Sunday, 19 June 2011

Basics: pH & Your Hair

What is pH? 

In chemistry, pH( short for potential hydrogen) is the measure of how acidic or alkaline a liquid substance is. The more hydrogen ions in a substance the more acidic it is. The fewer hydrogen ions in a substance, the more alkaline it is (

What is the pH scale?

The pH scale is a reference point for acidic, neutral, and basic substances. The scale goes from 0 to 14. On the scale, from 0 to 7 is acidic, 7 is neutral, and 7 to 14 is alkaline( or basic). The scale is logarithmic in that each level on the scale is 10 times more basic or acidic than the adjacent level on the scale ( For example, a pH of 8 is 10 times more basic than a pH of 7 and a pH of 3 is 100 times more acidic than a pH of 5.


How does pH affect the body?

 pH is important in the body because it helps regulate a lot of our body's biochemical functions. It can speed up or slow down the rate of enzyme activity. BiomedX states that, in addition to the previous statement, the more alkaline a substance (7-14), the more electrical resistance the solution has. The opposite is true for acidic substances.

How does pH affect the hair? states the normal pH of hair is about 4.5 to 5.5. Based on what I mentioned about pH and the scale, this means that the hair must be wet to have a pH at all and when it is wet, the hair prefers to be more acidic.

How can pH help my hair?  

Keeping your hair in it's acidic state will help to lower the cuticle layer and keep it shut. When the cuticle layer is closed, it can be better protection to the cortex. A raised cuticle is just asking for damage. also states that ," One of the most beneficial treatments hair can have is to be acidified" and suggests using products with a pH of 3.0-3.5.

What can having a low pH do for my hair? also states, far better than I could have, that having a low pH on a the hair can the following things (taken directly from site):

  •  Adds natural shine -  (light reflects off a smooth surface)  
  •  Detangles - Cuticle layer can not "grab" each other.   
  •  Adds elasticity - The lower the pH, it higher the positive charge. This in turn brings hydrogen bonds from a beta state (weak) to and alpha state (strong). Hydrogen bonds account for nearly 100% of the hair's elasticity.
  •  Locks in moisture and protein - A compacted cuticle will not allow evaporation or dissociation as much as an open cuticle. 

Why is it important to test the pH of my products?

Knowing the pH of your hair products will help you avoid damaging your hair by subjecting it to various pH levels. Too acidic it could dissolve the hair and too basic could keep the cuticle open and risk damage to the cortex.

How have you benefited from learning about pH?

I test all of my products and all of my leave-in mixes. Before, when I didn't use pH balanced products, my hair didn't feel as moisturized. Now that I check the pH and make sure my products (especially my leave-in) have a low pH, my hair not only tangles less easily and is more pliable, but it retains moisture for much longer. Making sure my leave-in moisturizer was pH balance was the best thing I have ever done for my  hair moisture wise. If you would like to know the recipe for my pH balanced mix, click on this link: Leave-In Moisturizer Mix Recipe

How do I test the pH of my products?

Just buy some pH strips ranging from 0 to 14 and follow the directions on the packaging. It's that easy. 

Where can I buy pH strips?

They can be found at health food stores or online. Amazon sells some here for a reasonable price. Note, the price can be higher or lower depending on where you buy them and the range of the strips. I would suggest sticking to 0-14; it encompasses everything. 



  1. Should One be concerned about using aloe vera juice towards the end of the moisture and seal instead of straight up since it closes the cuticle, wouldn't this not allow anymore moisturizing product to penetrate? I am trying out the liquid, oil, cream process and I was just wondering if it would be better to use aloe vera juice towards the end of the process than in the beginning with my glycerin/water mixture. Hope this makes sense. Also, is too much aloe vera juice bad? can it actually cause dryness to hair? (I ordered my ph strip but it is taking too long) Not sure you have an answer to this but is the cuticle sealed ONCE one puts aloe vera juice or know to trap the moisture. I still don't understand the sealing thing, the way people talk about it makes it sound like a wall is built up instantly around your hair once you put that oil. ha and something tells me this isn't true. Too many questions in one but the more I learn about ingredients and what they do, the more questions I have. ha

  2. Whenever you use a product with low pH, it closes the cuticle. So, depending on whether you use it first or last will determine when the cuticle is chemically closed. So it is ultimately up to you. If you use it first, it will close the cuticle early, but if you use it last, it will close it last.

    Speaking of the liquid, oil, process, that process closes the cuticle mechanically. However, low pH chemically closes the cuticle.

    To use an analogy, when you straighten your hair with a straightener, you are mechanically straightening the hair. Conversely, when you use a relaxer you are chemically straightening your hair. Chemical alterations are usually longer lasting and more effective. I am in no way saying that closing the cuticle with pH is damaging to the hair; I'm just saying that it is more effective.

    Whenever you apply anything with a low pH, it closes the cuticle shortly after. Alternatively, when you apply an oil, you have to smooth it along the hair and wait for it to absorb.

    When sealing, the oil lays on the hair and blocks moisture from leaving the hair. Oil has a higher evaporation point so after it is absorbed, it will trap moisture in the hair for a longer time than if you didn't use an oil. Eventually, the oil will evaporate and will need to be reapplied.

    Technically, there is a wall keeping the moisture in when you apply oil, but it must be applied evenly.

    Finally, if you can seal your hair chemically and effectively(based on research) in one step with pH, why make it three steps and create unnecessary product buildup?

  3. The best my hair ever felt was the day I used cantu leave in as the cream for the three steps. However, I am still playing around with the glycerin mixture to see what proportions works best for me. I think I need more glycerin. I am honestly still in the trying things stage (I spent so much money this wk buying products, but thanks to return policy ha) and I am still trying all technique but there isn't a doubt about the glycerin and aloe vera juice mixture been a staple of mine. I think I might incorporate the aloe vera juice towards the end and see how that works out. Thanks for explaining oil and aloe vera question, great information.

  4. Glad I could help. Do what works for your hair:D