Maintaining the correct pH value of the hair and the scalp is essential for the overall health of hair. Scalp oil (sebum) has a pH balance of between 4.5 and 5.5. While the ideal pH level of your skin remains a steady 5.5, hair has two separate numbers, the ideal pH for your actual hair strands is 3.67, but for the scalp, it's 5.5.
This slightly acidic level prevents fungal and bacterial growth in hair and scalp, and keeps the cuticles closed and healthy.
Just like the skin on your face, the scalp sheds dead skin cells and it can be covered in a film of hair products and silicon from years of buildup. Scalp needs to be treated with focus on exfoliation and balancing pH.
If you have problems with excess oil, fungal or bacterial infestation, it is likely that your scalp and hair are too alkaline. Usually, this means that you are using a product that has a high pH above 7, and it is stripping away your naturally acidic sebum that fights the microbial growth.
You know what happens in the process of permanently dying or relaxing (rebonding/straightening) of hair? During the process, your hair was first treated with a highly alkaline substance to expose and change the hair's cuticle, and then, it was 'neutralised' with a highly acidic substance to flatten the cuticle again. This is a damaging process and slightly acidic hair products are needed to keep the hair cuticle lying flat.
If you have curly hair, then your cuticle is already partially open. It is especially important for people with curly hair to return their hair to a slightly acidic pH level, since the open cuticle prevents natural acidic sebum to keep the entire hair at a pH level between 4.5 and 5.5.
If you have straight hair, you should use haircare products that are pH balanced, but may not need to apply extra products, because the sebum moves through your hair, creating a natural pH balance.
Many of the hair products that people use disrupt the natural pH of the hair. A substance that is too alkaline will cause hair cuticles to open, while a substance that is too acidic will cause the cuticle to contract. Hair products can control the pH of hair.
Always wash your hair with pH balanced shampoos and conditioners. This will return your hair to a neutral rather than acidic pH level. Read labels on your current hair products. A pH between 4 to 7 works well on hair. Discontinue the use of any product outside of that pH range. Water has a pH level of 7, so it is more alkaline than your hair.
Doctor-recommended Hair Loss Treatments to make hair-friendly scalp revolve around these theories —
Balancing Scalp pH as normal scalp pH (4.5 to 5.5) changes to alkaline in oily environment.
Exfoliation of scalp which helps to get rid of the buildup of flakes and clean the oil glands out.
Use an antibacterial shampoo and moisturiser until the symptoms subside.
By Dr Riffat Lucy
MBBS, DCM, MPH, FCGP
Certified Trichologist, CEO, Elixir
Health Beauty N Wellness