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View Full Version : Effects acids and bases/alkalis have on hair.



bjjowett1993
March 7th, 2009, 12:07 PM
Let's start off with the science behind this. :)

The pH scale (Power of Hydrogen) goes from 0-14, 7 being neutral, (Pure water) and anything lower is acidic, anything higher is alkali/basic. What the numbers indicate on the scale is, if it is a 0, such as hydrochloric acid, it means that the substance has very low amounts of Hydrogen bonds within its molecular structure. Whereas 14, such as lye, has very high amounts. Hair and skin has a pH level of about 4.5-5.5, making it slightly acidic, whereas our bodily fluid, with the exception of stomach acids, should be alkali/basic.

So when a weak acid, such as vinegar (pH of 2.4 - 3.4{chemical name: acetic acid}) is applied to the hair, closes the cuticle, making it softer, and shinier. Acid rinses are also good for returning the hair to its natural shape, so for instance, if you set your hair in really tight curls or ringlets, (or if you heat style, crimping) and even after having a shower, there is still a little wave, when your hair is usually stick straight, this will help return your hair back to normal.

Now on the other hand when alkali/basic substances are applied to the hair, it has sort of the opposite effect. It opens the cuticle, making it look dull, and feel rough. Alkalis/bases are used in such products as dyes/bleaches, to make it easier for colour to be removed, or put into the medulla and cortex of the hair shaft. Alkalis/bases are also present in relaxers and perm solutions, which leads me to my next point about alkalis/bases.

A strong alkali/base such as lye (Sodium Hydroxide), has a pH of 14 and what strong bases/alkalis do to the hair other than what I have already said is, if the hair is curly, for example. a base/alkali will straighten the hair a bit. So if your shampoo is basic/alkali, then some curl will be lost unless you switch your shampoo, or do an acid rinse. Perms, are essentially the same thing as relaxer, chemically speaking anyways, obviously not cosmetically. The only difference between a perm and a relaxer, is the shape you are trying to get the hair to conform to. For perms, you roll the hair, then apply the perm solution, where as relaxers, you brush it back, and then apply the relaxer, thus straightening the hair.

Other ways of closing the cuticle are: using a final cold water rinse, or cold water throughout, and using soft water, ideally "pure" rain water. Ironically, "pure" rain water, (before we started screwing over our environment) was slightly acidic, having a pH of 5.5, which would benefit hair and skin, and is naturally the softest water, in terms of minerals present within the water. If we showered with cold, pure rain water, and our hair was virgin, and we did eveything else hair-concious people should be doing, our hair would be absolutely breathtaking!

ETA: Also, I've read questions of whether or not acids will dry out your hair. If your hair is damaged, from moderate to extensive damage, it will dry out your hair a bit, but this effect can be counteracted by diluting the acid a fair bit. Acids are also good for clarifying hair of some types of build-up, such as soap scum, etc. but not build-up from hair products, such as silicone. Also helps relieve dandruff.

spidermom
March 7th, 2009, 12:12 PM
Well written and informative; thank you.

bjjowett1993
March 7th, 2009, 12:30 PM
Well written and informative; thank you.
You are very welcome! Also, one more thing, which a little redundant, is about acids having the ability to snap hair back into shape, a better example would be if somebody heat-crimped their hair. I always notice that when someone does it, even after they have a shower, it is still very obvious that the crimp is still present. Acid would help to return their literally bent hair back to normal. I'm very glad I could help. :)

bjjowett1993
March 7th, 2009, 12:33 PM
Also, to anyone reading, I've heard questions of whether or not acids will dry out your hair. If your hair is damaged, from moderate to extensive damage, it will dry out your hair a bit, but this effect can be counteracted by diluting the acid a fair bit. :) Acids are also good for clarifying hair of build-up.

elizza
March 8th, 2009, 09:01 PM
Very interesting, thank you :)

bjjowett1993
March 8th, 2009, 09:29 PM
Very interesting, thank you :)
You are very welcome, glad I could help. ;)

manderly
March 9th, 2009, 04:08 AM
Great information, but would you mind breaking it up into separate paragraphs? It's a bit confusing in one massive block :flower:

willowcandra
March 9th, 2009, 01:08 PM
Thankyou for the article. Many here get great results with vinegar or lemon juice rinses.

bjjowett1993
March 9th, 2009, 04:03 PM
Thankyou for the article. Many here get great results with vinegar or lemon juice rinses.
You are welcome. :)

bjjowett1993
March 9th, 2009, 04:04 PM
Great information, but would you mind breaking it up into separate paragraphs? It's a bit confusing in one massive block :flower:
Thank you very much.

I will edit it. :)

BlackfootHair
March 9th, 2009, 04:15 PM
That's very interesting...especially since my shampoo has sodium hydroxide in it. I wonder why they put that in there! I like my curls. :(

bjjowett1993
March 9th, 2009, 04:42 PM
That's very interesting...especially since my shampoo has sodium hydroxide in it. I wonder why they put that in there! I like my curls. :(
I know eh? Want to hear something morbid? Sodium hyroxide is in KY Jelly. I've also seen it in baby shampoo before.

Silverlox
March 9th, 2009, 04:52 PM
This is very good information! Thank you! :flower:
And so much more reader-friendly since broken into paragraphs. :D

Have you considered making an article of this and posting it in the Article section? I really think it belongs there! :agree:

manderly
March 9th, 2009, 04:57 PM
Oh god, thanks for breaking that up. My eyes glazed over the last time I tried to read it all :D

:flowers:

bjjowett1993
March 9th, 2009, 05:03 PM
This is very good information! Thank you! :flower:
And so much more reader-friendly since broken into paragraphs. :D

Have you considered making an article of this and posting it in the Article section? I really think it belongs there! :agree:
Thank you very much! An article? Really? That is such a compliment! But I'm afraid that I do not have enough posts to publish articles yet unfortunately. I will when I gain the ability to though! :D

bjjowett1993
March 9th, 2009, 05:04 PM
Oh god, thanks for breaking that up. My eyes glazed over the last time I tried to read it all :D

:flowers:
Lol, yes, I agree, lookig at it after your comment, I can see what you meant. :P

It does look much better now.

bjjowett1993
March 9th, 2009, 05:09 PM
This is very good information! Thank you! :flower:
And so much more reader-friendly since broken into paragraphs. :D

Have you considered making an article of this and posting it in the Article section? I really think it belongs there! :agree:
Oh my goodness! According to the post privelages, I am not allwed to add articles, but it gave me the option to post an article, and I clicked it, and it didn't say that I didn't have permission, so I will try. I hope it works! :D

s_tresses
March 9th, 2009, 05:10 PM
So it really it isnt a good idea to wait for the next time its gonna rain eh?
Are there any shampoos with a 5.5 pH? and what pH does tap water have (since it has chlorine in it)?

bjjowett1993
March 9th, 2009, 05:29 PM
So it really it isnt a good idea to wait for the next time its gonna rain eh?
Are there any shampoos with a 5.5 pH? and what pH does tap water have (since it has chlorine in it)?
Well, tap water pH isn't actually unanimous, it could vary very much. If it was pure water, with no chlorine, or added chemicals, (Distilled water would be your best shot) then the pH would be 7. however, like I said, it could vary, and tap water with chlorine present would make it more basic/alkali. Things that would make tap water acidic, would be presence of a lot of hydrogen, or not enough carbon dioxide.

I don't actually know of any shampoos or conditioners that have a pH of 5.5, as as I was researching, there were too many false leads. However, you can test your shampoo and conditioner yourself, or anything else for that matter, with litmus papers. I believe these could be bought online. I don't know of any store that sells them commercially.

ratgirldjh
March 9th, 2009, 05:35 PM
acids do dry out my hair. i can use only very weak vinegar rinses - but for some reason my hair prefers lime juice to ACV.
also it seems to prefer soap bases washes to other washes - but only if i use cold water.
my hair loves cold water!
i have noticed that my slightly wavy hair is much wavier when i use poo bars and a very weak - 1 teaspoon/quart water ACV rinse and then rinse with cold water.

but actually my hair is still pretty wavy when i don't do the acid rinse and just rinse in cold water.

for some reason if i use just acid rinses to try and clean my hair it seems straighter than if i use something basic to wash with. but my hair absolutely despises baking soda!!!

bjjowett1993
March 9th, 2009, 05:35 PM
This is very good information! Thank you! :flower:
And so much more reader-friendly since broken into paragraphs. :D

Have you considered making an article of this and posting it in the Article section? I really think it belongs there! :agree:
Yayyy! It worked!! I'm actually really happy, and kind of proud. :D

Euphony
March 9th, 2009, 05:42 PM
...especially since my shampoo has sodium hydroxide in it. I wonder why they put that in there!
A lot of times sodium hydroxide is used in formulas to bring an acidic formula more basic, to balance the ph. Generally it is used in very small amounts.

Silverlox
March 9th, 2009, 05:44 PM
:happydance: Yay!! I'm so glad it worked!! :happydance:

I honestly thought that it was too good and general information to disappear in an old thread. Thus my suggestion to put it in the article section. I think that all general information should go there, building a great bank of knowledge. :D

Congrats to having posted your first Article! I hope it won't be your last. :flowers:

mellie
March 9th, 2009, 07:39 PM
S tresses asked:

Are there any shampoos with a 5.5 pH?

Soapnut solution is right around there! :)

Great article, BTW!

Kirin
March 9th, 2009, 09:06 PM
This is a great article, although in my articles I always warn individual results of items may vary. The PH you list as skin/hair ph, 5.5 is general, and does not run through the entire population. There are several users (*wave*) to whom acid is very detrimental, and even in weak diluted solutions can wreak havoc.

I have never figured out the science of why, but acids AND bases have a lot of problems for me. I need almost everything i use to be around a PH of 7

bjjowett1993
March 9th, 2009, 09:31 PM
acids do dry out my hair. i can use only very weak vinegar rinses - but for some reason my hair prefers lime juice to ACV.
also it seems to prefer soap bases washes to other washes - but only if i use cold water.
my hair loves cold water!
i have noticed that my slightly wavy hair is much wavier when i use poo bars and a very weak - 1 teaspoon/quart water ACV rinse and then rinse with cold water.

but actually my hair is still pretty wavy when i don't do the acid rinse and just rinse in cold water.

for some reason if i use just acid rinses to try and clean my hair it seems straighter than if i use something basic to wash with. but my hair absolutely despises baking soda!!!
Yes, baking soda is basic for sure, lol.

bjjowett1993
March 9th, 2009, 09:35 PM
This is a great article, although in my articles I always warn individual results of items may vary. The PH you list as skin/hair ph, 5.5 is general, and does not run through the entire population. There are several users (*wave*) to whom acid is very detrimental, and even in weak diluted solutions can wreak havoc.

I have never figured out the science of why, but acids AND bases have a lot of problems for me. I need almost everything i use to be around a PH of 7
That is quite interesting, Kirin. I don't actually know what the scientific reason behind that would be. possibly a chemical imbalance in your body? Or just simply your hair. Thank you for your imput. :)

bjjowett1993
March 9th, 2009, 09:36 PM
:happydance: Yay!! I'm so glad it worked!! :happydance:

I honestly thought that it was too good and general information to disappear in an old thread. Thus my suggestion to put it in the article section. I think that all general information should go there, building a great bank of knowledge. :D

Congrats to having posted your first Article! I hope it won't be your last. :flowers:
Thanks again, Silverlox. I definitely don't plan for it to be my last article. Thanks for your support. I hope you don't mind if I add you as a friend. :)

bjjowett1993
March 9th, 2009, 09:38 PM
A lot of times sodium hydroxide is used in formulas to bring an acidic formula more basic, to balance the ph. Generally it is used in very small amounts.
Yes, I do agree with that, as to neutralise the substance, or bring it to a higher or lower pH. The only true way to test your shampoo/conditioner, or anything, is with litmus papers. Thank you for your imput. :)

Short2Long2009
March 9th, 2009, 09:46 PM
If anyone uses shampoo bars, sodium hydroxide is the alkali used to saponify the oils, giving you...soap

Liquid soaps are made with potassium hydroxide.

bjjowett1993
March 9th, 2009, 09:49 PM
If anyone uses shampoo bars, sodium hydroxide is the alkali used to saponify the oils, giving you...soap

Liquid soaps are made with potassium hydroxide.
I knew that saponification was due to the reaction of a base and a fat/oil, but I would think that this wouldn't affect the pH much, as I thought it would neutralize a bit. Is this so?

Kirin
March 9th, 2009, 09:50 PM
That is quite interesting, Kirin. I don't actually know what the scientific reason behind that would be. possibly a chemical imbalance in your body? Or just simply your hair. Thank you for your imput. :)

I actually think its my body as a whole. Eating acidic things (like vinegar) will cause severe pain in my mouth and sores for days.

alligatorbaby23
March 9th, 2009, 10:10 PM
Wow great info! Concise and to the point w/o being wordy! Great idea posting in the Article section. Hope to have more articles/ input from you.
And you are only 15 years old? Such a developed mind! Great info and presentation.
We are so lucky at LHC to have so many different people in varying fields that can add and exchange information.
Thanks again!

skay
March 9th, 2009, 10:49 PM
Hi bjjowett, great article. You remind me of engineers I used to work with - you seem to have a way of understanding how things work. :)

Thanks for writing it up - I used Apple Cider Vinegar sometimes & often your article useful and information in general as well.

Great job!

Skay

Willow
March 9th, 2009, 11:45 PM
Baking soda is slightly alkaline which is probably why it doesn't do much for your hair.

bjjowett1993
March 10th, 2009, 04:21 PM
I actually think its my body as a whole. Eating acidic things (like vinegar) will cause severe pain in my mouth and sores for days.
Wow, that is reallyi interesting indeed. :)

bjjowett1993
March 10th, 2009, 04:28 PM
Wow great info! Concise and to the point w/o being wordy! Great idea posting in the Article section. Hope to have more articles/ input from you.
And you are only 15 years old? Such a developed mind! Great info and presentation.
We are so lucky at LHC to have so many different people in varying fields that can add and exchange information.
Thanks again!
Yes, I am only a 15 year old boy, and I was good in science last semster when we studied the pH scale, but not physics, lol. Thank you very much for the compliment! I do plan to make more articles, Iam really fond of this site, and all the mem,bers, everyone is so poilite and friendly! :D

bjjowett1993
March 10th, 2009, 04:28 PM
Baking soda is slightly alkaline which is probably why it doesn't do much for your hair.
Exactly. ;)

Beldaran
March 10th, 2009, 04:37 PM
All of my research, and my husband's pH meter say that vinegar has a pH of 3. Where do you get that it's 4?

Oh and for people wondering what pH tap water is, mine is 7.5-8 depending, and I have softened water. I would guess everyone's tap water will differ.

bjjowett1993
March 10th, 2009, 04:38 PM
Hi bjjowett, great article. You remind me of engineers I used to work with - you seem to have a way of understanding how things work. :)

Thanks for writing it up - I used Apple Cider Vinegar sometimes & often your article useful and information in general as well.

Great job!

Skay
Thank you very much! I do like to understand how things work, knowledge is power, and I like to share it with people, to inform them, which in turn eliminates ignorance. :)

bjjowett1993
March 10th, 2009, 04:53 PM
Actually, I was going by a site of pH levels, but after checking a science textbook, it states that vinegar has a pH of 2.4 - 3.4. I will edit it. :) Thank you for your imput.

danacc
March 10th, 2009, 09:10 PM
I knew that saponification was due to the reaction of a base and a fat/oil, but I would think that this wouldn't affect the pH much, as I thought it would neutralize a bit. Is this so?

No, while fatty acids are used to make it, soap is basic. The saponification process with the hydroxide moves the pH to basic.

Chemically, detergents can be part of an acidic solution, but adding acid to soap to bring it to neutral or acidic pH will undo its cleansing properties. It won't be soap any more.

bjjowett1993
March 10th, 2009, 09:24 PM
Oh, ok. Thank you very much. :)

elizza
March 12th, 2009, 08:06 PM
The only true way to test your shampoo/conditioner, or anything, is with litmus papers. Thank you for your imput. :)

I thought about that recently. ;)

Wouldn't it make more sense to test at least the shampoo dilluted with some water - to get information of the mixture's ph, just like it would be when applied on the hair?

bjjowett1993
March 16th, 2009, 09:12 AM
I thought about that recently. ;)

Wouldn't it make more sense to test at least the shampoo dilluted with some water - to get information of the mixture's ph, just like it would be when applied on the hair?
Good point, but I would believe that finding the base pH, the plain pH of the shampoo itself would be better, as the amount of water each individual person uses is variable. You may choose to do what you wish though, whatever works for yourself. :) Good point though! :)