Is it possible to balance pH in your hair naturally? Yes actually, and you will not believe how easy it is. Just follow these 5 simple steps and your hair will be eternally grateful.
Understanding Hair pH Balance
As previously mentioned, pH is a measurement of how acidic or alkaline a substance is. The scale is between 0 and 14. Anything between 0 and 6.9 is acidic, 7 is neutral and anything between 7.1 and 14 is considered alkaline. The pH of hair is between 4.5 and 5.0, as is the oil on the scalp, known as sebum. This natural hair acidity prevents fungi and bacteria from growing in the hair and scalp, leaving the cuticle closed and healthy. Many of the hair products people use can disrupt the natural pH of hair, which can create pH imbalance and leave hair looking dry and brittle. If a substance is too alkaline, it will cause the hair cuticle to open. And if a substance is too acidic, the cuticle will contract. These 5 simple steps will help you achieve a better hair pH balance and avoid dry or damaged hair.
1. Assess your hair.
Before anything else, it’s important to establish its pH level. Luckily for you, there are a number of conditions that can indicate the pH of your hair so you know how to approach hair care.
- Is your scalp flaky, itchy and/or dry, and do you have problems with eczema, fungi or bacteria? If so, it’s likely your scalp and hair are too alkaline. Usually, this means that you’re using a product that has a high pH above 7, and it’s stripping away your naturally acidic sebum that fights bacteria. Shampoos with lower pH, on the other hand, may cause less frizzing and breakage and not dry your hair out. That’s why choosing a pH balanced shampoo, with a pH of 6 or 7, is a safe bet.
- If you have permanently dyed or relaxed hair, before the color or other chemicals were added, your hair was first treated with a highly alkaline substance to expose and change the hair’s cuticle. 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.
- Having curly natural hair means that your cuticle is already partially open, so making sure your strands have a slightly acidic pH level is very important. That’s because the open cuticle prevents naturally acidic sebum from keeping the entire hair at a pH level between 4.5 and 5.5.
Is your natural hair straight? If so, you should use hair care products that are pH balanced. Straight hair does not require using extra products. The sebum moves through your hair, creating a natural pH balance on its own so you can apply the pH balanced products just once.
2. Read the labels and test your products.
Pay attention to your current hair products and examine the labels. If they don’t say they’re pH balanced for your hair, you should test them to see how they affect your hair. A pH value of 4 to 7 usually works well on hair.
- The easiest way to test it is by buying test strips online or from beauty supply stores. Pour your liquid product into a glass, stick the test strip into the glass for the amount of time the strip directions indicate. When you remove the strip, compare it to the diagram to find the pH of the product. If a test indicates the product has outside the 4 to 7 range, stop using it.
3. Choose carefully.
Pick a pH-balanced shampoo and conditioner to wash your hair with. Some people like to wash their hair with baking soda, but this isn’t a good idea. Baking soda is very alkaline with a pH of 9 and can dry out and damage your hair, so it’s better to pick a pH balanced shampoo instead. After using the pH balanced shampoo and conditioner, rinse your hair. This will set your hair in a neutral pH level, and not a acidic one. Water has a pH level of 7, which makes it more alkaline than your hair.
4. Try a natural method.
If you want to bring your hair into an acidic pH range, you can try a natural acid. Aloe vera juice is good to use since the pH of aloe vera is slightly acidic. Pour it in a bottle and mist it over your hair. This will also close the cuticle and remove frizz.
- Apple cider vinegar is another good natural solution. It has a pH level of about 3. It should be mixed up with water until it has a pH level of 4. Many people prefer aloe vera gel because they think the vinegar smell is too strong, and the pH of aloe vera is still enough to get the job done.
5. Use a leave-in-conditioner.
Your hair will return to the 4.5-5.0 natural acidity if you apply leave-in conditioner when your hair is wet. Try a homemade leave-in conditioner made from the following recipe:
- Pour 2 tbsp. (30 ml) of a silicone-free conditioner, 2 tbsp. (30 ml) of whole-leaf aloe vera juice and 2 tsp. (10 ml) of jojoba oil into a bowl. Mix well with a spoon and use a pH test strip to ensure the pH is not under 4.5.
- Apply the mixture to damp, washed hair. Allow it to dry, and style as usual.
Photo: Tess Watson via Flickr.