[Anti Frizz Project] Lowering the pH of your shampoo

Healthy Hair
Summer means having to deal with my arch nemesis - frizz. In the early days of spring, I enjoyed sporting my signature hair style consisting of big flexi-rod curls.  Unfortunately, this high humidity won't let my hair be great.

It's time to tweak my regimen a bit to focus on combating frizz.  Every time we wash our hair, water seeps into the cuticles causing it to expand (and weaken). To make matters worse, you then reach for a high pH shampoo.  Unless the pH of your shampoo is under 5.5, the alkalinity will likely promote tangling, frizz, and breakage.  I've noticed increased tangling post wash when it's time to apply conditioner. This is probably due to the lifted scales on the hair shaft (alkaline lifts the scales, acidity seals them).

The solution to my dilemma might be to lower the pH of my shampoo.

I've listed out my two possible options:

  1. Purchase a low pH shampoo
  2. Add ingredients to my shampoo to lower pH. 
I have a staple shampoo that I know & love so I don't think I'll be switching brands any time soon.  My KeraCare detangling cleanser claims to have a pH of 6.0.  Not bad, but just shy of the 5.5 pH of our scalp and way higher than the pH of our hair strands (3.67 ph).

For my wash day experiment, I'm to going play around with adding a little bit of coconut vinegar to my shampoo. Mixing oil and shampoo together is the best thing that ever happened to me. I'm hoping adding a low pH vinegar will work just as well.

If not, then plan B is to lace my cleanser with a little citric acid.  This is a very low pH compound that is often added to hair products to lower the alkalinity.  The thing about citric acid is that it's powerful stuff. This means that we should only be using a tiny bit at a time.  Use too much and it can lighten the color of your hair (no one wants that).  Check out this discussion where women added small amounts of citric acid to water and used it as a cuticle sealing final rinse (with wonderful results).

If that doesn't work out, I might experiment with reincorporating Roux's Porosity Control (pH 4.5) back into my regimen.  This product was one of my faves years ago.  I pulled it out of my product closet this morning and realized that I was using it incorrectly for years.  Apparently, it's supposed to be a "pre-chemical service treatment."  Meaning you apply to your hair before coloring or relaxing to minimize potential damage.  Back then, I blended Porosity Control with my conditioner to lower the pH.  The end result was fantastic!  Roux made most of my conditioners work better.  Guess what I'm doing this weekend? That's right, I'll be lacing my shampoo with Roux to see if I can recreate that magic.  I checked out their website and realized that they've altered the ingredients.  Typically, I start to panic when this happens but I breathed a sigh of relieve once I realized they've incorporated keratin amino acids, vitamin E and biotin to the new formula.  Can't wait to get my hands on it.

Theoretically, I could just focus on lowering the pH of my conditioner and not worry about the shampoo step.  But I'm not gonna do that because (1.) I'd prefer not to have a disturbed cuticle layer while applying conditioner to damp hair.  (2.) When I carry out a theme throughout every step of the wash day experience, I typically experience better results. For instance, when my hair is dry, I try to focus on increasing moisture throughout every step in the process, not just when I deep condition.

Hopefully this is a game changer for my issue with frizz.  I'm really serious about this because I've noticed that my hair is more likely to experience manipulation related breakage when it's frizzy.

Now all I need is a low pH leave-in and I'm set.

(If you want to read more on how high pH shampoos effect the hair, check out this synopsis.)


  1. I've been using Joico's K-Pak products in the gold bottles for a few years now, specifically the Cuticle Sealer (pH 3-4), the moisturizing conditioner (not quite as low pH but meant to be used after the sealer), as well as another Joico moisturizing conditioner in a blue bottle -- that one is also ph of 3 to 4. The instructions on the latter are to leave it in for one minute and then rinse. The moisturizing conditioner in the gold bottle, although the ph isn't quite as low, has more oomph to it. It's more moisturizing and I use it maybe once a week, Instructions on *that* one (as well as the cuticle sealer in the same line) is to leave in for 5 minutes.

    Years ago I was on a mission to lower the pH in my shampoos and after maybe 2 or 3 failed experiments (texture changes, mainly -- pH was good but the product became very runny, so I must have destabilized the thickeners), I gave up. I was lucky to find the Joico products, which aren't cheap but keep my hair from feeling like straw.

    As it happens, I just bought a conditioner base and some citric acid to see if I can make my own ph-balanced versions at a lower cost, so maybe I can salvage some of my other shampoos with the CA.

    Glad to read that other people are trying this and sharing the results! I envy people whose hair seems to do fine with regular, inexpensive grocery/drug store shampoos. I used to be one of them, but alas, my poor hair can't seem to tolerate those anymore. Here's hoping the CA will help.


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