In high-school chemistry class, you most likely learned about pH and dipped little, color-changing strips into liquids to see where they fell on a scale of 1 to 14. In case you need a refresher: Anything below 7 is acidic. Above 7 is alkaline, and 7 is neutral, like water.
On the subject of chemistry and how that correlates to skin care products, all of this has a lot more to do with beauty, particularly skin care, than we ever imagined. The pH of your favorite cleanser, toner, and moisturizer affects your skin, whether you realize it or not. And chances are, it's not for the better.
That being said, let's take a closer look at how pH truly affects skin.
What is the Typical pH of Skin?
No matter which expert you ask, they'll tell you skin rings up at a solid 5.5 on the pH scale. Skin is an incredibly delicate organ. Like every other organ in our body, skin performs its best within a narrow, ideal environment, especially when it comes to pH. When it deviates from that magic number, harmful bacteria could grow, triggering inflammation and skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, and rosacea.
Like coffee, your skin is on the acidic side. In fact, it's covered in what's called an "acid mantle," which helps maintain your skin's pH, prevent infections, seal in moisture, and keep skin firm. Acidic conditions maintain skin-barrier function and the body's ability to ward off infection. And with age, the acid mantle diminishes and skin becomes less acidic, making it drier and more prone to fine lines and wrinkles.
What's The Typical pH Of Skin Care Products?
As soon as you jump into the first step of your morning or nightly skin-care routine, you can alter the natural pH of your skin and dismantle the acid mantle. (Pun intended.) When that happens,the skin's ability to repel environmental insults could be affected. This would lead to increased water loss from the skin, causing dryness and scaling, as well as irritation, redness, and itching. Basically, your beloved skin care products could be working against you and could be the source of your skin's woes.
Other beauty brands use similar wording like "pH balanced" or "balances skin pH level". All means that they sit around the 5.5 mark on the pH scale unless otherwise noted. If they are higher or lower than that, here's how they'll affect your skin:
High pH (8 to 14)
Skin care products with a high pH level (also known as alkaline) pose the biggest threat to your skin's pH and acid mantle. They'll make your skin feel smooth at first, but it'll be disturbed and rough in the long run.
That tight, squeaky-clean feeling you might experience after washing your face is the truest sign of cleansers with a high pH and damaged skin barrier. They, as well as other alkaline skin-care products, tend to strip away sebum and natural oils. As a result, undesirable effects such as redness, inflammation, scaling, and dryness can occur. Your skin might even break out, just because you cleansed with an alkaline face wash.
To help reverse this, try repairing the damaged skin barrier with topical probiotics. Depending on your skin type, you're sure to find amazing options on of skin care products infused with probiotics.
Low pH (1 to 6)
Because products with a low pH are at a level closer to skin's natural pH, they will more effectively work with your skin and help cell turnover gently. They're more likely to keep skin bright and smooth, instead of flaky and angry.
However, certain products can be too low of a pH for skin and irritate it. At-home peels and other acid-spiked products like tend to have a lower pH level, making them great exfoliants but just as stripping as products with a high pH. You can try exfoliating products with a moisturizer to help restore the acid mantle and protect the barrier function.
Or you can counter the stripping nature of acids with soothing ingredients that still maintain a low pH. As for its low pH cleanser, use a milder form of surfactant derived from natural ingredients to cleanse thoroughly without irritating the skin.
What's The Ideal pH For Skin Care Products?
You obviously want to look for skin care products with a pH of 5.5. If anything, they could be as low as 4.5 and as high as 7. The general rule is slightly acidic is preferred for the best complexion.
If you are unsure of what exactly the pH of your favorite skin care product is, you can check by literally pH-testing them with litmus paper. Packs are available on Amazon for about $6.
What Are The Best pH-balanced Skin Care Products?
If you don't have the time to pH test your products or read the fine print, some other options are from Wild Naturals, where all of the products are already pH balanced for skin!
If anything, swapping out your face wash for something more pH-friendly should be your first line of action. Do your skin that favor, at the very least! Shop Wild Naturals today.