How pH Balance Could Be Destroying Your Hair

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Source: Liubov Ilchuk | Unsplash

In the last 10 years, I’ve probably spent a quarter of all of my earnings on my hair. Between consistent cuts, changing colors, new products, tools, and about a thousand shampoos and conditioners, I’ve forked up a considerable amount of cash to keep my hair healthy and looking good. But I’ve recently discovered that my efforts have likely gone a little unnoticed because I was missing a crucial part: making sure my hair had a healthy pH balance.

“I’ve seen many adverse effects on my clients’ hair over the years from consistent lack of pH balance,” said Nina Lemtir, a previous salon owner and hair and wellness coach. If your hair is feeling just a bit “off,” pH might be to blame.

Meet the expert
Jill Turnbull
PROFESSIONAL HAIRSTYLIST
Turnbull is a professional hairstylist and the founder of Jill Turnbull Beauty.

 

What is pH?

Taking it back to chemistry class, potential of hydrogen (what we know as “pH”) refers to the activity of hydrogen ions (molecules that carry a negative or positive charge) in a water-based solution. A pH is considered acidic if it’s anywhere between 0 and 6.9, while 7 is neutral and anything from 7.1 to 14 is considered alkaline. The scalp has a natural pH of 5.5, meaning it’s acidic. How does this impact your scalp? Well, our skin is mostly made of water, and the pH can change how our skin retains it, including the skin on our scalp.

 





Source: Stocksy

 

Why is a pH-balanced scalp important?

“If you’re not using pH-balanced hair care, you’re likely doing unintentional damage to your hair and scalp,” said professional hairstylist Jill Turnbull. “When you use hair care that is not pH balanced, your hair becomes temporarily acidic or alkaline, depending on the pH level. This causes the cuticle to stay open and become more receptive to damage.”

This is impactful regardless of hair type, but it’s especially important in the natural hair community. To keep your curls moisturized and defined, your scalp naturally produces more oil than straight or wavy hair, making your pH even more acidic. Using a product with a pH of 7 or higher is prone to causing extra frizziness in your curls, scalp dryness, and irritation.

 

How do we keep our hair pH-balanced?

It’s normal for our hair’s pH balance to sway back and forth a bit due to water (which has a natural pH of 7), our environment, the sun, and more. When our hair is consistently put in an alkaline state thanks to our products, that’s when we experience dryness, irritation, flaking, itchiness, and more. 

If you want more of a quick fix, trichologist (someone who studies and focuses on hair health and scalp) Shab Reslan suggested using apple cider vinegar alone. “If somebody wants another natural way to lower their hair’s pH, they could do an apple cider vinegar rinse using three tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and a bottle of water and rinsing their hair with that.”

On the other hand, making sure your regular hair care routine keeps your hair and scalp pH-balanced can reduce frizz, prevent breakage, keep hair looking and feeling moisturized, make your color last longer, and prevent your scalp from getting greasy.

 





Source: Karolina Grabowska | Unsplash

 

Unless you pH-test all of your products yourself, the only way to know the pH of a product is if a brand provides it or by doing your research from those who have used it in the past. Don’t worry if you feel confused. Many brands still don’t include the pH of their products on their websites, but always check the FAQ for the brand, do your research, and feel free to reach out to the brand for that information if you’re unsure.

 

Products to Try

 

Shampoos and Rinses

Using a pH-balancing shampoo once a week can help bring your hair back and keep you from irritation in the future without having to overhaul your entire routine. 





dpHue

Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse

You can use this instead of shampoo to clean and clarify your hair without stripping it. Our editor’s favorite way to use this is in between washes when you need a quick fix (like after a hard workout class) that’s a little more than dousing your hair in copious amounts of dry shampoo.

If you have fine hair, dpHUE just launched a Lite ACV Rinse that is a little less moisturizing and won’t weigh your hair down iIt’s already a holy grail in our beauty editor’s shower).

Shop it now





OUAI

Detox Shampoo

This product contains apple cider vinegar, which naturally lowers the pH of the product, leaving your hair feeling ultra clean without stripping it of its natural oils.

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Pureology

Hydrate Shampoo

Pureology is one of those rare, unicorn brands that discloses the pH of its products, and every shampoo in their line has a pH of 5.3 (even below the recommended 5.5!). This shampoo is super moisturizing and soothing on the scalp (thanks to green tea and jojoba oil) but still ideal for fine hair types.

Shop it now





Mielle Organics

Babassu Oil Conditioning Shampoo

This will nourish all hair types but is especially recommended for curly and coily hair textures that need lots of moisture from root to tip.

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Redken

Acidic Bonding Concentrate Shampoo

This is one of the only products on the market actually targeted at being acidic and balancing your scalp’s pH. Our editor reviewed this product, and she thinks it even works better than Olaplex on her damaged, blonde locks.

Shop it now

 

Leave-Ins and Treatments

If you want to add a few other pH-balanced products to your routine, focus on products that stay in your hair, like leave-ins, or low pH treatments that get a long time on your hair (like a mask). 





Davines

Volu Hair Mist

This has a balanced pH that will leave your hair soft and shiny without leaving it feeling crunchy.

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Briogeo

Curl Charisma Frizz Control Gel

Fight frizz, define your curls, and keep your hair healthy? Briogeo is a mainstay in our editors’ hair care routines because their products pack a punch, all without sulfates, silicones, and parabens.

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Olaplex

No. 3 Hair Perfector

The classic Olaplex No. 3 has a low pH, which is one of the ways it’s able to actually repair your hair’s damage over time instead of just masking it by making the hair appear more moisturized. Those with extremely damaged hair from relaxers and bleaching swear by Olaplex for bringing their hair back to life.

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DevaCurl

Scalp D(pH)ense Daily Nourishing & Protecting Serum

This scalp serum protects your hair against all those environmental factors (like water, pollution, the sun) and life factors (heat damage, chemical relaxers, coloring your hair) from damage from being in an alkaline pH.

Shop it now

 

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How a Kitchen Island Can Transform Your Apartment






Source: Danielle Moss | The Everygirl

We all know that one of the hallmarks of apartment living is having to deal with a smaller-than-average kitchen. And that’s stating it generously—if you live in New York City like I do, your kitchen may truly be minuscule, if you’re lucky enough to even have a super defined prep space at all! I took many virtual tours of apartments that featured mini-fridges or refrigerators positioned in the living room. We city gals have truly seen it all when it comes to cramped spaces.

Recently, though, I’ve noticed that many fellow apartment dwellers have gotten creative when it comes to optimizing their storage and prep space. The secret? Purchasing a freestanding kitchen island that looks chic enough to elevate even the most dated of kitchen spaces and is also ultra-functional. Below, we’re showing you five faux island setups that will make you want to purchase one of your own—because let’s face it, throwing together an entire meal or engaging in some therapeutic Sunday afternoon baking can prove pretty challenging when your only available countertop is approximately the size of a standard placemat.

 

1. Turn your island into a coffee station

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Just because it’s called an island doesn’t mean that the piece you purchase has to be put in the middle of your kitchen—again, many of us don’t have the square footage or room layout for this to be a possibility. Instead, push your island up against a wall and turn it into a mini coffee bar or a place to stash bowls or fruit—you name it! By moving bulky coffee makers off of the main counter and giving them a designated home of their own, you’ll free up prep space close to the oven, which will definitely come in handy when cooking meals.

 

2. Or style it as a breakfast bar

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If you’re not as concerned about counter space but are a bit more ambivalent about your seating situation, opt for an island with an overhang and style your own breakfast bar. Bonus points if the piece features storage cabinets on the other side; use these to tuck away unsightly appliances and bulky pots and pans.

 

3. Use an island to corral cooking essentials

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Even a small kitchen cart can make a big impact. A piece like this one should be able to function in even the tiniest of cooking spaces and makes for a great place to set aside ingredients while cooking. There are always items that you need to keep nearby but can’t quite squeeze onto the countertop without risking a spill—we’ve been there.

 

4. Try this twist on the classic bar cart

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Those looking for an ultra-functional twist on the traditional bar cart might want to source an island that offers plenty of wine glass storage. This makes for an ideal setup when entertaining, too—guests can easily serve themselves, and multiple people can gather around the island at once to fill their glasses.

 

5. Fill a narrow spot with a wooden piece

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A thin wood console table can also serve a key purpose and is a great choice for long and narrow kitchens. Use it as a sit-down coffee bar and sip your morning cup of Joe somewhere that isn’t your stain-prone sofa!

 

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When Bathing Is About More Than Just Being Physically Clean

photo of a woman in a bath filled with rose petals the rose petals are moving in a gifIllustration by Clara Hendler

"I love water. I love praying into the water before I get to a bath, or even just to take a shower," says Juju Bae, a Hoodoo and Ifa practitioner who speaks about Black traditional religions on her podcast, A Little Juju. "Even if I'm not always putting all the good juju in the water, water in itself is holy. Water itself can hold your intention."

In many Black spiritual practices that predate colonial interactions, there has long been a reverence for water and cleansing. These rituals and concepts have been preserved and transported to the Americas and beyond as a byproduct of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade. They can be found in everything from African Traditional Religions and their descendants, such as Ifa and Black American Hoodoo, to the cultural syncretism embedded in Black expressions of Abrahamic religions.

"Water has no enemy," says Juju Bae. "It cleanses us physically, it cleanses us spiritually." She emphasizes that in many African Traditional Religions, water is venerated and viewed as a life source. In the West, she notes, that reverence for nature isn't typically quite as significant. This has a distinct effect on Black people's contemporary relationship to water and its multifaceted uses. And in recent months, an aversion to water, soap, or any kind of hygienic tool or practice has been brought to the forefront of our cultural discourse.

The Hygiene Culture Wars

A phenomenon that can only be aptly described as the "hygiene culture wars" has recently taken hold of digital media. Celebrities have openly shared their bathing regimens, often without waiting for anyone to ask them about it; from Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis disclosing their reluctance to clean their children if they aren't visibly soiled to Jake Gyllenhaal asserting that he deems bathing to be less necessary as "we naturally clean ourselves."

photo of a woman submerged in a bath the water is peach and swirly and here are roses in the bath.Illustration by Clara Hendler

Most folks who take the "less is more" approach to bathing insist that their infrequent washing adheres to contemporary medical guidance from dermatologists. (For what it's worth, dermatologists Allure has spoken to say showering once — or even twice — a day is generally just fine for your skin.) Predictably, the reaction to these revelations was overwhelming, with folks on social media rushing to share their own perspectives on cleanliness and hygienic practices. Unsurprisingly, much of Black Twitter expressed distaste over such blasé routines.

Whether or not someone's hygiene habits are considered acceptable has more to do with power and class than the medical legitimacy of their routines. The so-called elite have a history of viewing the lower classes (in which Black people are overrepresented) as filthy and undesirable, no matter how many times they bathe per day. As physician James Hamblin, who is white and went viral for his disclosure that he had stopped showering, put it: "One of the main reasons I've been able to go so long without using [shampoo and deodorant] is because of the privilege of my position in American society. To the degree that these standards are culturally determined, I am coming from the group that has created these norms."

Digital discourse notwithstanding, containing the concept of cleansing in relation to whiteness and wealth is extremely limiting in scope and context, despite the comical levels of disgust expressed by Black people and other POC in the Twitterverse. For many Black people, especially those who follow the practices and rituals of African Traditional Religions, hygiene is both a physical and spiritual requirement.

Spiritual Cleansing Across Practices

Physically, this appreciation of water can extend to a variety of regular rituals such as spiritual baths. "People are into cleansing their homes, smoking out their homes with sage, palo santo, and incense," says Iya Osundara Ogunsina, a priestess also known as Bruja Banton on social media. "You can use a spiritual bath to also cleanse your body; I think the body gets neglected." 

Both Juju Bae and Iya Osundara stress that the creation and use of spiritual baths as a cleansing ritual is not restricted to adherents of any specific traditional religious practices. "[Spiritual baths] can actually just be [taken in] regular water that you pray over," Juju Bae says, adding that you can also infuse the water with herbs and other ingredients to amplify whatever intention you have for the bath. Similar to Iya Osundara, Juju Bae also takes spiritual baths frequently. 

photo of a woman standing under a watering can water is being poured on her se is surrounded by rosesIllustration by Clara Hendler

The ritual of placing intentions into the water as a cleansing step is also reflected in a variety of expressions of Abrahamic religion. In many traditional Baptist sects, including majority Black congregations in the American South, baptism isn't historically perceived as merely a sprinkling of water on someone's forehead, but a full submersion in a body of water such as a river to cleanse one of their sins. "I know some old-school churches that still take people out to lakes, ponds, rivers, and oceans, dunking them fully in the all-whites," Juju Bae emphasizes.

This also extends to classical African-American spirituals, which are frequently infused with significant references to water and its power. The familiar lyrics to "Wade In the Water," for example, are enmeshed with multiple subtle references to water as a cleansing and liberating space, not just biblically, but as a cue for slaves to communicate with each other as they sought an escape to freedom. Take the line, "God's gonna trouble the water." As Howard Thurman, former dean of the chapel at Howard University expresses in his book Deep River and the Negro Spiritual Speaks of Life and Death, "For [the slaves] the 'troubled waters' meant the ups and downs, the vicissitudes of life. Within the context of the 'troubled' waters of life, there are healing waters, because God is in the midst of the turmoil." The song is a heuristic that has persisted throughout the centuries as a means of survival and a search for mercy.

The Deeper Significance of Bathing Rituals

As a diviner and Olorisa (a priestess of the Orisa practice) initiated to Osun, Iya Osundara sells spiritual baths at her website, Iyalode's corner, providing her community with a variety of spiritual aids to promote cleansing, protection, prosperity, and clarity. "[Spiritual cleansing is] something that my (spiritual) Godmother has taught us to do as a way to just keep up your own hygiene practice," Osundara says. Since her initiation into Osun in 2019, she takes a spiritual bath every week.

"My relationship to water is primarily because of my ancestors' relationship to water through church through baptism, but also through the Transatlantic slave trade," Juju Bae explains. "I have ancestors who decided to jump off of ships in the water and their spirits still live there, their memories still live there, their bodies still live there." That connection is a complicated mélange of trauma and healing.

These themes are also represented in one of the defining moments of contemporary Black pop culture: Beyoncé's visual album Lemonade, released in 2016. Water is a powerful supporting character, whose presence is infused throughout the project. At the beginning of the film, Beyoncé is submerged in water and grief. A few minutes later, she triumphantly opens the door to a cathedral in a beaming yellow dress, water rushing onto the front steps in her stead, later smashing a hydrant and luxuriating in its bursting wells of hydration.

woman sitting in a bathtub she is surrounded by rosesIllustration by Clara Hendler

The contemporary conversation over cleansing is essential to parsing out the many ways in which white supremacy affects our interactions. At a more comprehensive level, however, the acknowledgment of the essentiality of water is not restricted to a performance or a rebuttal to stereotypes associated with Black and other nonwhite communities. Water, for many, expresses spiritual decontamination, salvation, self-care, and survival. It is the ultimate life force that compels consistent acknowledgment and consumption, both internally and externally. Hygiene has been intertwined with Black traditions even in the direst of circumstances, and that anchored reverence is a genetic imprint that no pop culture trend can divorce us from.