Can You Really Swap Your Shampoo For Dish Soap?

When it comes to updating yourself on the latest ways to do the most mundane things, TikTok is your ever-morphing encyclopedia. From the most mimicked pranks to unheard-of beauty hacks that set the skincare world on fire, TikTok is a buzzy goldmine for initiatives. Since TikTok is the place where people from all walks of life share what they know mostly from the school of hard knocks, you'll have to take everything with a grain of salt. If you think you've seen everything, have you heard of using dish soap for the hair?

In a seven-second-long video that has garnered over two million views at the time of writing, creator @DannyDoesHair is seen spraying a liberal amount of Dawn Powerwash dish soap formula on their textured hair as opposed to regular shampoo. TikTok user Casey Devlin, a hairstylist, also shares that she uses dishwashing soap twice a month as a clarifying treatment. In fact, even Dawn advertised in a commercial its solution as being powerful yet gentle enough to clear ducks of oil (via YouTube), so applying the formula to the scalp isn't too much of a stretch. But, can you really substitute dish soap for shampoo?

How is dish soap different from shampoo?

Similar to shampoo, dish soap is formulated to remove stubborn gunk and grease from utensils. However, many of the components in dish soap and traditional shampoos are the same. According to cosmetic chemist Javon Ford, who reacted to the trend with a detailed analysis in his TikTok video, most dish soaps and regular shampoos often include a common preservative like phenoxyethanol, a washing ingredient like sodium laureth sulfate, a plant-based preservative like tetrasodium glutamate diacetate, and alcohol like cetyl or stearyl.

The difference, however, lies in their pH levels, he adds. For instance, the pH level in the Dawn Powerwash dish soap used by @DannyDoesHair is 11, while the pH level in the Original Dawn Liquid Dish Soap as stated in the Safety Data Sheets is 9.2. On the other hand, the average shampoo has a pH level of three to nine. Meanwhile, the healthiest pH level for the hair, per Hairman, is between 4.5 and 5.5. Therefore, the ideal shampoo pH level is 3.6 for the hairshaft and 5.5 for the scalp. Because the pH levels in dish soaps are much higher than the optimal levels, using dish soap on the hair can damage the hair shaft and weaken the strand structure, like what hair bleach and hair dye do. Despite discrepancies in formulas and the natural structure of the hair, dish soap doesn't have to be ruled out as a potential shampoo alternative.

Can you use dish soap for your hair?

Because dish soap is powerful in breaking up dirt build-up, it can be used as a deep-cleansing treatment on the gunks in your scalp that can't be gotten rid of using regular shampoo, says stylist and beauty consultant Ghanima Abdullah of The Right Hairstyles (via Shape). However, dish soap may be too abrasive to use as frequently as you would shampoo your hair, and you may need to run a patch test on your scalp in advance to see how it reacts to the formula. To be safe, Abdullah recommends using a mixture of one teaspoon of soap to one quart of water on the hair.

Per the Dominican Hair Alliance, using dish soap on your hair regularly eventually will eventually dismantle your epicuticle, a layer made up of lipids that protect the cuticle. Once your epicuticle is down, your entire cuticle, including the cell membrane complex, will be damaged, resulting in frizzy hair and breakage. Plus, sodium lauryl sulfate, the main ingredient in many dish soap formulas, is known to trigger dermatitis, a common skin condition that involves itchy and flaky skin. Wrapping up, dish soap cannot be used in place of shampoo because it's not formulated for the purpose of hair washing. You need a pH-balanced shampoo to keep your hair cuticles closed, keep a healthy amount of oil on your scalp and your hair, preserve the treated hair color, and protect your hair from damage.