pH Levels & Hair Care
I was talking to a friend earlier today about hair products and pH levels and decided to write a post about it. Knowing the pH level of products that you use on your hair can be helpful in choosing the right products for your specific hair needs. Unfortunately, pH levels are not exactly listed on the back of the bottle, but you can test the products you are currently using by using a pH test strip (litmus paper). I will be purchasing some myself this weekend to test the mixtures that I make up for my hair. I want to make sure that I am not putting anything overly acidic or with too high of a pH level in my hair.
To start off, let’s define what pH means. pH refers to the acidity or basicity of a water based solution. Water itself, is considered neutral at a pH of 7. The scale goes from 0, which is highly acidic to 14, which is highly basic. An example of something highly acidic would be lemon juice and a basic example would be ammonia. The tale end of either side of the spectrum can result in severe chemical burns.
Now, how can you use the pH to determine whether a product will work well for you? Well, hair itself also has a pH level. The normal pH for hair is about 4.5 – 5.5, which is considered mildly acidic. Most hair care products for normal hair will be in the 4 to 6 range. If your hair is color treated and/or relaxed and you have suffered damage, your hair is probably more on the basic side and you will want to use products that are more acidic in nature. This is because most relaxers and color treatments are highly basic to lift up the cuticles so that the product (relaxer, color, etc.) can be absorbed readily into the hair shaft. If you notice that your hair feels “rougher” after such a treatment, an acidic product (normally marketed as pH balanced) will help to smooth down the cuticle. In an earlier post, I talked about moisture and closing the cuticle. If your hair feels rough or dry after a chemical treatment, you may want to moisturize before shutting those cuticle doors.
For those with hair more on the normal side, you will want to use products or a combination of products that will keep your hair close to it’s natural pH level. If you are the type to load on products (stylers, gels, pomades, leave-ins, etc) make sure that all of the products that you are using together will have a pH level somewhere in the 4.5 – 5.5 range. You can decrease or increase the acidity of a product by adding a touch of apple cider vinegar (acidic) or baking soda (basic). Remember the more basic, the more it will lift the cuticles and a higher acidity will close the cuticles.
As I mentioned earlier, I will be purchasing some litmus papers this weekend to test out the homemade mixtures I make. Hopefully this will help me make the “perfect” leave-in conditioner for my hair.