The first time I used Dr. Bronner's in my locs was with my 1st set. At first, my locs felt clean and alive. Gradually over several months that changed. They became dry, lifeless and dull looking.
With my 3rd set of locs. In addition to becoming dull and dry, my scalp disorder exploded. I figured it was the natural twisting gels, so I started freeforming. Still, my scalp was horrific. Next, I quit all oils... my scalp still burned, flaked and was bright red. When I started using dandruff shampoos between Dr. Bronner's... my scalp got a little better but not completely, so I cut my locs. Eventually I ran out of Dr. Bronners and my scalp got significantly better.
What was going on? First a brief explanation of why pH is important to skin and hair care. Davis-Sivasothy states "The skin and scalp have Acid Mantles with pHs in the 4 to 5.5 range. This acid mantle is more important for the skin were it acts as a barrier to viruses, bacteria and other undesirable contaminants that may try to enter the body" (45). Fungus is a significant player in dandruff as we are covered in fungus and bacteria. When it grows beyond normal... we get skin infections.
Proper Ph also keeps the cuticles of the hair closed to maintain moisture. When pH is too acidic or too Base the hair will break down. A pH between 3 and 4 closes cuticles, making hair shiny, and retain moisture and haircolor better. A pH above 7 causes hair strands swell and cuticles lift. This will make hair dry, rough and damaged. The higher the PH the more damaged the hair can become until it actually melts.
Is there any time you want to lift cuticles? Sure, most hair color have a ph around 8. In exchange for color, you are accepting damage. Relaxers break down the hair strands to make them straight and they start with a PH around 10 or 11. Heat also opens cuticles; low heat it isn't as drastic as high heat and damage is minimal. The reason many protein treatments use heat, is to open the cuticles and allow penetration. What does this have to do with natural soap?
Natural soap has a PH of 9. In my experience, Castile and natural bar soaps over time, can cause dryness and even affect the texture of hair. In addition, soap reacts with hard water leaving mineral deposits (soap scum) on the hair (and shower doors). Who has hard water? 85% of us.
Baking Soda (ph 8.1) and Bentonate Clay (ph 9.1) have similar problems. Now, I color my hair but I do it every 6-8 weeks. I recognize the damage my locs incur. Trim them and do protein treatments to compensate. I know that I am damaging my hair. If someone chooses to use soap or clay on their locs, an educated decision is important. Often natural is better, except when it's not. I've included a short list of resources for you to begin your own research as you decide how important pH is to you.
Davis-Savasothy, Audry. The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guild to Texture Hair Care. Stafford: Saja Publishing Company, 2011. Print
KimmayTube 4 part Series
- The Basics
- pH Balance Basics
- Are you taking your hair on a pH roller coster ride
- Using pH Balance Properly for Hair Care