The skin performs several essential functions that contribute to our overall health. Among its most important functions is protecting the body from the outside world, and skin pH plays a key role in that.
Our skin's ideal pH range is around 5, indicating a more acidic pH. When the pH of the skin increases, the natural balance of the skin is disturbed, which compromises the barrier function. Compromised barrier functions make skin less resilient and more susceptible to environmental triggers. This skin can become sensitive, dry, or hypersensitive, and is susceptible to infections and skin conditions such as Rosacea.
But what exactly is the pH of the skin? What does it have to do with great skin, and why should you care about it? That's what we're going to address today!
What exactly is pH in skin?
Here are some basics about pH: pH stands for potential hydrogen, which indicates how active the elements are in the substance. As a general rule, pH scales range from 1 to 14, with 7 being considered "neutral.” pH numbers below 7 are considered acidic, and pH values above 7 are considered alkaline.
Our skin keeps a balance of acidity and alkalinity which keeps us hydrated and stores nutrients and minerals as well as protects against germs, elements, and toxic substances.
There are many factors that can affect a skin's pH—for example, skin care products. When you apply a substance with a different pH (either acidic or alkaline), it alters your skin’s pH. A too alkaline pH balance will make your skin look flaky and red. On the other hand, if the skin pH becomes too acidic, it increases your risk of inflammatory and acne-causing conditions.
What is the optimal skin pH level?
The natural pH of your skin ranges from 4.5 to 5.5, which means healthy skin is more acidic. A higher acidity level can help your skin fight harmful microbes and free radicals that speed up the ageing process.
Factors that impact skin pH
Previously, we discussed how skincare products affect your skin's pH. Let's examine some other factors that can also alter skin pH:
- sebum and skin moisture
- area of the body
- genetics and age
- washing too frequently
How Can I Test My Skin’s pH?
Using this simple pH test, you can find out what your skin's pH level is.
After cleansing your skin, how does it feel?
a) Soft and smooth
b) Tight and dry
c) Still slightly oily or not thoroughly clean
What is the frequency of your moisturizing?
a) In the morning and evening
b) Once a day
Have you noticed that your skin has become sensitive to products you use regularly, such as makeup and creams?
a) No, it feels the same as always
b) Once in a while
c) Yes. Recently, it seems to react to everything I put on it
When does your skin become dry, flaky, or rough?
Is your skin duller and more wrinkled in the morning?
b) Yes, usually
c) Very rarely
Are you experiencing excessive oiliness and breakouts (which you didn't have previously?
Are you often bothered by red and itchy skin?
b) My skin stings only after applying products.
Do you have plump, moist, and dewy skin?
a) Almost always
c) Plump, but greasy instead of dewy
How Did Your Skin Score?
- In the case where your answers are mostly B's, then your skin's pH is too high. Your skin is alkaline (basic).
- You have a perfect skin pH if you answered mostly A's.
- The pH of your skin is too low if you answered mostly C's. This means you have an acidic skin type.
What’s the best way to restore the pH balance of your skin?
Any imbalance in your skin’s pH level can lead to undesirable results. An alkaline pH causes dryness and dehydration of the skin, which may trigger eczema flares and highlight signs of ageing (such as fine lines and wrinkles). Alternatively, if the pH of the skin is too acidic, it may cause inflammation and redness.
Wondering how to restore the balance of your pH if it’s too acidic or alkaline? You can follow these skin care tips that can help you maintain a balanced pH level:
Avoid harsh cleansers
At any cost, avoid soaps and cleaning products containing harsh ingredients such as parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), fragrance, and BHT (synthetic antioxidants). The chemical ingredients in these products are unkind to your skin, and the pH levels are often so high that they tend to damage your skin's acid mantle, leaving your skin vulnerable to infections and pollutants.
Instead, make sure you use mild cleansers and alcohol-free toners every day to maintain your skin's balance. To cleanse thoroughly the residues of makeup, dirt and grime, ingredients like Witch hazel Extract and Citric Acid works best in a toner.
Layer skin acids carefully
Using acids incorrectly could make them ineffective or worse, alter your skin's pH balance and irritate it. If you want to ensure you're doing things correctly, always layer products from the lowest pH to the highest, starting with acid right after cleansing.
Protect skin from intense sun rays
The harmful sun rays can damage your skin's pH level, cause hyperpigmentation and dryness, as well as cause wrinkles and fine lines that signal the beginning of ageing. Make sure you apply sunscreen every day.
Choose your sunscreen wisely according to your skin type. Make sure you opt for a broad spectrum sunscreen that imparts optimum sun protection.
Use a hydrating moisturizer for a healthy skin barrier
Your skin produces less natural oil and sebum as you age. This damages the acid mantle of the skin, altering its pH balance. Keeping your skin hydrated with gentle moisturisers and oils will help rebuild its moisture barrier. Ingredients like cermaides and hyaluronic acid help restore lost moisture in your skin.
Maintaining a healthy acid mantle and a balanced pH of your skin helps to ensure the skin is functioning properly. A disturbed pH or acid mantle can cause your skin to suffer from dryness, tightness, or acne. The best thing you can do for your skin is to ensure that your skincare products' pH levels are around 4.5-5.5! A healthy skincare routine backed up with skin refining and pH-balancing properties will maintain the overall health of your skin.