Is your hair dry and brittle? Does it lack shine or bounce? For most people, the answer to these questions is a resounding "yes." But what if we told you that all of these problems could be fixed by maintaining a healthy pH balance in your hair? It's true! Maintaining a proper pH balance is important for many reasons. We're going to take a look at some of those reasons below and talk about why this is so important for your hair.
What is meant by pH Balance?
To "phind" the right balance, it’s good to understand what pH means. The "p" in the odd little abbreviation stands for potential, and the "H" stands for hydrogen – the potential of hydrogen, in other words. Meanwhile, pH balance measures how acidic or alkaline something is on a scale from 0 to 14. So, measurements between 0 and 6.9 are acidic, with a pH of 0 being extremely acidic. Level 7 is neutral, and any measure between 7.1 and 14 is alkaline.
Why pH Balance Matters When it comes to Your Hair
The pH of your locks typically ranges between 4.5 and 5.0 if your hair is normal, undamaged and undyed. The same range goes for the oil on your scalp (also known as sebum). This range is slightly acidic to keep fungi and bacteria from growing in your scalp, and it also keeps the cuticles of your hair flat, closed and protected from environmental stressors.
Does Water pH Affect Hair?
Yes, the tap water in your home, gym, hotel, etc., can affect your hair – sometimes adversely. For instance, the pH of tap water in most places ranges from 7 to just under 10, and if the pH of your tap water is high, it can make hair cuticles rise, thereby allowing your locks to become saturated, swollen and weak.
Does pH affect hair growth?
When your hair and sebum are pH-balanced, the result is resilient, strong hair with a shiny, healthy look and a clean, balanced scalp that is not too alkaline. Unfortunately, when this doesn’t happen, it can lead to damaged hair and a scalp that has build-up or is an irritated, flaky mess. Even worse, you may experience thinning hair if the issue continues.
5 Steps to Restore pH Balance to your Hair Naturally
Many of the hair products people use can disrupt the natural pH of hair, creating pH imbalance and leaving hair looking dry and brittle. These five simple steps will help you select the right haircare product for achieving pH balance in your tresses and on your scalp.
Step 1: Know the Difference between High vs. Low vs. Balanced pH Products
If a substance is too alkaline, it will cause the hair cuticle to open. On the flip side, if an ingredient in the haircare product is too acidic, your hair's cuticle will contract. High pH substances range from levels of 11-14, and Low pH substances are between 0-11.
In contrast, a good, balanced shampoo that keeps your hair within its harmonious pH range will have a pH level that ranges from 3.5 to 4.5. However, this number can vary a bit, depending on your hair type, the condition it’s in and other factors like water quality.
Step 2: Determine the pH Value of Your Hair
Before doing anything to your hair, it’s essential to determine its pH level. Luckily, some conditions indicate the pH of your hair and decide how to approach its care. Here are some to consider:
You Have Scalp Issues: If you have flaky, itchy, dry scalp or frizzy hair, there’s a good chance the environment of your scalp is too alkaline. You’re likely using a shampoo with a high pH, and it’s stripping away the acidic sebum that keeps fungi and bacteria from taking over. The fix: Try a shampoo with a lower pH of around 6 or 7 to see if it helps.
Your hair is permanently colored or relaxed: With permanently dyed and relaxed hair, hair is treated with a highly alkaline chemical to open and transform the hair’s cuticle before adding dyes and other chemicals. Afterward, it was neutralized with a caustic substance to flatten the cuticle again.
This process is highly damaging to hair, and a slightly acidic shampoo (lower than 5.5) is needed to offset the effects and keep the hair cuticle lying flat. However, the same process can be used to seal the hair cuticle and keep color vibrant for a longer time.
Your hair is naturally texturized: Curly hair is naturally full of twists, kinks and coil, and, as a result, the cuticle layers on the hair shaft are unable to lie flat. This means that the cortex structure of the hair that provides strength and elasticity is left vulnerable, and sebum has a hard time balancing pH.
Because of this, it is essential to make sure your locks contain a healthy level of acidic pH. Therefore, a good bet for healthy curly hair growth is a shampoo that contains pH levels between 5 and 6.
You have straight hair: In most cases, sebum moves through straight hair, creating a natural pH balance on its own. If your hair is naturally straight, you can use a shampoo that contains a pH level range of 3.5 to 4.5.
However, hair sprays, gels and other hair care products you use contain alcohols or sulfates that can make the cuticles of your locks close up and cry for help as they try to defend themselves from dryness. In these cases, any resulting damage isn’t necessarily related to pH levels and can be offset with a pH-balanced conditioner such as Mounia Conditioner.
Step 3: Check the pH of Your Shampoo
Various factors come into play when promoting natural hair growth, and chief among them is the pH of your shampoo. Here are a few ways you can determine a shampoo’s pH levels:
Look at the list of ingredients: First, ensure your hair products are suitable for your tresses by taking a look at the ingredients list. If they don’t say they’re pH balanced for your hair, you should test them to see how they affect your hair.
Stick with natural products: With natural haircare products, you don’t have to concern yourself much with high and low pH levels. It’s also best to nix haircare products that contain sulfates, such as sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate, since they punish fragile, dry hair and sensitive skin. In addition, skip shampoos that list sodium hydroxide (lye) and triethanolamine on the label, as both are extremely alkaline.
Play detective: Investigate your shampoo’s pH levels by using litmus test strips. It’s also a good idea to test pH levels if you decide to mix and match products to determine how your hair may be affected.
Photo: Marco Verch, via Flickr
How to do it: First, pour the haircare product into a glass and stick the strip into it for a long as the directions indicate. After that, take out the strip and compare it to the pH diagram. If the litmus test shows the shampoo is outside a 4 to 8 range, it’s best to stop using it.
Ask for the MSDS: While a pH level is not required to be printed on product labels, companies list it on their Manufacturing Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). Sometimes you can download MSDS sheets from the brand’s website, but you can also call and request a copy from the firm that makes the product.
Step 4: Look for Warning Signs
Although you don’t need to have damaged hair to start a regimen that uses pH-balanced haircare products, it’s certainly time to start if you notice any warning signs of damage. Three of the most frequent offenders you’ll find are:
Frizzy hair: The higher the alkalinity of a shampoo, the more frizz you get since it creates friction between hair fibers. If you struggle with locks that appear teased, check the pH of your shampoo.
Fairy knots: They get their name because they look like a fairy flew around your head and wove tiny knots out of your hair strands. Fairy knots will also grab other nearby strands and make big snarls.
Scalp issues: Another common warning sign to look for includes a dry and irritated scalp
Step 5: Select pH-Balanced Haircare Products
Now that you know what to look for in pH-balanced haircare products, it’s time to pick the best ones to restore balance. Here are a few helpful tips to use when you do:
Go organic: Based on the litmus test and your hair type, pick an organic shampoo that ranges between 4 and 8. A good natural shampoo to try out here is Mounia Shampoo & Rinse since it contains organic aloe that is similar to the natural pH level of your hair. In addition, Rinse contains no damaging parabens, sulfates, paraffin, or phthalates, either, and it works to reduce frizz, fight damage, and improve overall hair health.
Use a clarifying shampoo: Clarifying shampoos contain a higher pH, normally around 8. A clarifying shampoo’s role is in opening the hair’s cuticle and infusing it with water, thereby cleansing the strands and removing build-up. Furthermore, if you shampoo without conditioner, make sure the shampoo has a pH on the lower side.
Choose your conditioner: If nothing is done to lower the pH after using a clarifying shampoo, then the cuticles of your locks stay open. This effect can lead to dry hair and other types of damage. This is where products such as Mounia Conditioner come into play, as they are formulated with a lower pH to restore the moisture balance by closing the cuticle opened by the clarifying shampoo.
Use Co-washing: You can use conditioners in a “co-washing” fashion, which is basically using a conditioner as your shampoo replacement in the shower. This will provide a very gentle cleanse with ultra-hydrating secondary effects on days where you wouldn’t otherwise wash your hair.
Does Conditioner Need to be pH Balanced?
Conditioners need to be pH balanced, so that they can get your hair back to its happy pH range of 4.5 to 5.5. Conditioners work by closing the hair’s cuticle back down, and this action also seals in the moisture and fills any gaps. To be able to do this, a good conditioner must be on the lower side of the pH scale, somewhere around 3.5.
What about Leave-In Conditioners?
Leave-in conditioner, which further normalizes and matches your hair’s pH, should have the lowest pH level. That’s the reason leave-in conditioners are utilized as the finishing touch in haircare regimens. Also, applying leave-in conditioners to your locks while they are wet will return them to the desired 4.5 to 5.5 range. You can use Mounia Conditioner as a leave-in treatment mask, using it up to once a week for dry, damaged hair – and down to once a month for healthy hair.
As you can see, the pH levels in your haircare products and the water you wash your hair in all play a role in how healthy your tresses stay. Also, assessing and knowing your hair type and customizing the natural haircare products to it goes a long way toward bringing your hair and scalp back into healthy balance.
Mounia Shampoo + Rinse with Mounia Conditioner brings everything back in healthy balance and gives results everyone will notice, whether your hair is wavy, curly or straight. But, for even better results, try Mounia’s Haircare System, which combines Mounia Shampoo + Rinse and Mounia Conditioner with Mounia's "two drop" Serum for all hair types. Serum is infused with Organic Argan Oil and Prickly Pear Seed Oil to strengthen, smooth and shine. Plus, Serum is formulated to seal in moisture and repair damaged, dry hair.