We've all learned so much more about what goes into our products – whether it's makeup, skincare, or haircare. We're WAY more savvy shoppers – yay! We look at the labels and basically understand our ingredients, yet we hardly talk about pH. So let's do that quickly and understand why pH matters in haircare and skincare, shall we?
An easy explanation for pH:
pH (potential hydrogen) is a unit of measurement. It tells us how much hydrogen is in a product, and how active its ion is. Everything that has water – liquid stuff like your shampoos, conditioners, face creams and lotions – has a measurable pH. No water = no pH (like in body butters, balms, and makeup). Why should you care? Because the pH measurement tells you the chemical conditions of a solution and how this can affect your hair or skin.
Let's explain it this way (easy peasy, follow along with us!).
pH is measured in numbers between 1 and 14, with 1 being considered "acidic" and 14 being "alkaline". Some foods are also either acidic (like vinegar, fried foods, coffee and soda pop) or alkaline (like avocados, watermelon, strawberries and broccoli). Yes, it matters in foods too, so if you have a low pH diet you'll be throwing off your body's natural digestive juices and well, that's never good...
In terms of haircare:
If a shampoo's pH is too high, you'll have frizzy hair that is brittle and tangles up like mad. It will eventually dry out as it strips away your scalp's natural good bacteria – and you want these guys, believe me! Shampoos that are soap-based, meaning those that have been created using Lye and oils (usually say it on the label) have a super high pH and have no place on or near the scalp and hair. High pH will dry out your scalp too, causing itchiness and flakes that resemble dandruff (eww!).
If a shampoo's pH is too low, on the other hand, it may not cleanse your hair properly, can still cause frizz and leave you with super lank, dull hair. Your scalp can get dry and flakey, irritated, somewhat feel "sore" and delicate as the top layers of the skin get peeled off. Lower pH is usually what Dermatologists aim for to create face peels -picture dipping your fingers in vinegar for quite some time (the skin would peel).
The ideal pH you want for haircare:
Water's pH is neutral, or pH 7. Most ingredients in your hair and skincare will either be alkaline or acidic, and it's the formulator's job to balance it so it's the best pH for the healthiest of skin and hair. For skin, we're aiming for pH between 5 and 5.5, and that includes the scalp since it's skin too, right? Yes... For hair on the other hand, we're aiming for a slightly lower pH, closest to pH 4 - 4.5. You're probably asking yourself then, how does this work if the scalp and the hair itself have different pH? How do i wash my scalp with one thing and the hair with another? Great question young student! Read on...
Haircare lesson: Here's how to get the pH right:
Shampoo or natural hair cleansers should have a pH of 5 or 5.5. This stuff is going on your scalp, and even if you're washing it off, it's touching your skin so you want it to be as close to that as possible! Nothing else should do.
Conditioners should have a pH of 4 or 4.5 max! They are applied on the lengths of your hair and NOT your scalp. The lowered pH closes the cuticle of your hair strand which prevents it from poking out and rubbing one hair against the other, causing... can you guess what? Yes! Frizz! We like our closed cuticles, and pH does this! As soon as your hair pH is too high (even with water washes, like some people are accustomed to doing) it begins to pick up a negative charge. So you want to change that up and bring the pH down by using something that has lower pH.
Best for hair: Leave-in conditioner!
That's one of the reasons at TRUU by Nature we've created a leave-in conditioner as opposed to a rinse-out conditioner. I believe hair should always be conditioned, as this protects it from the elements – sun, wind, dust, pollution, dirt – and it closes those cuticles up helping to make light bounce off the hair and have it shiny. Plus hair is naturally dry like straw – especially for those of us who dye/colour/highlight/blow-dry/straighten and so on.
What about oil? Does it help to put oil on your hair?
We discussed how water-containing products have a measurable pH, so what about putting an oil on your hair? Should we worry about its pH?
Since it has no water, it has no hydrogen, so no pH. But the beauty about leave-in oils for your hair is that they can coat or penetrate your hair strand, either helping to nourish it (using penetrating oils) or protecting it so it won't release its nutrients (like with sealing oils). More on that in [this blog] about sealing vs. penetrating oils.
Looking after hair is not that difficult. As people that do so much to our hair, we have a natural tendency to wreck it with all the shait we do to it, put on it, plus the effects of natural city life like pollution, wind, the sun, so on. We choose the cheapest shampoos and conditioners from the drug store or supermarket, and we think that because it says "with Argan oil!" it will resolve our issues. All along we're depositing all kinds of synthetic ingredients on it that in the long run will weigh it down, clog the scalp, and either dry it out make it fall out in clumps.
Choose a simple shampoo with a balanced pH, a leave in conditioner with a hair-friendly pH, and do as little to your hair as possible. Try to let it 'heal' and stop washing it daily, for goodness sakes! And you too will begin to uncover more beautiful hair and a healthier scalp for life.
What about you? Have you ever considered what's in your shampoo and conditioner? Have you even thought about pH before? And will you now? Share your comments! We'd love to know.