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*Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished on July 30, 2010*
There’s been a lot of dis­cus­sion late­ly about the pH of var­i­ous prod­ucts and how they affect the cuti­cle.

We all know that the pH of relax­ers is very high (fre­quent­ly above 10) and can actu­al­ly have a dis­in­te­grat­ing effect on the hair. But what about oth­er prod­ucts like bak­ing soda (8), apple cider vine­gar (5 to 7) and aloe vera juice (about 3.4)?

The Nat­u­ral Haven addressed this top­ic in a recent arti­cle. To give some ref­er­ence: the pH of water is 7. Any­thing above 7 is alka­line, below it is acidic. The low­er the num­ber the more acidic it is, the high­er the num­ber the more alka­line it is. The pH of hair ranges from as low as 3 to as high as 6.7–6.8.

So.….….…pH is the top­ic du jour! Specif­i­cal­ly the alka­line pH that you can find with sham­poo alter­na­tives such as castile soap, sham­poo bars or bak­ing soda.
Q1: Does pH raise or close cuticles?

There are two author­i­ta­tive stud­ies on this with pret­ty sim­i­lar results. There is very lit­tle change to hair struc­ture between the pH ranges of 4 to 9. Hair pro­tein resists changes due to acid or base. Tests were per­formed using hydrochlo­ric acid (pow­er­ful acid) and sodi­um hydrox­ide (a strong base).

1. Hair does not absorb notice­able amounts of acid or base between pH 4–10 ( J Soc Cos­met Chem, pp 393–405, 1981)
2. The cuti­cle sep­a­ra­tion dis­tance is with­in the same range between pH 4 -9 (J Invest Der­ma­tol 105: pp96-99, 1995)

Q2: Do the cuticles not open at high pH?

I insist on using cor­rect ter­mi­nol­o­gy. The cuti­cle is not a door that can open and close. It is a pro­tein whose struc­ture can be affect­ed caus­ing it to lift. Yes the cuti­cle does lift around a pH of 10.

Q3: Are you really saying that hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide really do not affect hair?

In the range of pH 4 to 9 yes, there is not much change to hair. In fact soak­ing hair in water (yep plain ole water) for a long time (cir­ca 10 min­utes is long) actu­al­ly yields greater change to the step height (see above) than acid or base.

Q4: What happens outside the pH 4 to 9 range?

At both low and high pH there appear to be struc­tural changes to hair caus­ing it to become more dense. This is thought to be a result of the acid or base chang­ing the protein.Very high pH can actu­al­ly dis­solve hair.

And since we’re on the top­ic of pH, I want­ed to share some infor­ma­tion I found via Now to give some per­spec­tive, alot of this infor­ma­tion is dat­ed (1999), so I don’t know if the­se pH lev­els still main­tain, but it still gives pret­ty sober­ing insight.

The infor­ma­tion gath­ered came from Sep­tem­ber 1999 edi­tion of Con­sumer Reports and is not report­ed in any par­tic­u­lar order. Its cor­re­spond­ing pH bal­ance fol­lows the pro­duct name/description.

1. TCB Bone Strait No-Lye Relax­er con­tains lithi­um hydrox­ide: 12.8
2. Revlon Real­is­tic Extra Con­di­tion­ing Crème Relax­er Sys­tem con­tains sodi­um hydrox­ide: 13.2
3. Gen­tle Treat­ment No-lye Con­di­tion­ing Crème Relax­er con­tains lithi­um hydrox­ide, guani­dine car­bon­ate and cal­ci­um hydrox­ide: 13.0
4. Soft and Beau­ti­ful No-lye Con­di­tion­ing Relax­er Reg­u­lar con­tains guani­dine car­bon­ate and cal­ci­um hydrox­ide: 13.1
5. Curl Free Nat­u­ral Curl Relax­er con­tains ammo­ni­um bisul­fite: 7.6
6. Dark & Love­ly No-lye Con­di­tion­ing Relax­er Sys­tem con­tains guani­dine car­bon­ate and cal­ci­um hydrox­ide: 13.0
7. Revlon Crème of Nature No-lye Crème Relax­er Sys­tem con­tains guani­dine car­bon­ate and cal­ci­um hydrox­ide: 13.1
8. African Pride Mir­a­cle Deep Con­di­tion­ing No-lye Relax­er Sys­tem con­tains guani­dine car­bon­ate and cal­ci­um hydrox­ide: 13.3
9. Soft Sheen Alter­na­tives No-lye Relax­er Sys­tem con­tains guani­dine car­bon­ate and cal­ci­um hydrox­ide: 13.3
10. Opti­mum Care No-Lye Relax­er guani­dine con­tains guani­dine car­bon­ate and cal­ci­um hydrox­ide: 13.2
11. Rusk Rad­i­cal Anti-curl Orig­i­nal For­mu­la 1 con­tains Ammo­ni­um thio­gly­co­late: 9.1
12. Revlon Real­is­tic Crème Relax­er Sys­tem 1 con­tains sodi­um hydrox­ide: 13.3

The fol­low­ing relax­er pHs were tak­en from, “Don’t Go Shop­ping for Hair Care Prod­ucts With­out Me” by Paula Begoun.

13. At One with Nature Botan­i­cal Stron­gends Sen­si­tive Scalp Relax­er, Reg­u­lar w/ Herbs and Mois­tur­iz­ers: 14
14. Dark & Love­ly Beau­ti­ful Begin­nings No-mis­take No-lye Children’s Relax­er Sys­tem Reg­u­lar: 13
15. Dark & Love­ly Plus Ultra-Deep Con­di­tion­ing No-Lye Relax­er Sys­tem: 12
16. Luster’s Pink Con­di­tion­ing Super No-lye Crème Relax­er: 14
17. Raveen No-Lye Con­di­tion­ing Crème Relax­er with Mul­ti­ple Con­di­tion­ers: 14
18. Revlon Crème of Nature No-Lye Crème Relax­er Sys­tem: 13
19. Revlon Fab­u­lax­er Mul­ti­ple Con­di­tion­ing No-lye Relax­er Kit: 13
20. Soft & Beau­ti­ful Just for Me No-Lye Con­di­tion­ing Crème Relax­er, Children’s For­mu­la: 14
21. Soft & Beau­ti­ful Super No-lye Con­di­tion­ing
Relax­er: 14
22. TCB Nat­u­rals No-Lye Relax­er, Reg­u­lar with Olive Oil, Aloe and Hen­na: 14

The man­u­fac­tur­ers pro­vid­ed the fol­low­ing relax­er pH’s:

23. Dark & Love­ly Beau­ti­ful Begin­nings Relax­er for Fine Hair: 10.25
24. Phy­tospeci­fic Index 1 Relax­er for Fine Hair: 9–12
25. Phy­tospeci­fic Index 2 Relax­er for Coarse Hair: 9–12
26. Lady Vel­vet Lye Relax­er: 10–13

Ladies, do you fac­tor pH into your hair­care?

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noel­lis­te, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop cul­ture and black beau­ty enthu­si­ast. bell hooks’ hair twin…

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38 Comments on "PH and the Cuticle"

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Excel­lent issues alto­geth­er, you sim­ply won a new read­er. What might you sug­gest about your pub­lish that you made a few days in the past? Any pos­i­tive?


Did it ever occur to any­one that; every­one has a dif­fer­ent bio­log­i­cal and /or genet­ic make up which may or may it deter­mine what our hair can han­dle or what It likes??? :))

Susanna Kvoeschen

HEY!Whats wrong with a lit­tle coo talk,you think its not going through the minds of peo­ple in the mil­i­tary after watch­ing the rape of their coun­try cou­pled with the lack of respect they get from Wash­ing­ton for all their hard work? pan­do­ra bracelet


THIS all makes plen­ty sense. I real­ized my per­son­al aloe mix (curl/coil Sculpter) made my hair less bushy and frizzy but even watch­ing kim­my­tube or learn­ing about ph. I like to think im a mini sci­en­tists even wear­ing my hair nat­u­ral. As long as ur ingre­di­ents aren’t extreme­ly basic r acidic ur good.


It’s pos­si­ble that cuti­cle changes aren’t the whole sto­ry when it comes to hair and pH. The cuti­cle itself may not have lift­ed, but there’s more to hair tex­ture and man­age­abil­i­ty than the posi­tion of the cuti­cle.



To those that use Miss Jessie Prod­ucts, there will be an BOGO Free Sale at Tar­get,, and Miss Jessie’s.

At Tar­get on Novem­ber 20th thru Decem­ber 17th
At on Novem­ber 26th thru Decem­ber 31st

Real RBN

I’m shocked at the ph for “kid­dy” perms.


I am trau­ma­tized by those num­bers.

I used to pH test all my prod­ucts after read­ing about and watch­ing the Kim­may­Tube videos. I believe pH bal­ance had a pos­i­tive effect on my hair. I don’t need to test the pH of prod­ucts any­more because I have found the prod­ucts my hair likes and all of them are pH bal­anced. I use ACV and black tea as a final rin­se and it does make my hair smoother. Not everyone’s hair is the same, most nat­u­rals rave about coconut oil but I can only use if it is mixed with anoth­er oil. I think it is impor­tant to keep… Read more »

The Nat­u­ral Haven says: “In fact soak­ing hair in water (yep plain ole water) for a long time (cir­ca 10 min­utes is long) actu­al­ly yields greater change to the step height (see above) than acid or base.”

If this is true, then does 20-min­ute deep con­di­tion­ing treat­ments do dam­age to the hair, do fre­quent spritzes of water through­out the day do dam­age, and does wear­ing a plas­tic cap all day under a win­ter hat do dam­age to hair that has some kin­da con­di­tion­er slathered all over it (if water is one of the first five ingre­di­ents)?

This arti­cle was pub­lished in 2010. Have you guys seen kimmaytube’s most recent video on how she con­trols her hair with pH? She shows how tak­ing her hair from acidic (pH 4–5) to neu­tral (pH 7) dra­mat­i­cal­ly changes the appear­ance of her hair from smooth to bushy. I’m pret­ty sure that if the sci­en­tists’ from whom the research this arti­cle is based on saw that video they may have to rethink some things. Sci­ence is not infal­li­ble, that why its sci­ence and the way kim­may­tube con­ducts her videos they can be tak­en as sci­en­tific research, just with a very small… Read more »
What I’d like to know is what type of hair were the­se stud­ies done on. It is observ­able that some hair is weak­er than oth­er hair and could respond dra­mat­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent­ly from oth­er hair to the same chem­i­cals. My hair feels amaz­ing after using ACV, which as this arti­cle says is at a PH of 5 to 7, while aloe vera juice does make a dif­fer­ence but not as dra­mat­ic as ACV. And no I am not say­ing it does any­thing to the cuti­cle, because I don’t know that it does, but it makes my hair smoother and shinier (which… Read more »

I like the idea of hav­ing a good PH bal­ance with my hair prod­ucts, I love Kim­may­tubes leav-in recipe. But ulti­mate­ly you have to have to see what works for YOUR hair.


At the end of the day that is all there is to it. If peo­ple believe ph test­ing worked for them, why get worked up about it?



Why not just use a poros­i­ty con­trol pro­duct, like Roux, or Joico? Those would have done the same thing. Heck, I saw a poros­i­ty con­trol from Revlon the oth­er day for 8 bucks for a pret­ty good sized bot­tle.

Good job JC, I’ve notice she’s address­ing this more on her blog a few more times. Seems like there are some sad peo­ple out there that just won’t let this proof be great. #sad.


Isn’t aloe vera juice cheap­er? Why use Roux or Joico when you can buy a large bot­tle of aloe vera juice for $3?!


Oops, I meant to say @Anna.




It not only star­ing them in the face it’s star­ing them in the face NAKED!

Appar­ent­ly peo­ple are real­ly pas­sion­ate about pH. Just because there are good prod­ucts that lean towards the alka­line end of the spec­trum doesn’t mean they don’t have oth­er ben­e­fi­cial qual­i­ties or that you have to stop using them. Obvi­ous­ly relax­ers are very alka­line, which may be a con­tribut­ing fac­tor to why they’re so dam­ag­ing for most hair; but just because water usu­al­ly has a pH around 7 and hair around 5 doesn’t mean you stop using water. That being said, I’ve been adding aloe vera juice to my leave-ins (Knot Today or Gio­van­ni Direct)and actu­al­ly noticed a big dif­fer­ence in the… Read more »

I nor­mal­ly don’t write a sec­ond com­ment on the­se kind of things because over the past year and a half, I’ve real­ized that nat­u­rals love,love,love to argue but the Nat­u­ral­Haven bases her “facts” on the opin­ions of cer­tain sci­en­tist, just like Kim­may­tube has based her “facts” on an opin­ion that has been gen­er­at­ed through a sci­en­tific obser­va­tion using actu­al PH strips. If I were to do make a guess, do an exper­i­ment, observe, and record my results- that too could be called sci­ence. Sci­ence is nev­er pure fact.

Annie L.


Why is every­one get­ting so worked up over 2 oppos­ing series of exper­i­ments which, pre­dictably, yield­ed results sup­port­ing their orig­i­nal hypothe­ses?


Thank you for the arti­cle, this proof that there is no sub­stance behind this the­o­ry. It’s just that, a the­o­ry, and a wrong one at that.

Sad­ly, there are peo­ple that just don’t get it. They don’t want to. They nev­er planned to. They will con­tin­ue to blind them­selves to truth and fact. I don’t know what’s more sad, that fact that Kimmay’s the­o­ry has been dis­proven by a SCIENTIST, or the fact that every­one is IGNORING the fact that it’s been dis­proven by a SCIENTIST. :pon­ders:


Thank you for putting up evi­dence again­st the false­hoods of cer­tain peo­ple. The whole ph bal­ance garbage makes no sense, it nev­er did. Bron­ner Broth­er Castile Soap is sim­i­lar to a relax­er? No sweet­ie, it’s not. I believe her exact words were “dan­ger­ous.” So much for not slan­der­ing prod­ucts that don’t work for you…


I find it so sad that there are still peo­ple believ­ing this “sci­ence” when they have coun­ter EVIDENCE star­ing them in. The. Face. Unbe­liev­able. SMH

Jarquisha Hollings

I’m am so excit­ed to see that the mes­sage about pH and hair is get­ting out to more read­ers! I actu­al­ly have a pub­lished arti­cle about the sub­ject in the July 2010 issue of The Coil Review at

I agree with the above state­ments. This is inter­est­ing because I watched the Kim­may­tube on Youtube series last­night and learned a lot. It makes lot of sense that PH affects our hair. I learned from Kim­may­tube that water has a PH of 7, which means that even though we always say water, water, water this can cause our cuti­cles to be lift­ed so after we rin­se our hair we should use some­thing that brings the Ph of our hair back to what it is sup­pose to be, which is a 4.5–5.5 in order to close the cuti­cle again. Aloe Vera… Read more »

See, all the hype about PH bal­ance? It’s not even cor­rect. But watch, more peo­ple will defend this no mat­ter how wrong this PH bal­anced the­o­ry is. Isn’t that sad? this is why I go to the Nat­u­ral Haven. 

Like I’m real­ly going to give up a great pro­duct if it isn’t PH bal­ance. lol.


I knew the PH bal­ance thing was a com­plete joke from the start. I glad that JC put an end to the idio­cy that PH can seri­ous­ly dis­turb the cuti­cle. Unlike what oth­er pseudo-sci­en­tists believe.


But what do you say to those of us that have found that PH does make a dif­fer­ence to our hair? The results are there, does that mean that because we don’t have a PHD we are just believ­ing things (as you put it)? As a sci­en­tist myself (of anoth­er kind) I know to be crit­i­cal of oth­er sci­en­tists, espe­cial­ly when there is oppos­ing evi­dence.

Couronne de Coton

For me the pH is very impor­tant. Because I use the prod­ucts that I cre­ate, I acid­i­fy them and my hair respond bet­ter than ever…


I myself per­son­al­ly found the lit­tle curlies that kept break­ing off dur­ing my 4 1/2 years of being fab­u­lous­ly nap-tural LOL, have real­ly decreased. My ends are smoother and my daughter’s hair is real­ly start­ing to grow IMO. It could be that using aloe vera as an added ingre­di­ent now is the key because it real­ly seems to strength­en our hair and curb the break­age. :-)

Kim­may­tube has a won­der­ful 4 part series on this top­ic of pH and hair. She firm­ly believes that main­tain­ing your hair with­in its nat­u­ral pH range is key to pre­serv­ing your strands. Her results over the past few months with her own hair have been astounding.I have tak­en heed to her advice and ever since I’ve been close­ly mon­i­tor­ing the pH of my prod­ucts (which thank­ful­ly are all in the cor­rect pH range of 4.0–6.0) and how I use them, my hair has been pre­dictable in how it feels and behaves…as Kim­may­tube says it will be. My hair is smoother… Read more »

she also has test strips and all the prep work you will need if you want to fol­low this regime. I do not fol­low it, but I do use ACV rins­es to close my cuti­cles after my wash rou­ti­nes.


Do you rin­se our the ACV after using it as a rin­se? It’s con­fus­ing to me.


[…] This post was men­tioned on Twit­ter by Nikki B , Nat­u­ral Sys­tah, Yas­sah, Black Girl Long Hair, Black Girl Long Hair and oth­ers. Black Girl Long Hair said: pH and the cuti­cle of the hair #nat­u­ral­hair […]


the ph lev­els in perms isn’t sur­pris­ing at all. How else could the pro­duct phys­i­cal­ly change hair tex­ture with­out hav­ing a high ph lev­el to do it. How does the hair look over­all when the cuti­cle is raised ver­sus closed?


@ shay­na, it may be pos­si­ble. accord­ing to Kim on Kim­may­tube (see Youtube), her high­ly pop­u­lar leave-in mix is sup­posed to cor­rect the “bushy ends” issue.

I per­son­al­ly haven’t tak­en full advan­tage of the mix but I did start spray­ing my hair with a mix of aloe vera juice and dis­tilled water (aloe vera juice is more acidic than hair and thus might aid in “clos­ing cuti­cles”). Any­way, I don’t have near­ly as many bushy ends and I twist every night to pre­pare for my twist outs. I also seal my ends with shea but­ter.


I been nat­u­ral for a year n a half, and I might look into it, because I think my cuti­cles are raised. The ends of my hair look like a bushy tail, but aren’t split. When I was relaxed my styl­ist con­vinced me that that mean I should trim them. O_O have a feel­ing she was wrong. May­be that why my hair nev­er left my shoul­ders.