While buying skin and hair care products a recent trend is to look for pH balanced products. But a lot of customers actually don’t know what pH is and what level it should be to be called ‘balanced’ and as a result they buy products that claim to be pH balanced but are actually harmful for their skin and hair.
What is pH level?
pH level or Potential Hydrogen level is the measurement of acidity or alkalinity of a solution, such a hair care product. The term pH refers to the amount of hydrogen ions in a solution which determines its acidity or alkalinity. The pH of a substance can take values from 0-14. Based on the level of pH we can categorize a product into acidic, alkaline, and neutral categories.
A product with pH level 0-7 is acidic.
A pH level of 7, which is the pH level of distilled water, indicates neutrality.
A product with pH level of 7-14 is alkaline.
The pH level of human skin and hair is between 4.5 and 5.5.
What is pH balanced shampoo?
Although a pH level of 7 indicates neutrality or balance, when it comes to skin care and hair products a pH level of 7 does not indicate balance. Human skin and hair themselves do not have any pH, because they are dry, and not a solution.However, the sebum has an acidic pH. Hence, if a shampoo has a pH level of 4.5 to 5.5, it can be considered as pH balanced.
Many shampoo ingredients (mostly ionic detergents) have an alkaline pH. Look for example, in the figure above, how the pH of soapy water is 12 at the top of the pH scale! Because of this, shampoo brands often add ingredients to adjust the pH. Citric acid is the main ingredient used for this purpose, and is fairly safe to use. Citric acid is the major acid found in orange juice, mentioned in the figure above, at pH 3. When added to alkaline solution, it would lower its pH, to a desired level, depending on the amounts added. Another pH adjuster you may occasionally find in hair products is glycolic acid. Glycolic acid, is a strong irritant, and should be avoided.
Why should we use pH balanced hair products?
When it comes to skin and hair care products it is better to use a product with a balanced pH level. The outer surface of our hair is made of cuticles which are like overlapping scales. Alkali based shampoos make these cuticles open and expose the outer surface of hair which is called cortex. When cortex is exposed, hair strands are more prone to damage and breakage and become rough, dull, and tangled.
On the other hand shampoos with slightly acidic components within the balanced pH level keep these cuticle scales closed, which helps in locking the moisture and natural oils of hair. Moisturized hair strands are less affected by styling products and therefore are stronger and shinier than dry and frizzy hair. If you use coloring products on your hair then using pH balanced shampoo is a must.
Chemicals used in hair dyes open up the cuticle, so that the color can penetrate the surface of the hair. A pH level adjusted shampoo works on the cuticles and keeps them closed so the color lasts longer. If you use alkaline shampoos, they will open up the cortex and as a result the dye will fade away quickly.
Alkaline shampoos wash away the natural oil of hair and to maintain the balance, our scalp produces even more oils which can give your hair a greasy look. But a pH adjusted shampoo helps in maintaining the natural level of oil and moisture making your hair soft and shiny.
Selecting the hair product that is best for you
Most shampoo products on the market today contain citric acid. For example look here and here. Contrary, this company, claims that their products are slightly alkaline, and are still much safer and better for your hair and scalp than the normal commercial products.
Are you using a pH balanced shampoo?
Share your experience in the comments below.