are your soaps and Shampoo Bars pH balanced?


We receive many e-mails asking if our soaps and shampoo bars are pH balanced.
Unfortunately, the science teacher in me will not allow a simple answer

What is pH?

The pH (Potential Hydrogen) is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of an aqueous* solution. The pH scale ranges from 0-14. The pH of distilled water is 7, this is neutral. Any solution with a pH below 7 is an acid and any solution with a pH above 7 is an alkali (or base). Your stomach contains hydrochloric acid (HCl) and has a pH of 1-2. The liquids in your small intestine have a pH around 9. Sea water has an average pH of 8 to 8.4.

*The word aqueous pertains to water. An aqueous solution is a solution in which something is dissolved in water.
  pH Scale


pH and Your Skin

The skin itself does not have a pH. The pH scale is used to measure the acidity or alkalinity of solutions not solids. Many advertising campaigns for pH balanced skin care products state that the pH of the skin is acidic. The acidic conditions of the skin are caused by normal secretions from sweat glands, sebaceous glands (which secrete an oily substance called sebum), and the breakdown of fatty acids on the skin by good bacteria that live on our skin. Together these secretions create the "acid mantle," a natural covering which protects the skin.

After bathing, your skin begins re-secreting the mantle immediately. Unless you are using an extremely acidic or alkaline product, which can actually damage your skin, the pH of skin care products will not change the natural pH of skin secretions. We have received so many testimonials describing how irritating skin conditions, such as eczema, disappeared after just a few days of using our natural handmade soap.


What is pH Balanced?

Let’s say that you just came in from a workout in your garden and your skin is nice and moist all over. If you tried to measure the pH of the secretions on your own wet skin, you would discover that the pH of varies considerably depending on the part of your body you are testing. Also, factors such as gender, time of day, age, diet, ethnic origin, health, and the environment affect the pH of the normal secretions of the skin. So how can a product claim to be "pH balanced" when everyone’s skin is so different? I guess the question we should ask is, pH balanced to what?

Based on the research I have done, it appears that the claim of “pH balanced” is nothing more than a marketing promotional hype to scare people into buying “pH balanced” products.

So why the marketing hype about pH balanced? Detergent soaps and shampoos have a lower, more acidic pH than “true” soap products. Companies are continually trying to find ways to convince the public that their products are better (that is their job). So if they claim that your skin is “acid” and their synthetic detergents, foam boosters, etc. are acid, then their products must be better for your skin. I guess it sounds logical.

A product's pH is not the real danger to your skin, but the synthetic detergents and other chemicals used in soaps, shampoos, and other cosmetics to alter the pH to please the people who believe in the "pH balanced" story – are damaging. These synthetic additives strip the skin of the natural fatty acids and oils, inhibit the natural moisturizing factors of your skin, and actually prevent it from managing its own pH balance. Furthermore, many of us are very sensitive to these synthetic additives and detergents.


pH Color Chart  
Do We Test the pH of Our Soaps?

I do not approach soapmaking as a craft--I am fascinated by the chemistry of saponification and respect the effect that a alkali heavy soap can have on our skin.

Very early lye soaps were often very irritating to the skin. Since there was no accurate way to measure the lye concentration, the old fashioned methods of soap making often resulted in harsh soap, which has given lye soaps an undeserved bad reputation. Early soapmakers often had to make many batches of soap before one was suitable to be used by their family. (See The Origin of Soapmaking)


We test all of our soap batches with quality pH paper. The pH of the initial soap batter is extremely high and shows a deep purple color on the pH paper. After 24 hours in the mold, the pH has dropped drastically. Many soapmaking books warn soapmakers to use gloves when working with fresh soap. When I take our soaps out of the molds after 24 hours, I do not use gloves and my hands are never irritated.

After two weeks our soaps test at 7 to 7.5 with pH paper. But we know the pH is really higher. The problem is that since soap is a soft solid form, pH test strips are not be the best choice to measure soap pH. Since the pH scale is used to measure the acidity or alkalinity of solutions not solids, I need to add some liquid to the soap to take the reading and this, plus the natural surfactants on soap, affect the pH paper number. Although I would need a laboratory pH meter to be truly accurate, the pH paper allows us to compare the changes as the soap cures and we watch the pH decrease.


Today there is a heightened awareness of the possible adverse effects of many of the synthetic additives and chemicals in commercial soaps and shampoos. Commercially made soap bars often contain left over alkali, called Free Alkali. This free alkali helps increase shelf life, but is harsh and drying to your skin.

The most accurate test of a good mild soap is how it feels on your skin. We have received many emails, phone calls and testimonials from people who have seen dramatic changes in their skin, scalp and hair after just a few days of using our handmade soaps and shampoos. They have switched from their “pH balanced” synthetic soap, body wash, or shampoo and are finally free from itching, dry skin, eczema and other skin and scalp problems.
  Goat Milk Soap



COMPARE for Yourself!


Chagrin Valley
Rosemary Lavender Shampoo

Saponified oils of
      rice bran
      castor bean
      organic palm
      virgin hemp seed
      mango butter
aloe vera
essential oils of
      tea tree
rosemary oil extract
  A Popular Shampoo that claims to be "pH balanced"

Sodium Laureth Sulfate (a detergent and surfactant found in many personal care products like soaps, shampoos, toothpaste etc. It is an inexpensive and very effective foamer)
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (same as above)
Cocamide MEA (synthetic foaming agent cationic surfactant in shampoos and bath products, also an emulsifying agents in cosmetics) Zinc Carbonate
Glycol Distearate
Dimethicone (a type of silicone used to replace natural oils stripped by detergents by coating the hair. The silicone coating makes the hair feel softer and means it is less likely to tangle because the silicone coating separates each hair from another. Dimethicone can be problematic since it can accumulate on the hair.)
Cetyl Alcohol (a surfactant) Polyquaternium 10 (a polymer used in shampoo to help hair lay flat. Their positive charges also ionically bond them to hair and skin.)
Magnesium Sulfate
Sodium Benzoate (synthetic preservative. Shown to damage cellular DNA--there is a whole array of degenerative diseases--the whole process of aging.)
Magnesium Carbonate Hydroxide
Ammonium Laureth Sulfate (same as Sodium Laureth Sulfate)
Benzyl Alcohol (a bacteriostatic preservative known for its toxic effects including respiratory failure, vasodilation, hypotension, convulsions, and paralysis. Neonatal deaths have been associated with the use of benzyl alcohol as a preservative in saline solutions. Also used as a general solvent for paints.)
Sodium Chloride
Melaleuca Alternifolia Leaf Oil (tea tree)
Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract

Methylchloroisothiazolinone (a synthetic preservative. Like a number of other common cosmetics ingredients, it has been considered to be a carcinogen. It is also an allergen.)
Methylisothiazolinone (a synthetic preservative. Studies have shown it to be allergenic and cytotoxic, and this has led to some concern over its use. It affects the ability of young or developing neurons to grow and process.)
Sodium Xylenesulfonate (synthetic surfactant added to thicken shampoo, and to help keep some other ingredients in solution thus making the product clear or transparent)
Yellow 5
Blue 1



This shampoo states that it is made with Tea Tree Oil and natural herbal extracts.
Notice how far down the ingredients list you must go before finding the two (in green) natural ingredients!

Which would you rather use on your skin, scalp and hair?