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 by Nicole Hollis of Hair Liberty


Q: How do I know if a product is pH balanced?



A: Out of all of your products, the pH of your shampoo is most important. The beneficial pH range of shampoo is 4.5 to 6.5. A shampoo with a higher pH may strip the hair of its natural oils leaving it frizzy and fly away even after you apply your styling products. You may not mind a little frizz, but when a high pH shampoo leads to fly aways and generally unruly hair that usually leads to more manipulation which leads to breakage. To retain length, it’s best to keep your hair as well controlled as possible. African American hair is particularly sensitive to pH, so this is a case where a little extra TLC is important and will make your hair care routine easier. To find the pH of a shampoo or any other product, try these tips.


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Read the back label carefully
Some products say pH balanced or low pH in the description. Other companies, like Joico for example, list the pH range on the label.

Visit the company’s website
The product may have a longer description on the company’s website that includes information on the pH. Some big companies like Proctor and Gamble also have a database of Material Safety Data Sheets online. Companies create MSDSs as part of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements. Most of the information on the MSDS is written for factory workers, but it will usually list the pH of the product and the ingredients. Check out the MSDS for Pantene Pro-V Relaxed & Natural Breakage Defense Shampoo. The pH (5.4-6.4) is listed in Section 9.

Call the company’s consumer information line
Most products have a toll free number on the package or on the website. If you have any questions about a product’s pH, ingredients, or instructions it’s easy to call and get answers directly from the source.

Test the pH using plastic pH strips
I don’t recommend testing the pH of your products at home because it’s too easy to make a mistake. If you insist on testing products yourself, be sure to use plastic pH strips. Surfactants in products (behentrimonium methosulfate or ammonium laureth sulfate for example) can interfere with the indicator dye on paper strips and cause a false reading. Paper pH strips may tell you that the pH of a product is 6 when it’s really 8 or 9. Plastic strips are more reliable, the pHydrion brand is good.

Hair Liberty (def): The freedom to rock whatever style you want, whenever you want. Curly, straight, natural, relaxed, whatever! Free yourself! For more info, visit www.hairliberty.org

Are you a stickler for pH balanced products? What’s your method of assuring a particular product is up to standard?