Everyone wants beautiful, shiny, healthy hair, but did you know that hair health is directly tied to your hair’s pH balance? Sadly, many of the products and styling we do to make our hair look great actually damages this balance and leaves the hair and scalp damaged. Don’t worry, though. You can balance pH for your hair by using the right shampoo and conditioner.
What is pH and How Does It Affect Hair
Let’s take a brief trip back to high school science class. First of all, pH stands for “potential of Hydrogen”. The scale to measure it runs from 0-14, with lower number being more acidic and higher numbers being more alkaline. Seven is considered neutral. What’s important to know is that your hair has a natural pH tends to be slightly more acidic, in the range of 4.5 to 5.5.
The more acidic pH allows your scalp to produce oils that help kill bacteria and keep your scalp healthier. If your hair’s pH drifts more toward the alkaline side, the oils don’t do as good of a job at keeping your scalp protected, which leads to issues like dandruff.
Outside of dandruff, you’ll most likely notice the cuticle layer of your hair. This is the outer layer of your hair strand. The more alkaline a product is, the more it softens and lifts the individual overlapping scales of this layer, giving you frizzy hair. The more acidic, the more the cuticle layer tightens, giving you sleek, smooth hair.
If that sounds confusing, think of it like this. An alkaline pH opens up the cuticle and lets out moisture and proteins that your hair needs to be healthy. An acidic pH closes the cuticle to keep all the good stuff locked in tight.
However, pH balance is important. Using nothing but super acidic products does just as much damage as higher level alkaline products. For example, alkaline levels of 13 and up, along with acidic levels of 2 and below, are incredibly dangerous to your skin and hair.
Styling Products Are More Alkaline
Since the pH of your hair is so important, you’d think styling products would naturally keep that balance. But, that’s not the case. In fact, shampoos can range widely from around a 3-9 pH, based on a study of 123 popular store and salon brands. If you’re dyeing and bleaching your hair, those products usually range from a 7-11 pH. And, if you tend to go the no-poo route and wash with baking soda only, that’s still more alkaline at around an 8 pH.
What does this mean for your hair? You’ll likely have to use more products to try to smooth out your frizzy strands. You’ll probably notice more breakage and tangles as well.
The Acid to Alkaline Myth
In theory, you could just use a more acidic product to magically balance out your daily alkaline products. But, jumping back and forth between products that are too alkaline and too acidic causes even more damage. Think of it as trying to balance your body temperature by jumping in a freezer and out into a hot summer day. It just doesn’t work.
So, while an apple cider vinegar rinse is incredibly helpful for hair, it’s not going to fix an overly alkaline hair care routine on its own. This is where the role of pH in shampoo and conditioner is so important.
Finding pH Balancing Shampoo and Conditioner
If you grab your favorite shampoo and conditioner from the shower, you probably won’t see anything about pH levels. Most companies simply don’t add it.
However, you can look for “pH balancing” on labels to help find the right options. Usually, pH balancing formulas have an acidic ingredient in them, such as apple cider vinegar or citric acid. This gives you a better balance. Ideally, try to find formulas that are also free of sulfates, dyes, and parabens as these are known to dry out your hair. Also, talk to your stylish for recommendations.
If you’re not sure where to start, try some of the following options:
1. Purezero Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo and Conditioner
This set is vegan and cruelty-free. The apple cider vinegar is gentle on color-treated hair, so you don’t have to worry about early fade. It’s also free of all the extra ingredients, like sulfates, that your hair doesn’t need. Plus, it’s a great budget-friendly option.
2. Redken Bonding Shampoo and Conditioner Set
Redken is well-known for their salon-quality products and the Bonding Shampoo and Conditioner Set is no exception. It’s designed for bleached and damaged hair. The Acidic Bonding Concentrate aids in balancing your hair and scalp’s pH. While the bottles are smaller, you don’t actually have to use as much as you do with your normal shampoo and conditioner.
3. Pura D’Or Apple Cider Vinegar Thin2Thick Set
Pura D’Or also offers up an apple cider vinegar-based pH balancing set. Not only is it a clarifying set, but helps boost hair thickness and scalp health. A mixture of caffeine, biotin, keratin, aloe, and castor oil gives your hair a makeover while balancing out the natural pH.
4. Giovanni Eco Chic 50:50 Balanced Hydrating Clarifying Shampoo
While most clarifying shampoos aren’t for daily use, Giovanni’s is a gentle pH balancing formula you can use every single day, though it’s healthier for your hair not to wash it daily. It’s ideal if you have color-treated, overprocessed, or damaged hair that’s dry and frizzy. By adding moisture and keeping your hair and scalp in their ideal pH range, you enjoy healthy, shiny hair.
5. Head & Shoulders Supreme Soothe and Strengthen
The entire line of Head & Shoulders products are actually pH balanced for a healthier scalp. While known for dandruff relief, their products are perfect for all hair types. I personally love the Supreme Smooth and Strengthen to help with my fine hair. But, pick the right formula for your hair needs.
Get balance back into your life. pH balance that is. And watch the health of your hair and scalp transform.
Image credit: Pexels
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