You’ve probably heard about the concept of pH or pH balance, but did you know that hair products have pH levels too? All shampoos and conditioners have chemicals that can impact their pH levels, and when the levels are too high or too low, it can impact your hair, scalp, and skin.
What is pH?
pH stands for potential hydrogen levels. pH levels are measured on a scale of 0 to 14, and 7 is considered “neutral.” Lower pH levels are more acidic, and higher numbers are alkaline. pH balance means that the product has the same pH as the thing it is intended for.
Your skin and hair are generally on the acidic side, with a pH between 4.5 and 5.5. So if any products you use have a pH level outside that range, it is not pH balanced.
pH Levels in Shampoo and Conditioner
Shampoo and conditioners are produced with chemicals that can make them more acidic or alkaline. Most shampoos and conditioners have pH levels between 3.5 and 9.0. That means there are a lot of products in the market that are not pH balanced.
Some products are also considered pH balancing, which will have a more acidic pH in order to combat the effects of using harsher, more alkaline chemical services or products on the hair.
Effect on Hair
Your scalp has a defense layer called an acid mantle that protects it and allows it to withstand damage from heat, styling, weather, and products. It also protects against bacteria and keeps the hair healthy. Using products that are too alkaline will cause damage that raises the cuticle of the hair, increasing porosity and reducing elasticity.
There are a few signs that your hair may be damaged by using non-balanced pH products, including:
- Dry hair
- Frizzy hair
- Brittle hair
- Low color retention
- Unusually rough texture
If you notice these signs, it’s important to talk to a hair expert or stylist about what is causing it. Using unbalanced pH products can be one cause, but there are a variety of other things that can impact the health of your hair, including color treatments, exposure to the sun, and exposure to chlorine.
Effect on Scalp
The scalp's pH is around 5.5, slightly higher than the hair but in the same range. When you use balanced products on your hair, your scalp can function as intended, defending against the growth of bacteria and retaining moisture properly.
When the pH balance of your scalp is disturbed, you can experience some unpleasant symptoms, including:
- Dry scalp
- Itchy scalp
- Sensitive scalp
- Oily scalp and hair
- Scalp acne
Using harsh products leaves your scalp more vulnerable to bacteria and can even lead to the development of scalp conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis.
Effect on Skin
Your skin is mostly made of water. Using products that are too acidic or too alkaline repeatedly can change how our skin retains moisture.
Non-balanced shampoo and conditioner impact your hair and scalp, but they can also impact the skin on the rest of your body. Your skin may become dry, tight, itchy, and less able to retain natural moisture as well as lotions and other moisturizing products.
How to Find pH Levels of Your Products
Manufacturers of hair products are not required to publish the pH levels of their products. Some brands provide it voluntarily on the product labeling, and some publish it on their website. A brand’s online product description page or FAQ is a good place to start!
You can also find information in reviews from other users or from third-party research on the brand. If many users report the signs of an unbalanced pH level, that’s a good indication you should choose a different brand. Finding a pH level that works for you may also take a little trial and error.
Not everyone has the same hair and scalp level; some people have slightly more acidic levels while others have more alkaline levels. If you find that your hair and skin are itchy, dry, oily, or just not looking their best, consider trying a product line with a different pH level.
You can always consult with a stylist, hair expert, or even dermatologist who can help you determine the best products for you.
Recommendations for Hair Care Products
To restore your hair’s pH balance quickly, you can rinse it with diluted apple cider vinegar, which will clear out any residual products. Afterward, incorporate a lightweight conditioner and a pH balanced shampoo to retain healthy hair and scalp.
pH Balanced Shampoo
Generally, shampoos that have moisturizing ingredients are less acidic and can help prevent damage and dryness. However, just because a product is labeled “hydrating shampoo” does not necessarily mean it is pH-balanced shampoo. All of Kavella’s shampoos are acidic for optimal hair health. Try our Balanced Shampoo and Body Wash for a product that is pH balancing for hair and body!
Similarly, some manufacturers label products as damaged hair shampoo. Generally, shampoo specifically designed for damaged hair isn’t meant to be used long-term, so pay attention to your hair recovery and consider switching to a more mild shampoo.
pH Balanced Conditioner
Using a pH-balanced conditioner is just as important as using a pH-balanced shampoo, especially since it is often the last product you use in the shower and determines the final pH change. Consider investing in a professional conditioner that is mild but rich in natural moisturizing elements. A great option for all hair types is the Kavella Balanced Conditioner.
For some people, using a pH-balanced shampoo and conditioner is not enough to maintain hydrated and healthy hair long-term.
Using a leave-in or rinse-out hair mask such as Kavella's Recovery Lotion can help restore hair. In addition to a pH balanced mask, consider incorporating an aloe-based hair mask into your routine. If your hair has been color treated or treated with chemicals, a lightweight conditioner for damaged hair may be a good option.
Balanced pH for Long-Term Hair Health
Ensuring that you use pH-balanced products will keep your hair looking healthy, make your color last longer, and prevent a dry and oily scalp.
If you’ve struggled with dry hair or an itchy scalp, even with using a nourishing conditioner, an imbalance pH may be the answer. Finding pH-balanced products may take a little extra work, but your hair, skin, and scalp will thank you in the long run.