Is your shampoo basic? And no, not like it’s ordinary or needs extra frills, but is it literally basic in pH? We might be familiar with the essentials of pH. Simply put, it’s a scale used for measuring how acidic or basic things are.
While we often hear about pH in cleaning products or skincare, we hardly hear about it in hair care.
But if we care so much about it when it comes to things we clean with or put on our faces, it does make sense that figuring out whether or not your shampoo is acidic or basic could make a difference in how your hair looks and feels.
What is the best pH for shampoo?
The short answer would be anything with a pH from 5 to 7.
This would put it right around the middle of the pH scale, leaning towards the lower end.
Let’s do a quick science crash course to put this into perspective! The pH scale goes from 1 to 14. The higher the number, the more basic a product is.
The middle of the scale — seven — is the sweet spot where pH is neutral, neither acidic nor basic. So, anything below 7 is acidic, and anything above it is basic.
Seeing as the best pH for shampoos is from anything that hits a 5 to 7, you’ll see that our hair loves slightly more acidic products.
Come to think of it. We add acids to a lot of our shampoos like apple cider vinegar, vitamin C, etc. And while stronger acids can definitely hurt the scalp, we don’t see any shampoos that are more acidic than a lemon. So, we’re pretty much clear from harm on the lower end of the spectrum.
However, bases are really where shampoos can do some damage.
There are lots of basic shampoos out there. It wouldn’t be such a huge surprise because bases are perfect for cleaning and killing germs. Most of our soaps are basic and safe for use on human skin, but bases can also have their extremes.
The biggest harm bases can cause is opening up the surface of the hair shaft, leaving it frizzy and unsightly. It can also create tiny charges on the surface of each strand, increasing the friction and causing cuticle damage and breakage.
What is a pH-balancing shampoo?
Our scalps and hair shafts are naturally on the acidic side. This is the main reason why we’d want our shampoos to stay on that end of the pH scale as well.
Most shampoos out there are basic. This is because one of our favorite parts of shampooing, a rich and luscious lather, is usually brought about by basic chemicals in our products. But now that we’re taking a lot more care of our hair, there are products that aim to balance out the pH on our hair to maintain its natural state and improve how our hair looks and feels.
Best pH balanced shampoo and conditioner – Tree to Tub Balanced Moisturizing Duo
The usual culprit for heavy basicity in shampoo is the lather. So it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise if you’d have to sacrifice it when you transition into pH-balanced shampoo. But Tree to Tub has found the best natural loophole for it.
It’s a little magic ingredient aptly called Soapberry.
They specialize in a wide range of soapberry-based products that give not just a rich naturally occurring lather but also nourishment. Soapberry is naturally healing and cleansing. Plus at a pH of 5.5, it closes the hair shaft for smoother, shinier-looking hair.
This is an all-around natural and wholesome product free from sulfates, parabens and silicones, which are no-nos for healthy hair. Without these products, it’s safe to say that this shampoo is perfect for any hair type. It can work on super straight hair and can also be the best pH balanced shampoo for curly hair.
What’s even better is if you like knowing where your products come from, especially in a shampoo full of natural ingredients, this brand has got you covered.
You can rest easy knowing all the soapberry and other natural extracts in this product are fair trade, environmentally friendly, and sustainably sourced. That’s just the cherry on top that makes this duo our top pick.
- Natural formula
- Nourishing ingredients
- Lathers like conventional shampoos
- Natural oil content might be too heavy on thin hair
Best pH balanced shampoo for color-treated hair – GIOVANNI 50:50 Balanced Shampoo
Overly alkaline or basic shampoos are bad news for color-treated hair. Color treating hair already opens up the hair shafts, making it susceptible to damage. Basic shampoos do the same.
So when you use a basic shampoo on colored hair, you’re doubling down on the damage that bleach or the dye itself has already caused.
The Giovanni shampoo is a pH balanced shampoo made explicitly for colored and even over-processed hair.
Aside from the reparative properties of a more acidic shampoo like this one, it also has its unique mix of vitamins and nutrients, nourishing hair that needs that treatment the most.
Don’t worry about this not clarifying enough, either. Instead of using harmful alkaline chemicals to clean the scalp, this relies on botanicals like rosemary to reliably do the trick.
It also has aloe vera and other extracts that help hydrate and moisturize the hair for an added shine and gloss.
- Vegan formula
- Does not strip color out of hair
- Strong scent
Best pH balanced shampoo for oily hair – DASHU Daily Scalp Deep Cleansing Shampoo
pH balanced shampoos are often related to gentler formulas. They’re usually targeted towards flaky, dry scalps left by damage of harmful basic chemicals. They’re often chock full of oils and other heavy ingredients that oily hair won’t benefit from.
But don’t count oil hair out of the possible beneficiaries of a good pH balanced shampoo. Formulas like that of the DASHU deep cleansing shampoo can work on oily hair.
It cuts out the basic chemicals without skimping on deep cleansing. This is perfect for people who naturally produce a lot more oils or sebum on their scalp. This shampoo works with a black complex blend — blackberries, black beans, sesame seeds, and other dark but nourishing ingredients to cleanse and rejuvenate the scalp.
- Deeply cleans oily hair
- Natural ingredients
- Can strip dry hair
Best pH balanced shampoo bar – Ethique Shampoo Bar
Sustainability for the environment is on a lot of people’s minds now. A lot of us want to be more conscious about the waste we throw out. If you think about it, it’s pretty concerning how many shampoo bottles can pile up after months and years of use.
Enter the shampoo bar. It’s the newest, trendiest, and one of the most sustainable options out there. Ethique has completely gotten rid of plastics from the shampoo equation.
Plus, with more independent companies putting out these shampoo bars like Ethique, they’ve gotten a lot more conscious about their products’ health and hair care benefits.
The benefit of this pH-balanced shampoo bar is that it gets rid of the harsh alkaline foaming agents that dry the hair and leave it brittle and prone to breakage.
It’s also a silicone-free formula, allowing your hair to have all the bounce without anything weighing it down.
This shampoo bar cleanses naturally with citrus oils from lime and orange. And the good news? It has natural humectants, which means it can draw in moisture, keeping your hair hydrated without conditioners.
Even better news? It saves you three entire bottles of liquid shampoo. Woah! That’s three fewer plastic bottles in the landfill for every Ethique shampoo bar!
- Environmentally sustainable
- No harsh sulfates
- Good lather
- Bar can be fragile after a few uses
Best organic pH balanced shampoo – Soley Iceland Graedir Shampoo
This Icelandic pick has got every other brand beat for an organic pH balanced shampoo that’s as light as air.
Its unique formula contains herbal ingredients like birch, berries, willow, and other herbs and oils. They’re all handpicked and sourced sustainably from Iceland itself!
These herbs aren’t just for show either. If your scalp has literally been itching for relief from conventional non pH balanced shampoos, then these botanicals will soothe and cleanse. This takes away dirt, grime, and itchiness too!
This au naturel shampoo is also good all around, to no surprise. There’s absolutely no silicones, parabens, phthalates, and all those chemicals we don’t want in our hair. This makes it incredibly light and refreshing to use, giving your hair lightness and bounce as well.
- Unique, organic ingredients
- Light formula
- Refreshing scent
- Organic ingredients may cause allergic reactions
Best natural pH balanced shampoo – OM Botanical Organic Shampoo
Natural shampoos often get a bad reputation for being lackluster. They can be really flat and not give that rich lather you want. They can also be pretty ineffective at cleansing.
OM set out to prove that wrong. It’s made with unbleached and unprocessed botanical ingredients, which are the most effective and the least harmful way to get a clean scalp and hair.
It cleanses, busts dirt, and prevents dandruff with ingredients like neem, basil, willow, and vitamin B3. It also brings some healing relief for itchy scalp and eczema that conventional basic shampoos can worsen.
While it’s full of great natural ingredients, you can also expect it to have no trace of harmful sulfates, parabens, and the whole gang of other chemicals that strip the hair and leave it prone to damage.
The OM Botanical Shampoo is also extra special because it contains biotin, which helps prevent thinning.
- Good lather
- Gentle cleansing
- Can be heavy on fine hair
Best pH balanced shampoo for African American hair – Royal Locks-Curl Cleansing Set
Unfortunately, not all shampoos are made with curly hair in mind. pH-balanced shampoos are better candidates for curly hair for sure, as they prevent frizz and smooth the hair.
But not all pH-balanced shampoos are created equal. There’s a sweet spot to be hit for a shampoo to be the best for curly Afro hair. It has to be rich and nourishing enough to keep curls shiny while also being light enough to prevent them from being weighed down.
The Royal Locks Curl Quench line touches both of those perfectly. It’s a low lather shampoo that cuts you free of any oil-stripping substances that make curls go limp.
It’s also highly nourishing with argan oil that provides a light but impactful punch of moisture, un-frizzing, detangling, and healing.
Even if you have colored hair, you can use this shampoo and not worry about your color prematurely fading.
Of course, to be truly curly hair-friendly, Royal Locks is sulfate-free too.
Drugstore pH balanced shampoo – Neutrogena Gentle & Soft Shampoo
You don’t have to look any further than the drugstore to find a good pH-balanced shampoo. The Neutrogena Gentle and Soft formula is a unique one as it cleanses using micellar water instead of damaging alkaline ingredients.
Micellar water is a favorite in the beauty industry because it can be an effective yet gentle force against dirt, oil, and other debris.
The scalp’s natural pH is maintained through this gentle cleansing, and hair is kept safe from the toll alkaline products can take on the shaft.
- Paraben, phthalate, and sulfate-free
- Light formula
- Strong fragrance
How do I know if my shampoo is pH balanced?
More often than not, specialty shampoos have “pH-balanced” or “pH-balancing” in their names. This is often the easiest way to pick a safe choice.
If this information isn’t readily available, you can check the pH in the product details and see that it lies between 5-7 on the scale.
Shampoos with acids as active ingredients such as apple cider vinegar can also be pH balanced, but it’s always best to double-check the product details.
Is pH-balanced shampoo good for your hair?
Using a pH balanced shampoo has many different benefits for all kinds of hair types and concerns.
- pH balanced shampoo protect the hair from breakage due to damage
- pH balanced shampoos can prevent itchiness brought about by basic shampoos
- They can prevent color hair from being stripped prematurely
- Curly hair is best maintained by using more acidic pH-balanced shampoo
- Shine and improved smoothness is noticeable when using a pH-balanced shampoo
Now, if you think that you might be able to enjoy some of those benefits of pH-balanced shampoos, you can consider all the options you can choose from that are out there and pick the one made precisely for your hair concern.