Does Baking Soda work for treating Hair Loss? We have seen this question asked several times, so we wanted to investigate this matter for ourselves. Hair loss attracts a lot of attention and anti-hair loss products & remedies are frequently searched online. Though both genders may suffer from a hair loss problem, it is more prevalent among the male population.
In recent time, significant research has been carried out to understand the mechanism of underlying biochemical changes in the body and specifically in the hair follicle that causes hair loss.
It is believed that hair loss is a genetically controlled process. The role of the male sex hormone testosterone and its metabolic derivative, dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is also well documented. It is found that high levels of dihydrotestosterone may shrink hair follicle and alter the whole hair cycle leading to hair thinning that may eventually fall out quickly. It may also slow down the growth of new hair from follicle greatly impacting hair life cycle which leads to hair loss.
Our lifestyle, diet and metabolic processes are all key factors influencing hair density, their thinning and eventual fall. `Minoxidil is FDA approved chemical treatment that has been found effective in preventing hair loss and stimulating regrowth of new hair. It is generally taken orally or applied topically at the bald area of the scalp. However, Minoxidil is known to have serious side effects.
Natural treatments and some oils are also known to prevent hair loss and regrow new hairs. Besides this, you may find loads of “try on solutions” having “mystical powers” with “magical results” to minimize hair loss. They are advocated without any scientific background and evidence backing their efficacy and performance. Today we talk about one such remedy i.e. baking soda. Some online portals have described washing hair with baking soda solution as a remedy to get thicker hair or even regrow hair. Here, we will analyze the science of baking soda and its role in preventing hair loss.
What is Baking Soda?
Baking soda is a common ingredient in our kitchen recipes. It is used in our bakery cooking to make cakes spongy and soft. Its chemical name is sodium bicarbonate and the chemical formula is NaHCO3. Sodium bicarbonate is solid and soluble in water. It gives a slightly alkaline aqueous solution as pH of 1% solution is approximately 8.0. Just to have an idea about pH, it is a scale of acidity and basicity from 1.0 to 14.0 where 1.0 is highly acidic and 14.0 is strongly basic and pH 7.0 is called neutral (Lemon juice as pH 2.0 while pH of milk is 6.50). This means the solution of baking soda (8.0) is slightly basic.
Baking Soda to Prevent Hair fall & Stimulates Regrowth
Many web pages are proposing that washing hair with baking soda solution can prevent hair loss and make hair look thicker. Unfortunately, no scientific research endorses this claim that baking soda can prevent hair fall or stimulate hair growth. It’s one of those myths that is not substantiated and supported by science. So, what is the reason people talking about it and relating baking soda with hair thickening? Let’s analyze some facts about this claim.
Best Recommended Baking Soda Products
The Alkalinity of Baking Soda and Hair Swelling
The aqueous solution of baking soda is alkaline (pH 8.0) and can clean our hair and scalp. High pH and alkaline materials (e.g. soda ash, baking soda and caustic soda) are all known for their grease-cutting properties. They dissolve oil droplets and wash them off. Our scalp contains sebaceous glands that secrete sebum, a natural oily material. Sebum is a natural hair conditioner offering lubricity and shine to our hair. However, continuous secretion of sebum and its excess at hair shaft leaves hair dirty & greasy. Washing hair with baking soda can remove this excess of sebum and clean hair.
However, baking soda is not an ideal cleaning agent. The alkaline pH of its solution can raise pH of scalp and hair. The skin has a pH of 5.50 which means applying baking soda can alter & shift pH of scalp/hair from its natural acidic level to alkaline. High pH products such as hair bleaching (pH 12-13), perms (8.0-9.0) and relaxers (12.0-14.0) are known for their harsh impact on hair structure and tensile properties. They cause significant swelling of hair fibre and breakage. Hair becomes more porous and gets a lot of frizz under high humidity conditions. Repeated applications of an alkaline solution may cause structural fractures and cracks along the hair shaft. Also, high pH may cause significant scalp discomfort and irritation.
Explaining Instant Thickening of Hair
Though baking can clean our hair, it causes hair swelling and induces hair porosity. We believe that instant hair thickening observed by consumers soon after washing hair with baking soda solution is a misread/misunderstood observation. Hair might look thicker due to swelling under the action of high pH of baking soda solution. This swelling can begin instantaneously and that’s why consumer finds “thicker hair” in just one single application of baking soda solution.
Conclusion & Alternate Strategy
Please don’t use baking soda. Science does not support any such claim that washing hair with baking soda can prevent hair loss or stimulate hair growth. The fact is, it can cause significant damage to hair and after repeated applications, and hair may break and fall off. In case you don’t want to use Minoxidil, other natural remedies may work out better. Essential oils of rosemary, pumpkin seed and thyme stimulate scalp surface, increase blood flow and activate hair follicles.
This starts a new wave of biochemical processes in dead follicles and upper dermis layer leading to new hair growth. Lemon balm oil has been found to grow new hair. Olive oil contains a significant level of monosaturated oleic acid which is considered as a DHT blocker (Dihydrotestosterone). Regular massage of olive oil blended with other essential oils can help deliver good results.
Bibliography & Further reading:
- Zviak, C., The Science of Hair Care. Taylor & Francis: 2005.
- Marsh, J. M.; Gray, J.; Tosti, A., Healthy Hair. Springer International Publishing: 2015.
- Luigi Rigano, Anatomy of hair relaxer and straightener formulas, cosmetics & toil. January 2013.
- Max Feughelman, Mechanical properties and structure of Alpha-keratin fibres, UNSW press