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What Is A Healthy pH For Scalp And Hair?

Every part of our body, including our scalp and hair, has a certain pH range that is considered healthy. Sebum, which is the natural oil produced by our hair has an average pH of between 4.5 and 5.5 making it slightly acidic so this level becomes our general goal for a healthy pH on both the hair and scalp.

What Is pH?

pH is the system that scientists use to determine whether a given item is acidic or basic. It is used to measure the concentration of hydrogen ions in or on something. The scale goes from 0 to 14 and pure water sits around 7 which is considered neutral. Anything below this is acidic and anything higher is basic, with the degree of acidity or alkalinity (degree of basic) depending on what number applies. The standard way of determining the pH of a substance is using a litmus test in which you place a small place of indicator paper (that contains the universal indicating substance) on the liquid or location to be determined (such as on the scalp). The color that the paper turns indicates within a range of 2 to 10 (so it does not test for the extremes).

What About The Scalp And Hair?

Natural sebum produced by our scalp has a pH of between 4.5 and 5.5 which makes it slightly acidic, but what does this mean? Our scalp and hair are more acidic than water, but less acidic than something such as an orange. In addition, curly hair tends to already have open cuticles therefore itís especially important to keep the pH balanced and slightly acidic. When hair is exposed to some elements, such as shampoo, conditioner or a styling product, each individual element will have its own pH and this can affect the overall pH of our hair. Because the goal should be to maintain a healthy pH for both scalp and hair, itís important to be careful about which products we choose. Paraben-free shampoos are typically considered ideal if you are sensitive to variations in pH or spend a lot of time in swimming pools. Here are a couple of things to consider when choosing sulfate-free products.

Why Is It So Important?

Everything we expose our hair to affects its pH level. When your scalpís pH levels go too far to one end of the spectrum, it can undo the balance created by nature. With your hair at a healthy level of between 4.5 and 5.5 it is just acidic enough to minimize the amount of fungi and bacteria that thrive on the scalp that can lead to itching. When the pH level goes too high (too basic) there is a greater risk of fungi and bacteria. This is due to the fact that the cuticles will lift, giving the fungi a place to enter.

Almost every major problem that affects the scalp (such as scalp eczema, scalp psoriasis, itching scalp, flaking scalp and dandruff) often starts with a change in the pH levels which in turn allow bacteria to thrive.

How Can You Control The pH?

While everything we do affects our scalp and hairís pH, some things do so more than others. These include getting a perm, relaxing the hair or using hair dyes and some of these can cause significant shifts in the pH (consider that relaxers have a range of between 11 and 14 which is highly basic). To help maintain the healthy pH of your hair and scalp, you should opt for a shampoo that is pH balanced. If you feel your hair may be too acidic or basic, do a test and act accordingly. Home remedies involving apple cider vinegar can actually help return your scalp and hair to their ideal pH and are often recommended as a good place to start.