Products, PH Levels, & Your Natural Hair

A wise woman recognizes when her life is out of balance and summons the courage to act to correct it; she knows the meaning of true generosity. Happiness is the reward for a life lived in harmony, with courage and grace.” ~ Suze Orman

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My Curly Mane attempts to balance its pH level. Art by Nay.

Let me guess. You just read this title and are now thinking: Here you go again with more scientificy stuff! Calm down. I’m not trapped here in a lab … (quickly takes off white coat and quietly places beakers in the cabinet). Just think of it as me giving you quick lessons for the week. Sit back and relax. Ready for this one? It’s all about natural hair’s pH balance.

First let’s revisit our hair’s structure. As you may already know, the cuticle layer is the outermost, shingle-like layer of hair made of keratin. It protects the cortex aka your hair’s inner layer that provides strength, texture, and color. It also surrounds the medulla, the innermost layer of the hair that is present in coarse hair textures. When closed, the cuticle seals moisture into hair, as it should.

According to Dr. Neil Persadsingh of The Hair in Black Women, “Soft and shiny hair depends on a smooth and even overlap of the scales on the cuticle.”

The Potential of Hydrogen (pH) in the products you use can affect whether or not your cuticle layer is properly sealed.

PH Strip

A typical pH strip


Alkaline Products

You can open the cuticle of your natural hair through heat or by using alkaline products (pH of 8-14). Note: Highly alkaline products open the cuticle too far open, which will make moisture leave your hair and cause breakage.

Acidic Products

You can close your tresses’ cuticle layer through acidic products (pH of 8-14). These products will leave your hair soft and flexible for a longer period of time. Note: Products that are too acidic can also damage hair.


Products that are pH balanced have a pH of 7. However, you want to close the cuticle by using slightly acidic products (pH of 4.5-5.5) on hair.  Acidic products are similar to hair’s natural moisturize, sebum. Aloe vera juice (pH of 4) or aloe vera gel (pH of 7) works wonders since they can balance hair’s pH.

Got it down? It is a bit tricky to wrap your head around. To help, try testing the pH levels of a few of your products. You can purchase pH strips from your local beauty supply store. Before doing so, you’ll need to determine your hair’s porosity, since this also needs to be taken into consideration.

Now, I’ve made a mental note to pick up a pH strip during my next hair haul. I’ll keep you posted on how this works as I test it out on a few natural hair care products.

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