Skincare Geek - Lesson #3 - Skin pH
Skin pH levels play an important role in how our skin barrier functions, and having an over-acidic or over-alkaline pH can be a contributing factor in skin conditions including eczema or acne. Here are the facts...
What is Skin pH?
Our skin’s ideal pH balance is between 4.5-5.5, which is slightly acidic. This is to provide a natural barrier of defense against bacteria and toxins. Skin pH balance is determined by the quality of our acid mantle, a protective film that covers our skin (see Skincare Geek Lesson #1 for more on the Acid Mantle), and is responsible for the secretions that create our pH. In turn a healthy pH creates a happy environment for good bacteria that lives on our skin, preventing the inhabitation of bad bacteria.
What impacts on skin pH balance?
Basically anything our skin comes into contact with can affect the acid mantle and therefore skin pH. For example; water, fabric, sun, air, cosmetics & makeup.
Studies have shown that simply washing your skin can profoundly effect the pH value of our skin, this is especially due to cleansing products - more so soaps, foaming cleansers and shampoo. These kinds of products usually have a high pH of around 7-8, and can strip away the acid mantle and over alkalise the skin, resulting in dehydrated, irritable/sensitive skin and an alteration in bacterial flora. Thereby promoting an array of health complaints in susceptible individuals, including eczema, redness, acne, rosacea and sensitive skin. In contrast, occasionally some people can havea low skin pH (below 4.5), which usually results in angry, oily, acneic skin. This usually happens from overuse or incorrect use of acidifying products such as; alpha hydroxy acids, retinoic acid, beta hydroxy acids and amino fruit acids.
Even tap water is very alkaline, with a pH of 6.5 - 9.5 which alone can disrupt our skin's pH.
Tips for maintaining a healthy skin pH
Whist it is something to be aware of, it is not something to stress out about. Our body is self-regulating and will naturally bring itself back to a healthy pH regularly as long as we are not over-stressing it. Here are some tips:
- Avoid over washing of skin, cleanse only once or twice or day.
- Avoid harsh foaming ingredients such as Sodium Laurel Sulphate (SLS)
- Avoid over-washing hair, if possible once to twice per week and be mindful of the surface you are washing it on to.
- Use mineral, powdered makeup over cream/liquid makeup