What is pH?

Remember learning about pH in 8th grade and thinking “I’ll probably never need to use this in real life”, now your skin isn’t quite how you want it to be even though you’re doing everything you should. Well, guess what? It’s finally time to apply what you learned about pH to real life! pH answers a lot (if not all) of the questions that you may have regarding your skin.

Let’s start with the basics. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. 0 being the most acidic (that would completely burn your skin off) 14 being the most basic, or alkaline, and 7 being neutral, which is waters pH. You never want to be on either extreme. The safe zone is anywhere from 4.0-6.0, beyond that in either direction your skin will let you know that something is wrong before it begins to self correct. Sometimes, your skin is too far past the “safe zone” that it needs a little help correcting itself.

Your Skin’s Acid Mantle

Your skin has a thin protective layer known as the acid mantle that is made up of sebum, lactic acid, and amino acid; which leads to a pH of around 5.5.When your skins pH is thrown off, this can result in multiple skin disorders such as eczema (something I suffer from which means my skin is likely too alkaline) or rosacea. When your skin is too alkaline, you are more likely to breakout because you lack the acidity that helps keep acne-causing bacteria from residing on your skin. It is crucial to maintain your skins acid mantle; antioxidants such as Vitamin C, A, and E assist with maintaining it along with consistent use of sunscreen helps maintain it.
A product that is too acidic will chemically char your skin and too alkaline will dry your skin to feel uncomfortably tight. This may sound a little appealing if you have excessively oily skin, but I promise you there are much safer solutions to getting rid of your excess oil (drier skin also ages quicker)! You don’t have to dry your skin out, and you shouldn’t, if you have oily skin. We’ll discuss how to resolve excessively oily skin in an upcoming post.

How To Know If Your Skin Care Product (Both Face and Body) is Too Acidic or Too Alkaline

When you use a product on your skin, if it feels squeaky clean and tight after, the product you used is likely too alkaline. If you use a product and your skin has a burning sensation that doesn’t subside after a few minutes (10 minutes max before you should be alarmed), the product is too acidic for your skin. Both will result in irritation, a weakened acid mantle, and possibly even breakouts.
A weakened acid mantle will make you more susceptible to sun damage, pollution, and other environmental factors; which all contribute to quicker aging.

Using Low pH Products

The only times where very low pH’s are safe are when administered by a dermatologist or esthetician through the form of a chemical peel. Products with low pH’s are also better absorbed by your skin, meaning you get their full effect. Majority of acidic products approved for safe, at-home use are buffered, this makes them safer for your skin and less likely to burn you.
Some cleansers and toners, specifically in the k-beauty world, focus on low but safe pH items. A great
example of this is the CosRx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser (pH of 5) which is great for balancing and maintaining the pH of any skin type, and it’s only $11.
Luckily, most brands create face and body care products with pH in mind. But it’s still important to know the effects of pH on your skin, in case you are using something that is throwing your pH off.

 

Written by Lily Njoroge