Lo-poo, plopping, drip dry — I've pretty much got a good rhythm going on for my curly mane. But, since I'm still sensitive to keeping my relaxed hair as healthy and breakage-free as possible, I'm constantly tweaking my products. Although I could rattle off the reasons for going sulfate-free, I've got a new obsession: balancing my hair pH levels. I put on a figurative lab coat and started my chemistry research . . .

You may recall from our lye and no-lye relaxer talks that pH is a scale from zero to 14 that measures acids and bases. The greater potential a substance has for freeing hydrogen (H) ions, the smaller its pH value is. So, the greater the degree of acidity, the lower the pH reading, and the greater the degree of alkalinity, the higher the reading.

If you're loving the science so far, find out how this applies to shampoo when you


Even though gals with relaxers are typically the ones exposed to those super high pH levels, low pH shampoos can help balance anyone with dry, frizzy, chemically treated or heat-damaged tresses, too! Often it's "reconstructing products" with a lower pH, so many stylists (mine included) recommend choosing shampoos around 4 or 5 to help temporarily close the cuticle and protect against damage. (Side note: Generally, most shampoo should have a pH between 5 and 7. While higher pH levels may soften the hair, they do so by opening the cuticle, which is not hydrating for already damaged locks.)

Some brands list numbers right on the bottle, but quick web research can uncover these levels or, if you're extra ambitious, you can buy pH test strips from your local drugstore and make a beauty test lab. If it's not yet science time at your house, check out some of my low pH shampoos as suggestions.