Is it just me, or does it feel like products increasingly include pH level information on labels nowadays? Now that natural hair products are starting to advertise their pH levels with pride, you're probably asking yourself, why should I care about pH? Is this some sort of marketing ploy? Does it really make a difference in my healthy hair journey? Let's discuss it…does the pH of products really matter?
The short answer is, YES, the pH level of the products we use on our hair (or the food we ingest for that matter) absolutely matters! The natural pH level of our hair, scalp and sebum oil (the oil our bodies naturally produce to keep our hair and skin moisturized) all have a pH level between 4.5 and 5.5. So, to maintain the hair's natural balance, the products we use on our hair should also fall within this same range or lower.
The natural hair industry is a fairly new phenomenon…Women were not rocking natural hair on a mainstream scale until about ten or 15 years ago. Not surprisingly, most of the hair products created before the natural hair explosion were designed for chemically relaxed or straight hair. Some of us remember that permed life…you didn't want any oil on your hair because it would weigh the hair down. Hair products with a higher pH open the hair cuticle more than products with a lower pH. With the cuticle open, the hair is stripped of all dirt, oil, and product residue, and the cuticle is wide open.
For perspective on the pH scale, water has a pH level of 7, while acid (like, burn through your skin acid) has a 0 pH, and sodium hydroxide (aka creamy crack aka your go-to chemical relaxer brand) has a pH of 14! With a pH of 14, when we relax the hair, the hair is literally stripped of all of its texture at the cortex layer [for more information on hair layers…see [the link to Hydration vs. Moisture blog]] resulting in permanently straight hair. The hair cannot remain at a 14 pH, it must be brought back down to a normal range or bacteria and fungi may develop on your scalp. This is why neutralizing shampoo is required after relaxing the hair, it is slightly more acidic than regular shampoo and neutralizes the high pH of the relaxer. Once the hair is neutralized, it returns to a natural pH level between 4.5 and 5.5, and the hair cuticle is closed.
On the other hand, if your hair has a pH in a normal range and you use water to moisturize and hydrate your hair, the water will elevate your hair's pH level and open the cuticles all the way up. If you do not apply some product to counteract the water, bring the hair pH level back down, and close the cuticle, the cuticle remains open and swollen and more basic on the scale, making it easier for moisture to escape.
For a complete collection of perfectly pH balanced natural hair products, check out Moisture Love®!
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