Shampoo choices seem endless between drug stores, online shopping and your stylist. How do you narrow it down? My first piece of advice is learning the pH of your shampoo. Just by doing that one simple step we can cut your shampoo choices into a manageable number before we start to look at the ingredients in our shampoos and conditioners. Several drug stores will be eliminated quickly as well as a few salon brand shampoos.
pH the Basics
pH means potential hydrogen the pH scale runs from 0-14 with 7 being neutral. pH above 7 is alkaline or base and pH below 7 is acidic. Let's take a look at a basic pH value scale.
The pH of our hair shaft (3.67) and our scalp(5.5). Next, notice the pH of tears is 7. Tear free shampoos are at 7 so that they do not irritate the eyes. It may be great to keep us from crying if it gets in our eyes, however, it is not healthy for our scalp.
Why does the pH matter?
Our goal with our shampoo and conditioner is to bring the scalp and hair back to the ideal pH level. For hair that has received a chemical service the use of a high quality pH shampoo is even more important to keep from adding damage to the hair or scalp.
When we raise the pH level above 5.5 we create a negative electric net which causes friction this friction creates.... FRIZZY HAIR! Learning the pH of your shampoo and conditioner is the first step to picking the right shampoo. Those with curly hair, and chemically processed hair need to be even more diligent in the search for the right pH shampoo.
Hair absorbs more water when the pH is is raised. This water goes into the shaft and breaks hydrogen bonds of the keratin molecule. Using a lower(acidic) pH shampoo and conditioner allows the cuticle to close back and not absorb as much water. It helps to protect the hair interior hair and bonds of the hair.
What is the right pH for my shampoo?
A majority of household, tap water has a 7 pH and our hair and scalp sit between a 3.67-5.5. The best results are seen in shampoos that have a pH of 5.5 or less. When we rinse our hair with water the water will raise our pH slightly. So, being a little more acidic, but never below a 3 as we can do serious damage below 3. So, our goal with our shampoo is to sit between 3.5-5.5 and our conditioner should sit just a little below that number. The more processed or curly your hair the more you want to look for something closer to 3.5
How do I find out my shampoos pH level?
It is not always easy to find out the pH of your shampoo, since the majority of shampoos do not put this information on their bottle. Companies have what is called MSDS or SDS sheets online for you to look at and these will have the pH level located on them. If you cannot find the SDS or MSDS sheet online, simply e-mail the company for these sheets an ethical beauty company will always give you access to allow you confirm these numbers. If it is a salon brand ask your stylist. If it is over the counter you may need to do a google search or write the company. I have listed a few pH levels for shampoos, below.
My Shampoo says it penetrates into my hair?
A daily shampoo that penetrates the hair shaft is actually doing us a disservice. To penetrate the hair, friction is created to open up the cuticle and reach inside our hair shaft. This friction as we discussed earlier will create fizz. When we are lifting the hair shaft, there is a chemical process happening within the hair strand. Certain in salon treatments are designed to do that, but they are followed with a treatment to help bring back the balance of the hair pH after the service. Your daily shampoo should not be penetrating the hair shaft, there should not be a need to do this daily.
A Sampling of a few shampoo pH levels
Malibu C Blonde 3.5-4.5
Malibu C Scalp Wellness 4.0-5.0
Kenra Moisturizing 5.0
Kenra Volumizing 5.0
REF Moisture 5.0-6.0
Crack Clean & Soaper 5.0-6.5
Herbal Essence Body Envy 5.5-6.6
Aussie Miracle Curl 5.3-6.7
Pantene Age Defy 4.5-6.7
Monat Revive 5.9-7.3
Monat Renew Balance 6.2-7.6
Head and Shoulder Instant 8.6
What else should I be looking at besides pH?
The truth once we know the pH a quick look at the ingredients can often tell us some important information but that's a blog for another day.