Not all chemistry is boring, and some of it is even important for your curls!
So you thought you came here for curly hair care advice and now we’re throwing some chemistry at you? Don’t worry, we promise you’ll actually be able to understand the information we give you. As it turns out, not all chemistry is boring and some of it is even important to know right now, especially for us curlies!
What is the pH Scale?
Relax! We promised you’d understand the information we give you here, remember?
The pH scale (the same one you learned about in chemistry, by the way) is a measure of how acidic or alkaline a substance is. The scale goes from zero to 14, with zero being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline (or “basic”). The middle ground (around seven) is neutral. If a substance falls above or below seven, the acidic or alkaline level increases exponentially. For instance, something that ranks a three on the pH scale would be 10 times more acidic than something that ranks a four, and 100 times more acidic than something that ranks a five.
Pure water ranks a seven on the pH scale. Water that ranks lower than a seven would be more acidic while water that is higher than a seven is more alkaline. (See, we told you this wouldn’t be too complicated!)
What Does This Have to Do With My Curly Hair?
Great question! Typically, hair has a pH level of somewhere between 4.5 and 5.5. This means that hair by itself, with no products added, is generally more acidic than water. Hair care products that are more acidic than water are optimal for your hair. Because these products are more acidic than water, they’ll generally get the dirt, oils, and scum off of your hair. Baby shampoo and other gentle or mild shampoos tend to be closer to neutral.
On the other hand, products that are far more alkaline than hair (peroxide, ammonia, bleach) tend to dry out your hair. Hair dyes, perms, and relaxers definitely fall into this group. These types of products are a nightmare for any curly girl — especially for you type 3s and 4s. You’re probably already familiar with the results of this. It’s called frizz.
The pH in Hair Care Products & Why it Matters
Sometimes curly hair care products list the pH level on the bottle. While listing the pH level is rare, it’s not always accurate anyway. The best way to determine the pH of anything is to perform a litmus test. You just might be surprised at how your hair care products rank.
If you find out your products are too alkaline, replace them with some low pH products.
You may also have to reverse some damage from alkaline hair products. Ouidad’s Curl Quencher Moisturizing Shampoo is a great shampoo choice for improving hair that’s been dried out. For a conditioner, try Mop Top Daily Conditioner, which continues to receive stellar reviews and is for all hair types.
Need to adjust the pH in your curly hair care products? Check out what the actual brands use to adjust their pH balance — and become an expert!
If you’re using products that turn out to be pretty alkaline, but can’t run right out and purchase something better, consider adding something acidic (such as lemon juice) to tone the pH down some or something basic (like baking soda) to neutralize your products.