What does pH balance mean for skin?
So you know that skin pH is important, but you’re not entirely sure why or what you should be doing about it. You’re not alone. pH is a complicated scienc-y term and it’s easy to get into the weeds when you go about researching it. But it is important because lots of hero ingredients depend on pH to work their magic, and the pH of your skin is a key indicator of skin health.
pH is a measure of acidity
The term pH refers to the acidity level of substances and and runs from 1 – 14 with 7 considered neutral.
Healthy skin is weakly acidic
Healthy skin is on the weakly acidic side of the pH scale (about 4.5 – 6 on the scale) because skin that is a little acidic can fight off free radical damage and harmful microbes.
Skin pH is affected by these factors
Factors that adversely affect skin pH include acne, air pollution, humidity, antibacterial products, sebum, sun exposure and too frequent washing of your skin. For optimal skincare that helps keep your skin pH balanced, look for products that are close to your skin’s natural pH.
pH balanced skin looks like this
You will know that your skin has a balanced pH if it has a soft, supple texture and no dry spots. Anytime your skin is dry, red, itchy, or peeling, there may be some degree of pH disruption.
Your skin has a really thin outer layer
The skin’s acid mantle is a very fine (and very vital) slightly acidic film which acts as a barrier to bacteria, viruses and other potential skin contaminants. This is the layer that we’re always trying to keep balanced. A damaged acid mantle can lead to dehydration, oily skin, acne and sensitivity and that’s why it’s super-beneficial to add a protective spritz into your routine.
Foaming cleansers upset pH
Harsh foaming cleansers can strip the skin of natural oils, causing pH imbalance and resulting in skin that’s stressed and irritated. True soaps have an alkaline pH and are damaging to the skin.
Most reputable skincare products are pH-balanced, meaning that they are formulated with a pH that falls in the range of healthy skin. Skincare products with a high pH level (8 to 14) pose the biggest threat to the skin’s acid mantle. If you wash your face with soap, your skin will feel tight and squeaky-clean – that’s a sign of a cleanser with a high pH that is damaging the skin barrier. Instead, opt for non-foaming cleansers formulated with nourishing and hydrating ingredients. Your skin should feel soft and hydrated after you cleanse, not tight and squeaky.
Products with a low pH will work with your skin and help cell turnover – think well-formulated exfoliating acid toners for example. But certain products can be too low a pH for skin and cause irritation – think at-home acid peels. Choose exfoliating products that combine moisturising ingredients in the formula so that the skin barrier function is protected.
Skin pH is effectively a measure of how good your skin barrier is functioning. When we correct our skin’s pH balance, what we’re doing is bringing the skin barrier function back to its optimal state of equilibrium so that it can effectively absorb hydration and repel things that irritate it. The first step to getting pH-imbalanced skin back on track is stepping away from harsh ingredients and switching to balanced products, which will heal and hydrate your skin.