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Is it okay to use soap on hair?

Bunny Lake asks…Chagrin Valley Shampoo Bars are really popular with a lot of the people on the Long Hair Community, and I’ve been trying some sample bars out myself. I love some, but others give me that waxy feeling. I have soft water where I live, also. Is Chagrin Valley Soap the kind of “soap” that is actually NOT good for your hair and skin? A lot of their complexion and body bars contain coconut oil which I have heard is good for hair but highly comedogenic (pore clogging). Thanks for any information you can give me!

The Beauty Brains replysoap-bubble-439103_640

It sounds like you’re already savvy to the main problem with washing your hair with bar soap: build up from hard water.

Is soap safe for hair?

This is what happens when the fatty acid salt that makes up soap reacts with the counter ions in hard water (like magnesium and calcium) to form an insoluble residue. This residue used to be known as “bathtub ring” because of the film left in the tub after bathing. Modern surfactants have eliminated this problem because they don’t react with hard water ions. Similarly, using softened water (as you are) also reduces the problem. Therefore, there’s no technical reason for not using Chagrin Valley Shampoo bars on your hair.

Does coconut oil clog pores?

Should you worry about coconut oil soap clogging your pores and giving you blackheads? It’s true that coconut oil is highly comedogenic. It’s usually rated a four or five on a five-point scale. This means it’s likely to contribute to pore clogging and acne. However in this case the risk is much lower. That’s because most of the oil in the soap has been reacted. Any residual oil will for the most part be rinsed out of your hair. If you were applying pure coconut oil to your skin there would be more chance of pore clogging than if you’re just using coconut oil soap. Still, there is some risk and you won’t know for sure until you try it.

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  • Alice November 26, 2015, 12:08 am

    I’ve been looking into using natural products for haircare and have found that a lot of times it says that oils are not just great for moisturising your scalp and hair, but also to accelerate hair growth. Is this true or just part of a hype?

    • Randy Schueller November 26, 2015, 11:05 am

      I’m not aware of any studies showing that natural oils help hair growth.

  • Marina October 15, 2016, 3:14 pm

    Hi, guys! I’ve been reading your blog for a long time and I always find many helpful information. I live in Brazil and I’m trying to use more natural cosmetics. I’ve found a person who manufacters soap bars and shampoo bars, but I have sensitive skin and dry curly hair and got scared that the soap could harm my skin or hair, it’s made in a cold process with natural oils of olive, coconut, Palm and some essencial oils like lavender, Orange. I also have breakout-prone skin and I was scared that the coconut Oil that I use in my hair could worsen my acne, but that didn’t happen. My skin looks smoother and clearer after using the coconut Oil on it (I started using at my face once a week). I’ve fone some Research and it seems like the coconut Oil is rich in lauric acid and that would be why it can make skin clearer. Is it true? And that about the soap? Thank’s a lot.

    • Randy Schueller October 16, 2016, 9:48 am

      I’m not aware of any researching showing that lauric acid can make your skin clearer but if you’ve found a routine that works for you – stick with it!

      • Marina October 19, 2016, 7:50 am

        Thank you. And that about the soap? Is it true that it really harms the skin?

        • Randy Schueller October 19, 2016, 8:04 am

          True soap has a high pH and it can be drying to skin.

  • Joyce December 31, 2016, 1:20 pm

    Does superfatting the soaps counteract the drying effects of soap then?

    • Randy Schueller January 1, 2017, 8:08 am

      I haven’t seen the data on this but I would assume that superfatting could counteract some of the drying effects but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re exposing your skin to higher pH.

  • Joyce December 31, 2016, 1:27 pm

    Sorry for the double post, there is another question that I’m curious about regarding chagrins valley shampoo bar.

    I have hard water here, but use diluted apple cider vinegar to chelate. Is there an issue with using the shampoo bars and ACV daily? Considering I’m raising the cuticles of my hair with the bars and smoothing it down with ACV.
    Also since their shampoo bars are just soap, wouldn’t it be harsh on the scalp too?

    Apologies for my many questions. I’ve used chagrin valleys bars for my face body and hair for awhile now and it’s surprising to hear that soaps are pretty harsh on skin and I’m dying to know more.

    Thank you!

    • Randy Schueller January 1, 2017, 8:09 am

      If you like the way that shampoo bars and ACV makes your hair feel that’s fine but there’s no scientific evidence showing that ACV “smoothes down” the cuticle. I haven’t looked that their products but the may be making syndet bars which are milder because they’re a blend of synthetic detergents and soap.

      • Joyce January 1, 2017, 11:07 am

        Wow thank you for your reply! Your site has been most informative.
        Glad that I can continue using them without worrying about any “bad” effects long term.

        As far as I know, chagrin valley produces pure cold process soap. I am very surprise to hear that ACV does not smoothen down the hair.
        I have hard water and can’t use shampoo bars w/o having soap scum clinging on to my hair. The ACV seem to help remove the deposits I suppose.

        I would love to hear your opinion of ACV removing deposits on hair from hard water tho. Apparently soap “lifts” the cuticle of the hair and ACV “smooths” it down.

        I can’t

        • Randy Schueller January 2, 2017, 8:04 am

          We’ve some some basic testing to confirm that vinegar can help remove hard water deposits so I certainly agree with using it for that purpose.

          However, the idea that ACV closes the cuticle is a myth. A very high pH causes the hair shaft to swell which causes the cuticles to buckle and loosen. Simply lowering the pH with vinegar does not reverse this process (partly because the natural “glue” that holds the cuticle down has been disrupted.)

  • Joyce January 2, 2017, 7:59 pm

    Woah! Wait hang on.. last question I promise.

    That certainly does not sound good for the hair! Does this means that shampoo bars damage hair with long term usage?

    • Randy Schueller January 3, 2017, 8:07 am

      Any kind of shampooing causes long term damage because every time you wash and dry your hair you cause some swelling and contraction that lifts the cuticles. It doesn’t matter what you use.

  • Julia February 28, 2017, 2:04 pm

    Actually, there are a lot of people who don’t do well with coconut oil in soaps. Do you know the feeling when you make a bery tight high bun and then open it put your hair down again? That’s how it feels for me all the time after using coconut oil in soap :D. A lot of people also go very well with it but there are some who have the same problem as me.

  • Ha December 30, 2019, 12:05 am

    Hi, I’ve just known about your this site and really love it. I have some questions about pH balance. I read the book “It’s OK to have lead in your lipstick” and the author said “pH balanced = marketing hype”. So, I believe that it’s nothing about the pH, our skin will soon reset to its natural pH. But since I’m not really clear about your above answer. So, can you let me know which one is better for hair, a true soap and a syndet bar? Thanks?

    • Perry Romanowski December 30, 2019, 7:02 pm

      Of the two, a Syndet bar is better for hair than soap. Shampoo would be better though.