Is Your Hair pH Balanced?


Whether acidic lemon or alkaline soap, everything on earth can be measured on the pH scale. The latest craze in science and beauty focuses on the molecular health of your hair. Brands are beginning to formulate hair care products designed to keep your pH levels in equilibrium, but does this scientifically based concept have any visible effect on your locks? We did a little research.

What is pH?

The pH range is a scientific system designed to measure the acidity or alkalinity in a substance from zero to 14. If something is too acidic (less than seven on the scale), it doesn’t attract enough hydrogen. Conversely, alkaline substances (seven to 14 on the scale) attract too much hydrogen. Water is considered pH neutral at seven.

How does pH influence human hair?

“Chemically, our hair and skin are naturally more acidic between 4.5 and 5.5 on the pH scale,” says Sojourn hair care director of chemistry Rob Guimond. Sojourn’s brand is based on the science of pH and formulates its products to mimic the same acidity of human hair. “Hair products with alkaline pH levels open the hair cuticle, making your strands susceptible to major color loss and damage,” says Rob. Even water, which is pH neutral at seven, opens the hair cuticle. “Many companies use the term pH-balanced to market their products, but this could mean a pH level of anything,” warns Rob. “We formulated every product in our line to mimic the chemical composition of hair.”

Does pH hair care make a difference?

While the scientific claims in this concept make sense, hair expert Elizabeth Cunnane Phillips isn’t so sure they have enough of an impact to make a difference. As a trichologist at the legendary Philip Kingsley Clinic in New York City, she sees patients with complex hair conditions daily. “I honestly haven’t seen the pH issue affect any of my patients dramatically,” says Elizabeth. “It’s still a marketing angle at this point, but that doesn’t mean there’s not validity to the topic. It’s an interesting concept that can only have a positive effect on all hair types.”

What do you think—is pH hair care a marketing gimmick, or does it have solid science behind it?