Many shampoo brands claim to both clean and moisturize your hair, but certain products may actually be causing dryness and increased damage because of their pH.

If you’ve been struggling with finding the perfect shampoo to get healthy hair, a pH balanced shampoo is the way to go to protect your scalp and hair.

Sebum and the Ideal Scalp pH

The pH scale is used to determine how acidic or basic a water-based solution is. Neutral solutions (like pure water) have a pH of 7, acidic solutions (like vinegar) have a pH <7, and basic/alkaline solutions (like baking soda) have a pH >7. 

Every part of the body has an ideal pH that helps it function at its best. For example, your blood has a normal pH range of 7.37 to 7.43 which your body works hard to control through different systems. Similarly, your skin and hair have ideal pH ranges to maintain their health and protect you from bacteria or yeast.

The ideal range of the pH level of skin is between 5.4-5.9, making the environment of the skin somewhat acidic. At its normal acidic level, the skin’s glands produce a mixture of oils called sebum

Sebum has many protective functions. It acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, provides protection against bacteria and fungus, delivers fat-soluble antioxidants to the skin, and protects against sun damage. Normal sebum production travels through hair follicles and protects the hair cuticles (the outermost layer of your hair) against damage.

How pH Affects Your Hair

Sebum has a normal pH of about 5.5 so it is important to use products that match the pH of your skin and sebum to maintain its balance and function. Unfortunately, many soaps and shampoos used are either too alkaline or too acidic for your scalp, which can impact the appearance of your hair and hair treatments.

Alkaline shampoos and hair products increase the pH of the skin and cause dehydration of the scalp, increase skin irritability, and alter the balance of bacteria on the skin. In a 2014 study, researchers found that most shampoos available in an average market had a pH between 6-7. While these pH ranges are slightly acidic to neutral, they are still high enough to impact the closure of hair cuticles. Hair cuticles that aren’t properly sealed lose moisture faster and are more prone to tangling and breakage. This can slow hair growth and damage hair.

Some shampoos intentionally have higher pH levels for functions that aren’t directly related to conditioning the hair or scalp. Children’s shampoos may have a pH closer to 7 in order to be a “tear free” formula that doesn’t sting the eyes. Other specialized shampoos like clarifying shampoos tend to have a higher pH level to remove build-up around the hair and skin.

Shampoos or other hair products that are too acidic may also impact your hair’s appearance. Low pH shampoos and hair products reduce hair frizzing and promote the sealing of hair cuticles, giving hair a smooth appearance. A tightly sealed cuticle may cause alkaline hair treatments like bleaching or color treatment more difficult to take to the hair due to its natural resistance against chemicals.

In Summary

If you’re looking for a pH balanced shampoo to support the health of your hair, look for a shampoo that is formulated with a specialized blend of ingredients made to complement your scalp’s natural pH and help your hair maintain its moisture and length. A pH balanced shampoo is ideal to support the beautiful appearance and health of your hair. 

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