While you may have been taught all about pH back in high school science class, chances are that the topic hasn’t arisen much in your daily life…until now.
Why does your skin’s pH matter so much, and what do you need to do to maintain a healthy pH balance? Here’s everything you need to know.
Why Does Skin pH Matter?
Where a substance falls on the pH scale tells you how acidic or alkaline it is. When it comes to your skin, an ideal pH level would be between 5 and 6, meaning slightly acidic. There are even a few recent studies emerging pointing to the perfect natural skin surface pH being just under 5 .
Why does this matter? Because your skin’s pH balance pretty much dictates overall skin health. A low pH balance means a healthy skin barrier and improved moisture retention, with the skin better able to protect itself from environmental damage.
On the other hand, unbalanced skin, which is usually considered alkaline, is much more likely to develop a variety of issues, such as:
- Dry patches
- Oily skin and acne
- Contact dermatitis
- Premature skin aging
What Throws Your Skin’s pH Off-Balance?
Before learning how to balance and maintain a healthy natural pH, it’s important to understand what it is that throws things off balance in the first place.
After all, there’s no point putting effort into balancing your skin out if you’re still going to be doing things that are disrupting this precious acidic pH.
Some of the most common factors out there that interfere with skin pH are:
- Antibacterial products
- Certain skin care and makeup products (especially those containing harsh chemicals)
- Changing humidity levels (with the seasons)
- Pollution and free radicals
- Excess sweat
- Excess sun exposure
- Over-washing or over-exfoliating your skin
How to Maintain a Healthy Skin pH Balance
If you think that your skin pH could be off, here’s what you’ll need to do to get pH balanced once again, along with tips on maintaining healthy pH levels:
Use a pH-Balanced Cleanser (and Lukewarm Water)
Most cleansers fall on the alkaline end of the pH scale. This is simply because most of the ingredients needed to properly cleanse the skin are alkaline. Some bar soaps can even have a pH of 12! This can serious interfere with the skin’s acid mantle, throwing off skin pH.
Fortunately, advancements in skin care mean that there are now several pH-balanced cleansers out there, and these are what you need to be using to keep your skin healthy.
On a side note, never use hot water when you wash your face – lukewarm is the way to go. Hot water will only damage your skin’s barrier, interfering with its pH levels and leaving it dry.
Find a Good Toner
One of the reasons why toners have become so popular is that they help to rebalance the skin’s pH level after cleansing. Even if you’re using a balanced cleanser to wash your face, a toner is still worthwhile.
Go for one with antioxidants and hydrating ingredients – these will also help with aging and dryness.
Strip Down the Rest of Your Skincare Routine
It’s so important to make sure that the skincare products you’re using don’t contain any harsh ingredients. Do some research into the ingredients in your favorite moisturizers and serums and you’ll likely be shocked at how damaging many are.
Just like with alkaline cleansers, these chemicals interfere with skin barrier function, causing numerous skin issues.
If beautiful skin is what you’re after, cut out any skincare products that contain even slightly harmful ingredients and closely scrutinize everything that you put onto your face and body.
Don’t Over-Cleanse or Over-Exfoliate
How often do you cleanse and exfoliate your skin? Ideally, the answer for cleansing should be once a day, and exfoliating should be a couple of times a week.
If you’re guilty of indulging in these skin care rituals more often than this, then all of that frequent washing will be messing with your skin pH in a big way.
No matter your skin type, each time you wash or exfoliate, you’re stripping away some of the natural oils that sit on your skin’s surface. This isn’t a problem in small amounts – after all, your skin maintains consistent sebum production.
However, if you’re removing those oils faster than your skin can replace them, then this will change the naturally neutral/acidic pH of your skin.
Check Your Water Quality
Hard water refers to water that has a high mineral content. This is what comes out of the taps in many parts of the world.
A high mineral content may sound good, but this gives the water a pH level of 8.5 or more. As you can imagine, this can be disastrous for your skin.
Not only will your face be affected, but so will your body each time you shower.
Fortunately, there’s a way to get around this – water filters. There are so many out there now that are easy to install – they’ll give you soft alkaline water that your skin will love!
Is pH 5.5 really that important for skin?
No, so long as your skin pH sits somewhere between 4.8 and 7, meaning a slightly acidic to neutral pH, then this should keep your skin looking and feeling its best.
What pH dries skin?
pH levels of 9 and above can severely dry the skin out.
If you’ve been struggling to maintain a healthy complexion, the pH of your skin could be the culprit.
Focused observation will often tell you if this is the case, but you could also purchase some at-home pH testing kits designed for the skin, or ask your dermatologist to perform a pH skin test.
Either way, it can take several weeks to get your skin’s natural pH back to an ideal level – be patient and consistent with the methods that you use, and the results that you see will be long-lasting.