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Understanding how pH effects the hair is the secret to unlocking the world of treating your client’s hair rather than just coloring it. This knowledge is actually quite simple to understand but very rarely taught in beauty school.

How the Hair’s pH Balance Effects Hair Color

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The Hair’s pH Balance

Acidic and Alkaline are two extremes that describe an important property of chemicals. Mixing acids and alkalines can cancel out or neutralize their extreme effects. A substance that is neither acidic nor alkaline is neutral. Water, for example, has a pH of 7 which is neutral.

The pH scale measures how acidic or alkaline a substance is. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. A pH of 7 (pure water) is neutral. A pH less than 7 is acidic. A pH greater than 7 is alkaline.

The pH scale is logarithmic and as a result, each whole pH value below 7 is ten times more acidic than the next higher value. For example, pH 4 is ten times more acidic than pH 5 and 100 times (10 times 10) more acidic than pH 6. The same holds true for pH values above 7, each of which is ten times more alkaline than the next lower whole value. For example, pH 10 is ten times more alkaline than pH 9 and 100 times (10 times 10) more alkaline than pH 8.

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Pure water is neutral. But when chemicals are mixed with water, the mixture can become either acidic or basic. Examples of acidic substances are vinegar and lemon juice. Lye, milk of magnesia, and ammonia are examples of basic substances.

The importance of restoring the correct pH balance after coloring.

The natural pH level of hair and the surface of your skin is between 4.5 and 5.5. This is known as the hair’s “balanced isometric pH level”. Bringing the pH of hair above 5.5 will cause the hair to swell causing the cuticle to open. Bringing the pH level of the hair below 4.5 will cause the hair to contract, causing the cuticle to close. Hair should never be brought to pH levels less than 3 or more than 9.5 because doing so will either contract or expand the hair to such a degree that it will be damaged and therefore completely sacrifice the structural integrity of the hair.

To color hair permanently we have to open the cuticle and allow permanent color into the hair. The only way to do this is to alter the acid-alkaline balance (the pH balance) of the hair. There are only two ways to do this. The first is to subject the hair to a corrosive, highly alkaline, substance such as ammonia which has a pH of 11.6. This takes the hair well beyond its normal pH and causes considerable damage to the hair structural integrity. As ammonia is highly corrosive and alkaline, it is very effective at opening the cuticle and attaching color but has numerous side effects including damage to the hair and impairing the hair’s natural health, elasticity, and ability to “hold” color (see The Importance of Understanding Tyrosine above)

The second, more natural method is to suspend the hair in a substance that acts as a moisturizer which also contains a natural swelling agent. This softens the cuticle and, because it does not take the hair as far from its natural pH, causes it to open rather than swell. The pH of Organic Color Systems’ colors is 8.5 to 9.2 which is a very stable pH range for hair. While this may not seem much different from the pH of ammonia, remember that each numerical step on the pH scale (which is logarithmic) is 100 times more alkaline than the number before it. Consider the difference between ammonia (with a pH of 11.6) and household bleach (with a pH of 11.7).

Because Organic Color Systems does not take the hair as far from the natural isometric pH balance, it uses a combination of heat and natural extracts to gently swell the cuticle, and it is able to close the cuticle down when applying the specially formulated shampoo and conditioner, the hair is left with a natural feel and shine. Most importantly, the hairs structural integrity, natural moisture, and ability to “hold” color is left in tact.

Organic Color Systems is a complete system built around treating the hair and keeping it healthy. To do this, Organic Color Systems makes it easy for professionals to achieve the proper balances of protein, moisture, and pH and enables them to focus on delivering the best color and style for their client. In doing so, Organic Care Systems provides a complete line of shampoos, conditioners, reconstructors, and treatments specially formulated to return the hair back to its natural ideal isometric pH level of between 4.5 and 5.5. This provides the hair color with maximum protection from fade by sealing the cuticle around the delicate inner proteins and pigments while not damaging the tyrosine protein.

Quick Summary

• The pH indicates the acid-alkaline balance in a substance. The pH scale is logarithmic and each level up in the alkaline level is 100X more alkaline than the level below. The natural ideal isometric balance of human hair is 4.5 – 5.5.
• Permanent hair color adjusts the pH level of the hair to open the cuticle, usually with the use of ammonia. Ammonia has a very strong alkaline with a pH of 11.6 bringing the hair to the pH level that permanently damages the cuticle and the hairs inner protein. This sacrifices the structural integrity of the hair. Damaging the hair’s protein will permanently impair its ability to hold color and may lead to premature greying or consistent translucent hair color results.
• Organic Color Systems uses a natural extract suspended in an oil base that moisturizes the cuticle before gently swelling it to open the cuticle. Organic Color Systems works at pH level of 8.5 – 9.2 which are stable levels for human hair and will not damage the cuticle or sacrifice the hair’s structural integrity.
• Organic Care Systems is specially formulated to bring hair back to its ideal isometric pH level which provides natural protection, shine, body, and richness of color.