How pH affects hair
The PH, which is short for the potential of hydrogen level is one of the most important balance systems of our bodies. It’s the measure of the number of hydrogen ions in a particular solution. The more ions, the more acidic the solution and the fewer ions, the more alkaline or base the solution is. So the PH level is basically the measure of acidity and alkalinity on a scale from 0- 14 with zero being the most acidic, 14 the most alkaline and 7 being mid-range or neutral. While moving 1 unit in the scale looks insignificant, it’s actually a 10 times change.
PH is a true balancing act, acidity and alkalinity are the complete opposite and neutral is neither acidic or alkaline.
Human hair has a ph of around 5 but varies slightly from person to person where some people’s hair sebum has been shown to have a ph of around 3, whiles can have a ph of up to 6.6. Regardless of where your hair falls on the ph scale, remember that all hair is acidic.
Introducing a product like a relaxer that is alkaline to your hair, which is acidic, will change the chemical structure of your hair and make it more alkaline.
Relaxers of all strengths and brands are designed to eat away at your cuticles because its the only way the chemicals can reach into your cortex to permanently straighten your hair.
pH affects the cuticle layer of the hair, either raising or constricting them causing them to lie flat and tightly against one another. Flat, tightly closed cuticles allow hair strands to move freely past each other without any friction. The friction caused by raised cuticles results in tangled, dry hair that doesn’t hold moisture well. The cortex (inner layer of the hair) is exposed and the hair becomes weaker and more vulnerable.
Water, although neutral, has a pH that is 200 times higher than hair and therefore causes a lift in the cuticle. This is why it is vitally important that washed hair (even water only washing) is followed by an ‘acidic’ product to normalize the pH level to close the and tighten the cuticle like a conditioner, aloe vera, or apple cider vinegar.
If you want to completely nerd out and test the pH of your scalp and the products you have in your hair, a quick trip to any hardware store will sort you out!
Wait what- how does a hardware store help me? Simple- the pool department has test strips for testing pool water. They are effective and inexpensive and really easy to use because they have the pH scale on the back of the bottle for you to compare your results.
Just a side note-most commercial products will fall along the same pH level, so don’t be frustrated if you’re not getting varied results.
The difference will be noticed in items like, apple cider vinegar and your conditioner, and not necessarily between conditioner A and conditioner B.
Here is a pH table with common items for reference: