Menotti Explains PH Levels and How it Relates to Hair

Have you ever wondered what that “pH balanced” label on your shampoo and conditioner bottles mean? You may have heard about pH in your chemistry class in high school, but how does that relate to your hair? This article will explain the pH scale, how it relates to your hair, and how you can choose the best products for your luscious locks.

“pH” is an abbreviation for “potential hydrogen” and it is a scale that measures how acidic or basic a substances is. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14 where 0 is considered to be the most acidic value, 14 is the most basic or alkaline value, and 7 is neutral or “pure” water.  This scale is logarithmic in nature so a solution with a pH of 3.0 is ten times more acidic than a solution with a pH of 4.0. Check out the image below to get a real world idea of the range of acidic and basic substances.[i]

pH Levels and how they relate to your hairYour hair is approximately 91 percent protein and consists of a long chain of amino acids. A strand of hair is made up of three layers.[i]

  • The medulla, which is the inner most layer of the hair is not always present in every hair strand and is an open unstructured region. It is usually made up of air.
  • The cortex or middle layer is highly structured and is the primary source of water uptake and mechanical strength. The cortex contains fibrous coils made up of keratin protein molecules, which supply the hair with its elasticity and strength. The cortex also houses melanin, which colors the hair strand.
  • The cuticle is the outermost layer and is composed of multiple overlapping keratinized scales, which protects the cortex and medulla.


Both the skin and hair are covered by a thin fluid layer comprised of water, salt, and oil. This layer is slightly acidic (pH= 4.5 – 5.5) and is very important in the maintenance of moisture balance in our skin and hair. It is also involved in making the cuticle scales lie flatter against the surface of the hair shaft. This allows these flat scales to reflect light more evenly, resulting in smoother and shiner hair.  When the scales lie very close to the hair shaft it prevents moisture loss and keeps the hair healthy and strong.  As we are exposed to various environments as well as constant washing and styling, this acid mantel becomes disrupted and sometimes removed. That is why it is important to choose the right pH-balanced hair products to restore the hair and keep it healthy and strong.[ii]


Human hair’s optimal pH level is anywhere between 4.5 and 5.5.  The hair is naturally a bit acidic. This prevents bacteria and fungi in the hair and scalp and also keeps the cuticle closed and healthy. When a substance with a high alkaline level is used on the hair it will cause the hair cuticle to open letting out moisture and color. However, if a substance used on the hair is to acidic it will leave the hair dry and brittle.


Color Treated Hair: When the hair is dyed, the cuticle is opened up using a highly alkaline solution. In this state the hair colorant is able to penetrate the cortex and react with the hairs pigmentation, ultimately producing a color change. After, an acidic solution is applied to the hair to flatten the cuticle and seal in the color.[iii] For people with color treated hair it is important to choose a product with a lower pH level. This lower pH will keep the cuticle closed, locking in moisture and color.[iv] BES makes a great line of shampoos and conditioners for colored treated hair called Color Lock. Their products have a perfect acid balance and are best utilized before and after professional coloration services. Color lock will neutralize all traces of alkaline residues from color treatment and disruptions from the environment, restoring the hair structure and securing the freshly deposited color pigment. The Color Lock Line includes:

  • Color Lock Purifying Shampoo
  • Color Lock Amphoten Shampoo
  • Color Lock Emulsion D
  • Color Lock Maximum Moisture Conditioner
  • Color Lock Midopla Mask




Curly Hair: Curly hair has a cuticle that is already partially open. Because of this, it is important that people with curly hair return their hair to a slightly acidic pH level (4.5). When the hair is balanced with a slightly acidic pH level the hair becomes easier to comb and will look shinier.[v]


Straight Hair:  People with straight hair should use hair-care products that are pH balanced. When the hair is brushed and sebum moves through the hair it creates a naturel pH balance and therefore extra product is not needed.[vi]


Scalp Bacteria: If you experience issues with bacteria and fungi on your scalp, it is likely that your hair is too alkaline. This usually means that you are using products that are above a pH of 7. This strips the natural acidity sebum that fights bacteria and also leaves the hair prone to breakage and tangling.[vii]







[i]  “Hair Growth – Hair Construction.” Hairfinder: Hair styles, hair care, and fashion. N.p., n.d. Web.

29 Aug. 2013. <>.


[ii]  McKay, Tonya. “What is pH and what does it have to do with hair?” Naturally Curly. N.p., n.d. Web.

29 Aug. 2013. < >.


[iii] Alayna. “PH Levels of Hair: What Does It Mean?” Stuff 4 Beauty. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Aug. 2013.



[iv]  Barratt, Carolyn, et al., eds. “How to balance ph in hair naturally.” wikiHow. N.p., n.d. Web. 29

Aug. 2013. <>.


[v] Barratt, Carolyn, et al., eds. “How to balance ph in hair naturally.” wikiHow. N.p., n.d. Web. 29

Aug. 2013. <>.


[vi] Barratt, Carolyn, et al., eds. “How to balance ph in hair naturally.” wikiHow. N.p., n.d. Web. 29

Aug. 2013. <>.


[vii] Barratt, Carolyn, et al., eds. “How to balance ph in hair naturally.” wikiHow. N.p., n.d. Web. 29

Aug. 2013. <>.



[i] “pH Scale.” Virtual Chembook. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Aug. 2013. <


1 comment

January 16, 2014 at 1:04 am

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