Soap and Shampoo Bar are both cleansers, however they are not created equal when it comes to cleansing Afro Curly Hair. We discuss both options so you can make a more informed decision on which to use.
I’ve seen a number of DIY shampoo recipes floating around the internet, they are basically recipes using melt and pour soap and being touted as shampoo bars.
Shampoo bars have been around for a very long time but they are slowly gaining popularity because of their eco friendliness. Soap has been around for much longer, 4000+ years, and was the original cleanser before detergents and shampoo.
Soap and shampoo bars do the same work, they cleanse, but they aren’t made in the same way and one is better for skin whilst the other is better for hair. We’ll discuss both now.
Soap is made using oils and lye solution. Lye solution helps the oils go through a process called saponification, which leads to the solid bar you buy from the shop. Soap is great for cleansing the skin, especially for removing first and grease, however it has a high pH between 8 – 10, making it alkaline. Alkaline pH disrupts the naturally acidic pH of the skin or hair. In comparison, the skin’s pH is around 5.5 – 6 in adults and close to neutral, 7, for babies. The hair’s pH is similar.
When an alkaline product is used on the skin, it disrupts the skin’s natural barrier which leads to dryness, it then takes the skin a while to replenish itself. The more you damage the skin barrier, the longer the skin takes to replenish itself, which can then lead to skin conditions.
As for the hair, Afro Curly hair in particular, when soap is used on the hair, because of its alkaline nature, it can forcibly open the cuticles on the hair strand, leaving the inner core of the hair strand vulnerable. This is why it is suggested to use an acidic rinse such as apple cider vinegar solution or a citric acid solution to reduce the pH of the hair and force the cuticles closed.
Washing your hair with soap can lead to further dryness, matting at the base and leaving your hair looking dull.
Quick Fact: Hair relaxers are effective because of their very high pH of 12-14.
A shampoo bar on the other hand, when formulated correctly, is created with the hair’s pH in mind. It is usually at a pH of 6 or less to lessen the disruption caused from the cleansing process. A shampoo bar is made using detergents, similar to what you’d find in a traditional shampoo, but we use the solid form of these detergents to form the bar’s shape. A shampoo bar will also have some conditioning benefits as you oftentimes find fatty alcohols in them, however their primary role is cleansing the hair.
A shampoo bar can also end up with a high pH if it isn’t formulated correctly. Dull, matted and extra frizzy hair is the result.
A shampoo bar should be followed up by a conditioner which is also acidic. The conditioner helps maintain the integrity of the hair’s cuticle, whilst providing conditioning benefits.
So there you have it, a short outline of the differences between soap and shampoo bars and how they affect your hair after cleansing. Whilst they both cleanse in a similar way, the end result can be totally different. If you want to learn more about hair cleansing, check out this blog and this one for conditioning.
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Until next time,
Be Great x