You're probably familiar with the term pH - from water testing or maybe a long ago science class. It's the measurement of the acidity or alkalinity in a water-based solution. So how does it apply to your skincare and skincare products? Does pH in cleansers, toners and serums have any real effect on the skin’s natural pH state?
The definition of pH stands for potential hydrogen. It measures the level of alkalinity (base) or acidity of a substance. Our skin and the products we use on our skin all have a pH level.
When using your skincare products or dealing with a specific skin condition, it's in your best interests to know the basics of pH balance. You're better able to assess whether the product is changing your natural pH level - positive or negative. The skin’s normal pH level is about 5. The outermost layer of the skin - or the acid mantle - is made up of sebum (free fatty acids) from the skin’s sebaceous glands. This mixes with lactic and amino acids from sweat which makes up the skin’s pH. When the skin’s pH is out of balance, it can mean the acid mantle isn’t functioning properly, which can lead to lowered levels of hydration, possible breakouts or redness and irritation.
If the pH balance in a product is too alkaline, the effect on the skin may be over-drying or cause skin irritation. There may be not enough protection against bacteria growth (which can cause breakouts). If the pH is overly acidic in a product it can strip natural oils and temporarily affect the lipid barrier. Ingredients like AHAs, retinol, BHAs and fruit acids weaken the skin’s natural defenses if not used properly or used too often, leaving the skin open to bacterial infection and environmental damage.
Choosing skin-care products with the correct pH levels will help keep your skin’s pH intact. Look for ingredients that help restore skin barrier function including humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid which help the skin retain moisture. Ceramides help lock in moisture and restore and protect.
Cultivating a healthy lifestyle and diet which includes leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and carrots can help as well. A balancing toner (like our Aloe Rose or Hydrating Marine Toner) will gently rebalance the skin’s pH and prep it for your serum and moisturizer.
Evaluate your skin-care products to see if they are either overly alkaline or acidic. Pay attention to how your skin feels after cleansing. If it feels tight, or dry, that's a pretty good indicator the cleanser is stripping your skin. Try our gentle Green Tea Cleanser - great for all skin types, especially sensitive or irritation prone. And if you need more direction - email our spa desk with your questions for our student estys or one of our instructors!