Searching For The Best Shampoo? Is pH Factor Important After All?
The search for the best shampoo never ends and marketing “helps” a great deal to keep that search alive. Beloved celebrities, amazing actresses and gorgeous models appear on your screen promoting shampoos that promise to make your hair nothing less than perfect! Then you rush off and buy the shampoo that caught your attention, thinking you finally found the one! And usually, disappointment comes along.
Are you making the best shampoo choice
for your own hair type?
Maybe that shampoo you just bought has an ingredient that is good for your neighbor’s hair but not for yours. From my experience, while searching for the right shampoo, I must admit that you’re probably never going to find the perfect one and stick to it for life. Of course, that’s totally understandable; your hair care changes since several conditions can change in your life, like your eating habits, hair styling products, or pollution and weather changes.
But there is a factor that you should seriously consider before buying a shampoo. That is the pH factor. Do you remember it from school?
What is pH?
Ok, just a short reminder.
The scalp’s pH is 5.5, and the hair shaft’s pH is 3.67. This level of acidity prevents bacteria in the scalp and keeps the cuticle of the shaft closed.
The best shampoo choice. Does the pH level really matter?
Although there is no legal obligation for the industries to mention it on the label, pH is very important.
Many people have no idea that shampoos have different pH levels, which affect the health of their scalp and hair.
Lately, there is an increased trend to search for pH balanced shampoos, so I believe that it should be mandatory to list pH levels on the label of the shampoo. Until then, be careful when a shampoo claims to be pH balanced!
What is the best pH level for a balanced shampoo?
Choose a mild shampoo with pH close to our skin’s pH (4.5-5.5), which is acidic.
While the optimum pH balanced shampoo choice is around 5-6, there are other variables that could affect your choice. For example if you use too many styling hair products you might need a shampoo formula with stronger detergent ingredients. But you should also have in mind, the higher the pH level of your shampoo, the harsher is to the scalp and hair.
To make a long story short; alkaline shampoos let the hair cuticle scales open, so the cleaning agents can efficiently remove excessive oil, dirt and styling products built-up.
But they also harshly strip off the natural oils disrupting the protective layer of the scalp’s skin and hair. So the scalp may be forced to produce even more sebum (oil) to maintain the balance, which can give your hair that nasty greasy look.
In addition, researchers have reported that alkaline shampoos increase the friction between hair strands, which causes frizzy hair. Alkaline formulas can cause cracks in the fiber that lead to hair breakage. Alkaline shampoos also make the hair rough and tangled.
When a shampoo claims to deliver volume to your hair, it’s because alkaline ingredients open the cuticles, making fine straight hair frizz and look volumized.
But that’s unhealthy.
Closed cuticles form a strong protein-based layer which helps retain moisture. That layer covers and protects the cortex which controls the color, thickness and texture of the hair shaft. If the cortex is damaged then the hair shaft looks damaged and gets too difficult to repair.
If you color your hair you must definitely use a pH balanced shampoo.
This is the best shampoo to keep the cuticles closed so the color lasts longer. If you use alkaline shampoos then your cuticles will be lifted and then you’ll see the color “running” away in you bathtub every time you wash your hair. The result? The dye will fade away quickly.
So unless you have fallen into a barrel full of dirt, oil, hair spray and hair gel or you were stuck in the middle of a jungle and haven’t been able to wash your hair for a month, you should probably avoid using alkaline shampoos. (ok I went too far, but I’ve made my point!)
Are you wondering what’s the point of producing alkaline shampoos if they harm the hair?
From what I’ve found out, making shampoos alkaline is much cheaper for the cosmetic industries. Also the foam that these alkaline detergents produce, makes hair wash an easier task. Right?
How to choose the best shampoo with the right pH level?
1) Ask your dermatologist or pharmacist, if you can’t figure out the shampoo’s pH level. Furthermore, depending on your hair type you should look for a pH balanced shampoo which contains elements for your hair condition. For example, if you have dry hair and split ends then a pH balanced shampoo enhanced with keratin or vitamin E, could maximize the effectiveness of the hair treatment.
2) Check your shampoo’s pH. You can do it by using the paper pH test strips. You can purchase pH strips at your local pharmacy or online if you like, take a look at this example. There are plenty to choose from!
3) Contact the company to inform you. Now, there are so many ways to communicate with most cosmetic industries. If you are skeptical about it, then relay on your own research.
4) If you have dry hair that has a tendency to frizz as I have, I’ll share with you my current experience. After my pharmacist recommendation I started using this shampoo and I find it very gentle indeed. It says that it’s for all hair types, but my experience is based on dry hair. If someone with different type of hair has used it or is going to, it would be nice to share her experience. It is paraben and sodium laureth sulfate free shampoo. It doesn’t lather on the first hand, but it foams just a little on the second (don’t think that if a shampoo doesn’t lather, it won’t clean your hair). I’ve also tested it and I found it’s pH level around 5. Mixed with water, which in my region is close to 7, it gets no more than 6.
After a month’s use, I can definitely see a difference. My strands are less frizzy and smoother. However, I have to point out that I haven’t used any styling tools during this month. That must have helped too! As an alternative, (if needed), you can mix it with a shampoo that foams a little more on your scalp and use it as it is on your hair.
Here are some conclusions of a research which tested a wide range of shampoos pH level.
Although I can’t confirm the source and the scientific validity of what I read in that research, I believe these findings make sense. I am sharing them with you to draw your own conclusions:
- Shampoos pH values range from 3.5 to 9
- A little less than half of all shampoos tested have a pH level under or equal to 5.5
- Very few anti-dandruff shampoos have a pH level under or equal to 5.5
- A little less than half of dermatological shampoos have a pH level under or equal to 5.5
- Almost one out of three commercial shampoos have a pH level under or equal to 5.5
- Most of the professional shampoos used in hair salons have a pH level under or equal to 5.5
- All of children’s shampoos have a pH level over 5.5
Have you tested your shampoo’s pH level? Do you agree with the findings above?
To You With Love.
Very interesting article! I will start testing my shampoo’s pH!
Wow! I had no idea that pH is so important!!!