What is Hair pH and Why is it Important?
When shopping for a hair shampoo or conditioner, it’s crucial to look at labels for ingredients. Avoid options that have sulfates, silicones, and parabens. You should also check the hair care product’s pH level before buying it.
Many hair care brands advertise their shampoos and conditioners as “pH-balancing”. But, what exactly does that mean? And, does this have an effect on your hair and scalp?
What is Hair pH?
The ideal pH level of hair is 3.67. For the scalp, the pH level ranges from 4.5 to 5.5, like the skin’s ideal pH level. The pH scale determines the acidity or alkalinity of a certain substance. Pure water, which has a neutral pH, sits at the middle of the scale at pH level 7. Substances with zero pH to less than pH 7 are acidic.
Examples of substances with a low pH are battery acid, hydrochloric acid, and black coffee. Meanwhile, substances with a pH level of 7 to 14 are alkaline. Bleach, ammonia, baking soda, and tap water are alkaline substances.
The hair and scalp are both acidic. They must remain within the ideal pH levels to stay healthy, shiny, and strong.
Why is Hair pH important?
According to research, the pH level of shampoo can affect hair and scalp health. Results of the study recommend that hair care products should have a pH level no higher than 5.5 to prevent scalp damage. If a shampoo has a pH level above 5.5, it releases negative electric charges that can cause hair cuticles to break.
When your hair is at pH 3.67 or close to it, the cuticle—the outermost layer of the hair shaft, remains flat. However, hair treatments like dyeing your hair, getting a perm, or simply washing your hair increase the pH level of the hair and scalp. For example, hair colorants have a pH level between 8.5 to 11.0. Water coming from the shower is alkaline. Typically, its pH level is somewhere between 6.5 to 8.5. If these alkaline substances touch your hair, it opens up the cuticle, which makes your hair prone to breakage.
When at healthy pH levels, your hair and scalp can enjoy many benefits. Keeping the pH level of your hair at 3.67 and your scalp at 5.5 seals moisture in while fortifying the hair shafts. This keeps your hair soft, lustrous, and manageable while protecting your hair and scalp from disease-causing germs and bacteria.
How Does Hair pH Affect Your Choice of Hair Products?
Fortunately, you don’t need a degree in chemistry nor do you have to carry around pH strips to determine what type of shampoo or conditioner is good for your hair.
Generally, you should opt for a pH-balancing product, which would have a pH level between 4.5 to 5.5. A pH-balancing shampoo can keep the hair cuticles flat and protect them from being exposed to harsh chemicals and the elements. When the cuticles remain flat and closed, they also retain moisture. As additional protection, you can apply an organic leave-in conditioner to moisturize and strengthen your locks.
Your hair type and the condition of your scalp can also guide you, whether a low (acidic), balanced, or high (alkaline) haircare product is suitable for you. If your hair is dry or curly, it means that its pH level is higher than the ideal pH level. The same goes for color-treated hair, as hair dyes contain ammonia. In such cases, choosing a low pH or acidic shampoo and conditioner can help close the cuticles and keep the hair shaft less vulnerable to damage caused by chemicals.
Understanding hair pH is important because it helps you improve your hair care routine. If you keep the pH level of your hair and scalp balanced, you can prevent unwanted hair damage and wear your hair down without worrying about split ends, tangles, and frizz from forming.