio of ACV and distilled water.
- Moisturize and style hair.
If you have high porosity or chemically-altered hair (e.g., hair that has been relaxed, permed, color-treated, etc.), I highly recommend (1) a patch test or strand test first and then (2) using small quantities of baking soda (i.e., 1 tsp to 1 TBSP max) with a conditioner. Water mixtures, alone, are not enough to off-set the alkalinity of baking soda. While doing my research, I found that most of the people who experienced “breakage” or excessively dry hair either only dissolved the baking soda in water (instead of conditioner) or had highly porous hair. So, if your hair starts to feel dry or brittle after using the mask, refrain from using the baking soda hair mask until you feel your hair needs it (i.e., has product buildup, becomes resistant to most products in general, etc).