But Will the Potassium Hydroxide Dissipate During Saponification? (And the science behind becoming a hippie)

The science behind perfect hair.

What is saponification?  Well, I’ll gladly share my newfound knowledge.  “Saponification” is the process of soap-making; it describes the chemical reaction that takes place between an acid and a base to produce soap.

And why would a girl who has spent nearly three weeks kicking and screaming her way to No ‘Poo paradise suddenly start talking soap?  Well, this may ruin my reputation with Mother Nature, but I’ve decided to add some saponification to my hair care line.  What happened to No ‘Poo?

No ‘Poo is history.  I have vowed that Monday’s meltdown was my last.  No more of this No ‘Poo nonsense.  It has been eating away at my emotional well-being for three weeks with the constant worry of greasy hair and dry shampoo.  I lose sleep at night wondering what I’ll find on my head in the morning.  Nope – No ‘Poo is not for me.  Apparently there are some hair types that take to cutting out chemicals better than others, and it makes me feel better to tell myself that my hair is just not a No ‘Poo type.

But what really sealed the deal for me is when I found out what my “natural” and supposedly “hair-friendly” BS/vinegar remedies are doing.  According to the stylist who has cut my hair since I was in grade school (obviously I trust her), all of the products I’ve been using – baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice – are rather harsh natural clarifiers.  This means they strip my hair of its oils, which is exactly what I’ve been trying to avoid by going No ‘Poo.

Since I felt a bit duped by the whole No ‘Poo campaign, I had a lot less guilt going back to regular shampoo for a few (2) days while I found a new alternative.  I found I had a lot of questions about what “natural” really means.  Is something natural only if it comes straight from the earth?  What about products that are manmade from all-natural ingredients?  What about products that contain non-harmful chemicals?  Baking soda and vinegar had seemed pretty simple and pretty natural to me, but no matter how natural they were they didn’t clean my hair well and left it looking dull, dark and dreary.

Enter: Dr. Bronner.  Even before I started becoming a dirty hippie, I had heard this name thrown around.  Seems as though he has invented something he calls an “18-in-1 magic soap” with no harsh chemicals and totally natural ingredients.  Right, Dr. B. – get over there in the corner with the other “doctor” who’s trying to turn lead into gold.  Or at least that’s what I used to think before I was backed into my No ‘Poo corner.

Jane Goodall had perfect hippie hair. She probably researched and maybe didn’t even wash!  (I know it’s not actually Jane, but let’s just say it was a pitch-perfect portrayal.)

My desperate need of a natural cleaner with harmless ingredients sent me crawling back to Dr. Bronner, tail between my legs.  The ingredients in his  castile soap include:

  •  water
  • organic coconut oil
  • potassium hydroxide
  • organic olive oil
  • organic hemp oil
  • organic jojoba oil
  • citric acid
  • tocopherol

I was mainly concerned about the potassium hydroxide, citric acid and tocopherol.  Now Dr. B. assured me that no potassium hydroxie remains after saponifying oils into soap and glycerin, but I’ve heard that real hippies never trust labels. Back to the internet.

Tocopherol appears to basically be a source of Vitamin E, also found in supplements and foods.  Check.  Citric acid is a weak organic acid found in foods, drinks and most living things.  Check. 

Now the problem child.  Here’s what I know about potassium hydroxide: it’s inorganic, harsh and corrosive.  It’s better known as lye – a base for practically every homemade soap maker.  Inorganic, harsh and corrosive?  What gives, Dr. B.?

Well, it turns out that Dr. Bronner is not hoodwinking when he says the potassium hydroxide disappears during saponification.  Apparently, during saponification, an acid mixes with a base (like potassium hydroxide), and after the process you’re left with just glycerin and potassium/sodium salt.

So I took that and ran.  After all, I was in desperate need of a cleanser, and this castile soap seemed right up my natural alley.  Plus, it was listed in most of the recipes  I’d found.

Dr. B., you better not let me down.  I really need a win.

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15 thoughts on “But Will the Potassium Hydroxide Dissipate During Saponification? (And the science behind becoming a hippie)

  1. very cool post – thanks for the great info! 🙂 Looking for “natural” shampoos is tough, and can then be quite expensive. I’ve never considered making my own before.

    • It’s not as hard as you think. I thought it was going to be hugely complicated with crazy ingredients, but it’s fairly simple!! I’m posting later about the exact recipe I used – so far I would recommend it! Thanks for reading 🙂

  2. I’m on my way of getting rid of some harmful products from my beauty routine too.Your blog gives me more confidence.Gorgeous picture! that little gorilla baby !awww

    • Yes – don’t be afraid to delve into homemade/natural beauty products! I have never really gotten into anything like this before (probably because I’m not great at this kindof thing…haha) but I’ve surprised myself. If I can do it, anyone can!! I’m posting my shampoo recipe today – it’s super easy!! Thanks for reading!

  3. Loving your blog…it’s both entertaining and informative.
    I must say that your castile concoction seems to be doing a great job. Your hair looked clean and soft yesterday. Hope you can rest easy now.
    PS I think your Jane Goodall pic is actually Susan Sarandon.

  4. Glad that your hair care issue seems to be getting better!
    If I might add to the picture discussion…..I think it’s actually Sigourney (sp?)Weaver not Susan Sarandon nor the real Jane Goodall. Sigourney Weaver played Jane Goodall in the movie.

  5. You do realise that citric acid’s PH is nearly the same as ACV/lemon juice and also soap is alkaline (due to the potassium Hydroxide saponification process) which means that the liquid soap does exactly the same as the baking soda…

    • Thanks for the tip!! As hard as I did try to make homemade shampoo/conditioner work, I was foiled my nature in the end, and perhaps this is part of the reason why! There were so many variables in dealing with my hair that I couldn’t keep track of them all, and the whole experiment drove me (and my hair) completely crazy. I did find that all of my natural products would eventually cause oiliness, dryness and product build-up, so (as you suggest), I doubt that one was any better than another, in the end. Thanks for reading 🙂

  6. That was Diane Fossey that Sigourney Weaver portrayed, in the “Gorillas in the Mist” movie, not Jane Goodall. Gorillas don’t have the resources to buy hair care products, so I figure they must make their own. Although movie gorillas undoubtedly get constant attention from professional hairdressers.

    • Thanks for the clarification! I’m sure you can see from all the comments here that there was quite a disagreement among MNM and family about who was actually in the photo! Haha Gosh I wish I was a movie gorilla…then I could have someone ELSE make all my natural hair care products…I’m sure it would be better than the solutions I’ve come up with so far! Thanks for reading!

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