Low pH shampoos are like Micellar cleansers.
With a pH level range of 3.5 – 4.5, they are gentle, non-stripping, and moisture-rich.
If you haven’t tried one before …
Let me tell you exactly what they do:
- They seep deep into the pores to remove impurities
- Slough away dead skin cells
- Close and seal the hair cuticles
- Keep the surface of your hair glossy
- Rebalance damaged hair
- And boost hydration
The best part?
They do not contain harsh surfactants.
Also known as acidic-balanced shampoos, they keep your hair and scalp within their harmonious pH range.
I am going to keep this simple and get straight to the point.
If you’re not using a gentle pH-balanced shampoo in your haircare routine, you’re probably doing unintentional damage to your hair and scalp.
Let me show you the proof from an influential beauty blogger who completely sold me on this.
Have you seen Jasmine Garnsworthy’s gorgeous hair?
If you haven’t, check it out and read her story below:
Low pH shampoos – The secret to the best hair of my life »
In her own words, she confesses how a simple change to organic low pH shampoos transformed her bad hair days into commercial-worthy locks.
Can low pH hair products make your hair better?
Well, according to Dr. Barbara Olisio, a cosmetic scientist who formulates hair and skin products, shampoos at lower pH preserve your hair and scalp’s natural oils.
They also protect against oxidizers and frizz-causing damage.
The scalp and hair have an efficient mechanism to protect itself that is based on lipids, functioning at its best at low pH. At low pH, the hair cuticles are well-sealed so that the hair is stronger and shinier. Dr. Barbara Olisio
Cosmetic scientist - News Australia
Now, I don’t mean to make your head swirl with numbers.
But here’s what you need to know when it comes to pH levels of your hair cleansers:
The best pH level for shampoo is 3.5 to 4.5.
Within this range, your shampoos work better to:
- Flatten down rough cuticles
- Control hair porosity problems
- Help your scalp regulate sebum
- Keep moisture in your hair
- Prolong your hair color treatments
- Give your hair more slip to detangle
- Give your natural curls more definition
And here’s the interesting part …
Long before we stumbled upon Jasmine’s story, we at SalonWorthyHair, had numerous requests from our website readers.
To be precise, we’ve had 73 questions via our website contact form, forums, and social media asking recommendations for the best low pH balanced shampoos and conditioners.
And they were for various reasons like:
- Washing color-treated hair
- Restoring curly hair back after heat damage
- Keratin treatment aftercare and maintenance
- Dandruff and sensitive scalp problems
- To moisturize and seal low porosity hair properly
But I’ll be honest with you …
We struggled to give out recommendations off the bat ?♀️
Because hair products and cosmetics don’t list pH levels on their labels.
Check it out for yourself.
Grab any bottle of shampoo from your bathroom, check the back where all the ingredients are listed, and let me know if you find any pH info.
You can try the same with any of your skincare products too.
PH level is not required to be printed on product labels or specified amongst product formulation.
Alkaline Shampoo effects – How pH can affect hair.
As you can see, it was a tough challenge for us to find the right pH balanced shampoo for everyone’s hair and scalp conditions.
It took us 6 months of research to pin down a list of 257 pH balanced hair products.
We checked various manufacturers like:
- Procter & Gamble
- and many more
for their Manufacturing Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) where important information like:
- pH levels
- Physical and chemical properties
- Stability and reactivity
- And the toxicity of ingredients
Although this information is not listed on product labels, by law (REACH & OSHA), manufacturers have to detail them in their product MSDS.
Going back to our research …
After collecting all this data, we made a shampoo pH levels database.
And today, I’ll be sharing this research with you.
I am going to show you the complete list of shampoos with low pH levels that we have personally tested with pH strips and verified.
Without further ado, here’s our edit …
The Best Low pH Shampoos
1. Matrix Shampoo Biolage RAW Nourish
pH 4 – 5. Silicone free, Sulfate-free & Paraben-free. With Quinoa husk and Honey.
2. Davines Shampoo
pH 5 – 5.5
3. Herbal Essences Bio Renew Argan Oil Of Morocco
pH 3.5 – 5. Packed with a blend of Argan, antioxidants, Aloe Vera and Sea Kelp.
4. Organix Shampoo with Coconut Milk
pH 5 – 6. Enhances strength, elasticity, hydration, and balance.
5. Nexxus Therappe Shampoo
pH 4.8 – 5.5. Acidifying shampoo. Perfect for porosity control.
8. DpHue Renew Shampoo
pH 4 – 5. With natural plant extracts and vitamins, A + E. Gently removes impurities.
9. Herbal Essences Bio Renew Coconut Milk Shampoo
pH 4.7. With multi-layered scents of vibrant coconut. Also safe for color-treated hair.
10. Fekkai ACV Shampoo
pH 4.5 – 5.5. Purifies and soothes the scalp while helping your hair retain moisture.
Before I dig any deeper into the subject, let me show you exactly what I will cover in this post:
- What is pH balance
- The optimal pH of hair and skin
- What is the pH levels of shampoos and conditioners
- Why maintaining ph balance gives you healthy hair and skin
- The best low pH shampoos and conditioners
- Are soaps pH balanced?
- DIY Low pH shampoo recipes
- Why a liquid Castile soap shampoo recipe is not good
- What soap is good for pH balance
- Low pH natural ingredients for hair shampoos
- Tips to keep your hair and scalp in the good pH range
- Effects of low pH shampoo for color-treated hair
- How to regulate the pH of your scalp when it feels dry and flaky
- How to do acidic hair rinses properly
- PH balanced skincare products
Table Of Contents
- The Best Low pH Shampoos
- 1. Matrix Shampoo Biolage RAW Nourish
- 2. Davines Shampoo
- 3. Herbal Essences Bio Renew Argan Oil Of Morocco
- 4. Organix Shampoo with Coconut Milk
- 5. Nexxus Therappe Shampoo
- 6. Joico Moisture Recovery
- 7. Biosilk Hydrating Shampoo
- 8. DpHue Renew Shampoo
- 9. Herbal Essences Bio Renew Coconut Milk Shampoo
- 10. Fekkai ACV Shampoo
- What is pH Balance and Why Should You Care?
- What is the pH of Hair and Skin
- How Acid pH and Alkaline pH Affect the Hair Cuticles
- How Baking Soda and Apple Cider vinegar can destroy your hair – The No Poo Low Poo method
- Hair PH Balance is 4.5 – 5.5
- Scalp pH – What You Need to Know
- How hard water damages your hair and scalp (Plus the best hard water shampoos to use)
- Bioderma Sensibio H2O Soothing Micellar Cleansing Water
- Why is pH an Important Factor in Shampoo Selection
- Benefits of Using Low or pH Balanced Shampoos
- Reasons Why You Need Balancing pH Hair Treatments
- Are Your Hair Products pH-Balanced?
- Natural Curly African American Hair
- Redken Curvaceous Curls
- Ouidad Curl Quencher
- Boucleme Curl Cleanser
- Color Treated Hair
- Schwarzkopf Shampoo BC pH 4.5 Color Freeze with Micellar
- Redken pH Bonder
- MoroccanOil Color Continue Shampoo
- Colure Super Luxe Zero Color Fade Shampoo
- Blonde Hair and Brassy Tones
- Choosing The Right pH Balanced Blonde Shampoo
- Redken Clairol Shimmer Lights Shampoo
- DpHue Cool Blonde
- Shu Uemura Color Lustre Cool Blonde Shade Revive
- Joico Blue Shampoo
- Matrix Total Results Brass Off
- Aveda Blue Malva Shampoo
- Bleached Damaged Hair
- Matrix Shampoo Biolage RAW Nourish
- Joico Moisture Recovery
- Dry Scalp
- Apera Instruments PC60 pH Tester
- Aveda Scalp Remedy
- Redken Scalp Relief Oil Detox Shampoo
- Wella SP Balance Scalp Shampoo
- Itchy Scalp
- Tree to Tub Soapberry Shampoo
- Derma-E Scalp Relief
- Honey Skin Hair and Scalp Therapy
- Dandruff Problems
- Exfoliating Scalp Mask
- Biolage Salicylic Acid Low pH Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
- Dry Hair Problems
- Joico Moisture Recovery
- Davines Nounou Shampoo
- Oily and Greasy Hair Problems
- Nexxus Shampoo Hydra Light
- Hair Loss Problems
- Keranique Shampoos
- PH Balance in Shampoos
- The Shampoo pH Scale
- Homemade DIY pH Shampoos
- Natural Ingredients That Boost pH Balance
- PH of Coconut Oil
- Coconut is for Piña Coladas, NOT Your Vagina
- Herbal Essences Bio Renew
- Organix Coconut Milk Shampoo
- Aloe Vera pH
- Mill Creek
- HoneySkin Aloe Vera Gel Shampoo
- Seven Minerals Aloe Vera Gel Shampoo
- PH of Jojoba Oil
- Jojoba Farms Shampoo
- PH of Almond Oil
- Aveda Cherry Almond Shampoo
- Design Essentials Natural Almond Sulfate-free Shampoo
- Tea Tree Oil pH
- Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo
- Art Natural Tea Tree Shampoo
- Apple Cider Vinegar pH
- Pureology Vinegar Hair Rinse
- Fekkai Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo
- WOW ACV Shampoo
- PH Balanced Body Wash
- Frequently Asked Questions
- To sum it all up …
What is pH Balance and Why Should You Care?
Everything in the universe works with the law of equilibrium, where opposite forces cancel out each other to balance their conflicting influences.
Let me put it this way:
Everything in life has a balancing point. A harmony.
Let’s look at how the force of gravity works.
To illustrate balance and equilibrium, I’ll use an example of a car moving on a flat road.
From this illustration, 2 forces are influencing each other to restore balance.
- Gravity is pulling the car towards earth
- The force of the road is pushing the car up
Together, both forces act upon each other to keep the car stable on the road.
Another classic example is the pendulum.
The bob of the pendulum will always force its way back towards the equilibrium position (i.e hanging straight in the middle).
Gravity pulls the bob down while the string pulls the weight of the bob up.
Regardless of how much it swings, when both forces offset each other, the bob will restore its position in the middle.
WTF do these have to do with pH balance and your body. Right?
Let me explain …
Homeostasis – A Perfect Example of Equilibrium
An exampe of balance in the human body is Homeostasis, the mechanism that keeps our body at constant temperature.
If we get too hot, our body sweats to dilate blood vessels near the skin surface. Sweating allows heat to escape and cool us down.
If we get too cold, our body starts to shiver to create metabolic heat.
In a similar way, pH balance controls the inner and outer part of the body.
On a day-to-day basis, pH balance in the human body:
- Creates the perfect chemistry for cellular regeneration
- Maintains the body’s resistance to decay and ageing
- Prevents growth of malevolent organisms (bacteria)
- Maintains a good equality of Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide
- Keeps your whole system perfectly hydrated
- Maintains an efficient metabolic rate
PH balance evens out the forces of alkalis and acids to keep the concentration of Hydrogen ions at optimal level.
Without the right balance …
If your body gets too acidic (Metabolic Acidosis), the excess acids will eat holes into your internal organs and cause diseases.
If your body becomes too alkaline (Metabolic Alkalosis), you will suffer from heartburn and chronic hypersecretion.
By now, I hope you realize how important pH is.
So let’s get to it to find out more.
What is pH Exactly?
PH stands for Pouvoir Hydrogen or Power of Hydrogen.
It is a measurement of the concentration of Hydrogen ions to determine if an object is acid or alkaline.
For those who slept through most of their science classes, here’s a quick refresher:
The pH scale goes from 0 – 14. And neutral is midway at 7.
The pH concept was first introduced by Danish Chemist Soren Perder Lauritz Sørensen at the Carlsberg laboratory in 1909.
In 1910, the method was further refined by William Mansfield Clark to study the impact of bacterial growth in an acidic environment.
And guess what?
Dr. Clark’s study concluded that the low intensity of Hydrogen in an acidic environment would stimulate growth of bacteria at a rapid rate.
If the human body becomes too acidic and reaches below its pH balance range, it will encounter rapid bacterial growth and capitulate with all sorts of illnesses.
That’s why the alkaline diet is so popular.
An alkaline diet essentially helps to neutralize the effects of acidity (from food and drinks) in your body.
Let’s take a look at the pH scale again below:
- The Acid range is: 0-6.9
- Neutral is: 7
- The Alkaline range is: 7.1 – 14
Here’s one important thing you need to know:
PH measurement works on a logarithmic scale where each number before or next is 10X less or more.
- If your body changes from 5 to 6, it becomes 10X more alkaline
- If your body changes from 6 to 5, it becomes 10X more acidic
And if you move the scale from 4 to 6, it becomes (10X10) 100 times more alkaline.
Therefore, maintaining a delicate balance is essential.
PH Balancing in the Human Body
The human body is an incredible self-regulating machine.
It knows how to sustain pH balance.
Otherwise, you’ll be dead by merely drinking a can of coke.
I’ll explain more on this below.
Keep reading …
Fact is, the human body goes through constant changes to adapt every day.
- The simple act of breathing which gets rid of CO2 (acids)
- The metabolic process which rids toxins via urine and sweat
- And the internal alkaline-control systems which buffer acidity
The only things that can move the scale of your inner and outer body pH are:
- Exercise (in a positive way)
- Your lifestyle choices (smoking, alcohol etc.)
- The food you consume
- And of course, the cosmetic and chemical products you use
But having said that, during any normal day, your body can fluctuate between 6 to 8.
PH balance of the inner human body is 7.35 – 7.45. WebMD: pH of the human body
Slightly on the alkaline side, but it needs to keep this alkaline state very tight in order to survive.
Ok, so tell me what happens if my body is out of its pH-balance range?
Here’s what would happen if your pH was out of line:
- Your metabolic system would fail
- Your cells would struggle to oxygenate
- Your body would be unable to excrete toxins
- An increase in acidity would corrode your organs
- An increase in alkalinity would cause loss of consciousness
- Your immune system would go into panic mode
pH balance is crucial for your body.
Especially in this modern age, where we are surrounded by high acidity junk food, and toxin-ladden cosmetic products that do more harm than good.
When your body gets too acidic, it triggers an alkaline-control system by dumping Bicarbonate and other acid buffers to restore balance.
Let’s get back to the can of coke hint above, and I’ll show you how your body reacts to excess acidity.
If you don’t drink coke and frizzy drinks, you’ll love this. If you do, then tough luck – you’ll hate me for revealing this.
So here goes:
A can of coke is highly acidic with a pH reading of 2.37!
Reference:The pH of beverages in the United States.
The main active ingredient is Phosphoric acid.
When you drink that can of coke, it makes your body panic.
Because at a pH value of 2.37, it’s 63,000 times more acidic than neutral water (7).
So how does your body cope with this dose of acidity?
Well, it goes loopy.
You can almost hear your internal organs screaming: We are under attack!
That’s when your body calls upon its alkaline-control defense system to work overtime. The instant dose of adrenaline rush you feel after downing a can of coke explains it.
Once the acid buffers are at work, they begin to store the foreign acid substances into fat cells to prevent them from eating holes into your internal organs and tissues.
You see, the human body knows how to process natural food and drinks, but not acids. Therefore, any substances it doesn’t understand, it treats them as a threat to your organs and shuttles them into fat cells to prevent internal damage.
Does coke make you fat?
Now you know the answer.Proof that Coke does not belong in the human body »
FYI: It takes 32 glasses of neutral (pH 7) water to counteract one glass of coke!
Ok, don’t even try to work that one out.
I’ve picked this up from Carla Golden, who has a Science degree in holistic health & healing.
Read: How much water do you have to drink to “Undo” a Cola?
Now that you understand how pH balance affects your internal body, let’s see how it affects the outer part of your body (i.e your hair and skin).
What is the pH of Hair and Skin
The outer body works on a slightly different balancing point.
Hair and skin tend to nudge towards the acid end of the pH spectrum.
They both have different balanced isometric pH levels to drive hydration without compromising their protective layers of natural oils.
Here are the exact balanced pH levels of the hair and skin:
- Hair: 3.5 – 4.5
- Skin: 5.5 – 6.5
- Scalp: 5.5
- Ph of the hair fiber: 3.67
Source of reference: NCBI
According to scientists, human skin is slightly acidic for 2 key reasons:
- To regulate sebum
- To keep bacteria out
As for the hair fibers, they are also slightly acidic for 2 reasons:
- To keep the cuticles closed
- To retain moisture
And there are enough studies to prove that the best pH for hair is in the range of 3.5 to 4.5.
This study by the International Journal of Trichology:
Shampoo pH can Affect the Hair: Myth or Reality?
Here’s a key point in the study you need to note:
Alkaline products increase negative charges in the hair, which in turn increase friction between the strands to cause frizz and damage.
To further back up this claim, here’s a quote from Amy Halman, President and formulator of hair and skin products Acure:
The actual structure of the cuticle of one strand of hair looks like shingles on a roof. When you use a shampoo that is too basic, those shingles flare out, which leads to loss of elasticity, breakage, dullness, and the dreaded frizz. However, if your shampoo is more acidic, it works to smooth those shingles of the cuticle. Amy Halman
President and formulator of hair and skin products Acure - Talking about Shampoo pH Levels on TeenVogue
So why is the pH of human hair slightly acidic?
That’s because hair is dead. It’s a filamentous biomaterial which consists of protein (keratin), oils, water, and amino acids.
To protect the inner layers, tiny shafts of scales, also known as cuticles, lay flat to form a protective barrier against alkaline water and environmental aggressors like dust, pollution, and UV rays.
When you use products that respect the natural pH of your hair, they don’t flex the cuticles, therefore preventing damage to the inner cortex.
A common example of a hair product that disrupts the pH balance is bleach. Any bleaching agent (with an alkaline pH of 12.6) will instantly swell out the cuticles and expose the cortex to chemical assault.
Let me explain …
How Acid pH and Alkaline pH Affect the Hair Cuticles
It’s super important, and that’s what I consider when buying my hair products.
- Acid (low pH): Hardens and shrinks your hair to make it smooth
- Alkaline (high pH): Swells and expands your hair to make it rough
Anything that touches your hair affects its pH level. Even water!
If you dip your hair into apple cider vinegar, it becomes acidic.
If you rub baking soda on your hair, it will take on base – alkaline.
If you use baking soda and try to be a smart arse by using apple cider vinegar to bring the pH down, your head will explode!
I’m only joking ?
But don’t do it! Seriously.
It’s important to note that if you use an alkaline solution, then immediately apply an acid solution to your hair, it doesn’t balance things up.
Instead, it takes your hair on a roller coaster ride by pushing it to the extremes of both ends.
PH balancing is not the same as swinging your hair to the opposite ends. You’ll end up looking like the Bride of Frankenstein!
So if you are doing the No Poo method …
NEVER, I repeat NEVER use baking soda followed by apple cider vinegar to balance things up.
How Baking Soda and Apple Cider vinegar can destroy your hair – The No Poo Low Poo method
Your hair is at its peak strength, healthy, and well-hydrated when:
- The cuticles are sealed and contracted
- The fibers are not swollen
- And it has normal porosity
But when your hair is in the alkaline zone, it starts to oxidize which can lead to many problems:
Here’s how alkaline products affect your hair:
- It swells the hair fibers
- Swelling causes repulsion between the strands
- It increases friction
- Friction causes tangles
- And more tangles cause breakage
- It makes the hair highly porous
- High porosity hair struggles to maintain moisture
- Lack of moisture causes loss of elasticity
- Weakens the disulfide bonds
- Causes curl damage
The bottom line is: Alkaline is disastrous for your hair.
Because alkaline substances increase static electrical charges in the hair. They also elevate pH to a very high level so that chemicals can process rapidly.
Here are a few examples of alkaline products you should never use:
- Baking Soda
- Castile soap
Frequent use of these types of products flexes the cuticles to the max to cause hygral fatigue and damage to the structural integrity of your hair.
On the other end of the scale, a highly acidic product can cause corrosion and severe loss of moisture.
Have you ever heard the saying?
Never apply undiluted lemon juice to your face or scalp.
That’s because lemon juice has a pH of 2.0, and if you apply it directly without mixing with water, its acidity will dry out and break your hair.
The same is true with apple cider vinegar, which tips at a pH of 3.1.
Hair PH Balance is 4.5 – 5.5
The perfect pH level of hair sits between 4.5 – 5.5.
Maintaining hair pH balance does not mean you can use an alkaline product (like relaxers), then immediately counterbalance with an acidic product.
It doesn’t work like that.
It’s like smoking 10 cigarettes a day and then eating 10 pieces of Broccoli after.
The hair itself is dead. It doesn’t have self-regulating pH.
Instead, it has influencing forces known as negative and positive charges.
Remember the theory of equilibrium above?
When we talk about pH balance of hair, we are talking about canceling negative charges with positive charges, so that your hair doesn’t end up looking like this:
If you didn’t know, your hair is negatively charged most of the times. Because it continually interacts with external elements like:
- Hair products
- UV rays
- And humidity
These external factors rob your hair from positive charges.
To explain this …
Let me give you a simple example from my physics class.
Rub an inflated balloon against your hair for 30 seconds, and then place it against a wall.
Do you notice anything spooky?
Yep! The balloon sticks to the wall like a magnet.
Here’s what’s happening …
The balloon has now picked up all the electrostatic charges from your hair. Therefore, it gets the negative charges and your hair, the complete opposite.
The reason the balloon sticks to the wall is because when two atoms interact, their charges repel each other. So the negative charges on the wall move to the opposite side, exposing a positively charged wall to a negatively charged balloon.
And since opposites attract, the wall becomes a magnet for the balloon to stick to.
Check out the Youtube video below:
This phenomenon of static electrification, which has intrigued physicists over centuries, was first recorded by the ancient Greeks.
It still intrigues me too!
So the key point here is:Your hair contains electrostatic charges.
When negative charges balance up with positive charges, your hair achieves what we call: The Isoionic point.
The point where the pH of hair products and external factors cannot influence the behaviour of your hair.
- Humidity making your hair frizz
- Brushing increasing static in your hair
- Shampooing making your hair dry
- And water fading your hair color treatment
Essential reading: pH and your hair – A little redox chemistry.
Another important aspect in maintaining pH balance for healthy hair is to care for your scalp.
Because if your scalp is not healthy, your hair won’t look good either.
Scalp pH – What You Need to Know
The optimal pH level for the scalp is 5.5 – 6.5. (NCBI)
A pH higher than this range will cause irritation, and increase bacterial growth. A pH lower than this will cause chemical burns and erosion of the skin surface.
The scalp, just like the skin covering your body, contains a layer made of:
- Fatty acids
- Lactic acids
- Amino acids
- And a healthy microbione (healthy bacteria)
that helps to protect the surface from things like:
- Bad bacteria
- Excessive occlusions from products
- Sulfates from chemical products
- And cleansers
This layer is called the Acid Mantle.
The acid mantle is so effective that it even prevents water (pH 7) from disrupting the surface.
However, your skin does not have super powers.
There are times when it struggles to cope with pH altering substances.
If you use hard water, which is way more alkaline at 8.5, the acid mantle has to work overtime to adjust from its harsh oxidizing effects.
How hard water damages your hair and scalp (Plus the best hard water shampoos to use)
This is why the French created Micellar water to enable women to clean their faces from makeup without scrubbing out their skin’s protective layer.
Bioderma Sensibio H2O Soothing Micellar Cleansing Water
Best low ph lotions for dry skin – Micellar.
Why is pH an Important Factor in Shampoo Selection
When it comes to cleansing, any hair products that contain Micellar technology or balanced-pH are essential to keep your scalp in its happy zone.
Because shampoos are the major contributors to acid mantle overkill.
Especially if you use sulfate-based shampoos which contain alkaline detergents.
Shampoos are primarily scalp cleansers. The purpose of a shampoo is not to clean the hair, but to clean the scalp and clear up excess sebum that makes your hair feel dirty and greasy.
But most shampoos contain a cocktail of chemical ingredients that do more harm than good.
I am a firm believer in the fact that – the more you wash your hair, the more you feel the need to wash again. Because your scalp produces more sebum to balance up the dryness left by shampoos.
Stay away from shampoos that are above pH 5.5.
A perfectly balanced pH shampoo will not unsettle the acid mantle harmony, therefore keeping your hair and roots well lubricated in between washes.
Now, let me explain what happens if your shampoos are out of the recommended range:
Starting with the scalp, here’s what happens if your shampoos are too alkaline:
- Sebum imbalance
- Bacterial growth and fungus
- A dry scalp that’s unable to retain moisture
- Minor hair loss
- Weak hair follicles
As for your hair, here are the consequences:
- Raised cuticles that cause tangles
- High porosity
- Frizz and flyaways
- Rapid loss of color
- Dry and brittle hair that break
- Loss of elasticity
- Loss of volume
- And a heavy reliance on multiple hair products to style
These are the telltale signs that your hair pH has gone awry.
On the other hand, here are some of the benefits of using the right shampoo.
Benefits of Using Low or pH Balanced Shampoos
As soon as you start using shampoos with lower pH levels, you’ll notice the positive changes straight away.
- Your products start to work better
- Hair porosity becomes normal
- There is less frizz
- Your hair detangles easily
- Reduced breakage from brushing
- Less need to blow-dry and heat style
- More moisture in your hair throughout the day
- Better hair elasticity
- More curl retention
- No color fading
- No brassiness
To put it simply:
Your hair becomes low maintenance, feels healthy, and you can style it faster with minimal fuss.
But let’s not forget, everyone’s head of hair is different.
Your choice of shampoos will be different based on your hair type, but essentially ticking around in the same zone.
Or, it may go slightly lower depending on how bad your hair or scalp is.
So keep reading, and I’ll show you how to restore balance in hair based on different conditions.
Reasons Why You Need Balancing pH Hair Treatments
Hair products control the pH of your hair.
Therefore, if you have too many bad hair days, it’s time to take the hint that you are overloading your hair with a lot of toxic crap.
A lot of hair and scalp problems can be traced back to the products you use for your particular hair type.
Curly hair inclines towards alkalinity because the cuticles are slightly open, and sebum doesn’t travel all the way down the lengths. You should be using very low pH shampoos to cleanse your curls to keep them hydrated.
Any curl cleansing product above pH 5.5 can further swell the cuticles to loosen your curls and dry out your hair.
Have you ever noticed on hair forums, how people with natural hair swear by apple cider vinegar rinses?
That because apple cider vinegar (when diluted with water), makes an excellent low pH cleanser for curly hair to:
- Seal the cuticles
- Normalize porosity
- And keep them soft and hydrated for longer
But that’s just one example.
I’ve got a lot more to tell you about the different conditions that affect your hair and scalp.
Dandruff, itchy scalp, oily hair, hard water damage, whatever chronic hair malfunctions you may be having …
This simple question can solve all of your hair and scalp problems:
Are Your Hair Products pH-Balanced?
You have no idea ?♀️ And I don’t blame you.
Let me walk you through some common types of hair and scalp problems to assess what you need.
Keep reading …
In this section, I will help you pick the right pH-balanced hair product that will work for you.
Let’s start with curly hair …
Natural Curly African American Hair
African American curly hair is notoriously dry.
With so many twists, coils, and bends, the cuticle layers cannot lie flat, therefore making it difficult for sebum to travel along the length of the hair, and keep the strands lubricated.
The first thing to do with natural hair is to flatten down those cuticles to allow sebum to condition the hair.
And to do that, you need pH balanced natural hair products that shrink the hair surface to make it soft, pliable, and sebum-lubricated.
Here are my top picks for low pH curl cleansers that tick all the boxes:
Low and pH Balance Shampoos for Black Hair
Color Treated Hair
Are your cuticles sealed to prevent color pigments from escaping?
I know there’s no better feeling walking out of a hair salon with vibrant colors or a balayage that makes you look like a new version of yourself.
Hair coloring is right up there in my list of self-indulgence.
But here’s the thing you may not want to know …
Every time you do a hair color treatment, your hairstylist uses alkaline chemicals to open the cuticles.
These chemicals enforce color pigments to deposit into the cortex by raising the pH of your hair up to 11.
Imagine how wide open your hair cuticles are at this point!
You may notice the usual suspects like Ammonia or Bleach being used, which are highly alkaline.
If you didn’t know, here are the pH readings of these 2 products:
- Ammonia 11.5
- Bleach 12.6
Reference: pH scale comparisons of substances »
Both have similar oxidatives to accelerate their chemical reactions and flare out the cuticles.
If you read my notes on the pH of hair above, you’ll understand how Bleach and Ammonia take the hair beyond its Isoionic point to do structural damage.
High pH also weakens the disulfide bonds in curly hair.
And if that doesn’t worry you, here’s another thing that will definitely do:
Ammonia is a corrosive substance, a chemical alkalizer gas that can lift the pH of hair to as high as 10.5.
That’s why, when you have a color treatment in a professional salon, your stylist uses an extra gentle pH balanced shampoo right after.
It helps restore balance and slam the cuticles shut.
Read: The importance of restoring balance after a coloring treatment.
Another important aspect of color-treated hair is washing and aftercare.
Although there is a big misconception that shampoos directly fade your hair color, the fact of the matter is:
Even pure neutral water(pH 7) will diffuse dyes out of your hair.
The real problem with color-treated hair is, the more you allow water to touch it, the faster the color fades.
Because anything that is too alkaline for your hair will lift the cuticles to allow pigments to escape. Normal water (pH 7), and hard water (pH 8.5), both are above the pH range for hair, therefore more base.
The only way to keep your hair color to last long is to use shampoos that work at low pH levels to keep those cuticles hardened and contracted so that water doesn’t leech out the color pigments.
It’s important to remember that the cells that give your hair its color live in the cortex below the cuticles.
So you need to keep those cuticles closed to protect them.
Here are the products that I recommend for sealing colored hair:
Best Low pH Shampoos for Color Treated Hair
Schwarzkopf Shampoo BC pH 4.5 Color Freeze with Micellar
With advanced pH 4.5 technology, zero-fade, and color protecting formula.
I love the BC Bonacure Color Freeze Micellar cleanser from Schwarzkopf because it uses pH 4.5 technology to freeze color pigments inside the cortex.
It’s zero-fade, and the long-lasting formula is simply down to the science of keeping hair cuticles locked with gentle non-abrasive Micellar, which is considered a hero in many skincare products.
This low pH color-treated hair shampoo maximizes color retention without dehydrating your hair.
Redken pH Bonder
Sulfate Free pre-wash color protecting system.
Another of my favorite is the pH-balanced color-treated hair service from Redken.
Redken, one of the pioneers for pH science in professional salon treatments, have a complete post color service treatment which effectively reinforces the cuticles to strengthen them against shampoos.
You can use it once a week followed by the BC Bonacure shampoo for best results.
Here are the instructions on how to use the Redken pH Bonder:
- Apply pH-Bonder Post Service Perfector once a week
- Before shampoo, apply on wet, towel-dried hair
- Massage into your hair from roots to ends
- Leave on for at least 10 minutes
- Follow with your regular Redken shampoo and conditioner
MoroccanOil Color Continue Shampoo
A new innovative 360° approach to hair color care.
The Moroccanoil Color Continue shampoo uses a sulfate-free formula combined with ArganID, its patented technology to seal and repair the hair from the inside out.
- Winner: Women’s Health 2018 awards for the best color protector
- Winner: 2019 Newbeauty Awards as the best shampoo for colored hair
This shampoo does not fail to deliver on its promise.
It definitely provides a true 360° approach to color care.
Colure Super Luxe Zero Color Fade Shampoo
The best vegan shampoo for colored hair.
The Colure Super Luxe 100% vegan shampoo does exacly what it says on the bottle.
This is one of the rare shampoos that list its pH of 3.5 – 4.5 on the front of the bottle.
Both the shampoo and the conditioner work with organic botanical ingredients to keep your hair color true to its tone.
And the best part?
No sulfates, no parabens, zero toxic ingredients.
Rated as one of the best pH balanced shampoos for color-treated hair by reviewers, it just works. Period.
Here’s a quick summary of the positive effects of a low pH shampoo for color treated hair:
- Seals and tightens hair cuticles
- Prevents alkaline water from fading hair colors
- Does not strip out fatty acids from the outer layer of hair
- Uses low ph natural ingredients
- Uses mild cleansing agents (No Sulfates)
What about blondes and brassy tones?
Well, here’s the good news …
Acidic hair products also neutralize brassy tones for blondes.
Let me explain how:
Blonde Hair and Brassy Tones
Whether you are naturally blonde or from the unnatural variety, you probably know all about the dreaded brassy tones that creep into your locks.
Here’s the thing:
Brassiness is the result of heavy oxidizing of the hair which looks more evident on light colors.
And oxidizers are just alkalis.
When your blonde hair takes on the undesired yellow, orange, or red tones, the main culprits could be either one or a combination of those:
- Hard water
- Sulfates in shampoos
- Overusing heat styling tools
- Chlorine from swimming pools
- Or high porosity
All of these allow things like dust, minerals, air, and water to pass through and pollute your hair color.
“When hair oxidizes, the pH level rises, which opens up the cuticle, releasing the controlling pigment—usually violet—that was making your color look so pretty.” Paul Cucinello
Celebrity stylist and creative director at Chris Chase Salon NYC - Health.com
And 2 things happen when blonde hair alkalizes:
- Light blonde hair starts to reveal yellow undertones
- Dark blonde hair starts to reveal orange undertones
Luckily, to neutralize brassy tones, there are violet and purple shampoos.
But even blonde toning shampoos can be a hit and miss at times.
Interestingly, while doing some research on blonde hair color toning, I stumbled upon this research by Redken.
The Redken Color Mantra.
A different approach to coloring hair using zones based on pH science.
What I learned from this research is that hair accepts color differently in different zones as some parts are more sensitive than others.
- ZONE 1: Regrowth or root area (first 1/2 inch of hair)
- ZONE 2: Mid-shaft area, (starts where Zone 1 ends)
- ZONE 3: The porous hair that runs past the shoulders (not all hair has a Zone 3)
The key takeaway from this is that pH plays a vital role in both adding and maintaining color integrity in your hair.
That’s why your purple and violet shampoos should also be pH balanced to effectively target the sensitive zones where brassiness is more likely to occur.
A pH balanced toning shampoo for blonde hair will lock in the toner to allow your hair to hold tone for longer.
Choosing The Right pH Balanced Blonde Shampoo
Blonde hair comes in all shades and tones.
To be sure that you’re using the right shampoo to neutralize brassiness, you need to figure out whether your hair is fading into dingy yellows or brassy orange.
Let’s go back to some basic color science from elementary school.
Remember this color wheel?
As you can see:
- Violet/purple is the opposite of yellow
- Blue is the opposite of orange
Therefore, if your hair is catching on yellow tones, you need a purple shampoo.
If your blonde hair is darker and starting to reveal orange tones, you need a blue shampoo to cancel the orange.
Here are my best picks for balancing toning shampoos.
PH Balanced Purple Shampoos for Blonde Hair
PH Balanced Blue Shampoos for Brassy Blonde Hair
Bleached Damaged Hair
Bleaching is an intensive high pH alkaline hair treatment which increases the pH value of your hair to 10.5 for 45 minutes.
It also swells your hair by up to 50%!
When you bleach your hair, chemicals have to penetrate deep into the cortex to incinerate melanin and make them colorless.
At this point, your hair takes on base (alkaline) while the bleach is working.
The more you leave that bleach in your hair, the more the oxidation changes the chemical composition of each hair fiber.
And to make it worse, bleach works by separating the cuticles to allow its oxidizing reaction to pass through.
Whoever your hairstylist is, needs to be highly qualified to understand the importance of restoring pH balance after such an intensive treatment.
Your hairstylist should also understand the texture and health of your hair to decide how long bleach is left in.
If not done correctly, or left for longer than needed, you will be leaving the hair salon with highly porous hair that is prone to damage.
That’s why I recommend low pH hair product for those who have bleaching hair treatments. To seal the cuticles and even out hair porosity.
I will even go down to shampoos with pH 3.5.
Best Low pH Shampoos for Bleached Hair
Dry scalp is a sign of the acid mantle erosion caused by:
- Sulfates in shampoos
- Hard water minerals
- Excess skin cells turnover
- Scalp’s inability to fight bacteria
- And Medical conditions
A pH higher than 5.9 will cause irritation on the skin because it loses its ability to regulate sebum at an optimum level to fight off bad bacteria.
The first thing to check when you have dry scalp is to do a pH test.
Scalp pH Testing – Do It At Home in 10 Seconds
Soap, shampoos, foaming washes, and even hair sprays are often more alkaline, which makes it harder for the skin to restore back its pH range of 4.5 – 5.5.
The first thing I recommend is to do a pH test of your scalp.
Although the rainbow-colored testing strips are popular, they work better when you are testing shampoos and liquids.
For your skin, I recommend the Apera Premium pH Pocket Tester.
Apera Instruments PC60 pH Tester
Test the pH of your scalp, skin, hair, or even cosmetic products at home.
This device gives you reliable and accurate measurements for flat surface pH testing, such as skin, paper, and fabrics. It’s also excellent for micro sample testing and regular water solutions.
With built-in microsensors, you just have to touch your skin for a few seconds, and it gives you a digital pH reading.
It’s a really cool device to check both your scalp and your skin.
Based on the pH reading, you’ll be able to make better decisions about your products.
Here are more tips on how to balance your scalp pH:
- Avoid SLS shampoos
- Avoid washing your hair and scalp regularly
- Get products with Jojoba oil (sebum regulator)
- Brush with a Boar bristle brush to stimulate it
Another great scalp cleansing and stimulation product I recommend is the Aveda Scalp Remedy which contains the perfect blend of ingredients for a happy scalp:
- Salicylic Acid which gently exfoliates
- Lippia to cleanse and purify
- Sugar Beet Extract to balance moisture
- Rosemary, Echinacea, and Sage extracts to soothe inflammations
The Aveda scalp remedy claims to reduce flaking and dryness by 41% in 1 week!
Aveda Scalp Remedy
Organic and Cruelty-free product from Aveda.
And best of all, Aveda makes:
- And certified-organic products
I’ll buy their products with my eyes closed. That’s how much I love this brand.
Other pH Balanced Shampoos for Dry Scalp
Also check: pH Balanced Shampoo Recipes for a Healthy Scalp »
Itchy and flaky scalp conditions are usually signs of:
- Excess dead skin cells
- Or Dandruff
At this point, you know your scalp pH is way too high.
The best place to start is to use a pH balanced antibacterial hair shampoo first to disinfect your scalp.
The Best pH Balanced Antifungal Shampoos for Itchy Scalp I Recommend
These products double up as antibacterial and low pH shampoos that add moisture to the hair.
Dandruff, also known as Seborrheic Dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition similar to Eczema which affects the scalp.
But here’s the thing:
Even if you don’t have dandruff, the bacteria that cause it exist on your scalp regardless of how clean it is.
Read: The good bacteria that protect our skin »
Out of the 500 species of good bacteria that exist on our skin, Fungus is one of them.
The skin microbiome is a whole community of organisms that live on the skin. Professor Carsten Flohr
Consultant Dermatologist - Accredited British Association of Dermatologists - Vogue Magazine
Essentially, this little ecosystem controls a lot about your skin.
From how well your skin regulates sebum to its overall health.
To put it simply:
Good bacteria play an essential role in the maturation and homeostasis of the human skin.
But here’s the kicker:
A slight disbalance on either the skin or the concentration of bacteria can cause skin inflammation and infections.
Fungus is one type of bacteria that forms part of this ecosystem. They work to metabolize host proteins and lipids on the skin layer to produce bioactive molecules like free fatty acids.
Now, Fungus on its own has limited growth.
The acidic environment on your skin prevents any bacteria from growing and multiplying at a rapid rate.
But if your skin takes on too much alkaline, it loses its ability to fight bacteria.
Your skin can only fight bad bacteria when it is in the acidic zone.
And this is what happens next …
- An increase in alkalinity dries up the skin
- Dry skin glands pump extra oils to compensate and regulate the skin
On the scalp, the glands will produce more sebum.
This excess sebum now becomes extra food for Fungi and it helps them multiply.
As a metabolic by-product, Fungi produce something called Oleic Acid, which in turn accelerates the turnover of skin cells.
This is what causes dandruff.
The key takeaway here:
Keep your scalp in its acidic range to avoid interfering with its good bacterial flora.
So how do you do this?
Use low pH shampoos and low pH scalp soothing products.
Let me show you how to tackle a scalp full of dandruff and restore balance:
- First, you need to get rid of the dandruff
- Second, rebuild the balance to what it should be
1. Start with an exfoliating mask
An exfoliating mask loosens flakes to lift them off from your scalp.
The best solution for this:
Exfoliating Scalp Mask
The best gentle scalp exoliating mask to loosen and remove dandruff.
2. Follow up with a pH balanced clarifying shampoo
A clarifying shampoo helps remove all the loose flakes from your mask treatment to purify your scalp.
My prime picks:
Biolage Salicylic Acid Low pH Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
The best organic dandruff shampoo with a low pH formulation.
3. Then use a toner to restore pH
A toner helps to soothe your scalp and helps maintain an optimum moisture balance.
Do these treatments in the exact order, and you’ll see, the only flakes to appear on your shoulders next time will be from falling snow. Not from your scalp!
Dry Hair Problems
If your hair always feels chronically dry, then you’re using the wrong products that are stripping your strands.
The common culprits are products with alcohol, sulfates, or even washing with hard water. All of which leave your locks brittle, and thirsty.
While nutritious hair masks like Shea Moisture butter are excellent treatments to nurse your crunchy strands back to life temporarily, you should invest in long term hair care routines like using low pH hair products.
And this starts with your shampoos.
Low pH Shampoos for Dry Hair I Recommend
Oily and Greasy Hair Problems
Did you know?
Washing your hair with harsh shampoos triggers your scalp to produce even more sebum!
I call this the greasy grind.
Which essentially means:
The more you wash your hair, the more the scalp compensates on the moisture loss.
And when you have too much sebum on your scalp, it does more than just making you look like an oil slick.
Remember, oil attracts dirt. Therefore, the oiler your scalp gets, the more likely things like dust and dead skin cells will stick to it making your scalp feel gross.
You see, the scalp’s primary purpose is to produce just the right amount of sebum to protect itself from bacterial infection, and naturally, condition the hair to be healthy.
While most of us see sebum as gross, keeping the right amount on your head is essential. You don’t always need to scrub it out.
Learn to stretch your hair washing routine for longer.
The best thing to do is to lay off the shampoos and stretch your hair washing routine for a bit longer.
Let your scalp feel greasy for a short while, and learn to use low maintenance hair routines to hide the greasiness until you’re through this transition period.
Check out our No Poo Greasy hair transitioning guide for how to do this.
And learn to use the sebum coating method.
It’s all about learning how to wash your hair less, and let your scalp adjust to the routine.
Or you can use a shampoo that doesn’t trigger the greasy grind.
A shampoo which is more in line with the natural balance of your scalp to keep things ticking at the right pH.
The Best pH Balanced Shampoos for Oily Hair
Got oily hair and dandruff problems?
Here’s a neat DIY solution that is also pH balanced.
Try this: Homemade shampoo for oily hair with dandruff »
Hair Loss Problems
Dry scalp, oily scalp, dandruff, and any conditions that affect the health of the scalp have a direct impact on the hair follicles.
Because this is where your hair starts.
If your scalp is unhealthy, it won’t be able to support good follicular activity.
Excess bacteria in the scalp will eat up the roots, excess skin cells from Oleic acids will suffocate the surface of the scalp, thus clogging the pores and depriving them of oxygen.
All these directly lead to hair loss.
Keep that pH balance in range, and your hair will stay where it should: on your head!
The product I recommend to strengthen your follicles while working at low pH.
The recommended shampoo for thinning hair and hair loss. Click to see the reviews.
To sum it all up, pH balance is the first line of defense when nothing seems to be working in your hair care routine.
PH Balance in Shampoos
All shampoos range from pH 3.5 – 9.0.
What you need to look for is a shampoo with pH level 3.5 – 5.5.
Which to be honest, is not easy at all to find.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Biotechnology, out of 123 shampoos tested:
- Only 38.21% were below 5.5
- 19.23% of anti-dandruff shampoos were lower than 5.5
- 42.10% of dermatological shampoos were below 5.5
And surprisingly, 75% of salon professional hair products were below 5.5, within range.
Check it out here: Shampoos pH testing results.
While salon products are formulated with the correct pH levels to give the best results, for us ordinary consumers, we are left to figure it out by ourselves.
Ever since the first shampoo came out in the early 1930s, people used to wash their hair with laundry soap which was pretty harsh, alkaline and very bad for the hair and scalp.
Hence the reason why people were warned only to wash their hair once a week so that the scalp would have enough time to recover from the effects of alkaline soap.
After almost 20 years of research, the first pH balanced shampoo finally came out in the late 1950s which tipped at 7.0 (same as water).
From then on, Salon professional brand Redken Clairol revolutionized the professional hair care industry with the introduction of pH 6.5 hair products.
Read: How Paula Kent revolutionized the professional haircare industry with the first pH shampoos for sensitive hair.
From 1970 onwards, most shampoos were formulated to sit in the range 4.5 – 6.5, which covers low pH, balanced pH, and neutral pH formulations.
Let’s take a look at the pH scale of hair products to understand a bit more about how the ranges compare.
The Shampoo pH Scale
To better understand the actual pH of your shampoos, I have done an illustration to show you at which ranges shampoos are considered low, balanced, and neutral.
Check this out:
I have cross-checked the pH ranges from well-trusted sources like Wikipedia, NCBI, as well as expert hairstylists.
So here’s a quick summary:
- Low pH: 3.5 – 4.5
- Balanced pH: 4.5 – 5.5
- Neutral pH: 6 – 7
- High pH: 7+
Now let’s have a look what each of them mean.
Shampoos With Low pH
Shampoos with low pH level complement the health of both your scalp and your hair because:
- They neutralize electrostatics
- They keep the cuticles sealed
- And they don’t break the acid mantle
I recommend to use a low pH shampoo when:
- Hair feels damaged
- Hair has high porosity
- Hair is frizzy
- Dry scalp
- Rebalancing hair after a relaxing treatment
- Oily hair
And here are the immediate benefits …
Benefits of Using a Low pH Level Shampoo
1. Keeps hair cuticles tight and sealed
Acids have lots of Hydrogen ions. Therefore, a shampoo that has a lower pH contains more Hydrogen.
Washing your hair with acidic shampoos and conditioners also create Hydrogen bondings that push the cuticles down, and prevent them from overlapping.
Best way to think about it is, it firms up over-processed damaged hair.
Best time to use them:
- After a keratin treatment (make sure it’s also sulfate-free)
- After color treatments
- After bleaching treatments
- After hair relaxing treatments
2. Improves hair texture
When your hair cuticles are correctly aligned and sealed, you immediately notice the improved texture. Just run your hands through your hair and notice the difference.
3. Better natural curl retention
Curls love moisture.
The more your shampoo can keep this moisture tightly locked into your tendrils, the better your curls will look. The best curl shampoos are in fact, low pH cleansers that do not stretch and loosen your curls.
4. Prevents high porosity
High porosity hair looks like this:
The cuticles are open and the hair struggles to hold on to moisture.
Shampoos with acidic pH work to flatten the cuticles and keep them tight, thus preventing humidity frizz, and moisture loss.
5. Reduces tangling (Better slip for brushing)
Smooth cuticles make your hair easy to brush because your brush won’t meet rough edges and snag.
That’s why you have to use conditioners on wet hair after washing. Because conditioners are low pH products that make your hair supple and soft to balance out the pH raised by water.
Perhaps the best thing you can do for your hair is use a conditioner. Hair conditioner is actually a ‘toner’, in that it can pH balance the hair after it is altered by alkaline tap water or drying, stripping shampoos. Tsippora Shainhouse
Dermatologist Beverly Hills - GQ Magazine
Low pH shampoos also contain anti-static agents to reduce friction.
6. Prolongs the life of your hair color
Clinical results prove that hair color fades 5X faster in the first week after your treatment.
And this is directly related to your hair cuticles being still open, not properly conditioned, and balanced after your treatment.
That’s why a low pH conditioning treatment is a must right after your treatment to keep the cuticles tight, and waterproof your hair color.
7. Neutralizes brassy tones
While tightly packed cuticles don’t let anything out, they also don’t let anything in. Minerals from hard water, polluted air, UV rays, and dirt can all add unwanted cool tones to blonde hair which cause brassiness.
So if you use toning shampoos, make sure they are low pH to double up their effectiveness.
8. Maintains natural shine in hair
When your hair cuticles are flat, they reflect more light. Therefore giving your hair envious shine and a glowy glossy finish.
9. Eliminates frizz
If you’ve read my notes above on the effects of electrostatics in hair, you’ll know by now that:
Low pH hair washes are proven to stop electrostatics from affecting your hair, therefore, eliminating frizz.
10. Relieves dry scalp
When the skin barrier struggles to keep bacteria out, it ends up with inflammation and dry, flaky layers.
The skin’s barrier is slightly acidic for a reason: to keep moisture in and bacteria out. If your pH balance is off and it’s too alkaline, your skin is going to look flaky and red. If it’s too acidic, you’ll increase your chances of inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and acne. Cheryl Karcher, MD
New York City–based dermatologist - Every Day Health
A low pH scalp cleanser like the Phytopolleine 100% botanical scalp treatment, gives immediate relief, repair, and balance.
11. Balances sebum
An acidic environment on the scalp helps maintain sebum at the optimum level, keeping lactic acid, amino acids, fatty acids, and various secretions in perfect harmony.
When the stratum corneum on the scalp is in balance, it helps with:
- Shedding dead skin cells
- Fortifying the hair follicles
- Preventing bacterial growth
- And lubricating the hair
Shampoos With Balanced pH
pH-balanced shampoos, also known as acid-base balance shampoos, maintain resistance to bacteria that thrive in alkaline environments.
They are the optimal hair cleansers that don’t disrupt the natural equilibrium and moisture-protecting layers of your hair and scalp.
They have ingredients like:
- Citric acid
- Lactic acid
- Phosphoric acid
- Aloe vera
All of which are close to the human skin pH range.
Now, if you don’t have any hair or scalp conditions like dry, oily, dandruff, damage or frizz, a balanced pH shampoo is good enough.
You seriously don’t have to overthink it.
What is the difference between pH balanced and low ph shampoos?
Both types of shampoos are equally good at protecting the scalp and strengthening the outer layers of the hair.
However, shampoos with low pH levels are excellent for damaged hair and scalp imbalances.
Shampoos with Neutral pH
A neutral pH shampoo tips at number 7 on the pH scale.
Note: Neutral shampoos, although with a slightly higher pH range, are still alkaline-free shampoos.
So who are the best candidates for pH neutral shampoos?
The answer may surprise you.
Newborn babies are.
Read: What is pH, and how does baby skin pH vary?
Babies have a near-neutral skin pH, which is more sensitive than adults.
Here’s how the pH of baby skin changes:
- Right after birth, a baby has near neutral skin pH
- Day 3 to 30 after birth pH declines
- Day 90 pH is slightly higher on cheeks and buttocks
- Day 90 pH is marginally lower on forehead and forearms
The reason baby skin pH varies so much after birth is that the metabolites in the skin cells, the good bacterial flora, and other skin regulating mechanisms are still building up, and adjusting as the baby grows.
That’s why baby skin is sensitive and requires a set of carefully formulated products.
Best Natural Shampoos With Neutral pH for Babies
pH 7 Shampoos are Best for Pets.
While our skin has a pH of around 5.5 to 5.6, a dog’s skin is more neutral, averaging a pH of between 6.2 and 7.4.1.
Shampoos formulated for humans are much more acidic than those for dogs, and using a human shampoo can upset the balance of a dog’s skin.
Shampoo with High pH (Alkaline)
Alkaline hair products are used for deep cleansing.
For example, clarifying shampoos can be high pH depending on their cleansing intensity.
There are times when your hair has too much buildup from products, waxes, hard water minerals, and all sorts of things.
While I don’t recommend using a deep cleansing clarifying shampoo too often – if you’re going to have a hair treatment like keratin or coloring, a deep cleansing is necessary to remove everything in between the cuticles that may compromise the effectiveness of your treatment.
Benefits of using an alkaline clarifying shampoo before a professional treatment:
- Removes buildup
- Clears toxins
- Clears color blockers
- Removes minerals from hard water
- Primes the hair to be more absorbent
Professional hairstylists use high alkaline shampoos to remove color and treatment blockers trapped in the cuticles layers to ensure you get the best results.
But it’s important to note that after using a high pH shampoo, you have to rebalance the hair and scalp.
This is why a conditioning treatment after any chemical service is crucial.
pH of Hair Conditioners
Conditioners contain acidifiers (acid regulators) which help bring the hair pH down to 3.5 after shampooing.
While most of us think the only purpose of a conditioner is to condition and smoothen the hair, they do much more than that.
Let me explain …
When you wash your hair, large groups of keratin deprotonates to give the hair negative charges.
Remember the Isoionic properties of hair I mentioned above, where positive charges neutralize negative charges?
Well, that’s what conditioners do.
Acidifiers in conditioners deposit Hydrogen to neutralize negative charges, therefore, reducing the roughness in your hair after washing.
Conditioners reduce friction between hair strands to allow easy combing and brushing.
They regulate pH to make sure your hair does not end up frizzy.
To recap, here’s how a conditioner regulates the pH of your hair:
- It reduces friction
- It tightens the cuticles
- It provides slip
- It boosts acidifiers and Hydrogen bonds
Moreover, conditioners contain anti-static Cationic surfactants to make your hair glide past each other.
Combined with polymers and glossers, they make your hair soft and smooth all over.
Low pH conditioners are even more effective when you’ve just had a hair color treatment or keratin treatment. They double up their acidifying properties to effectively seal flared up cuticles.
Low and pH Balanced Conditioner Brands List
Homemade DIY pH Shampoos
Homemade DIY pH balanced shampoos are easy to make, but there are a few important tips I want to share with you on this subject.
Most pH balanced shampoo recipes online, and on Youtube videos, I saw so far suggest that you use soap as a base.
For example, most of them suggest using Castile soap.
But is pure castile soap good for your hair?
I wouldn’t recommend it.
Here’s why …
pH Balance of Soap
Soap is high pH alkaline.
Dr Bronner Castile liquid soap pH level is 8.9.
Useful information: How to balance Castile soap.
According to a study to evaluate the pH of soaps, the majority of samples tested revealed a pH of 9.01 – 11.
That’s why soap leaves your skin severely dry.
There are only a few brands that actually make soap that are low pH or balanced, and after some digging around, we found a few gems:
Best Low pH Soap
Yep, not many in the low range, but luckily, there are enough options in the balanced variety.
Here they are:
To make a good ph balanced shampoo at home, use ingredients like:
- Coconut milk ph 6.1 – 7
- Sweet almond oil ph
- Raw honey ph 3.9
- Jojoba oil ph 4.21
- Castor oil pH 4.65
- Apple cider vinegar pH 3.1
Here’s a quick pH balanced shampoo recipe you can try at home …
PH Balanced Shampoo Recipe with Coconut Milk and Honey
What you’ll need:
- Mixing bowl
- Container for the finished product
- 2 Tbsp raw honey
- 1 tsp sweet almond oil
- 1 can of coconut milk
- 10 drops essential oil- Ylang Ylang, Rosemary, or Lavender
How to prepare:
- Whisk together all of the ingredients in a bowl
- Store at room temperature or in the fridge
- Shake well before use
Keep it for 3-4 days only.
Natural Ingredients That Boost pH Balance
Low pH and balanced pH products call on a blend of fruity acids, and organic ingredients to keep their formulations in the sweet spot.
Some of the common ingredients you’ll find in pH balanced shampoos are:
- Coconut milk (Not oil)
- Aloe Vera
- Tea tree oil
- Sweet almond oil
- Jojoba oil
- Citric acid
- And Apple Cider Vinegar
These natural ingredients have the closest pH range to your hair and skin.
Let’s take a look at how each of these work.
PH of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is a fantastic ingredient that goes into many DIY shampoo and conditioner recipes.
Mix it with other ingredients like honey and aloe vera, you can make:
- Antibacterial remedies
- And anti-inflammatory cures
But there’s one problem …
Coconut oil does not balance pH on its own.
According to Chia Chia Sun, a beauty blogger, her tests for coconut oil revealed a pH range of 7-8.
Coconut is for Piña Coladas, NOT Your Vagina
To make a coconut oil DIY shampoo, you need the right mix of ingredients for balance.
The best option is to use coconut milk instead of oil.
What is the PH of coconut milk?
Coconut milk pH level is 6-7.
Slightly lower, but it’s more balanced. That’s because coconut water and proteins emulsify the oil to reduce pH.
Why a Coconut Milk Shampoo is Better
Lauric acid, one of the main ingredients in coconut penetrates the hair easily, and help strengthen the cuticle.
Restores Dry, Damaged Hair
Coconut milk has excellent moisturizing properties.
According to Dr. Rahul Nagar (Dermatologist from Max Hospitals), it’s an effective tonic to treat a dry and irritated scalp.
A gentle massage for 5 minutes with home-made coconut milk followed by a hot towel can have a good nourishing effect. Dr. Rahul Nagar
Dermatologist Max Hospitals - NDTV
Washing hair with coconut milk:
- Relieves dryness
- Soothes the scalp
- Provides anti-inflammatory relief
- Stops bacterial infections on the scalp
Promotes Hair Growth
Massage coconut milk in your hair for 3 – 5 minutes as a pre-poo treatment, let it sit for 20 minutes before you jump in the shower.
Coconut milk has lots of essential nutrients that promote healthy hair and enhance follicular activity.
Mix your shampoo with coconut milk, make your own organic coconut milk shampoo, or use it as a leave-in conditioner.
It will boost your hair volume, and keep your scalp moist without feeling greasy.
Gets Rid of Dandruff
Coconut milk is anti-inflammatory. Therefore it actively works to clean up bacteria and fungus that develop into dandruff.
Most drugstore dandruff shampoos have coconut milk, along with more conventional ingredients, such as pyrithione zinc or ketoconazole.
Fancy having a crack at DIY recipes?
Here are a few ideas I found online.
Coconut Milk Shampoo and Conditioner Recipes
Alternatively, you can buy ready-made coconut milk shampoos from these well-known brands.
Best Coconut Milk Shampoos You Can Buy
Aloe Vera pH
Aloe vera pH level is 4.5 – 5.5
Aloe vera, also known as the plant of immortality in ancient Egypt, has healing powers which have helped humans for centuries.
And modern science is finally proving why.
Read: Aloe vera – Science based medicine.
Aloe vera is commonly used for:
- Speeding up wound healing
- Clearing skin imperfections
- Boosting the immune system
- Aiding digestion
- Stopping bacterial infections
The meaty, thorn-studded, and bitter-tasting leaves are cultivated in tropical and subtropical parts of the world, and they hold a translucent gel which contains 18 of the 20 amino acids found in the human body.
- Vitamins A, B, C, E
These highly potent active nutrients relieve toxins from human bodies and have proteolytic enzymes that repair cells.
Since the aloe vera plant stores a hefty amount of water in its peculiar spike-shaped leaves, it’s supercharged with moisture.
That’s why you’ll always find it listed in the best natural moisturizing shampoos.
You can use it either as a fresh gel or in a diluted form like aloe vera juice.
Benefits of washing hair with an aloe vera based product:
- Keeps cuticles closed and sealed
- It is antifungal
- Exfoliates dead skin cells from the scalp
- Improves natural curls
- Repairs cells on the scalp
- Improves detangling
Aloe vera boosts hydration
Aloe vera loves moisture, and regardless of how you use its derivative products, it works as a humectant to draw in moisture from the air to keep your skin and hair hydrated.
Human skin loves aloe vera
Did you know?
The skin on your face and your scalp are significantly more absorbent than the skin on the other parts of your body!
That’s why a lot of hair care and skin products contain the gel.
I use the gel for moisturizing and styling, and the juice for light sprays.
Let me explain why it works better this way …
Difference between aloe vera juice and gel
PH of aloe vera juice: 4.5 to 5.5
Aloe vera gel pH level: 4.5 to 5.5
The gel and juice come from different parts of the plant.
The juice comes from the outer part, and the gel comes from the inner part.
The juice, which is more watery and thinner, is commonly used for sprays, and skin balancing toners.
While the gel, which is thicker in consistency, is used for soap, and styling products, and shampoos.
Balanced pH Aloe Vera Shampoos
Homemade DIY Aloe Vera Shampoo Recipes
- How to make aloe vera shampoo at home
- Aloe vera juice shampoo recipe
- Coconut milk and aloe vera shampoo recipe
- How to make aloe vera shampoo without castile soap
- Homemade aloe vera shampoo for hair loss
- No poo honey and aloe shampoo
PH of Jojoba Oil
Jojoba oil pH level is 4.5 – 5.5
Jojoba oil is the only oil that comes close to the sebum produced by the skin.
Also known as sister sebum, Jojoba oil compensates for low levels of sebum while boosting the health of your scalp and roots of your hair.
That’s why it’s put in shampoos to balance pH levels and trick the hair follicles into maintaining sebum at an optimum level after washing.
As one of nature’s greatest gift to hair care, Jojoba oil has oxidative stability of approximately 60, which makes for an excellent pH balanced shampoo.
Benefits of jojoba oil in shampoos:
- Non-greasy feel: doesn’t weigh down hair
- Unblocks hair follicles to stimulate growth
- Keeps sebum at the optimal level
- Adds a protective layer of softness to hair
- Improves dry scalp conditions
- Encourages blood circulation to the scalp
Jojoba Shampoo You Can Try:
PH of Almond Oil
Like jojoba oil, almond oil also has a pH of 4.5 – 5.5.
Almonds are a powerhouse of nutrients which are rich in:
- Vitamin E
- Monounsaturated fats
- And Minerals
Native to the Indian subcontinent, the Middle-East, and African regions, almonds have been part of home remedies and tradition for years.
In Spain, almonds are offered to Virgin Mary during la Entrada de la Flor (Feb 1), as the Almond tree is the first to bear flowers after winter.
In Isreal, the Tu B’Shevat, which is the first day of spring, is celebrated by eating almonds.
Although almond comes in 2 flavors, bitter and sweet, sweet almond is most commonly used in food and beauty oils.
Benefits of almond oil for hair:
- Works as an emollient to fill the gaps in hair at cellular level
- Makes hair smooth
- Makes hair easy to comb
- Gives soft hair texture
Rich in antioxidants, sweet almond oil protects your hair to prevent frizz and dehydration. That’s why almond oil from the sweet variety makes an excellent ingredient in pH balanced shampoos.
Here are my top picks:
PH Balanced Almond Shampoos
Tea Tree Oil pH
Tea tree oil is another top ingredient you’ll find in most natural organic shampoos.
However, the pH level of tea tree oil can vary depending on how it’s formulated.
The oil in itself is non-aqueous, which means it has no water, therefore, no Hydrogen. Its main ingredient is alcohol.
That’s why tea tree oil is used in small quantity, usually 5% in shampoos just for its antiseptic benefits.
Tea tree Oil Shampoos Formulated at Low pH
Apple Cider Vinegar pH
And finally, the holy grail ingredient that no pooers swear by to lower the pH of hair.
Apple cider vinegar has a pH of 3.1 – 5.0.
The acidity in ACV counteracts alkaline pH and water to restore the pH of the hair and scalp. That’s why you see no pooers use apple cider vinegar after a baking soda cleanse.
But if you’ve read our post about the low poo method, you’ll know why I do not advise to do this.
To enjoy the benefits of washing hair with apple cider vinegar, use it in well-formulated products.
Like this Vinegar rinse:
Pureology Vinegar Hair Rinse
An apple cider vinegar rinse made for natural hair that will give you popping curls!
OR these shampoos …
Best Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoos with Low PH
Alternatively, have some fun doing your own. But make sure you don’t end up smelling like pickles!
Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo DIY Recipes
- Apple cider vinegar shampoo bar recipe
- 7 Best Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoos & Rinses For Healthier Hair
- Honey Apple Cider Vinegar Conditioner
- DIY apple cider vinegar hair & scalp mask
By now, you should hopefully be intrigued by how pH science affects the health of your hair and scalp, but what about your skin?
Are you doing enough to help your skin maintain its natural pH balance?
PH Balanced Body Wash
The pH of human skin is between 4.5 – 5.5, which is still much lower than water at neutral 7.
Did you know?
After having a shower, your overall skin takes around 20 minutes to regain balance.
And that’s only from pure water!
Imagine what happens when you use products like body washes, deodorants, and other chemical products.
The truth is: we take our body for granted.
Yes, we know that the human body is an intelligent self-regulating machine, but it eventually comes to a point when your body struggles to cope with the onslaught of pH altering chemicals.
That’s why some people develop Acne and other conditions like Eczema, which can be directly related to water (pH 7), hard water (pH 8), or the alkaline products they use.
When your body’s surface gets too alkaline, its defense system becomes weak. Alkaline makes your skin sensitive.
To prevent your body from going out of balance, use low ph body washes like the ones below:
Best Low and PH Balanced Body Wash Brands
Also read: How to Balance pH to Heal Your Body »
Frequently Asked Questions
Most shampoos ph range from pH 3.5 – 9.0. There is no set law to enforce manufacturers to stick to a defined range. When buying any shampoo or hair products, you should aim for a pH of 4.5 – 5.5 for best results.
A shampoo can be formulated in acidic, neutral, or alkaline pH range depending on its purpose. Use acidic shampoos for damaged and frizzy hair, neutral shampoos for babies, and alkaline shampoos for clarifying and pre keratin or color treatments.
The best pH for your shampoo is between 3.5 – 5.5. Within this range, your shampoo works better to preserve natural oils in your hair and keep the cuticles sealed.
A low pH shampoo has a pH range of 3.5 – 4.5. This type of shampoo works well to repair damage and restore hair to its healthy state. It also helps to minimize hair breakage and scalp irritations.
- Use a low pH organic shampoo
- Make your own DIY honey or aloe vera shampoos
- Use an apple cider vinegar rinse spray from time to time
- Avoid sulfate-based shampoos
- Wash your hair less
- Get a hard water filter
- Helps hair retain moisture for longer
- Keeps cuticles closed to minimize damage
- Makes hair easy to detangle
- Does not dry out your scalp
- Prevents color fading
- Balances hair after chemical treatments
- Not easy to find
- They are more expensive than your average Joe shampoo
pH balanced shampoos are in the range: 4.5 – 5.5.
Low pH shampoos are in the range: 3.5 – 4.5.
Use low pH shampoos when your hair is in a bad state. Use a balanced pH shampoo when your hair is already healthy, and you want to keep it healthy and low maintenance.
The natural pH of hair is 4.5 – 5.5.
The pH of the hair shaft is 3.67.
An Acidic shampoo is a low pH shampoo.
It’s called acidic because the pH range falls towards the acidic end of the pH scale.
An Acidic shampoo works at low pH level to restore your hair’s acid-alkaline balance. It prevents bacterial growth, balances sebum production, keeps the cuticles sealed to prevent damage, and keeps your hair soft and well-hydrated.
- Matrix Biolage RAW Nourish
- Davines Nounou shampoo
- Organix Coconut Milk Shampoo
- Joico K Pak Intense Hydrator
- Herbal Essences Bio Renew Shampoo
To sum it all up …
I am totally sold on low pH shampoos.
And I believe our team here has done enough research to prove that the pH balancing act for hair and scalp is not pseudo science or a myth anymore.
We’ve sifted through enough materials from experts in the hair care industry to back up the claims..
PH balance is not a marketing buzz.
It lays the foundation for healthy hair and skin.
Now it’s your turn to make that change and see how your hair and skincare transform for the better.
Best products to buy:
1. Matrix Shampoo Biolage RAW Nourish
pH 4 – 5. Silicone free, Sulfate-free & Paraben-free. With Quinoa husk and Honey.
1. Gavazzoni Dias MF, de Almeida AM, Cecato PM, Adriano AR, Pichler J. The Shampoo pH can Affect the Hair: Myth or Reality?. Int J Trichology. 2014;6(3):95–99. doi:10.4103/0974-7753.139078
2. Occupational Safety and Health Administration – The importance of MSDS – Material Safety Data Sheets.
3. 26.5 Disorders of Acid-Base Balance by Rice University – Opentextbc.ca
4. The concept of pH – Definitions and measurement. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PH.
5. pH of the human body – The Alkaline Diet Review. Sonya Collins WebMD.
6. pH level of scalp – Sinclair RD. Healthy hair: What is it? J Investig Dermatol Symp Proc. 2007;12:2–5.
7. Let’s talk ammonia – Oway Australia
8. Acid mantle. Barrier function. Skin cleansing. Skin pH. Synthetic detergents – M.-H. Schmid-Wendtner. H.C. Korting – Departments of Dermatology and Allergology. Rheinische Friedrich Wilhelm University. Bonn , and Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich , Germany
9. Grice EA, Segre JA. The skin microbiome [published correction appears in Nat Rev Microbiol. 2011 Aug;9(8):626]. Nat Rev Microbiol. 2011;9(4):244–253. doi:10.1038/nrmicro2537
10. Tarun J, Susan J, Suria J, Susan VJ, Criton S. Evaluation of pH of Bathing Soaps and Shampoos for Skin and Hair Care. Indian J Dermatol. 2014;59(5):442–444. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.139861
11. Satchell AC1, Saurajen A, Bell C, Barnetson RS. Department of Dermatology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown, NSW, Australia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12451368