Hair Detox: More Than Just A Hair’s Width Of Difference

In the 1500s, Indians combined the pulp of soap berries,…

A photo posted by Jessica Barratt (@jessicabarratt) on


…some herbs, and hibiscus flowers into a solid bar (like a soap bar) to form the world’s first shampoo. That’s right, the FIRST shampoo. Shocking to the hair obsessed, strands were mostly left to twist in the wind in the Western world before that.


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The product was soon taken back by colonial Britishers to their homeland, and in no time was popularised as a ‘luxury.’

Before we knew it, we metamorphosed from natural to cosmetic (shampoos, conditioners, serums, dyes, and other styling products) and that’s where it became a problem.


Absurd as it sounds, you can’t help but question…Does your hair really need a detox?


Before reading on, let’s be clear on this. Detox is not required to remove dirt from your hair. Its purpose is to remove toxic chemicals accumulated from all the synthetic hair products you use. So, even though you wash your hair regularly to keep it clean, that may actually be the root cause of the problem.


The hair care products we so naively use contain combinations of the following toxins:

1. Dimethicone (used in 90% of hair products), cyclopentasiloxane and other silicone derivatives: They coat the hair shaft, imparting a soft texture and impeccable shine to it — but at a personal and environmental cost. Dirt, sebum, and other toxic chemicals are trapped between this new coating and the hair shaft. You can imagine the consequences. These compounds are also non-biodegradable and cause harm to the environment.
2. 1,4-dioxane: Found in products that lather and produced as a bi-product of the manufacturing process, it is a carcinogen that has been linked to organ toxicity.1
3. Coal tar: Another cancer trigger.2
4. Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (like Quaternium-15): Added to prevent microbial growth in personal care products, they have been linked to cancer.
5. Parabens: Antimicrobial in nature, they can be absorbed through the skin, blood, and digestive system. Cancer, reproductive toxicity, and hormonal imbalance are concerns they bring with them.3 4
6. Triclosan: Again used to prevent microbial growth in products, it has been implicated in hormonal disruptions and emergence of resistant bacterial strains.5
7. Fragrance: Ignorance is not always bliss. Most companies do not describe what the label ‘fragrance’ entails. Some common ingredients have been associated with cancer, reproductive and developmental toxicity, allergies and sensitivities.
8. Octinoxate or octyl methoxycinnamate or (OMC): Used in hair products to prevent their degradation on exposure to UV-B rays of the sun, it causes hormonal imbalance in the body.6 7
9. Phenoxyethanol: Used as a preservative and stabilizer in personal care products, it has been linked to eczema and fatal allergic reactions.8 9
10. Resorcinol: In high doses, it can impair the central nervous system and cause respiratory problems.
11. Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) and Methylchloroisothiazolinone (CMIT): Preservatives mainly used in liquid products, they may cause lung toxicity, allergic reactions and neurotoxicity.10 11
12. Retinoic acid and retinyl palmitate: In combination with sunlight, they may increase the risk of skin cancer. 12


Does that seem like an overload of chemistry to you? Can you now perceive the overload on your hair?

How do you know your hair needs a detox?

Apart from a guilty conscience of having used uncountable (yes, there are more than 12) chemical products on your hair for decades, give your locks a second look to recognize their plea for a detox.

Check for:

  • Lack of luster
  • Locks dropping heavily from the weight of all those chemicals
  • Rough, easily knotted hair.

Get rid of chemical shampoos altogether (the No-Poo Method), and use a natural baking soda-ACV-honey concoction to wash your hair.

If that is too much to ask of you, at least detox your hair regularly.

How can you naturally detox your hair?

FYI, hair strands are covered by a thin film of salt, water, and oil called the mantle that maintains moisture balance in your hair (think bouncy, luscious volume).

The mantle is slightly acidic in nature (pH=4.5-5.0) preventing bacterial and fungal growth and keeping the hair cuticles closed (will get to that in a bit).

It’s time to split hairs and understand how each ingredient works.


Baking soda: It can be used as a dry shampoo (read: cleanser) as it absorbs excess oil from your hair shafts and scalp. This makes it particularly useful for people who have naturally oily hair. A good hair massage with baking soda can help remove the trapped toxins and oil from your hair shafts. Its effectiveness depends on which products you’ve been using and for how long. This just means the detox process can range anywhere between 2 weeks and 4 months.

How does it really work?

Baking soda is very alkaline (pH=8.3-9.0). When applied to your hair, it changes the pH of the mantle. This causes your cuticles (outermost layer of your hair) to open up and expose your hair shafts. The cuticle consists of overlapping flakes, much like a pine cone.


The right image is what your cuticles look like after treating it with baking soda. The exposed hair shafts then lose their moisture, becoming very dry and brittle. Your scalp may also feel scaly and dry as the baking soda absorbs excess oil.

This makes the next step extremely necessary. Use a natural conditioner — apple cider vinegar.


Apple cider vinegar (ACV): Being acidic in nature (pH=4.25-5.0), ACV counteracts the effects of baking soda. It closes the opened cuticles and prevents drying and weakening of your patiently grown mane. It also restores the pH of the mantle.

Raw honey: Honey moisturizes and softens your hair, while imparting to it veritable sheen.

Who knew what a cake ingredient, the infamous gravity-proving fruit, and Winnie-the-Pooh’s favorite snack could do for your tresses?

The steps…

  • Get your split ends trimmed.
  • Dissolve 1 tsp baking soda in 1 cup of water till it is no longer grainy. Be particularly careful in this step as undissolved crystals may be too harsh for your hair proteins. Massage the solution into your scalp as you would a shampoo. The no-lather feel will take some getting used to. Rinse off after 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Mix 1 part ACV with 4 parts water (or 1 tbsp in 1 cup water). Pour this over your hair. Rinse with water.
  • Massage raw honey into your damp hair. Wash after a few minutes.


  • Use cold water for rinses.
  • Dilution is key. This is VERY VERY important as it’s all about pH.
  • Trim your hair regularly.
  • Perform a detox at least once a week, especially if you continue using chemical hair products.


You may still be concerned about greasy hair, i.e. by not using a regular shampoo and conditioner.

Accustomed to your self-inflicted chemical torture by using synthetic shampoos, you may be worried that a natural mix will not be able to handle the barrels of oil rolling down your hair.

The crux of the matter is this…
It is your shampoo that is drying out your scalp, making your sebum production go on overdrive, giving you icky greasy hair, and provoking you to re-play this vicious cycle on loop.

Break out of it and oily hair will be a concern no more. It may take some time to stabilize your sebaceous glands and prevent excess sebum production, but once that happens, you will be flaunting a sexy mane all the time.

It’s time you let your hair down naturally.