This past weekend I was looking at a company that sells natural products online. The company stated that pH balance in beauty products did not make difference as it is not our skin that is acidic, it is the sebum which protects our skin that is acidic. Disrupting this acid mantle of skin can cause problems so I thought this was interesting that they stated otherwise. I also thought it was interesting that they never mentioned the need or lack there of with pH and hair since they also sell shampoo bars.
I believe pH balance is extremely important and decided to do a test just to make sure I wasn’t crazy.
For those of us who have decided to take a chemical-free beauty journey, it can sometimes be frustrating especially with no ‘poo hair care. We have our own unique transition away from commercial hair care products, and sometimes don’t know how long it will last or when we’ll ever arrived on the other glorious side. Over the past few years, I’ve done lots of research. I’ve also read the experiences of many others who decided to stop using commercial hair care and switch to using herbs and other natural ingredients. Over these past years I’ve learned so much, and shared as much as I can on Minimalist Beauty.
One of the most popular no ‘poo hair care methods is with two simple ingredients: baking soda and apple cider vinegar.
It is a very inexpensive hair care regimen which is extremely appealing. I’ve seen many different recommendations on how much to dilute each ingredient with water. Basically you use a diluted baking soda for shampoo, and a diluted apple cider vinegar for conditioner. Like any other no ‘poo hair care method, you will experience a transition period until your hair and scalp balances itself.
The no ‘poo hair care method can be especially frustrating if you have hard water!
Let me finally get to my point! Baking soda has a pH of 10 and when mixed with water about 8.2. The number or step in between each pH level is actually 1000 times more acidic or alkaline. Water is a neutral pH of 7. Anything above 7 is alkaline, below acidic. Healthy hair remains slightly acidic to keep the cuticle closed and intact. The typical soap, castile soap, or shampoo bar is a pH of 9-10 and very few soaps if any are lucky to have a pH as low as 7.
Shampoo bars are simply super-fatted soaps. They are still soap no matter how many oil and/or butter ingredients are added. The oils and butters do not greatly effect the pH although they can make the soap feel softer. When I’ve used shampoo bars in the past they have initially made my hair feel so extremely soft that I didn’t have to follow up with conditioner. With continued use my hair started breaking off. This was very upsetting since I loved the ease and travel ability of shampoo bars. I’ve never used baking soda followed by apple cider vinegar because of this experience.
High alkaline hair cleansers open up the hair cuticle and can make hair vulnerable and susceptible to breakage.
Opening up the hair cuticle may be helpful when using a deep conditioning treatment for low porosity hair or even a chemical hair treatment like hair dye where you want the treatment to penetrate into the hair strand quickly, but this isn’t good for daily/weekly hair care for most. One of my biggest mistakes was that when I was using shampoo bars a few years ago I never followed with an apple cider vinegar rinse. The apple cider vinegar rinse would have closed the hair cuticle and helped reduce dryness and breakage although I’m not sure how well it would have helped with continued weekly use.
It is one thing to use baking soda or a shampoo bar for a very infrequent clarifying hair cleanser. Yet on a daily or weekly basis you are risking scalp and hair dryness, irritation, and breakage by using drastic alkaline cleansers then following with acidic rinses.
I recently used a super rich yet alkaline cleanser on my hair to test the theory. My scalp felt clean, but left the ends of my hair feeling very dry. I followed with an acidic rinse, then even used aloe vera to continue with closing and sealing the cuticle. To create proper balance back into my hair, I had to spritz my hair with pure aloe vera daily and seal with and oil/butter mix, as well as do continuous deep conditioning treatments. I also had to wear my hair up to protect my dry ends until they softened up again.
To be honest it just wasn’t worth it! If you still want to go no ‘poo here are some much gentler and safer options!
What has been your experience with alkaline hair cleansers?
*Update ~ almost three years later. It’s all about finding the perfect balance of using alkaline cleansers in extreme moderation as well as incorporating moisturizing/strengthening techniques into your regimen.
(Image by Dawn Michelle)