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What Is the pH of Your Hair and Is It Important?

Written by Ross Goodhart
What Is the pH of Your Hair and Is It Important?

Hair care is important for a myriad of reasons. Healthy, nourished hair can help you feel and look your best, and providing your hair and scalp with the best possible care is an essential part of any hygienic routine. 

Understanding hair itself can be somewhat difficult. Like any other part of your body, it has to be properly taken care of to ensure that it’s at its healthiest. One of the ways to do this is to make sure that your hair’s pH level is where it should be. It’s interesting to think of pH in the context of your hair and scalp, and understanding that can help you guarantee that you’re taking care of your hair correctly. 

What Is pH?

In order to understand the inner workings between pH and hair, it’s first important to understand what exactly pH is. pH measures how acidic or basic something is. There’s a range, and it goes from 0 to 14. If a pH is under 7, that indicates acidity. On the contrary, if a pH is above 7, that indicates that it is more basic, or alkaline. Right in the middle is 7, which is neutral. 

You probably first heard of pH in a science class sometime during middle school. The measurement was first used by a Danish biochemist named S.P.L. Sørensen. It was used to represent the hydrogen ion concentration. This was demonstrated in equivalents per liter of a watery, liquid solution. Today, it’s measured with either a digital or analog pH meter. 

pH is ultimately used to gauge acidity. The definition is what scientists would consider to be “operational.”  And while you probably associate pH with your science classroom, pH exists beyond there and is worth taking into account in your everyday life - including your hair and scalp care. 

What Is the pH of hair?

Maybe you’ve never thought about the pH of your hair before or how that could play a role in how it appears or even feels. Your hair does have a pH - and keeping that in mind can help provide you with insight regarding how to best treat your hair. 

Hair itself is naturally somewhat acidic. It usually runs around 3.5-4.5 on the pH scale. When your hair is in its natural, semi-acidic state, that’s when it’s healthiest. That being said, your hair’s pH can and will fluctuate. 

A lot of the products, chemicals, and treatments we use can push the hair towards the alkaline side, which is not ideal. The hair has a delicate pH balance, so if not properly cared for, you’ll find that your hair is pushed to the other side of the pH spectrum. 

Some things that can negatively impact your hair and its pH include harsh chemical processes such as coloring, bleaching, and using harmful shampoos that don’t take the chemistry of your hair into consideration. 

When you disrupt the hair’s pH by using harmful products on your hair, the cuticle, or outer layer of the hair, begins to lift up and impacts the strength of your hair. This ultimately leads to breakage, frizz, and cuticle damage. But the importance of balancing pH with your hair and scalp care doesn’t end there. 

Why Is Hair pH Important?

Your hair’s pH is important because it can hint at other underlying concerns. If you’ve been damaging your hair routinely with aggressive color treatments or other harsh chemicals, that’s going to show up when you test your hair’s pH. 

While it’s possible to see the impact of these negative processes with your eyes, getting chemical confirmation from the pH scale that there’s something awry with your hair can help inform how you treat and take care of your hair. 

Your hair’s pH is tangible evidence that what you do to your hair and the products that you decide to put in it matter. Therefore, choose wisely how you decide to treat your hair, as reversing the impact of damage is assuredly more difficult than preventing damage in the first place.

Just as you can disturb the pH of your hair, you can also disturb the pH of your scalp, and keeping them both steady is a balancing act.

What’s the pH of the Scalp?

The pH of the scalp is around 5.5, which is slightly more basic than the hair but similar to the rest of your skin. Just as you can disturb the pH of your hair, you can also disturb the pH of your scalp, and keeping them both steady is a balancing act. When your scalp is at the proper pH, it’s more capable of preventing the growth of bacteria, because the acidic environment is not ideal for these microorganisms. 

When the pH of your scalp is unbalanced, however, this could potentially lead to dandruff. A more alkaline state on your hair and scalp can impact the growth of bacteria and the production of oil, which could potentially cause flaking and scalp discomfort. More on that below.

What Is Dandruff?

Dandruff is a scalp condition that causes clumps of skin cells to flake off your scalp. It’s very common, and while there is no overarching cure, there are treatments that can easily manage it. While an unbalanced scalp pH can certainly contribute to dandruff, there are many more potential causes that are worth watching out for: 

  • Malassezia: This is a type of yeast that regularly grows on our skin. It’s not harmful, but it can begin to overproduce on your scalp when it consumes the sebum (scalp oil) that you naturally produce. The waste products of Malassezia may irritate your scalp, which can lead to dandruff flakes. 

  • Dry Scalp: This is believed to be slightly less common than Malassezia, but dandruff can simply be caused by dry skin on the scalp. It’s important to keep a dry scalp moisturized with a conditioner, to keep the skin of your scalp from flaking and itching.

  • Lifestyle Factors: While the link between certain lifestyle factors and dandruff isn’t concrete, it is widely believed that factors like stress, travel, environment (meaning pollution or humidity), and even diet can contribute to those pesky flakes. 

How Can You Maintain Healthy Hair and Scalp pH?

The pH level of your hair and your scalp is vital to creating a healthy head, so if yours is not where it should be, it’s possible to change it for the better.

One of the best ways to begin managing your hair and scalp pH is to use products that were specifically formulated to balance them, and restore their pH to optimum levels.

Our Balancing Shampoo promotes strong, healthy-looking hair and has been proven in clinical testing to reduce hair breakage by 30%. Our Balancing Shampoo is formulated with Zinc Pyrithione to treat dandruff and rid your scalp of flaking, and innovative ingredients like squalane, coconut oil, and algae extract to moisturize and hydrate the scalp. It’s formulated without sulfates, parabens, phthalates, or dyes. And it’s specifically designed to keep your scalp pH balanced in the healthy range, so you won’t have to worry about the complications that come with imbalances.

After all, your hair and scalp’s pH levels, as well as the protein and moisture of your hair, are largely responsible for determining how healthy or unhealthy your hair is. It’s important to support a healthy scalp and nourished hair from root to tip.

The “Gotta Get” Set
The “Gotta Get” Set

If you have light-to-moderate flaking, dry scalp, redness or irritation, this is the go-to duo for you. Formulated as a pair, our medicated shampoo tends to your dandruff, while the conditioner adds needed moisture to your scalp and hair. The net result = a clean, hydrated scalp and healthy, shiny hair. Check out The "Triple Threat" Set if you flake on the regular and could use a bit more control.

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice, nor is it a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have about the information contained herein, as well as the risks or benefits of any treatment.