In Spike Lee’s film Malcolm X, we see young Malcolm (portrayed by actor Denzel Washington) suffering through a painful lye treatment to straighten his hair. Lye straightens hair because it is very alkaline, with a pH of 14. It breaks the disulfide bonds that keep hair curly. But at a cost! Lye can cause permanent damage to skin and hair.
Later in the film, Malcolm begins to question where his knowledge was coming from, and eventually travels to Africa to gain a more cultural perspective. Today we know that many of the Indigenous African treatments for hair are far healthier, and we have access to the science that can help us innovate new ways to keep beauty and health working together. In this website you will learn how to use pH probes to test hair treatments and other common household products, and even experiment with making your own.