Are you or have you ever been a "product junkie"?
Let's define the term: someone continuously buys products without finishing previously purchased products or using them long enough to see if they work; someone who needs to purchase new products immediately upon release. The term developed over the last ten to twelve years, as women returning to their naturally curly hair found it challenging to find products they felt worked for their hair. Think about it: black women's hair has been a topic of discussion for many long years, constantly shamed about the appearance of their hair, producing a plethora of psychological stresses and anxieties regarding the way they look. It doesn't have to be this way, though! Many factors tie into thriving and healthy hair, and using great products is significant; however, you must first take the challenge of better understanding your hair, the scientific structure of hair, and how the science of ingredients works.
It's time we accept a hard truth, and that is the hair trauma we have, which was inflicted by people around us and possibly by our own loved ones. Perhaps you grew up in a home where a relaxer was applied to your hair simply because it was too dense or coarse for the adults to manage. We all know how this mentality came about. Possibly, you resided in a home where your hair strands were very fine, presenting a challenge in diversity with styling. Maybe neither of these is something you relate to, but you didn't get a chance to understand your hair growing up and are now journeying through a better understanding of what works and what doesn't. We all have a story!
Consider the late 60s and 70s, when the black community embraced the power of the fro and their natural. Still, relaxers appeared in the late 80s and 90s, producing a new set of psychological stresses about hair! Well, there was a reawakening, if you will, amongst the black community beginning in the early 2000s. Many began to cut their relaxed hair or transitioned back to their natural hair with time. People soon realized there needed to be more effective education about the structure and intricacies of our hair and the best products to use. Since this uprising, several companies have claimed the right product for your hair type, but how could that be true? No one truly knew what they were getting into, especially these companies, which led to people becoming "product junkies," buying anything they saw someone on YouTube using. We were all learning together because it was a communal transition, and we are still learning. The question remains: how do you choose your products? It's all a science!
The science of hair and products!
An excellent first step in choosing the right products is learning about pH and its role in our holistic hair care! The concept of pH was introduced by the Danish chemist S. P. L. Sørensen at the Carlsberg Laboratory in 1909 and is used to determine levels of acidity and alkalinity—the pH scale measures from 0 (mainly acid) to 14 (primarily alkaline). You may be wondering what this has to do with hair. Well, in our bodies, there are different pH levels. Our blood balances out at a little over seven on the pH scale at its healthiest. The pH levels in your urine can change based on your diet, so eating foods rich in nutrients is a priority. Regarding our hair/scalps, the pH is 4.5-5.5 on the pH scale, keeping it naturally more acidic to fight bacteria and fungus.
When the hair is at the proper pH level, the cuticles are appropriately closed, keeping it healthy and giving it a healthy shine. Maintaining the hair and scalp's natural pH level allows the scalp's acidic sebum to fight bacteria. Sebum is the hair's natural conditioner and protective shield, helping prevent unwanted breakage, sealing the hair cuticles, and maintaining moisture and natural oils. Products often disrupt the pH balance of your hair/scalp, leaving the hair vulnerable. When this balance gets disrupted by a product higher in alkalinity, the cuticles can open up relentlessly, causing hair issues like dryness and flaky scalps. Using heavily acidic products causes the cuticles to contract and over-tighten, making the hair resistant. When the hair repeatedly goes through changes in pH (by constantly using different or imbalanced products), the cuticles continuously swell and close, and the hair can experience Hygral Fatigue. Knowing where your products land on the pH scale is vital to determine how it affects your hair's natural pH and overall health. Your hair products should be pH-balanced to keep your hair and scalp at natural levels. When your products cause an imbalance, it can lead to bacteria build-up, itchy or flaky scalp, and dry or weak hair. Shampoos raise your pH to open the cuticles of the hair strands and open the pores on the scalp to ensure a thorough cleanse. Conditioner brings that pH level back down to standard, ensuring the hair and scalp are protected.
Taking on the challenge!
Choosing the right products can be challenging, but you can make better decisions when you understand your hair and the basics of the science of hair. Most product labels will state the pH levels in their products, but some may still need to. You can call these companies' helplines and ask for clarity or visit their websites for more in-depth information about them before you buy. If you have products at home and you need to figure out the pH levels, you now have the opportunity to enjoy a science experiment! Purchase litmus strips online or at any educational store to test your products and see what you find. Remember to subscribe so you don't miss future posts where we will gain an understanding of why hair products are like a prescription and treat ingredients like nutrition facts for your hair!