What is pH?
pH stands for “the power of hydrogen” or “hydrogen potential”. It is the scale used to specify how acid or alkaline a solution is. The pH scale runs from 0 – 14. The lower the pH the more acidic the solution, whereas the higher the number the more alkaline the solution is. A solution that is pH 7 is said to be neutral. Water generally has a pH of 7 whereas lemon is more acidic and generally has a pH of around 2. Solutions such as bleach are a lot more alkaline and can be more towards the 12 – 14 end of the pH scale.
Why is pH important in haircare?
pH is important in haircare as the cuticle can respond differently depending on whether it is placed in acidic or alkaline conditions. The cuticle is the outer most layer of the hair shaft and functions to protect the inner layers. Ideally we want the cuticle to be laying flat as this helps protect the hair’s inner layers. When the cuticle is laying flat it reflects light a lot better making our hair appear shinier.
Our hair is generally around pH 4.5 – 5. Therefore, we want our products to be around pH 4.5 – 5.5 as this encourage our cuticle to lay flat. The pH of a product is especially important for curly hair conditioners as when the cuticle is laying down flat, it makes the detangling process a lot more efficient. When the cuticle is raised, our hair strands tend to stick together like Velcro which can make the detangling process difficult as well as painful. Having a pH balanced conditioner is especially important for curly hair as the cuticle is encouraged to lay down flat, helping to ease the detangling process. All of the BY SELINA products are pH balanced for quick and efficient detangling as well as keeping our curls healthy and shiny.
Did you know, many children’s products are pH 7 to help with the “no tears” claim. Therefore, it is not recommended to use child products on curly hair as the product pH is likely to be too high and will not work well for detangling curls.
I snapped a picture quickly this week which was the inspiration for this blog post. In the picture was two pH testing strips along with a pH scale. The strip with the blue end was used to test hand soap and showed a pH that is between pH 11 and 12, so very alkaline. The second strip is more orange in colour, this is the pH strip used to test the BY SELINA product, this strip is showing a pH between 4 and 5 which is perfect for our curls (you can see the original picture on our social media pages).
Using highly alkaline products on our hair such as hand soap can be very damaging to the hair. Prolonged use of alkaline products on our hair can cause the cuticle to become permanently raised, exposing the cortex and results in dull hair that is brittle and easily damaged. This is why is it important to use well formulated products that are also pH balanced specifically for our curls.
If you are using hand soap and are noticing that your hands are very dry and chapped due to all the hand washing at the moment, try switching to a liquid based hand wash which will more than likely be a lower pH. This should help ease your hands from drying out too much.
Did you know, you can test pH by using red cabbage! Just google red cabbage pH indicator for lots of step by step guides on how to use red cabbage as a pH indicator. If you try the red cabbage method please do let me know how you get on as it is not something I have tried before. I tend to stick to using a pH meter for more accurate pH testing of the BY SELINA products. Red cabbage pH testing may also be a fun at home science experiment for any of your curlies currently home schooling your children.
I hope this information was useful for you in understanding pH and why the pH of our products is important for the health of our curls.
Stay safe and well curlies.