The term ‘pH level’ is thrown around a lot in today’s society. We hear about the pH levels of household cleaners, the pH level of a fish tank, the pH level of baking soda…. But what about your hair? Did you know that your hair has a natural pH level, as well? Did you also know that this pH level is affected by the hair care products you use everyday?
It is important to reveal the pH value on a shampoo label, but studies were needed to establish the best pH range for both the scalp and the hair fiber’s health. As many people will know, the pH level tells you how acidic or basic something is. For example, battery acid has a pH level of 1 and is VERY acidic. Bleach, on the other hand, has a pH level of 13 and is VERY Basic. A pH level of 7 is Neutral and includes things like blood and water. Your hair and skin are covered with a very thin fluid mixture of oil, salt and water called the mantle, which is naturally slightly acidic. The typical pH balance of hair is around 4.5-5.0.The scalp’s pH is 5.5, and the hair shaft’s pH is 3.67
Alkaline pH may increase the negative electrical charge of the hair fiber surface and, therefore, increase friction between the fibers. This may lead to cuticle damage and fiber breakage. It is a reality, and not a myth, that a lower pH of shampoos may cause less frizzing for generating less negative static electricity on the fiber’s surface.
So, what does this mean in regards to hair care products? The closer the pH level of your shampoo/conditioner/styling product is to the natural pH level of your hair, the more healthy and beneficial it is to your hair. Using a product that causes the pH level of your hair to drop can make it very basic can cause your hair to look dry, frizzy and become very brittle and easy to break. This is why using cleansers, such as baking soda (pH of 9) or even just water alone (pH of 7), can be very damaging to your hair with repeated washes.
A common solution, in the past, for balancing out the pH of baking soda is coupling it with apple cider vinegar, a natural base. However, often times these ingredients don’t perfectly balance each other or are unevenly mixed, resulting in some hair being treated with overly basic materials, while other hair being treated with acidic materials.
Instead, we recommend choosing hair care products that match the natural pH level of your hair. All Monat shampoos (and other products), for example, have a balanced pH level of 4-5. Balanced shampoos also protect your hair’s natural oils, known as sebum, rather than stripping it away. Choosing the right hair care products that match your hair’s natural pH ensures the continued health of your hair’s mantle and gives your strands a healthy environment to grow healthy, strong and beautiful!
The Department of Dermatology performed a test and interestingly, after analyzing the pH of 123 shampoos (pH values ranging from 3.5 to 9.0) of international brands, 38% of the popular brand shampoos against 75% of the salons shampoos presented a pH ≤ 5.5.
“Most of the analyzed products have a final pH higher than the hair shaft pH of 3.6 and even higher than the scalp pH of 5.5. There are no standardized pH for any specific indication of hair shampoo, either commercial/popular, antidandruff or dermatologically prescribed products. According to the current literature, the usage of shampoo with a pH higher than 5.5 may increase friction and cause frizz, hair breakage and enhance hair tangling.
After using a shampoo of pH higher than 5.5, conditioner of low-pH should be applied so that besides lubricating, the electrostatic forces can be neutralized, the frizz effect eliminated and cuticle scales may be sealed. If the conditioner is not recommended by a dermatologist, it is necessary to choose a shampoo with pH lower than 5.5. Regarding the pediatrics shampoos, one can attribute the higher pH (100% of the samples had a pH higher than 6.0) encountered in the samples, to the fact that they have a major concern “no tears” concept rather than conditioning the hair fiber or the hair scalp. That is why the shampoo pH is closer to the tear physiological pH. The authors believe that adults with dyed hair shaft, especially bleached hair, should not use pediatric shampoos to cleanse and condition their hair.
To reduce aggression against the strands and allow adequate access to the treatment of the scalp issues, hair care cosmetic should not overcome the pH of 5.5, as to avoid a significant increase in static electricity and consequently, in the negativity of the hair fiber that causes frizz.”
For more information on how to battle frizz, please read this post for tips and tricks, beyond using a shampoo that is at the correct pH level.