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Why pH Balance is Crucial for Healthy Hair and Scalp

Why pH Balance is Crucial for Healthy Hair and Scalp

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Do you need healthy hair but don’t know where to start? Haircare can sometimes be overwhelming due to the millions of products and tips available on the Internet. Different hair types may need various kinds of treatments, but one thing that’s common is pH balance. We often focus on the ingredients of shampoos, conditioners, and other essentials, missing out on the pH of the formulation. No matter what your poos are made of, their acidic level is crucial for maintaining overall vitality. In this blog, we will explore the connection between pH levels and hair health.

Also Read - Guide To PH Balanced Shampoo

Importance of pH balance for hair health

pH means “potential of hydrogen,” which refers to the acidity and basicity of a substance. The scale ranks from zero (the most acidic) to 14 (the most basic), 7 being neutral. Natural hair lies in the acidic family, somewhere between 4.5 and 5. Certain chemical-infused products can push this toward the alkaline side, making the hair and scalp more susceptible to damage. Let’s explore the importance of pH balance in the following areas of the hair structure.

  • Cuticle — The hair cuticle is the outermost part of the shaft, overlapping in layers. It protects the scalp from external aggressors. When you use alkaline products, the cuticle starts to open, losing moisture and nutrients.
  • Cortex — It is located between the cuticle and medulla. The cuticle shields the cortex from bacteria and other aggravating factors. When pH alters the functions of hair cuticles, it exposes the cortex to environmental stressors.
  • Medulla — It is the most soft, fragile, and almost invisible layer, serving as the hair marrow. As the cuticle starts to lift up, the round cells of the medulla become uneven. This may lead to hair breakage and thinning.

Your hair strands are strong and healthy in a moderately acidic state, which lets the cuticle contract and close. This condition prevents moisture loss, thus preventing frizz and split ends. Here’s how optimal pH levels make hair and scalp care effortless.

Protects against bacteria

The acid mantle on the scalp is responsible for keeping the good stuff in, like moisture and nutrients, and the nasty stuff out. It prevents microbial overgrowth and, in turn, helps in curbing scalp infection.

Maintains optimal moisture levels

Higher hair alkaline pH level forces cuticles to open, leading to moisture loss. It also increases the negative electrical charge of the hair fiber surface and causes flyaways, frizz, and breakage. Thus, maintaining pH balance is important to keep such hair woes at bay.

Boosts texture and appearance

Hair texture and manageability highly depend on pH levels and blood circulation on the scalp. A fairly acidic environment improves moisture retention and locks in hydration, making hair less frizzy.

Adverse effects of imbalanced pH

When the pH drops or rises from the optimal level, your hair may run into some serious issues. Lena de Pons, Pharmacist and Hair Expert, told Vogue, “With an alkaline shampoo, the ‘shingles’ of the cuticle become completely perpendicular, looking more like the branches of a fir tree projecting from the trunk.” A variety of issues originate when the pH balance is disrupted, resulting in a lackluster appearance. Here are some adverse effects of imbalanced pH levels.

  • Frizzy Hair — An alkaline pH level increases friction between hair fibers and sets them apart, causing frizz and flyaways.
  • Damaged Strands — Brittle and weak strands are among the most common hair concerns. They arise because of the alkaline formulations of shampoos, conditioners, and other products you use.
  • Scalp Itching — Disrupted pH levels can provide a suitable environment for harmful bacteria to proliferate excessively, leading to scalp itchiness, irritation, and infections.
  • Color Fading — Imbalanced pH levels open the cuticles and lift them. This condition can cause a loss of dye molecules, eventually fading hair color.

Maintaining optimal pH of hair and scalp

The right course of action for healthy hair and pH balance may vary depending on hair type. For instance, if you have parched and frizzy hair, it means the cuticles are slightly open. A mildly acidic shampoo and conditioner can reverse the condition, leaving strands hydrated and frizz-free. Similarly, if you have undergone a chemical treatment and experience hair breakage, it indicates the need for a diluted acid rinse. Below are common ways to maintain optimal pH of hair and scalp.

With these easy-peasy DIY techniques, you can bring your mane from an alkaline to acidic state. Before applying these, perform a strand test to ensure that none of the ingredients cause allergic reactions.

  • Kombucha Hair Rinse — Mix 1 part of sour, unflavored kombucha and 3 parts of water in a bottle. Shake until well mixed. Apply the solution to your hair lengths and follow up with a sulfate-free shampoo.
  • Powdered Acidic Rinse — Take 4 teaspoons (tsp) of citric acid, ¼ tsp of silk powder, ½ tsp of marshmallow root, and ½ tsp of dried horsetail. Grind all ingredients together and pour it into a bottle. Mix ¼ tsp of the obtained mixture with 100 mL of warm water in a plastic cup. Apply it to your hair after shampooing, then rinse off thoroughly.
  • Lemon, Honey, and Chamomile Flower Rinse — Steep 2-3 dried chamomile flowers in boiling water for 5 minutes. Discard the flowers and mix the solution with 1 tsp of honey in a jar. Add 3 tablespoons (tbsp) of fresh lemon juice to the mixture and stir well. Apply it after shampooing, then rinse with water.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse — Take ½ cup of apple cider vinegar, 1 ¼ tsp of grapefruit oil, 1 ½ tsp of solubilizer, and 1 ½ cups of water. Apply half a cup of the mixture to your hair after shampooing, then rinse with water.


Q1. What is a good pH level for hair products?

Your hair care products must have a pH level between 3.5 and 5.5.

Q2. How do you check the pH balance of your scalp?

To check the pH level of your scalp, you will require a pH test kit or strips. It is best to consult a trichologist if you experience signs of imbalanced pH.

Q3. Is pH balance essential for scalp care?

Yes, pH balance is necessary for healthy hair and scalp. An optimal pH level helps combat signs like scalp itching, infection, frizzy hair, and breakage.

Q4. How do you know if a shampoo is pH-balanced?

You can check the product's label or contact the manufacturer for information about the pH level and other safety parameters.

Q5. Does hair color affect pH balance?

Most hair coloring agents are alkaline, disrupting the pH level of your scalp and hair. It is recommended that you opt for a mild acid rinse and choose gentle products after color treatments.


How we reviewed this article:

Our experts continually monitor the fashion and beauty space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

    • Current Version

  • Jun 27, 2024

Written By -

Upasana Kakati is a lifestyle writer with 7+ years of experience in writing in the beauty and haircare industry.

Edited By -

Saima Ahmed with 8+ yrs of experience, specializes in crafting engaging content focused on Hair care, lifestyle, and beauty.

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