Let’s Talk pH!

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pH is one of my favorite things to discuss, maybe because of my background in Biochemical Engineering or maybe due to its powerful influence over hair and skin properties that matter to us all (texture, feel, suppleness, strength, shine, etc). pH or “potential of hydrogen” is a numerical measurement to represent how acidic or basic a solution is. An important fact to consider is that the solution (or liquid) must be “aqueous” or water-based. Oils cannot have a pH.

This is a number scale (it’s actually a logarithmic scale for my math buff readers) from 0-14. The lower the number, the more strong the acid is. The higher the number the more strong the base is. Neutral is directly in the middle and is 7.0. Anything less than 7 is technically considered an acid or “acidic”. Anything greater than 7 is technically considered a base or “basic”.

Here’s how a few common household substances measure up:

https://cnx.org/contents/FPtK1zmh@8.108:5ORVCb_A@4/Inorganic-Compounds-Essential- Illustration from Anatomy & Physiology, Connexions Web site. http://cnx.org/content/col11496/1.6/, Jun 19, 2013.

How does this relate to dermatology (science of the hair, skin and nails)? Hair and skin health is usually optimized at a pH of about 5.5 (Acidic). The important thing to note is that most of the products that we use on our hair and skin everyday (soap, shampoo) has a pH closer to 6.5-8. Some soap, even natural glycerin based soap, has a pH of >9! Ivory soap, was measured at a pH of 12. The further these products get away from our optimal 5.5 pH, the more irritating they can become, which will translate to dry and itchy skin, rashes, dandruff, dry and brittle hair, etc.

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