Hair issues can be stressful, we know. There’s nothing quite like running a hand through your hair and finding several broken strands. More frustrating is buying hundreds of hair products only to have none of them work. The best way to get rid of any problem is at its roots - and the same goes for hair. The pH levels of your scalp and the hair care products you use might be the key to dealing with hair problems. Read on to understand the role of pH levels in hair health.
Role and Importance of pH of Hair
In chemistry, pH stands for “Potential Hydrogen”. It is used to classify substances into acid or alkaline. The pH scale goes from 0 to 14. Out of these values, 0 to 6 on the scale indicates an acidic nature, 7 indicates a neutral nature, and 8 to 14 stands for an alkaline nature.The ideal pH range for your scalp is from 4.5 to 5.5, and it is essential to maintain this level. The pH level of the hair itself is slightly more acidic, at around 3.6. However, the scalp plays an essential role in determining it. All the natural oil the scalp produces is acidic and vital for killing bacteria and microbials. pH level influences the strength, smoothness, and overall health of hair. External factors such as coloring, bleaching, and the hair products one uses influence the natural pH level of hair.
Let us look at all the functions an ideal pH level performs on your beautiful hair:-
Protection from Bacteria and Fungi
The natural acidic nature of hair is essential to get rid of bacteria that may form on the scalp. Bacteria cannot survive at low pH levels. A shampoo or haircare product with a pH level over 4 can interfere with these natural mechanisms. Additionally, the pH of hair prevents fungal infections. This ensures the strength of hair thereby preventing hair fall.
Maintains Shiny Hair
The sebum produced by the scalp is naturally low in pH. It is essential in maintaining the natural shine of hair, keeping it smooth and soft. You could understand it as a natural conditioner for your hair. Hair products that are over 4 on the pH scale can cause to lose this natural conditioning of the hair. This leads to frizz and hair fall.
pH plays an important role in hair growth and strength. Hair treatments with higher alkali content stimulate hair cuticles to stretch and release moisture. Hair growth can be slowed by a lack of moisture, as strands become dry and brittle.
Keratin, a protein found in hair, plays an important role in keeping it strong and smooth. The keratin in your hair is degraded by an alkaline pH, making it more vulnerable to breakage.
What Happens When pH Levels Fall Out of Neutral?
The pH level of hair and the pH of hair products have a direct effect on how hair cuticles behave. Think of cuticles as minuscule holes through which your hair is attached to your scalp. If the cuticle layers tighten up, you get stronger and smoother hair; if the cuticle layers soften, you get frizzy and weak hair.
When Hair pH levels become alkaline (too high), cuticle layers expand, letting your scalp trap dirt and oil, leading to damage. This can cause grease and dandruff. Further, since low pH levels play a role in killing bacteria; high pH levels can lead to an irritated and itchy scalp. Practically all hair problems are related to the pH of hair.
How to Tell That Your Hair (Scalp) does not have a Balanced pH?
Scalp health is essential for stronger, silkier, and shinier hair. Healthy hair begins from a healthy scalp and the maintenance of a healthy scalp needs a balanced pH. Knowledge about whether your scalp has a balanced pH can help you make conscious decisions for better healthcare.
While these don’t make a diagnosis, the following are the symptoms of a scalp that is too high on pH:-
- Excessive itchiness and irritation
- Dry and Frizzy hair
- Problems with Fungi and Eczema
The cause for this can be that you are using a high pH haircare product, that could be above 7 on the pH scale. These products could be diminishing natural sebum from your hair and expanding your cuticles.
Other major causes for an alkaline scalp are hair treatments like bleaching, permanent dying, and coloring. These procedures involve using alkaline products to open up your cuticles and make changes to your hair. An acidic product usually follows, but it is still a damaging process.
How to ensure that the hair has a healthy level of pH?
Balance pH level is important for stronger and shinier locks. To ensure that your scalp and hair maintain healthy pH you will have to check the pH levels of hair care products you use. There is no single product that can get rid of all hair problems for all types of hair. Assessment of appropriate pH levels is determined best by your hair type, hair texture, or even skin. Here are a few tips on how to ensure a healthy pH level:-
- If you have curly hair, it will be wise for you to use a low pH shampoo. Curly hair cuticles are slightly open. This makes them prone to high pH problems. Use a shampoo with a pH range between 4.5 to 5.5. Follow with a below 5 pH conditioner.
- The good news for straight hair is that it balances out extra alkalinity smoothly because of its texture. It is recommended that you use a neutral pH shampoo for straight hair and balance it a little with an acidic conditioner.
- If your hair is too dry and frizzy, go for a lower pH hair product than the one you’re currently using. Also, make sure to use a good low pH conditioner.
Use Natural Oils
Sometimes, people might overdo an acidic treatment with strong acids, which results in the weakening of hair. In such cases, you can go for a coconut or olive oil overnight treatment. This will bring back the shine and smoothness of your hair.
How to Check pH of Shampoo, Conditioner, and other Hair Products?
Unfortunately, it is not required for hair products to reveal their pH level. Pay attention to the labels and ingredients of hair products. If they give no information, it would be wise to test them for pH. The easiest way to do so would be buying pH test strips, which are inexpensive, easily available, and easy to use.
All you have to do is pour the product into a glass or bowl, put the test strip in it, and follow test strip instructions. If you find that the pH level is not ideal for your hair issues, switch to a more suitable product.
How to Maintain the pH of Hair Naturally
Aside from choosing better products, several natural hacks can help you maintain healthy pH. These are aimed at keeping the pH of hair in its ideal window. Natural acids such as apple cider vinegar can do wonders for your hair. Do keep in mind that when using strong ingredients with a pH level below 3.5, dilution with water is necessary. Without further ado, here are a few simple tricks to maintain the pH of hair naturally:-
Rinse Your Hair with Aloe-Vera Juice
Aloe vera juice, as one may know, is a popular ingredient in the haircare and skincare community. This is for good reason. It is a mild acid so it does not threaten acidic effects that can harm you. The pH of aloe vera juice is around 4.5 which is exactly what your hair requires. Try spraying aloe vera juice on your hair after you’ve shampooed. Leave it for a few minutes and then rinse.
Maintain A Balanced Diet
The root of your pH problems could lie in the food you eat. Check your diet. If it has too many alkaline substances (for example, dairy and poultry), balance them out with acids. Common acidic foods include yogurt, berries, and meals with vinegar.
We hope that we’ve been able to get across the importance of pH levels in hair to you. Hair makes us feel beautiful, and hair can also make us feel not-so-beautiful. Therefore, it is good to pay attention to your hair and give it the care it deserves. Do not hesitate to ditch any hair products that get in the way.