Navigating the pH Scale: The Key to Perfect Shampoo Selection


The role of a hairdresser goes beyond the surface. It dives deep into the realm of chemistry. One crucial concept that every hairdresser needs to grasp is the pH level of shampoos. By understanding pH, hairdressers can ensure they provide the best possible care for their clients’ tresses.

The Key to Perfect Shampoo Selection

What is pH? A Brief Primer

1. Basics of pH:

  • pH stands for ‘potential of hydrogen’, representing the concentration of hydrogen ions in a solution.
  • The pH scale is a logarithmic measure ranging from 0 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline), with 7 being neutral.

2. Natural pH of Hair:

  • Human hair and scalp oil, sebum, have a pH balance of between 4.5 and 5.5. This natural acidity prevents fungi and bacteria in the hair and scalp and keeps the cuticle closed and healthy.

The Relationship Between pH and Shampoos

1. Acidic Shampoos (pH 0 to 6.9):

  • Benefits:
    • Promotes healthier hair by keeping the hair cuticle flat, making hair shiny and less prone to breakage.
    • Prevents excessive oiliness or dryness.
    • Enhances hair elasticity.
  • Ideal For:
    • Color-treated hair, as it preserves the color and prevents fading.
    • Damaged or brittle hair needing moisture retention.

2. Neutral Shampoos (pH 7):

  • Offers a balanced cleanse without drastically impacting the hair’s natural pH.

3. Alkaline Shampoos (pH 7.1 and above):

  • Characteristics:
    • Opens up the hair cuticle, making it more porous.
    • Strong cleansing properties, removing dirt and excess oils efficiently.
  • Drawbacks:
    • Can cause hair to become dry, brittle, and prone to breakage.
    • May lead to faster fading in color-treated hair.
  • Ideal For:
    • Preparing hair for chemical treatments like perms or relaxers where the hair cuticle needs to be opened.

Selecting the Right Shampoo: pH as a Guiding Principle

1. Identify Client Needs:

  • Consider the client’s hair type, any chemical treatments, the level of damage, and specific concerns.

2. Test the pH:

  • Use pH strips to determine the pH of shampoos if it’s not mentioned on the label. This helps in making an informed choice.

3. Educate Your Clients:

  • Share knowledge about the importance of pH-balanced products, guiding them to make better choices for home care.


The pH scale isn’t just a topic reserved for science class; it’s central to the world of hair care. By understanding and harnessing the power of pH, hairdressers can ensure their clients leave the salon not just looking good but with hair that’s truly healthy from the inside out.

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