Your body is unbelievably amazing in that it creates a biome to protect you using a trick of chemistry. What’s this magic that helps keep us from getting sick and protects us from bacteria, molds, fungi, and viruses? It’s not magic . . . it’s science, and it’s the pH level of your skin! It’s an essential function of our bodies that keep us healthy every single day. We’re taking it back to chemistry class where we’re learning all about the pH levels of skin and skincare.
What is pH?
Let’s start with the basics: pH stands for the potential of hydrogen in a liquid and is a measurement of hydrogen ions in water-based solutions. For a molecule to have a pH, it must be able to be dissolved in water. Therefore, most oils do not have a pH.
The pH scale is measured from zero to 14, with liquids closer to zero being more acidic (like lemons and vinegar) and liquids that have a high pH being more alkaline (like soap, bleach, and drain cleaner). Distilled water will have a neutral pH of 7.
Alkaline liquids are dangerous in high concentrations (we’re talking bleach and drain cleaner) because they can break down lipids and proteins, two biological molecules that are largely responsible for cellular structure. While it’s great to use these kinds of liquids for clearing oils and fats from your drain, you definitely want to keep them away from your skin, so don’t forget to use gloves and protective gear when using harsh cleaning products! The level of pH matters especially in skincare because it’s useful to know how strong a product is for your skin.
How do I know if my pH levels are off?
Your body produces an acidic pH to protect your cells and internal organs. If you want to maintain healthy skin, you want your skin to be between a pH of 4.7 and 5.75, which is slightly acidic. The acid mantle on your skin is the protective film that contains natural oils, amino acids, and sweat that helps to protect your skin. These acids help fight off pathogens, bacteria, viruses, and environmental dangers (like pollution) that can impact the health of our skin. Having a pH that’s 6 or above creates an environment for acne and congestion to happen and means you potentially have a microbiome that’s been disrupted.
Balanced skin feels… well… balanced. Not too oily, not too dry, and it will have a smooth texture without feeling greasy or tight.
Skin that’s unbalanced will usually present itself in skin conditions like inflammation, redness, dryness, acne, eczema, psoriasis, or overproducing sebum. These skin conditions are usually a sign that your skin’s pH levels are out of balance.
When skin is too alkaline, it will feel dry, tight, and sensitive. Bacteria also thrive in alkaline environments. On the other side of the coin, when skin is too acidic, it can cause an excess of sebum and is likely to cause congestion and breakouts.
Some of the reasons why skin can become unbalanced are using soaps that are too harsh for the skin, using too hot water to cleanse, over-exfoliating the skin, keeping makeup on overnight, not using enough products to protect the skin from environmental factors, or using too many products on your skin causing it to be congested and break out. Diet and hydration can also be factors in skin imbalances, so don’t forget to drink water throughout the day and eat a balanced diet!
When using cleansers that are higher in soaps with a pH over 7, it’s always a good idea to use a toner (typically a pH of 4-5) to bring back the acidity in your skin which will bring your acid mantle back to balance.
Trend or truly results-driven skincare?
The pH level is why you see buzzwords like “biome-friendly” and “pH-balanced.” This is because many skincare products are not pH balanced. Soaps, for instance, are incredible at removing dirt, debris, and bacteria from your body, but they rely on soap’s alkaline nature to do so. The more bubbles you see in your cleanser, the more likely it’ll be high in alkalinity. Stripping your skin’s natural acidic barrier is why after you use soap, your skin can feel dry or tight. This is why we have toners to replenish the acidic barrier of your skin while your skin recovers from washing it.
Here’s where truly biome-friendly skincare comes into play though – what if we used a wash that did both… acidic pH instead of alkaline pH and nurturing to the skin barrier, not depleting?! We know that bacteria growth and acne thrive in high pH concentrations, so by using a lower pH, the more acidic product can help keep your skin at the lower end of the pH scale keeping your skin more balanced.
We’ve been working on a new offering that includes this approach: an acidic pH that will also heal the skin, gently aid in cellular turnover, and can be used as a barrier-repairing regimen. To say we’re excited is an understatement! This new offering is going to change the way you look at your skincare and its pH. And ultimately protect the essential natural process of your skin!
We can’t wait to share more details about our newest product that’ll help to balance all skin types and is a great addition to your home apothecary. Stay tuned!