For most of us, the term pH takes us back to our schooldays, and long-forgotten double science classes and experiments with acids and alkalis. But did you know the pH of our hair and scalp can play a crucial role in determining the appearance, manageability, and overall health of our locks? Our hair and scalp have their own natural levels of pH, and maintaining their balance is essential. Join us as we take a deep dive into what pH is, what’s an ideal level for our hair and scalp and how you can keep it where it needs to be.
So, What Actually Is pH?
pH is short for “potential of hydrogen,” and it’s a scale that’s used to measure the acidity or alkalinity of a substance. The scale ranges from 0 to 14; 7 is neutral while anything below that is acidic and anything above is alkaline. The further away from 7 the scale goes, the more acidic or alkaline the score will be. Pure water scores a neutral 7, while a score of 1 would be something like battery acid. A good example of a heavily alkaline substance would be liquid drain cleaner – 14!
What Is The Natural pH Level For Our Hair And Scalp?
It’ll come as no surprise that everyone’s pH level is different, but the natural level for our hair ranges from 3.5 to 4.5. Meanwhile, our scalp ranges from 4.5 to 5.5. This slightly acidic scalp score is determined by the acid mantle, a natural protective film found on our skin and scalp. This is made up of sebum, an oil secreted by sebaceous glands in the skin, sweat and dead skin cells. It helps keep the skin hydrated and acts like a barrier, preventing the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi.
Why Keeping Your Hair And Scalp pH Balanced Matters
Keeping your hair and scalp firmly in their key ranges plays a crucial role in keeping them both healthy. Here’s why it matters:
Regulation Of Sebum
Staying in the 4.5 to 5.5 zone helps to regulate sebum production. When pH is imbalanced, it leads to either overproduction or underproduction of sebum. When it’s too acidic, too much sebum is produced, leading to oily and greasy hair and scalp. If it becomes too alkali, then excessive dryness results. Either way, issues such as dandruff and an itchy scalp will result.
A slightly acidic scalp environment acts as a defence against harmful bacteria, fungi and other nasties. It also promotes the growth of helpful microorganisms! A disrupted pH can create a welcoming place for the bad microbes, which can lead to various scalp problems, ranging from scalp irritation to dandruff to more serious infections such as folliculitis.
The pH Of Our Hair And Scalp: Hair Structure
Maintaining a balanced pH is essential for the structure of your hair. The outermost layer of each hair strand is known as the cuticle. When the pH level of your hair is in the right range, it helps to keep the cuticle layer of the hair shaft flat and smooth. This keeps it strong and less susceptible to breakage. When the pH becomes too alkaline, this encourages the cuticle to lift. This can lead to damage from heat, pollution and other external factors. Moisture also becomes more difficult to retain, which leads to dryness and frizz.
What To Do…And What To Avoid!
Keeping your pH balance in the zone is a delicate process that needs attention on an ongoing basis. Here are some key dos and don’ts to help you to achieve and sustain the optimum pH balance.
Use The Right Hair Products
Only use shampoos, conditioners and hair treatments that have a pH level in that “Goldilocks” just-right range of between 3.5 and 5.5. Regular use of treatments with natural ingredients like our Hair Mask (pH 4.5) will nourish and hydrate your hair and scalp while helping to maintain their natural environment. Our new Scalp Foam has also been formulated at an optimum pH of 5.5 - it's perfect for keeping your scalp in balance while reducing build up.
Whatever hair products you apply, make sure that when it’s time to rinse, rinse thoroughly. Product residue can affect your pH levels. And turn the heat down – hot water can strip away natural oils which can disrupt the pH balance.
Products containing sulphates and high levels of alcohol can strip oils and directly damage the hair cuticles. Many chemical treatments tend to have an alkaline pH too. Avoid wherever possible.
We are what we eat: consuming a well-balanced diet rich with essential vitamins and minerals will help keep your natural bodily balance at the right levels. This includes the pH of your hair and scalp. Fruits, grains, vegetables, healthy fats and lean proteins are crucial. Fortifying your diet with great hair supplements are a must, especially for those with hair thinning or fall. Hair Gain Capsules and Gummies are clinically proven to support hair and scalp health while fighting hair loss.
Many of us are addicted to our heat styling tools but excessive use damages the cuticle layer of your hair, which as well as leading to dryness and breakage, also can change the pH balance. Use these tools sparingly, and if you must use them, use the coolest settings possible to avoid compromising the pH of our hair and scalp.