Monday, July 19, 2010


Hello fabulous naturals!  I received this article from another fabulous natural in which I felt it to be of importance to share.  This article I found to be very enlighting as well as beneficial.  I have seriously considered going back to co- washing, however I am one who truly believes in a clean , healthy scalp in which I find helps in promoting healthy hair , healthy scalp and hair growth.  As of now I am using Kinky curly " come clean" which is pH balanced, it states it on the bottle ...and it really is because as I've shared I tested it my self.  Below you will find the article....

Vegetable Oil Soaps and Saponified Oils in Liquid Shampoos

Natural, organic, healthy, naturally-derived, plant-based, renewable, green, pure: Close your eyes and throw a dart inside a beauty supply store and you will be hard-pressed to not hit a target with at least one of these buzz words on its label. The current marketing trend is so prevalent that it is a rare personal care product indeed that doesn’t make some sort of claim to be healthier, more natural, better for you or the environment. We are inundated with a plethora of information via all forms of media regarding the way ingredients in products may affect our health and well-being.

All of this hype can lead to people feeling very uneasy and even outright fearful, and product development and sales people are more than happy to capitalize on those concerns. The result can be high-quality new products becoming available to the consumer, but it can also be labels loaded with misleading information, false claims, and even real duds in terms of performance. The buyer must be savvy. In a series of articles, I will be addressing a few topics related to this green marketing campaign and do some educating and myth-busting . This month I will discuss soaps in shampoos and skin cleansers.

Shampoos and skin cleansers are a huge sector of the personal care market. In recent years, there has been a real (perhaps not entirely undeserved) backlash against products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate and other similar synthetic surfactants, so there has been a huge research and development push in the industry to provide more mild and “natural” products. Those of us with delicate, curly hair are always on the prowl for products that will cleanse well, but leave our locks healthy and silky. So in many ways this is a fantastic trend for us. A wider variety of products are now available that contain milder surfactants than the sulfates and that also contain plant oils and emollients that help restore moisture to the hair

However, there is one ingredient that is a great example of how natural and old-fashioned is not always an improvement. I am referring to soap-based shampoo bars and shampoos that contain ingredients called “plant oil soaps” or “organic saponified plant oil.” In past articles, we discussed the chemical nature of soap molecules, soap bars, and how they work and the potential problems they present for curly hair (Shampoo and soap bars, Please have a look at those if you would like a more in-depth discussion about soaps. ( which will be posted below)

To briefly review, soap molecules are surfactants made from reacting natural fats (triglycerides from animal or plant sources) with a very strong base (usually sodium hydroxide (lye) or potassium hydroxide (potash)) to form ionized, alkaline fatty acids. This reaction process is called saponification, and while it has been used by humans for many centuries to make soaps, it really isn’t any more natural than many other forms of synthesis that take place in a laboratory. Saponification is a rather environmentally friendly process, though, so soaps can be set apart from the detergent crowd for that reason.

Soap molecules are anionic surfactants (just like sodium lauryl sulfate, but with a different head group), materials that have both hydrophilic (water-loving) and hydrophobic (water-hating) moieties, and as such are reasonably effective at removing grease and oil from hair, skin, and clothing fibers. However, they come with a set of complications that do not occur with most other synthetic surfactants. A brief summary of the drawbacks of these soap molecules is that they have a much higher pH than is ideal for hair, and permanent damage to the cuticle and lipid layer of hair strands can occur when these products are used. They also react with minerals found in hard water to form an unpleasant film of soap scum and mineral scale on the hair, which can lead to a rough texture, tangling, breakage, and a general dry sensation. Hard water also significant affects the cleansing efficacy of soaps. For these reasons and more, synthetic surfactants are used in commercial products more often than soaps.

How and Why are Soaps in my shampoo or facial cleanser?

Typically we think of soaps as being solids, but it is possible to dissolve solid soap into an aqueous solution to form a liquid shampoo or skin cleanser formulation. Another way to do it would be to take the neat soap solution that is the product of the saponification reaction and add excess water and other ingredients directly to that mixture. The primary difference between liquid and solid soap is that liquid soap is made via reaction with potassium hydroxide rather than with sodium hydroxide. The reason for this is due to the larger atomic size of potassium which enables the molecules to remain further away from one another in solution, thus preventing flocculation and precipitation. A pure liquid soap is clear, but most products have additives such as fragrance, viscosity modifiers, pearlizers, emollients, emulsifiers, and preservatives.

The ingredients list of a shampoo or skin cleanser will indicate the presence of soap molecules using terms such as “olive oil soap”, “coconut oil soap”, “corn oil soap”, “soap of jojoba oil”, or “organic saponified avocado oil”. These are not specifically approved INCI terms for these ingredients, but they do make it pretty easy to spot them in a product. Liquid cleansers and shampoos that contain soap molecules will have most of the same drawbacks of a soap bar, but may be more gentle simply due to being less concentrated.

Take-home message?

Soaps are so appealing on a natural and health-conscious level, as they are made with many fewer chemicals using natural plant oils in a very environmentally friendly process. Unfortunately, they do have many drawbacks in terms of performance, and there are other naturally-derived cleansers that are less harsh for curly hair. However, if the soap is listed lower down the ingredients list (meaning it truly is a minor component of the product), the pH of the product may be lower (more acidic) and thus the product may not be less harsh than one with a high concentration of soap. If the rest of the product looks appealing to you, it might be worth trying it to see how it works for you. I always feel the best data is obtained by the end user when they experiment with a product on their own hair, so don’t be afraid to try something new if it looks like the soap is not the major component.

By CurlChemist/Tonya McKay Beckeer

Shampoo Bars

Shampoo bars made of “all natural” ingredients are all the rage in the hair- and skin-care markets. These handmade soaps and shampoo bars are especially gaining popularity in the curly-hair community because they tend to be free of sulfates and silicones and are made from moisturizing oils and gentle cleansers.

Many people report that they are extremely pleased with the results they are getting, citing benefits such as increased softness, better curl formation and, in some cases, elimination of the need to use conditioner.

However, not all users have had such pleasant experiences, and there is some confusion over what the advantage is of shampoo bars over traditional shampoos or low- or no-poo cleansers. There is also some debate about whether the shampoo bars should be followed up with a vinegar rinse, a conditioner, or both.

As usually do, I will delve into the basic chemistry of shampoo bars to discover what answers lie beneath the surface.

What is a Shampoo Bar?

Soap molecules used in shampoo bars are similar to some of the more familiar hair cleansers such as sodium lauryl sulfate in that they are anionic (negatively charged) surfactants. The difference is that the polar head group of the molecule is a carboxylate, rather than a sulfate (R-COO-Na+ vs. R-OSO3-Na+), which results in a milder surfactant. They are formed by reacting a fat (triglyceride) with a strong base, either sodium hydroxide (lye) or potassium hydroxide (potash), in a process called saponification. In this reaction, the fatty acids are cleaved from the triglyceride backbone and in a two-step chemical reaction soap molecules are formed, along with water and glycerin. The amount of strong base needed is calculated based upon published saponification values for the fats being used in the process. Although the source of fats is natural, there is still a chemical reaction and modification that must be done to get a useful derivative

Typically, an excess of oils is added to the mixture prior to the mixing of fats and base. This provides two benefits:

1. The lye is completely consumed in the chemical reaction, which makes certain the final product doesn’t burn or irritate skin or damage hair.

2. The excess oils act as “superfatting” agents in the shampoo bar, which contribute to mildness and an overall luxurious feel to the soap. These oils act as moisturizing and conditioning agents, much as they would in a regular shampoo or conditioner.

Most handmade soap makers use a “cold process,” where the main source of heat used is from the exothermic reaction itself (unless the oils or fats need to be pre-melted). The lye or potash is added slowly to water, which quickly becomes hot. It is set aside for a few minutes to cool slightly while the oils are mixed separately. The basic solution is then mixed with oils and stirred until it begins to thicken. Essential oils and colorants can be added at this time, and then the soap is poured into molds. After it cools for a few hours, it can be removed carefully from the molds and cut into bars if needed. These individual shampoo bars are then covered and left to “cure” on racks for a few weeks. This ensures that all of the lye is gone and that the soap is hard.

You may note that in this process, glycerin, a byproduct of the saponification reaction, is left to add humectant and lubricative properties to the soap. It is important to be aware of this because it can potentially be problematic for those with colored hair, especially if the hair was colored recently, if temporary dye was used or the if hair color was heavy in red dye. The humectant properties of glycerin can be a boon or curse for curly hair also, depending upon the hair type, condition of the hair, and environment in which the product user lives.

Soaps are classified as gentle cleaners due to being less efficient at removing oil from the hair when compared to some of the synthetic surfactants. This is a beneficial property in a cleanser for those of us with hair already prone to being dry. The excess oils in a superfatted soap act as emollients and moisturizers to replace oils removed from the hair during the cleansing process. Curly hair doesn’t typically have much oil from the scalp distributed down the hair shaft in the first place, so it needs this extra moisture added in a cleansing routine.

The properties of any particular soap may vary greatly, depending upon which oil or combination of oils is used to make it. Coconut oil is admired for its luxurious, foamy texture. Olive oil (castile soap) is considered to be unparalleled for skin with any types of eczema or psoriasis problems and is very gentle with hair. Evening primrose oil and calendula oil, while expensive, can also add healing and moisturizing properties to the soap. Jojoba oil is very similar in composition to human sebum, so it is great at dissolving old sebum, cleansing the scalp gently and replacing some of the natural oils. Shea butter is prized for being an excellent moisturizer, and soaps with this ingredient included can leave the hair and skin feeling soft.

The Drawbacks of Shampoo Bars

When used in soft water, soap can generate a nice lather and leave hair feeling very soft and clean. In fact, in really soft water and after using an extremely moisturizing soap, the soft and slippery texture of our skin and hair can feel so foreign to us that we may continue rinsing repeatedly in an attempt to remove the perceived residue.

Unfortunately, soap’s effectiveness is significantly reduced when used in hard or acidic water. The reason for this is that the carboxylate group on the soap molecule interacts preferentially with the metallic ions that are so prevalent in hard water (usually calcium, iron, and/or magnesium). The result is the formation of a precipitate, which leaves an insoluble film on whatever surface comes into contact with it, including the hair. This film can be very difficult to remove and leaves the hair dull, lifeless, tangled, and dry. The soap lathers less and cleanses less effectively for the same reason: two soap molecules are removed from action by each magnesium or calcium ion when the complex is precipitated from the solution, so there is less soap available for cleansing. That squeaky clean feeling you may get after using a bar soap is actually the feel of organic/mineral deposits on your hair shaft. This deposit left on the hair can also attract dirt, making hair greasy and dirty. This problem was one of several driving forces for the development of synthetic surfactants such as sodium laurel sulfate.

Another potential hazard of the shampoo bars and soaps is that they typically have a pH in the 8 to 9 range, which is substantially more basic than the natural level for hair. This can result in a temporary breakage of disulfide bonds in the keratin protein of the hair, which can disrupt curl formation and cuticle structure. The basic environment softens the hair, swells it, and leaves it with a ruffled cuticle. This rough surface is not only a source of potentially damaging entanglements and breakage, but also is unattractive because it reduces the shine and gloss of hair tremendously. Swelling of the hair also enables larger colorant molecules to escape, which can shorten the lifetime of a coloring application.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to counteract these two effects. Some soap makers put various additives in their soaps that help to keep the soap molecules from binding with hard water metals (sodium silicate, sodium carbonate, borax). However, in the “all-natural” products this is not likely, so it is important to take some steps after shampooing. Rinsing with a mildly acidic solution will help dissolve the soap scum deposit from your hair, shrink the hair shaft diameter, flatten the cuticle and increase the shine and smoothness of your hair. White vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or dissolved citric acid or vitamin C (ascorbic acid) all have sufficiently low pH to help return hair to its preferred pH pf approximately 4-5. Using a clarifying shampoo with EDTA in it can also help remove build up, but would also involve use of a more harsh surfactant, so might be best done only occasionally.

You can also try washing your hair in bottled, purified water when you use your soap, which would make this step necessary less often. Another option is getting a showerhead filter, which is generally less expensive than a whole-house water softener. Even if you take these steps, it is wise to do a mild acidic rinse, due to the basic properties of the soap. Also, dirt on your hair can have minerals in it, which can then create soap scum, so you can’t avoid the need for the low pH rinse entirely.

Depending upon the composition of the soap you are using, the condition of your hair, and the type of water you have, you may find you need to use less conditioner than when you use other cleansers. Experimentation will help you figure out what helps your hair look and feel its best.

How can I incorporate shampoo bars into my hair care routine?

•Look for one with the plant-derived oils which you prefer, or buy a few bars and try different recipes.
•Lather the bar in your hand, not on your head. Your hair is as fragile as a cashmere sweater, and needs very careful handling at all times.
•Use soft water to wash your hair with soap bars whenever possible.
•Follow up with a mildly acidic rinse to restore the natural pH of your hair and to impart that shiny, glossy surface we all desire.
•Use detangler or conditioner to your own personal tastes. In other words, if you still feel you need it, go ahead! I personally wouldn’t skip that step unless my hair looked weighed down or limp.
•Give it a few tries. I have read that it can take some time for your scalp and hair to adjust, just as it often does when you go to a low shampoo or no-shampoo routine.

By CurlChemist/Tonya McKay Beckeer

As for myself , I will continue to stay far away from any soap, shampoo and or shampoo bar in which does not have a safe pH of matter what.



LazyCouchPotato said...

Great article! Like you, I also believe in a clean scalp. I use Dr. Bronners liquid castile soap and haven't had any ill effects. There are only about 6 ingredients.

Unknown said...

@ NaturalNubian, so glad you found it useful. Yes, I truly belive that a clean scalp is very important. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Take care.

Lucky said...

zainab1, first off I just have to tell you that I LOVE this blog! I found and bookmarked it yesterday. This is a blog that I will be checking out on the regular and I mean that.

Just as you were thinking about going back to cowashing, I'm thinking about going back to shampooing, after seeing Kimmaytube's latest video.

It's a shame that "green washing" (claiming that products are "organic", "natural", "healthy", etc.) is so popular these days, especially the products aren't as healthy as they claim to be. Done for the sake of making a profit, but it causes confusion for people looking for truly healthy hair products.

Once again, Sister, this blog is on point!

Unknown said...

@ Lucky...Thank you so much !!!...your comment really put a smile on my face. I really love learning and sharing about natural hair. I am so happy you found me !

You know... co-washing really was just a fleeting thought..I truly believe a clean healthy scalp comes from shampooing, but I must admit I was thinking about it ( lol) ...out of disappointment with trying to find a trustworthy shampoo & company....But, shampoo is the way to go for me ( smiles)

I couldnt agree with you more's really a shame to be mislead by some products, to make a dollar...shame on them !

Thanks so very much for stopping by was a pleasure to hear from you.
Take care.

Lucky said...

zainab1, since you found out about your shampoo bar, what are you using now to cleanse your hair? I'm currently using Aubrey Organics HSR (I've been cowashing, but I got the shampoo too) As soon as those pH test strips come in, I'm going to test the shampoo and condish. If the pH levels aren't right, I'll have to find something else.

I was skeered to shampoo my hair, doing so only once a month and cowashing the rest of the time. It's good to be able to shampoo again.

Unknown said...

@ Luncky...Currently I am using '
Kinky curly, come clean in which you find here which is pH balanced it states that on the bottle...and it really is I did a test on it my self.

Also, it's said that curls find that here
is also pH balanced both of their shampoos. I intend to pick some up here locally and give it a go.

I will keep you posted. Take care.

Tiffany said...

Did you buy the PH strips from Kimmay? I'm thinking about getting tell.

Unknown said...

@Tiffany...I surely did , and the shipping was quick ! I really like hers/these they are easy to use and read. Take care.

Thanks for stopping by.

Unknown said...
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