pH Levels and Your Scalp

There are so many different reasons women (and some men) have for griping about their hair; the reasons only increase if you happen to be an ethnic woman. Different shampoos create different results for different hair types. How does that work out? And are all the chemicals in modern shampoos safe?

In recent years, there’s been a grassroots movement to eliminate shampoo, known as going “no-poo”, that has steadily picked up steam. Participants cleanse their hair with homegrown concoctions, usually some dilution of baking soda and water, and finish with an apple cider vinegar conditioning rinse.

Whether you choose to go the traditional route or opt for a more home grown method, there are a few things regarding the pH levels of hair and scalp that you should know. First of all, the pH value of something is how acidic or basic it is. From the website:

The pH scale measures how acidic or basic a substance is. It ranges from 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral. A pH less than 7 is acidic, and a pH greater than 7 is basic. Each whole pH value below 7 is ten times more acidic than the next higher value. For example, a pH of 4 is ten times more acidic than a pH of 5 and 100 times (10 times 10) more acidic than a pH of 6. The same holds true for pH values above 7, each of which is ten times more alkaline—another way to say basic—than the next lower whole value. For example, a pH of 10 is ten times more alkaline than a pH of 9.

What does that have to do with hair, you ask? Dominique Harris of All Things O Natural notes:

Sebum, which is the hair’s natural oil, has a pH (potential/power of hydrogen) Level of 4.5 to 5.5, which makes it slightly acidic.

This means that, by and large, our scalps are more acidic than water, which has a neutral pH of 7. This matters because

…hair products with alkaline pH levels open the hair cuticle, making your strands susceptible to major color loss and damage,

according to Rob Guimond, Sojourn hair care director of chemistry. So even water opens up the hair cuticle, since, despite it being neutral, on the whole it is still more alkaline than our sebum (

In the baking soda + ACV rinse I mentioned above, the baking soda opens up the hair shaft and the apple cider vinegar works to seal it up again. The extreme changes in levels wreaks havoc on your head. Many users report that it works for some months but then their hair is listless and “strawlike.”

It’s best to find a shampoo (natural or synthetic) that is pH balanced to match the composition of human hair. Rob Guimond warns that:

Many companies use the term pH-balanced to market their products, but this could mean a pH level of anything.

It’s always best to do a spot of research beforehand. The best way to know for sure is to purchase a pH testing kit (readily available online—even WalMart carries them!) and run a quick and simple test on your hair care products.

With all that being said, there are plenty of people out there who don’t buy into this—at least not completely. And not just yet anyway. The science is solid and makes sense, but it falls into that category of things which haven’t been tested enough. And of course, everyone is different. Trichologist at the (apparently legendary) Philip Kingsley Clinic in New York City, Elizabeth Cunnane Philips says she hasn’t seen the pH issue affect any patients dramatically.

It’s still a marketing angle at this point, but that doesn’t mean there’s not validity to the topic. It’s an interesting concept that can only have a positive effect on all hair types.

References Acid Rain
Let’s Talk Hair: Are You Testing Your pH…Level That Is? pH test strips

Apple Cider Vinegar for Diabetes

Lately, bloggers, Pinterest and the internet in general have flocked towards apple cider vinegar—and why not? The list of its purported benefits goes on for a while! But how much of it is hype and how much if it is actually backed by science? First, let me begin by saying that in this article, “apple cider vinegar” will refer to the raw form only. It should have the “mother” of the vinegar, which appears as strand-like particles. The clear stuff you can get for under a dollar at Walmart has been processed and does not carry any of the benefits of raw apple cider vinegar.

My research on the topic has yielded both good and bad results. First, the good.

There seems to be a strong indication of apple cider vinegar’s effects on blood sugar levels. In a 2007 study of 11 people with Type 2 diabetes, taking two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bed was shown to lower their glucose levels in the morning by about 4-6%.

Further to the above, WebMD goes on to tell us:

A 2006 study showed evidence that vinegar could lower cholesterol. However, the study was done in rats, so it’s too early to know how it might work in people.

NOTE: Apple cider vinegar is VERY POTENT! It must always be diluted before being ingested, whether with water or juice, doesn’t matter.

Now the bad. There are a lot of folk legends running amok online (as is the way of the interwebs), that ACV will cure everything from an upset stomach to cancer. However, I would strongly advice caution in this matter. For example:

A few laboratory studies have found that vinegar may be able to kill cancer cells or slow their growth. Observational studies of people have been confusing. One found that eating vinegar was associated with a decreased risk of esophageal cancer. Another associated it with an increased risk of bladder cancer.

That sounds like a bit of a gamble!

Additionally, a number of sources (WebMD among them) note that ACV, being an acid, can harm the enamel of your teeth. However, this Reader’s Digest article recommends it for whitening your teeth without any kind of warnings whatsoever. Not cool, Reader’s Digest. Not cool. You know folks are going to start following this advice blindly.

In that particular scenario, The Herbivore Hippi tells us the following:

Dentists recommend that if you use it as a mouth rinse you must be sure to rinse your mouth thoroughly! The acids, if used too often or not rinsed away will not only soften your teeth but also wear away at the tooth enamel even though it can strengthen brittle teeth. Apple cider vinegar is incredibly potent so always remember to dilute it!

I’d be interested to see how the cancer and cholesterol studies pan out down the road, but in the meantime, those of you with diabetes might consider talking to your doctors about including apple cider vinegar into your diets/daily routines. Please do not just jump into this without consulting your healthcare provider, as vinegar containes chromium and can alter your insulin levels. Your doctor will be in the best position to alter/adjust your current medication to account for the change in insulin levels.


Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Reader’s Digest: 8 Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar for Healthy Teeth