Solid Shampoo and pH

I have tried SO many shampoo bars. I was frustrated by how bad the bad ones were, leaving my hair feeling damaged and limp. I wondered why the better ones didn’t last so long, or didn’t lather well, or crumbled. Finally, I started logging the ingredients, reading and learning about the ingredients to formulate my own shampoo. It lathers, one bar lasts twice as long as a bottle of shampoo and leaves my hair feeling clean and smooth. There is no build up and it is one of my most popular products.

The Kelpie Shampoo that I have created felt so much better than saponified shampoo bars on the market that have high pH. These bars are sold as SHAMPOO BARS but in my opinion should not be called shampoo. They are soap. The kind of soap I would happily use on my skin, not on my hair.

There was a chance for small business in Devon to have some time using powerful microscopy equipment at Plymouth University (SEM) and I saw this as an opportunity to have a closer look at what caustic shampoo bars were doing to hair in comparison to Kelpie Shampoo Bars.  


 Effect on different hair types

I collected a range of hair samples (24 different people) of various types and textures. It was important to me that a range of thicknesses, afro, straight, wavy, colour treated and straightened hair was looked at.

I looked at a range of hair types so I can confidently say that Kelpie Shampoo is great for ALL hair. I can also confidently say what effect caustic shampoo bars have on these range of hair types. Did any hair type endure the caustic shampoo bar without any damage? Read on to find out.


The Washing Process

I am a geek so I did everything I could to keep this study fair. I washed the hair once in the same way for the same duration. Rinsed with tap water that was the same temperature for the same amount of time and air dried the same way. The only difference was the shampoo that was used.


Findings and Comparisons.

The pictures show a massive difference between Kelpie Shampoo Bars and saponified shampoo bars. The cuticle lifted on all hair samples when washed in saponified shampoo and the surface of the cuticle is rougher. All hair washed with Kelpie shampoo has no lifting of cuticle and was as smooth or smoother than it was when unwashed.

Lifted cuticle and rough texture on the hair shaft means the hair is more at risk of further damage. It has more areas to start a split or tear. It has more areas to grab hold of build-up and oils etc etc. Tears and splits in the hair can NOT be repaired because hair cells are not alive. Any hair product claiming to repair damaged hair is stretching the definition of “repair”.

 for  (whShould high pH caustic shampoo be called shampoo?

Looking at my above findings it shows saponified shampoo damages ALL hair types. This product is labelled shampoo, it is sold to people for the purpose of cleaning hair. It is cleaning hair but it is also damaging hair. This product is mis-labelled in my opinion.

For example. If you used washing up liquid on your hands as hand soap, after a short while you will notice the skin on your hands to be very dry and damaged. You may get sores or dermatitis on your hands. This would not be a massive surprise because you KNOW you’re using washing up liquid, not hand soap. Washing up liquid is intended for washing dishes and lifting oils and grease, not for your hands.

This is what is happening with caustic “shampoo”, however people are picking up these bars thinking they are good for hair when really they are not. They are soaps and should only be used on skin.


Why does high pH shampoo do so much damage?. 

pH is the measure of the amount of charged hydrogen atoms there are present in a solution. Hair shafts and the protein making up the cuticle more precisely have a pH of approx. 5. Using a product with the same pH (5) will not affect the structure of the cuticle.

Using a saponified (soap) product on hair with a pH above 7 will disrupt the bonds between the proteins of the cuticle. This is why we see the lift in the cuticle and the rough texture. Saponified products clean well but break apart the delicate bonds between the cells of hair shaft and cause irreparable damage.


Look out for the following ingredients.

There may be a list of ingredients each with long names on a shampoo bar but this is not necessarily a bad thing. A blend of pH balanced surfactants is the gentlest thing for your hair.

Ingredients to avoid using on hair that are in saponified products include:

  1. Sodium Cocoate
  2. Sodium Olivate
  3. Sodium Palmate (derived from Palm Oil) 
  4. Potassium Cocoate
  5. Potassium Olivate
  6. Potassium Palmate (derived from Palm Oil)

The above ingredients are all the products of cold process soap making and are great to use on your skin but will damage your hair. No amount of acid rinse or the myth of a transition phase will fix broken hair. 


What next for the study?

It has been great to take a closer look at the effects of pH on hair. Next I would like to look at sulfates, silicones and different types of conditioners. 

I hope you enjoyed this article and if you think someone else may enjoy the read please send them a link and leave a comment below.