Facts Checked By Freewill Beauty Experts - Written by Rithi Choudhury (Journalist) on 29th Sep 2020

Your Scalp pH Matters: Here’s Why You Need A pH Balancing Shampoo 

Need A pH Balancing Shampoo

As a beauty enthusiast, you might have come across the word 'pH' and know the importance of pH balancing products for your skin and hair. If you already know the 101 about pH factor, then kudos to you!

But for the novices out there, don't worry. We have got you covered. As we enlighten you on the 'pH' factor and introduce you to the 'pH' scale, we will also cover why you should be choosing a pH balancing shampoo for optimum hair health and beauty.  

Hey pH, what's the buzz?

As you may have already guessed, pH is a scientific term. It stands for the ‘potential of hydrogen’. The pH factor of a substance is an indicator of its acidity or basicity.

A quick science class refresher: acids are sour and have hydrogen ions (H+), whereas bases are bitter and have hydroxide ions (OH−).  

The pH Scale 

The pH Scale

The pH scale is a scale that ranges from 0-14 and measures the pH of a substance; in other words, its acidity or basicity. A pH factor ranging from 0-6 indicates that the substance is acidic. While a pH factor ranging from 8-14 indicates its basicity (alkalinity). A pH factor of 7 is considered neutral and shows a light green color on the pH scale.  

Did You Know:

Distilled water devoid of any minerals has a neutral pH factor of 7.  

The pH of Skin and Scalp 

As you have already learned by now, different substances have different pH factor.

But when it comes to our skin, the ideal pH factor ranges between 4.5 - 5. For the scalp, it’s 5.5, and the ideal pH for hair lies between 4.5 - 5.5.

So, why is it essential to maintain that pH range?

Well, for optimum skin, scalp, and hair health.

Take a look at the pH factor of our skin, scalp, and hair, and you’ll notice that anything below 7 is slightly acidic. Yes, our skin, scalp, and hair have a somewhat acidic medium, and this acid mantle helps to keep pathogens (microbes) from the environment from attacking and causing infections.

But this acidic mantle is often disrupted from the following factors: 

  • pH disrupting products (harsh soaps and cleansers) 
  • Unhealthy lifestyle (poor diet, lack of exercise)
  • Environmental stresses (UV rays, pollution, hard water, etc.)

Did You Know:

You get dandruff (often due to fungal infection) when the acid mantle of your scalp is disrupted, and the pH factor increases beyond the ideal range. As a popular home remedy, yogurt and lemon juice can be used on the scalp to get rid of dandruff as both yogurt and lemon are acidic.

The pH of Regular Shampoo, Conditioner, and Serum

Mass-produced shampoos are typically alkaline (as they contain surfactants for cleansing) with a pH greater than 5.5. However, anti-dandruff shampoos are an exception where the pH is less than or equal to 5.5.

The alkaline nature of shampoos along with the higher pH of tap water (6.5 - 8.5) causes the hair cuticles (keratin scales forming the outermost coating of the hair shaft) to open because of which moisture from the hair cortex (the core of the hair shaft) escapes, leaving the hair dry and damaged. 

So, the next time you think that your hair feels dry after shampooing, you know the culprit.  

Minimalist Experts Say:

To avoid that dry and brittle feel after shampoo, use a good conditioner after every wash.

Hair conditioners are usually acidic. So, they help restore the pH and close the hair cuticles, retaining moisture.

Hair serums are also acidic, and they are perfect for taming the frizz and smoothening the hair. This is why following up with a hair serum while your hair is still damp after wash, is an excellent idea. 

Did You Know:

Hair dyes and relaxers have a pH factor that falls between 8-9 and 13-14, respectively. It’s no surprise why these products leave the hair severely dry and damaged. This is why special shampoos and conditioners are recommended for color-treated hair. As these products are usually on the lower side of the pH scale than regular shampoos and conditioners, they keep your chemically-tried hair healthy  

Benefits Of Using A pH Balancing Shampoo

Hair wash is relaxing, isn’t it? But, hey, it can do more harm than good to your hair, if not done well.

Always remember that wet hair is fragile and carries an increased risk of breakage. And as discussed above, the pH disrupting cleansers can break the scalp’s acid mantle and lead to several scalp conditions, resulting in dull and lack-luster tresses.

That said, you can’t escape hair wash, can you? At least, not until technology takes over the hair wash routine and changes it forever. Till then, shampoo and water are your best friends to get a clean and healthy hair and scalp.

So, being mindful is the key here.

Minimalist recommends choosing a shampoo with a low pH range and ensuring that the water you use to wash your hair is not hard. If you live in an area where the tap water is hard, you can use filtered water from your kitchen. It might require more effort, but the results make it worthwhile.

Usually, a pH-balancing shampoo can have a pH factor of 4.5 - 6. Using such a shampoo will benefit you in more than one ways: 

  • A pH-balancing shampoo will not leave your scalp dry and irritated. 
  • It will minimize frizz.
  • A pH-balancing shampoo will keep the scalp barrier in good condition, which will help fight off microbes and free radicals. 
  • It will also minimize hair fall as the scalp and follicles will stay in good condition when its ideal pH is maintained.

Did You Know:

Using a pH balancing shampoo does not mean you should skip the hair conditioner. A pH balancing shampoo will have a lower pH (4.5 -6) than regular shampoos, which is why you should use a hair conditioner and serum with it as well. Both the conditioner and the serum will help replenish the lost oils from washing and further seal the cuticles. 

Minimalist Experts Say:

You can always try a natural acid to bring your hair into an acidic pH range. Use a DIY aloe vera juice spray on your hair and you’ll love your tresses all the more. 

How To Know If A Shampoo Is pH-Balanced? 

A pH-balancing shampoo is an answer to a lot of your hair woes.

But how to know if your chosen shampoo is pH-balanced?

While some companies mention that on their packaging, many of them don’t

It’s always useful to use a pH strip in the latter scenario and be ready for some fun experimenting. You can easily get pH strips from the market. Stock them if you can. You will thank us for sure.

So, once you have a pH strip handy, use a drop of the shampoo, and if the strip’s color turns anywhere between dark green to dark blue, then it is a big no for your hair. Do not expect a bright red either as that would be just too acidic. Something between a pale red and orange should do the trick for a decent pH balanced shampoo.

And while you are at it, go ahead and check the pH of your facial cleansers and other products too.

There you go, better awareness and beautiful tresses. Wow, what a combo.