People Are Ditching Shampoo For Cola – But Here’s What It Really Does To Your Hair

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For decades, shampoos and conditioners have been the accepted standard for washing hair. However, in recent years some people have been ditching traditional products in favor of something more unconventional – cola. But would they be so enthusiastic about using soda on their locks if they knew what it was doing to them?

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Prior to the craze going viral, it seems that beauty bloggers had been quietly washing their hair with cola for some time. However, it wasn’t until 2015 when the actress Suki Waterhouse revealed that she was a fan of the hack that people really started talking about it. And while pouring sticky soda on your mane might seem like a crazy idea, there could be an upside.

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You see, fans of the shampoo-substitute craze claim that rinsing their hair with the soda can smooth their tresses and tighten curls. But if Coke really is the latest hair care wonder product, how does it work? And more importantly, is there any truth whatsoever to the users’ claims?

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Before we get to the potentially game-changing effects cola might have, let’s take a look at how hair care has evolved over the years. Shampoo as we know it today has been around for little over a century. However, people have been finding new ways to keep their tresses clean for thousands of years.

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Yes, it seems that we can trace our current obsession for shampoos back to 16th century India. As far back as then, people were using the pulp of soapberries, also known as soapnuts, to keep their hair clean. And they would add hibiscus and herbs to the formula and carry out a head and body massage known as a champo.

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Then, during the 19th century, early colonial traders came across the Indian hair care rituals and brought “champing” back to Europe. So Champo is where the word “shampoo” comes from. However, for most people these new formulas were still unattainable. Instead, they were only really used by professional stylists.

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Even so, one of the first breakthroughs in commercially available shampoo came in 1903. It was then that the Berlin-based chemist Hans Schwarzkopf created his dry powder “Schaumpon.” And the violet-scented formula was stocked in German drugstores, meaning people could now use the product at home.

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Then in 1908 The New York Times had its say on the new hair washing fad. Yes, the newspaper outlined its “simple rules” on “how to shampoo the hair.” And it claimed that using a hair care product– such as Castile soap – monthly or every six weeks would suffice for those with relatively healthy hair.

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Next, liquid shampoos emerged in the 1920s and made hair washing easier than ever. Since then, formulas have been continually improved. And in the 1930s, the first pH-balanced shampoo was invented, and in the subsequent decades ingredients like polymers and silicones were added to products to help perfect our tresses.

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Although early users of shampoo advocated for a “less is more” approach to washing hair, during the 1970s ads started to encourage us to wash it more often. And some brands wanted us to use their products several times a week. Of course, nowadays it’s not unheard of for some people to lather up their locks every single day.

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However, to this day most professionals seem to agree that shampooing should be carried out sparingly. Anthony Cole works as a stylist for Sebastian Professional Haircare. And in 2017 he told Teen Vogue, “Most young women today wash their hair way too much. Three times a week is sufficient for most hair types.”

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And when you do come to wash your hair, using the right water temperature is important. For instance, washing your tresses in a steamy shower is likely to leave them looking limp and lifeless. Furthermore, hot water could even make your perfectly dyed locks fade more quickly.

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So when it comes to washing our mane, it would seem that using cooler water is the way to go. Moreover, to seal our hair, experts recommend a cold blast under the shower. According to celebrity stylist Oscar Blandi, this “helps lock in the moisture and benefits your hair in the long-run.”

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Alongside knowing what temperature of water to use, it’s important to consider what’s in it. Indeed, some experts recommend installing a shower filter to catch nasties like synthetic chemicals and chlorine. That way, nothing but pure water is touching your hair, helping to keep it in tip-top condition.

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But even with the right water and shampooing schedule, it’s easy to get your hair washing game all wrong. For instance, people apparently apply way too much force to their scalp when it comes to massaging in their product. Yes, and instead of digging your fingertips into the top of the head, you should use light pressure which is enough to stimulate blood flow and boost hair growth.

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A good hair washing routine also uses conditioner alongside shampoo. And where this is concerned, patience is key. You see, the product works better if it’s left to sit in the hair for a while. So a quick application and rinse is a no-no in the eyes of the experts. However, leaving the conditioner for the right time can be somewhat of a balancing act.

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While speaking to Teen Vogue Cole explained, “You should start applying conditioner, mid-shaft downward towards the ends. While the product is still in your hair, use a wide-tooth comb to detangle. You can leave the conditioner in and wrap your hair in a towel for five to seven minutes. Any longer than that will leave residue in your hair.”

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Even after that, there are further steps one should take to ensure hair stays looking its best. Blandi explained, “After you towel dry, it’s always good to put some sort of heat protectant in, especially if you plan on using a hot tool.” However, he stated that hair should be bone dry before applying irons or curlers.

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Just as is the case with skincare, your shampoo should address your hair’s specific needs and profile. For instance, if you have oily hair look for purifying formulas and avoid those that are too hydrating. Where dry hair is concerned, go for moisturizing products, which are also great for coarse locks.

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Given how much effort we’re expected to put into our haircare then, it seems counterintuitive to pour cola all over our cultivated tresses. After all, cleaning bloggers often use the acidic nature of the soda to cut through grime and rust to leave surfaces sparkling clean. As a result, you’d think that it could strip hair of all its goodness.

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However, it seems that cola might not be as harsh on our hair as we might have thought. In 2015 British actress and model Suki Waterhouse revealed one of her beauty tricks in an interview with the magazine Us Weekly. And in doing so, she credited the soda for giving her locks some extra oomph.

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Yes, while speaking with the publication, Waterhouse casually revealed, “I rinse my hair with Coca-Cola sometimes.” Explaining why she used the unconditional haircare technique she added, “I don’t like my hair when it’s washed — it’s fine and limp — but Coca-Cola makes it tousled, like I’ve gone through the Amazon or something.”

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Needless to say, Waterhouse’s admission that she used coke as part of her haircare routine came as a surprise to some. However, her confession inspired a number of writers and bloggers to try out the hack for themselves. But judging from their varied results, not everyone was convinced by the soda rinse.

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In any case, it seemed that for those who wanted to incorporate cola into their hair care routines, there was little technique involved. You see, you simply have to use the soft drink as a rinse in place of shampoo and conditioner. Yes, pour one or two bottles – depending on the length and amount – directly onto tresses while showering.

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For the best result, ensure that your hair is saturated with the soda. You should also coat your locks evenly, as this will lead to a more uniform look. Moreover, it’s probably a good idea to remove your cola from the fridge well in advance, to prevent an icy dousing.

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Now, with the cola in your hair, it will feel like a sticky mess. This is due to the sugar in the soda, which coats the strands making them feel gummy or perhaps crusty. At this point, your mane is likely to smell strongly of Coke, but the scent should subside as you start to wash the drink off. However, you should wait five to ten minutes before rinsing.

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Once you’ve allowed the cola to work its magic, you will need to rinse it thoroughly with water. Some people advise using a mild shampoo as well, but others abstained from traditional hair products altogether. It seems that the most vital thing is ensuring you get all the sticky soda out of your hair.

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After this, it’s apparently best to absorb some of the excess water using a soft towel or T-shirt. Then let your locks dry naturally for a while before detangling your tresses using a wide-toothed comb. Once done, blast your roots with a blow-dryer while holding your head upside down.

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According to those who tried the cola hack, hair is left feeling tousled to create a kind of bed head look. Furthermore, they compared the texture of the soda-doused hair to how it might feel after a day at the beach. But rather than sand and salt giving tresses more texture, it’s the sugary drink.

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In an article published to the Seventeen website in 2015, journalist Elizabeth Denton tried out the hack alongside three of her colleagues. Instead of using their usual shampoo and conditioner, all four women simply rinsed their hair with cola. Then they reported their findings to their readers.

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Before revealing how the cola rinse had worked for her hair, Denton explained that she had naturally wavy tresses that were prone to frizz. And while she had a lot of hair, it was fine in structure. As a result, she wanted to find a product that could bridge the gap between limp and voluminous.

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Unfortunately, it turned out that cola was not the wonder product that Denton might have been hoping for. Revealing the effect the soda had on her mane, she revealed, “While it was definitely softer (bonus!), one side of my hair had way too much texture – kind of like I jumped in the ocean and forgot to brush my hair afterwards.”

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Uneven texture aside, Denton did admit that the cola hack left her hair nice and shiny. However, she wasn’t won over by the trick. In her summary, she wrote, “I think this would work better on someone with naturally straight, frizz-free hair, who isn’t fighting with their natural texture.”

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For Denton’s colleague, Jelani, any positive effects of the cola rinse were short-lived. While the soda appeared to increase the volume of her fine, curly mane she said it “turned to mush” when she tried to style her hair once it had dried. She wrote, “It was a big poofy mess – no curls, just super frizz.”

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Despite Denton and Jelani’s reservations, fellow Seventeen.com editor Thalia was mildly impressed with the effects of the cola hack. She said, “Surprisingly, I liked the results for the most part,” saying the trick gave her hair more volume and shine. However, she added, “Not enough to do it often.”

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Finally, the last Seventeen.com editor to wash their hair using cola was Noelle. And she had fine hair that could turn frizzy if it wasn’t managed correctly. While she said the soda did calm her tresses and hold her curls for longer, the results were not enough to warrant a regular cola rinse.

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Therefore, it appears the jury is still out on the cola hack. However, there is some science to back up claims that the soda has a use in hair care. According to a post on HairFinder.com, the soft drink can be used to emphasize and enhance natural curls, making them appear more defined.

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Apparently, this curl-enhancing effect is down to the phosphoric acid within cola. Yes, this gives the soda an extremely low pH level of 2.5. And as an acid, it causes hair cuticles to contract upon application, making strands appear shiny and smooth. Moreover, if your hair is prone to curling, it should emphasize your waves.

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What’s more, cola can give the hair more body, making it appear more voluminous. But while that sugary build-up might transform tresses, it’s not really that good for the scalp. That’s because rinsing with soda will not clean the hair’s roots and sticky lengths will inevitably attract more dust and dirt than usual.

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So cola rinse might not be the holy grail of hair care after all. Indeed, repeated use could damage the scalp and lead to more fragile lengths. That being said, as an emergency same-day styling trick, it could be worth a go. However, it could be that Coke is better left as a refreshing drink rather than a hairdressing hack.

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