Can You Really Lighten Your Hair With Baking Soda?

Baking soda — otherwise known as sodium bicarbonate — is probably the most versatile baking ingredient ever. Its utility goes beyond the kitchen and has been decisively demonstrated in a variety of household duties. This all-purpose item boasts a variety of uses, including floor scrubbing, silverware cleaning, laundering, fire extinguishing, teeth whitening, air freshening, and deodorizing. According to the University of Wisconsin-Division, the reason why baking soda works effectively in removing stains and whitening stuff is that it is a mild alkali, meaning it has the capacity to break down dirt and grease in water.

Due to baking soda's abrasive nature, it's understandable why many people expect this cleaning agent to lighten their hair the same way that it allegedly does with teeth and other objects. Given that baking soda is a natural (and cheap) lightening agent, it might as well lighten our hair up to one or two shades with minimal damage. But does it? Here are some insights into the effect of baking soda on the hair.

Baking soda is not the best solution for the hair

Since baking soda can remove stains from hard surfaces and teeth, it can also fade colors from your hair after numerous washes. However, it mostly works on dyed hair, especially for semi-permanent dye color. For non-dyed hair, baking soda alone isn't strong enough to scrub away the natural pigment of your hair. According to Hair Trivia, the key to creating a strong lightening solution at home is to combine baking soda with hydrogen peroxide — a stronger bleaching chemical commonly found in hair dyes. So technically, you can incorporate baking soda into your DIY haircare solution.

However, Botox Capilar strictly warns against using baking soda to lighten hair that is too dark or recently dyed. The reason being is baking soda isn't formulated to be used on hair, and using it on hair color that is orange, yellowish, or reddish will cause more harm to your hair than good. Speaking of hair damage, baking soda can strip your hair of natural oils, weaken your hair fibers, and make your hair more vulnerable to breakage. Baking soda has a pH of about nine, while a 2014 study published in the International Journal of Trichology suggests that any hair product with a pH higher than 5.5 has the potential to irritate and damage the scalp. If you have a dry skin condition — like eczema — do not apply baking soda to your hair. 

How to lighten hair naturally

If you want a full head of sun-kissed highlights without any trace of bleach on it, here are some natural lightening agents that you can try at home. For those with blonde hair, John Frieda recommends using a blonde lightening shampoo, conditioner, and spray to add one lighter shade or two to your hair. For those with darker hair, you can also have your tresses lightened naturally using chamomile tea with apple cider vinegar, per hair care brand Prose. First off, mix one-quarter cup of strong chamomile tea with one-quarter cup of apple cider vinegar, and squeeze in some lemon juice. Now, pour the solution into a bottle and spritz your hair with the mixture until all your tresses are saturated. Let your hair air dry, and leave the mixture on throughout the night. Or, you can air dry your hair in the sun to speed up the lightening effect.

Another method is to dilute lemon juice or Vitamin C tablets with water using a ratio of two tablespoons of lemon juice/Vitamin C to one cup of water. After putting the mixture in a spray bottle, apply it to your hair from head to tip and let the sun do the drying part for you.

While the techniques listed can naturally lighten your hair, they cannot equal the results achieved by hair salon sessions. If you want a drastic hair makeover where your hair color goes on evenly, you need the help of a hairstylist.