There are new and improved toxins and chemicals introduced into our environment every day. This fact has made more people aware of the good, the bad and the ugly that is found in products that are used on a daily basis. Harsh soaps, detergents, and other products can leave lasting impressions upon overall health.
There is so much information available on the subject of health and chemical components in the products that we use on a daily basis that it can be overwhelming. You may not know what claims are actually true and which ones are fabrications just to sell certain types of products.
Many people today are worried about the condition of their hair. Both men and women can have problems with thinning hair that is genetic or disease-related. Others may have problems with their hair because of environmental factors related to work or hobbies. There have always been discussions regarding hair type and how well specific shampoos work to help repair the damage. One question that is often raised is how the pH level of shampoos can affect the hair over time.
You may be someone who isn’t aware that shampoos and other soaps have a pH balance. If you are beginning a journey into a more healthy lifestyle having the correct facts can help you out. On the other hand, you may check pH balance religiously when you are buying shampoo. However, is it really true that certain types of pH balances will affect the hair differently?
What is ph and how is it measured?
You may remember learning about pH in science class. The literal meaning of pH is potential of Hydrogen. This means that there is a certain amount of hydrogen that occurs in a solution. This unit of measurement can tell whether or not certain types of solutions, such as shampoos and soaps, are acidic or alkaline. If you have ever owned an aquarium or a swimming pool checking the pH of the water for your sake, or your fishes sake is very important. The wrong pH can make the water too harsh causing irritation to human skin or a very poor environment for fish to thrive. The same can be said for the pH of shampoos, soaps, and detergents. When measuring pH a scale of 1 through 14 is used. 7 is a neutral pH or a basic pH. This means that the solution is most like water. 1 to 6 on the scale means that the solution is acidic, like vinegar while numbers 8 through 14 mean that the pH of the solution is alkaline, like bleach or ammonia.
Why is shampoo pH so important?
There is a lot of chemistry involved when it comes to hair care. Perms, colors, highlights and low lights all use a specific balance of chemicals in order to obtain the desired outcome. Shampoo is no different. When you are looking at the pH balance in shampoos you are generally looking to see how the pH level will affect the scalp, the hair follicle, and shaft. Will the shampoo pH be too harsh for your hair? Will it cause your hair or scalp to become dry? Will it cause the hair to become too oily?
When you were a kid, or if you have kids now there was nothing better than “no-tears” shampoo. Children’s shampoo doesn’t burn the eyes because the shampoo pH is neutral, meaning it has a pH balance of 7. The shampoo pH is balanced precisely to be of low acidity. If the shampoo pH had higher acidity it would cause the eyes to burn.
Most shampoos are created with a pH of between 6 and 7. The very nature of the hair calls for shampoo’s to be manufactured with a shampoo pH that is in this range. Shampoo pH can vary slightly if you are trying to solve a problem that you have with your hair such as over dry or over oily hair.
Everyone’s hair has a disulfide bond. This bond is what makes up the inside of the hair and determines what type of texture your hair will have. If you have curly hair, fine hair, or coarse hair you can blame this natural bond. The disulfide bonds can be manipulated via permanents, chemical straighteners, and shampoos. These products, including shampoos must have the correct pH balance. For example, if you purchased a shampoo with a shampoo pH of 14 the solution would be so alkaline that the hair would simply disintegrate. The alkaline solution would destroy the disulfide bond.
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Another example of how shampoo pH can affect the hair is dandruff. Flaky, itchy, dry scalp, eczema and psoriasis of the scalp is caused by a fungus that can usually be controlled by the body naturally. However, if you are using a shampoo with a shampoo pH that is too high the fungus will grow out of control. This is why a shampoo with a pH of 6 or 7 should be used. The fungus can’t grow when there is a low pH. That is why a balanced shampoo should always be used.
The Verdict: Myth or Reality?
The final conclusion for the question of whether or not pH will affect the hair is a definite reality. A nice, balanced shampoo will keep your hair and scalp in good condition. If you feel that you are dealing with issues such as dry scalp or oily hair you can check with your pharmacist, dermatologist or hairdresser to see what type of shampoo can get your hair back to a natural pH balance.
If you have ever had any bad hair experiences involving shampoo pH, hair color or any tips for people looking for the best-balanced hair care products, please share your story. You can also leave a comment regarding this post on shampoo.
Jane Smith says
Do you or anyone know what the ideal Shampoo pH is for permed hair? Is it 6/7 or more acidic? I know a basic pH would not be good for it (and the same for colour-treated hair). I was hoping to try a homemade coconut milk shampoo (pH of 6/7 I think), but I’m not sure if it’s a good idea for permed hair.
Maja T. says
If you have permanently dyed or relaxed hair, your hair was first treated with a highly alkali substance to expose and change the hair’s cuticle, and then, it was “neutralized” with a highly acidic substance to flatten the cuticle again. This is a damaging process and slightly acidic hair products are needed to keep the hair cuticle lying flat.
Would a high ph shampoo be better or worse for someone with low porosity hair? I need a shampoo that will help retain moisture but I don’t know if the pH level would matter?
Maja T. says
Hi Danielle, thanks for the question. If you hair with low porosity, or it’s considered resistant, you can help infuse moisture into the hair by:
1) Incorporating a steamer into your hair care regimen
2) Using humectant rich products to draw moisture to the hair, especially in humid climates
3) Soak the hair in alkaline water for a few minutes just to slightly increase the pH of the hair, thus opening the cuticle more and infusing more moisture into the strand.
So in short, a higher PH shampoo and products are good for your low porositiy hair.