Hair and pH

Erick Carter

Erick Carter

by Erick Carter

Hair is made up of very strong proteins. Despite the strength of these proteins, chemical processes can weaken the hair and cause breakage. I would like to explain the pH of chemicals and the damage it can cause.

Hair is made up of two main parts. The outer scale-like layer, called the cuticle protects the inner layer called the cortex. The protein chains are located along the cortex with the melanin (which gives hair its color). When the hair becomes damaged, the scales of the cuticle stand up, break off and expose the cortex. This makes hair dry and hard to brush. The cortex gives hair its strength and elasticity. When the damage reaches the cortex the hair will not return to its shape and may even snap off.

Hair PHSince the melanin is found in the cortex of the hair, to change the color we must penetrate through the cuticle layer – and that’s where pH comes in. Anything water soluble can be measured by pH. The pH scale runs from 0-14, 0 being a very strong acid and 14 being a very strong alkaline base. Water has a pH of about 7 (neutral) as does peroxide and most shampoos. Lemon juice and vinegar have a pH of about 2-3 (both acids) whereas baking soda, an alkaline, has a pH of about 8 or 9. Hair has a natural pH of about 4.5-5.5.

Permanent hair colors are usually alkaline based and a higher pH is needed to reach the cortex layer of the hair to change its color. Look for my article next month as I continue with to explain the relationship between hair and pH.

For questions or comments contact me at or call Salon Zenergy, 239.777.2380.

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