A key concept in natural hair is pH Balance. Many natural chiquitas don’t realize how important pH balance is when it comes to their hair, especially at the beginning. I never knew how important it was and I have been doing this since 2011. I just thought pH Balance was a topic I learnt in high school chemistry. So what is pH Balance and why is it important for my hair???
image: Science of Black Hair
pH Balance (Potential of Hydrogen) is simply the measure of acidity or alkalinity of a substance. To be more technical, pH is the measure of hydrogen strength, how many hydrogen ions and protons are dissolved or free in a solution. Solutions that are higher in hydrogen are acidic and those that have lesser hydrogen are basic/alkaline. A pH balance measurement ranging between 0 to 6.9 is acidic, a measurement of 7 is neutral i.e water and a measurement between 7.1 and 14 is alkaline.
So, what does pH balance have to do with the human hair??? Well do you know that the human hair and scalp oil (sebum) has a natural pH balance between 4.5 and 5.5. Basically, a pH of 5. This natural pH balance of 5 prevents fungi and bacteria from growing in the hair and scalp; additionally, it keeps the cuticle closed and healthy. Would you not want to be knowledgeable about the products you are putting in your hair and how it is affecting your hair’s pH balance??? You don’t want to wake up one day and find that you have a fungi infection in your scalp…Nahhhh not a good look.
The pH scale is logarithmic (a change of x10). Meaning that a change in the scale is huge. So, going from a pH of 9 to pH of 7 is huge, that’s a change of 10 x 10. 7 is 100 times more acidic than 9 on the pH scale.
Hair swells and the shaft begins to open in the presence of higher pH (alkaine products) but in the presence of a lower pH (acidic products) hair will flatten and constrict.
pH Balance explains the reason why water is such a great moisturizer. When you add water (this does not apply to HARD water) to your hair, your hair swells and opens up without changing your own hair natural pH balance. Remember water is not too acidic or too basic, its neutral. So when water is in the hair, it can now be sealed in with either creams, oils or butters. Water really is the best moisturizer.
When it comes to your hair regimen you always want to go from a higher pH to a lower pH with your hair products. Remember your strands need to be opened to absorb moisture then closed to seal it in.
So, products that are too acidic will cause the cuticle to contract (reducing the hair’s ability to absorb products) and products with high alkaline levels will cause the cuticle to open (reducing the hair’s ability to retain moisture already absorbed). And you know the saying too much of something is not always a good thing. It is therefore important to watch the products you put in your hair (especially for low porosity chiquitas, whose hair does not absorb moisture properly and high porosity chiquitas, whose hair does not retain the moisture properly) so as not to disturb the natural pH balance of your scalp oil. Remember the pH balance scale changes are huge so you really want to avoid the pH swing. That is using a product that is acidic then switching to a product that is too basic i.e. using a shampoo that is too acidic and then using a conditioner that is too basic.
In summary, the pH balance of your products and hair is very important because if you use products that change your hair’s natural pH balance there will be significant damage sometimes infection WOAH!
So how do you watch and measure your products’ pH balance??? With the use of PH Test strips or litmus paper. I find that the best place to get such products is Amazon or your local market regardless of which country you live in. If you are based in the US then Walmart, if Nigeria, your local markets. When testing your products always test your water because that is your moisturizer and you never want to use hard water (sometimes has a pH of 8 or higher) on your hair at all . Hard water has more mineral content which after many washes can create a scaly film on your hair. You do NOT want this.