By Chere Di Boscio
By now, most of us know that eating a low-acid diet has many, many health benefits – including the prevention of cancer. Some of us are also aware of the fact that we should use soaps and body washes that balance our body’s pH levels. But did you know it’s also important have a healthy pH balance for your hair?
I know what you’re thinking: hair is dead, right? So why should we care? But when we talk about the pH balance of your hair, it’s focused on the scalp, more so than the strands.
What does pH mean?
Potential of Hydrogen, or pH, refers to a method of measuring how acidic any substance is on a scale from 0 to 14, with zero being the most acidic. When it comes to hair, experts agree a healthy pH level is somewhere between 4.5 and 5.5. A pH level outside that range can irritate the scalp and weaken hair follicles as they lose the ability to retain natural moisture and sebum, the hair’s protective conditioner. A pH imbalance will also accelerate the fading process if you have colour treated hair.
If you suffer from problems with greasy hair or fungi or bacteria on your head, it’s likely that your scalp is too alkaline. Usually, this means that you are using a product that has a high pH (above 7), and this is stripping away the naturally acidic sebum that fights bacteria and maintains a healthy environment on your scalp.
If you have permanently dyed or relaxed hair, it’s very likely that your hair was first treated with a highly alkaline substance to expose and change the hair’s cuticle, and then, it was “neutralised” with a highly acidic substance to flatten the cuticle again. This is a seriously damaging process, and you’ll need slightly more acidic hair products to keep your cuticles lying flat.
For those of us with curls, this is an indication that your cuticles are already partly open, and you’ll need to return your hair to a slightly acidic pH level of around 4.5-5.5, as open cuticles prevent naturally acidic sebum keeping the hair healthy. Those who have straight hair should use hair-care products that are pH balanced as well, but they may not need to apply extra products, since their sebum moves naturally through their hair, creating an innate pH balance.
How to get the right pH balance for your hair
1. First, read the labels on your current hair products to see if they are pH balanced for your hair, then try them out to see how they affect your hair. A pH between 4 to 7 works well on most hair types.
2. If your shampoo doesn’t indicate its pH, buy test strips online or from beauty supply stores. Pour your hair care product into a glass, stick the test strip into the glass for the directed amount of time. Discontinue the use of any product outside of the 4 to 7 pH range. (Note: pH strips are not always 100% accurate and can be altered due to weather conditions.)
3. Wash your hair with pH balanced shampoos and conditioners. Rinse your hair. This will return your hair to a neutral, rather than acidic pH level. Water has a pH level of 7, so it is more alkaline than your hair.
4. If your hair is naturally oily, use an aloe vera mist (half aloe vera juice and half water in a spray bottle) to bring your hair into a more acidic pH range. This will also close the cuticle and remove frizz. You can also use apple cider vinegar for this purpose, but the smell is quite strong!
5. Apply a leave-in conditioner to wet hair to return your hair to the 4.5 to 5.5 natural acidity, if your hair is naturally dry or damaged, use a homemade leave-in conditioner made up of 2 tbsp of silicone-free conditioner, 2 tbsp of aloe vera juice and 2 tsp jojoba oil into a bowl. Mix well. Use a pH test strip to ensure the pH level isn’t less than 4.5. Apply the mixture to damp, washed hair then dry and style as usual.
6. Look for hair care brands that are labeled “paraben-free” and “sulfate-free.” Parabens and sulfates are chemicals used as preservatives and detergents, respectively. While they do serve a purpose, they can also be extremely harmful to the environment and scalp. Due to their strong corrosiveness, they can cause dandruff, dermatitis, and other forms of skin irritation.
7. When buying essential hair products, ensure they’re formulated with naturally-derived ingredients like coconut oil, caffeine, and fruit extracts. In addition to being biodegradable and safer for the environment, natural ingredients are also a better option for the development of healthy hair, and they will not cause the irritation that can lead to dandruff, dryness and other undesired results.
8. If you colour or straighten your hair, pH balancing hair products will help you maintain a healthy pH level. Over time, healthy pH levels will seal the hair cuticles to retain moisture and natural oils leading to less dryness, less breakage, and less damage to the hair and scalp. A healthy pH level between 4.5 and 5.5 will also maintain your hair’s elasticity and colour.
Did you enjoy this post? Want to show your gratitude? Please support us on Patreon!