Sunday, December 14, 2008

Shampoo Bars and ACV Rinses

I am really getting a lot of e-mail recently about shampoo bars and ACV rinses. I have covered this on the FAQs page of, but I think it will be worthwhile repeating it here since it seems to be the focus of so much attention lately.

First of all, though, I need to make one thing completely clear. My opinions and/or experiences are exactly that: mine. I do not and never will expect anyone to take anything I say as gospel. I share what I know and what I believe so that others can take it, apply their own knowledge and experience to it, and decide WHAT WORKS FOR THEM. Period, end of story.

If my information coincides with your beliefs, then great. If they don't, then it's still great. We are all learning from each other. The day I believe I don't have anything more to learn is the day I need to get my ass out of this business. And that goes for any other stylist, no matter how many years they have stood behind the chair.

So, about shampoo bars. I know shampoo bars are all the rage these days and, for natural clarification and removal of product build-up, you can't beat them -- anything is preferable to using harsh sulfates. I do, however, have a few concerns about possible overuse of this product.

Shampoo bars typically range from 8 to 10 on the pH scale, meaning they are quite alkaline. Alkaline substances will open up the hair shaft, allowing the cleansers to penetrate within the hair shaft to remove build-up. That, in itself, is not necessarily a bad thing; however, it is important to remember that you are stripping your acid mantle every time you cleanse with these bars.

The acid mantle is the very fine, slightly acidic film on the scalp that acts as a barrier to keep bacteria, viruses and other contaminants or chemicals from penetrating the scalp. As an example: one of the reasons that you are instructed to color your hair when it is "dirty" instead of freshly washed is not because the color will take better on the hair shaft -- it is so your acid mantle is intact and will prevent the chemical color from penetrating your scalp.

So, if you are over-cleansing with shampoo bars, you are interfering with the natural acid mantle function and leaving a very vulnerable part of yourself exposed. Your acid mantle is there for a reason and it needs to remain undisturbed as much as possible so it can do its job to keep you healthy.

Also, with the nature of these bars, you must follow with some type of a vinegar rinse, usually apple cider vinegar (ACV), which can cause its own issues from overuse. Now, about ACV rinses. Several people have told me their stylists say they can do as many ACV rinses as they want. Maybe not such a good idea, though.

You need to bear in mind that apple cider vinegar (ACV) is an acid -- over 100 times more acidic than your hair -- and it needs to be respected as such. Acids can and will start to degrade your hair shaft with overuse, so you must be cautious and pay strict attention to your hair's reaction to frequent ACV rinse use.

Depending on your hair texture and porosity, you may be able to support a greater amount/frequency of usage than others can, but you must be careful to judge yours accordingly. If you are doing frequent ACV rinses and are seeing positive results, then your dilution ratio is most likely suited to your hair type.

If, however, you begin to notice degradation in your hair shaft -- breakage, frayed ends, dryness, brittleness, or more porous hair -- then your dilution ratio is way too strong. You need to revisit your proportions and make adjustments accordingly.

Verdict: I personally think using shampoo bars followed by an ACV rinse is a great idea, but that using them once a month is more than sufficient to keep the hair and scalp clean, healthy and beautiful!

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