pH (power of hydrogen) is a measure of how acidic or basic an aqueous (water based) solution is. The scale goes from 0 (acidic) to 14 (basic or alkaline). 7 is neutral.
Hair at a normal, balanced level has a pH of about 5 (give or take 0.5) which is slightly acidic.
It’s important that the products you use are pH balanced so your hair can maintain a normal pH level.
Here are the average pH levels of common no poo products (the brand of the product, the pH level of the water used, how much water is used for dilution, etc. will affect the pH level of the product):
- Aloe Vera: 6
- Apple Cider Vinegar: 2-3
- Rye Flour: 5
- Arrowroot: 6.5
- Corn Starch: 6
- Eggs: 6-7
- Coconut Milk: 6-7
- Apples: 3-4
- Soap Nuts: 4-5
- Bananas: 5
- Honey: 4
- Kombucha: 3 (learn how to make kombucha here)
- Kefir: 4 (learn how to make kefir here)
- Yogurt: 4
- Epsom Salt: 6
The goal is to get as close to your hair’s natural pH level as possible (which is about 5). So if you use a basic wash, you need to balance with an acid rinse. If your hair products are too basic or acidic, you could (and probably will) end up with damaged, dry, brittle, porous hair.
If the baking soda / apple cider vinegar method is not working for you, it could be because your hair doesn't respond well to the big swing in pH levels (or it could be because you are using too much baking soda too often). Baking soda is alkaline and vinegar is acidic. Finding a pH balanced formula will work much better.
You want to use products that balance out to your hair’s natural pH level at about 5. My personal favorite pH balanced wash is rye flour. Learn more about different no poo methods here.
You can easily test the pH level of your products (store bought or diy) with a digital pH tester or a litmus test.