Hair Relaxers | Understanding The PH Level of Hair During Processing
Dr. Ali N. Syed enlightens us with data about the PH levels of hair during relaxing. The pH of the hair goes through considerable changes during the relaxing process. These events take place before, during, and after relaxing the hair. He also discusses the swelling of the hair and the state of the cuticles during relaxing.
This is to inform those with naturally afro-textured hair what happens to the ph level of their hair when relaxing.
The pH of the untreated hair is in the range of 4.5 to 6.5 and the cuticles are considered closed, as the hair isn’t swollen in the dry state.
1.. The pH of cream relaxers is around 13.0. When the relaxer is applied to the hair, the pH of the hair increases to 13.0. Because of this, the hair diameter swells as much as 60 – 80 percent of its original size. Also, the cuticles become wide open while the relaxer is on the hair. This is the best opportunity to condition the hair because the cuticles are open to the widest possible degree. Unfortunately, most conditioners are not stable at the pH of 13. Especially the single molecules of quaternary ammonium compounds– conditioning agents used in most conditioners. However, there a select few cationic polymers that remain stable at a high pH and condition the hair while it is simultaneously being straightened by the relaxer. These conditioning agents are able to penetrate deep into the cortex of the hair and condition the hair more permanently than conventional conditioners. Since the molecular weight of these conditioners is around 1 million, they get stuck in the cortex of the hair when the cuticles start to close during rinsing of the relaxer. Also, these conditioners can stay in the cortex of the hair up to 4 shampooing treatments.
2. After 13 to 18 minutes of relaxer treatment, the excessively curly hair generally becomes straight and at that stage, the relaxer is rinsed from the hair with tepid warm water for 4 to 5 minutes. The pH of the hair drops down to about 10 and the hair isn’t as swollen as when the relaxer was on the hair. The cuticles are about 30 percent open at this stage. This is the second best opportunity to condition hair in the relaxing process. Since the cuticles are about 30 percent open, the conditioners such as high molecular weight cationic polymers are able to penetrate deep into the cortex of the hair and condition hair from the inside out. This penetration of conditioning agents is less than the penetration of conditioners during relaxing process.
3. After rinsing the post-relaxer conditioner with water, the hair is then shampooed with Neutralizing/Normalizing shampoo of pH 4.5 to 6.5. Generally, a high quality neutralizing shampoo contains cationic polymers, mild detergents, organic acids (like citric acid or lactic acid), and color indicators to signal the neutralization of alkaline residue derived from relaxers. The hair acquires the pH of the neutralizing shampoo, that is, it comes back to its natural pH balance while the cuticles close back down to a level that is close to the original state.
Courtesy of Dr. Ali Syed