Hola Chicas/Chicos..I pray all is well with everyone.
Ok, it's time to get down to the 'science' of things regarding our hair and scalp and testing its pH levels. I know, I know, more things to do when it comes to our hair..sheesh. But this is really important and it may help many questions that you have in regards to dry scalp, dandruff, dry hair, the frizzies, etc. And believe me, I like simplicity just as much as the next natural, but if one extra step can help answer some of the questions that I have in regards to achieving healthy hair, I'm all in...
What is a normal pH Level?
- Sebum, which is the hair's natural oil, has a pH (potential/power of hydrogen) Level of 4.5 to 5.5, which makes it slightly acidic.
- Each step on the scale is a tenfold increase in alkalinity (moving up the scale) or in acidity (moving down the scale).
- Any substance with a pH that is greater than 7.0 (normal PH for water) is considered an alkali, and any substance with a pH lower than 7.0 is considered an acid. This is based on a scale of 0 to 14. So, in terms, our hair is more acidic than water.
- Battery acid, for example is the contains the highest amount of acid, so that makes it one of the strongest acids. Sodium Hydroxide (the chemical known as lye found in hair relaxers) has the highest alkaline content..Both capable of destroying anything in its path. So, imagine how both extremes are harmful to our hair.
Why is our pH Level so Important?
- Just about every major scalp problem including dandruff, flaking scalp, itching scalp, scalp psoriasis, scalp eczema and the rest are caused by a fungus that grows on the scalp. Normally this fungus is kept in check in the average human being. After all we are exposed to hundreds of fungi everyday that are body keeps in check. An example of this is yeast. When it becomes out of balance women and men can get yeast infections. The same is true with the scalp. You must keep the proper pH in the scalp skin.
- Many people don’t realize how important the pH of a shampoo is. Hair Shampoos and other hair products can range from a 4 ph to around an 8.5. And for many they may like the feel of their hair better when they use a higher ph shampoo however they are setting themselves up for many scalp problems.
- It is ideal for us to keep our hair at a 4.5 to 5.5 pH level. Not only is it healthy for our hair, but it helps to keep fungi and bacteria from our scalp..see the importance? When our hair is exposed to too much alkaline, the exact opposite happens..our scalps are more prone to bacteria and fungi exposure. This is because when our hair is exposed to more alkaline, the cuticles are lifted. This is what relaxers (pH Level of 11 to 14 to permanently straighten afro textured hair), mild chemical treatments (texturizers: pH of 8 to 11) and hair dyes do to our hair to change the protein structure. The roller coaster effect happens because our hair is taken from its normal pH of 4.5/5.5 to a pH level of 11+..then back again down to a pH level of 3 (with the use of a neutralizing shampoo) within minutes.
How To Test The pH Level In Our Products..
- Take your pH Level strips (these can be purchased just about anywhere or online at www.vitacost.com ) and dip them into your product and allow to stabalize. Note..product must be in liquid form to test.
- Allow to sit for seconds to minute depending on your brands directions for use.
- Place the strips along the color chart to see where your product would fall on the pH Level scale. Remember, the range is from 0(most acidic) to 14 (highest alkaline content), with our desired results preferring to remain in the 4.5 to 5.5 range.
- Gasp at your results, just kidding!
Some pH Facts About Natural Products:
- Baking Soda: Eeek, this was a shocker to me..but baking soda has a pH Level of 8.3 and higher (even when diluted with water) is way more alkaline than our hair. It takes our hair and scalp in the opposite direction than our ideal level of 4.5/5.5. People who have used baking soda usually describe baking soda as an ingredient which loosens the curl pattern or makes the hair soft. This makes sense because alkalines disrupts the bond in our hair and make our hair more limp and ready to take on any new reshaping, hence the softness. Many dandruff problems and scalp infections are caused by high alkaline solutions. And yes, Baking soda is wonderful for cleaning teeth due to its jagged edges when viewed under a microscope. This is why Baking Soda is viewed as a wonderful household cleaner and degreaser. And bottom line, baking soda is not natural, it is a manufactured product (check your labels on the back of your box..it should read 'manufactured by..')... sorry :-(
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Actually, ACV (pH level of 3.0 more acidic than our hair) is fine when properly diluted. Our scalp is naturally acidic to prevent fungi and bacteria from infecting the skin. Proper dilution ratio of ACV to water would be 1/4 TSP to 4 oz of water and 1/2 TSP to 8 oz of water. So, thumbs up to ACV, which is natural, especially when used in proper dilution.
- Lemon Juice: Highly acidic. It has the capability to eat through hair due to its highly acidic nature.
So..What Will Work For Our hair?
- Products with a pH Level of 4.5 to 7 works GREAT for the hair.
- The goal of any hair care product should be to leave the pH of our hair alone or to move it slightly towards the acidic direction, which helps it to lie flat..(ACV, wink wink)
Natural Ingredients that Work For Our Hair..
- Apple Cider Vinegar: And here it is again, that wonderfully good yet bitter tasting and highly pungent ingredient that can work wonders for our natural tresses. Be sure to get the ACV to a steady pH level of at least 4.0 by diluting in water until your strip reads the proper level.
- Aloe Vera Juice: Round of applause for this one..it has a natural pH level of 4.0 to 4.5. So it works wonderful as a leave in conditioner and when added to a spritz bottle for a moisturizing mist. It can be mixed with water or not.
- Lemon Juice: Now this guy has a very low pH of 2.0. So it is extremely acidic and you must be very careful when using it, it can fry your hair and it doesn't take a lot to change the pH of water (normal pH of water 7.0). I have not tried a lemon juice rinse, but many naturals sing praises to it,whether using it as a rinse or adding it to a henna treatment.
- Dr. Bronners, one of my favorite to wash with, well that is until I began using the Chagrin Valley soaps, has a pH Level of 10..Holy Catfight!! Imagine using it on your hair..sheesh.
pH Level Bottom Line..
- After wetting your hair, use an acidifier with a pH range of 4.0 to 6.0 to close your cuticles..ie, ACV..bottom line, water is more alkaline than our hair.
- Keeping our pH levels in check will close the cuticle and help lock moisture in..Thus, preventing dryness and helping to keep the frizzies down.
- So instead of buying a leave in conditioner, mix your own concoction, this is a great one from youtube's Kimmaytube: Aloe Vera Juice, Jojoba Oil and Castor Oil..use your test strip to be sure to level the pH out to a range of 4.0 to 6.0.
Hope this helps to see the importance of using pH strips, I know that this helped me while researching the info and has opened my eyes to a lot of things that I had a lack of knowledge as to what was good and what was not so good for my hair. Trial and error, I tell ya, Trial and error! Now that you have been equipped with some knowledge..Go, my friend, and pH balance the world, one great ingredient at a time.
credits: some info found at www.youtube.com/kimmaytube
photo credit: www.hi-imcurrentlyobsessed.tumblr.com