Is Soap Bad For Your Hair?

by Jessica Thomas

I'm one of the least outdoorsy people I know, so I doubt you'll see me roughing it in nature for days on end anytime soon. However, I've always been in awe of people who live in the wilderness for days at a time, sleeping in tents and bathing in clear mountain spring water. My outdoor fantasy may be delusional, but anytime I think about camping, I wonder what I would use for beauty products. I obviously wouldn't be able to bring many with me, but I shuddered at the thought of replacing shampoo with soap, and wondered if washing your hair with soap was bad for it.

In layman's terms, shampoo is a liquid detergent designed to clean your hair, and bar soap is an alkali substance that's designed to clean skin. In their most basic forms, both are cleansing agents that will clean your hair effectively. However, bar soap has some properties that make it a less-than-ideal cleanser. Yes, your hair will be clean, but you'll have to deal with tangles and frizz that wouldn't show up if you just washed your hair with regular shampoo. So what exactly happens when you wash your hair with soap?

1. You Miss Out On The Conditioning Properties Of Shampoo

Nexxus Therappe Moisture Shampoo, $19, Target

According to Self, bar soap is limited in the ingredients you can add to it because it's solid at room temperature. Shampoo is liquid, so it's easier to add conditioning ingredients to the formula. You'll repair some of the damage if you condition after washing your hair with soap, but your hair will still be drier than normal.

2. Your Hair Could Wind Up Covered In Soap Scum

You know that telltale ring that shows up on your shower head or bathtub? The one your mom is always begging you to clean? That's soap scum, and it's what happens when bar soap combines with hard water. Hard water isn't super common, but according to The Beauty Brains, it's one of the major issues that comes with washing your hair with soap. If you wash your hair with soap and your water is hard, you'll wind up with soap scum in your hair (and be back to where you started — with dirty hair!)

3. You Could Deal With Some Major Tangles

Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle, $24, Birchbox

Remember what I said about soap being alkali? That means on the PH scale, it's the opposite of acidic. According to Women Fitness, that could cause some major tangles. You know how in shampoo commercials, hair is sometimes depicted as having tiny scales? Well that's actually real, and acid causes those scales to lay flat (and your hair to appear shiny). Because alkali materials are the opposite of acidic, it'll do the opposite. Meaning the scales on your hair will stand up, and it'll look dull and tangle more easily. So you should stock up on detangler now if you're planning to use soap on your hair.

At the end of the day, you won't ruin your hair if you wash it once or twice with bar soap. However, you could suffer some major consequences. My advice? Stick to dry shampoo instead of bar soap.

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Images: ritual; aitoff/Pixabay, Courtesy of Brands