Are you aware of the impact your skin’s pH level has on your skin’s condition? In this blog we take a deep-dive into the factors influencing skin pH, and why you should care.

Understanding Skin pH: The Basics

What is skin pH?

pH stands for “potential of hydrogen” and indicates whether a substance is acidic or alkaline. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with substances lower than 7 being acidic, those 7 and above alkaline, and anything with a pH of 7 considered “neutral”.

The pH scale and its role in skin care

Skin pH varies slightly depending on the area of your body. More exposed skin, like the chest, hands and, of course, the face, have a slightly higher pH than lesser exposed skin. Generally speaking, our skin surface has a mildly acidic pH level, with healthy skin's pH falling between 4.7 and 5.75. Part of the reason for this is the acid mantle that protects the skin from aggressors.


What is the acid mantle?

The acid mantle is a very thin, delicate film covering the skin. Being the outermost layer of skin, it's the first barrier against and aggressors. When this skin barrier is too high on the pH scale, it may be stripped of its protective lipids. An imbalance can exacerbate skin conditions like dryness or oiliness, diminished skin laxity, and premature ageing of the skin.


Why does skin pH matter?

Because everything has its own pH, anything from hormonal fluctuations through to certain environmental aggressors, can alter the pH of skin. The slightly acidic natural state of our skin is essential to combat environmental aggressors and free radicals that impact the skin.

Let’s delve a little more into what can affect skin pH.


Factors influencing the pH of skin

Our skin works hard to keep its pH levels balanced, but there are a lot of elements that disrupt this balance, both external and internal.


External factors

Our skin is constantly exposed to chemicals, changes to the climate and environmental aggressors that can affect the pH of your skin.

  • Hotter, humid weather leads to increase in oil production (to cool the skin down). Increased sebum production lowers the skin’s pH.

  • Pollutants in the air outside, such as vehicle emissions, dust,

  • Pollutants indoors can also impact our skin, including fragrances and antibacterial agents found in household products, cosmetics and tap water can impact on the pH levels.

  • Tap water is usually alkaline which can cause pH levels in the skin to rise. 


Internal Factors: Diet and Lifestyle Choices

There are two core internal factors that affect skin pH: diet and stress.

Skin condition and diet

A diet high in sugar and dairy products increases sebum production which can in turn impact the skin’s pH A diet low in refined carbohydrates and high in healthy fats can help balance out your skin’s pH. Hydration also has an impact on the skin moisture barrierso make sure to drink plenty of water!

Skin condition and stress

Stress causes an increase in the hormone cortisol. When triggered too frequentlywhen you’re regularly stressedthe alkaline nature of cortisol can impact the skin’s pH, leading to dry or dehydrated skin and breakouts. Reducing stress triggers in your life can have a major impact on the pH of your skin, as well as overall skin condition.


Choosing the Right Products for Balanced Skin pH

Making small changes to your routine and diet are great ways to balance the pH of your skin. You can also maintain the skin's moisture barrier function and pH levels through your skincare routine. Exposure to the wrong chemicals, aggressors and ingredients can irritate the skin, but the right ones can support it!


Picking pH-balanced cleansers and soaps

Some soaps and cleansers have an alkaline pH, which may increase your skin’s oil production. You don’t want an excess of oil production, but stripping away all the skin’s natural oil risks drying the skin up. Look for cleansers enriched with hyaluronic acid to maintain skin's pH level as well as to keep your skin hydrated.


Toners, Moisturisers, and Sunscreens: Finding the Perfect Match

Some products that can help maintain healthy skin include:

  • Skin toner has a reputation for maintaining skin pH levels by tightening pores and smoothing skin out. Toners with a pH between 5 and 7 balance out the skin.

  • Similarly, moisturisers that fall between 4.5 and 6 will reinforce the natural skin barrier.

  • Products that can combat the symptoms of imbalanced skin include hydrating hyaluronic acid and moisturising lotions.

  • Finally, sunscreen, an absolute essential, helps protect the skin against harmful UV rays. 


Common skin concerns linked to imbalanced skin pH

Imbalanced skin pH doesn’t only affect the appearance of skin, but can also exacerbate certain skin conditions. An imbalanced skin PH affects the acid mantle and skin moisture barrier function, leaving the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin) vulnerable which can lead to increased dryness, itching sensations , visible redness, and breakouts.

What are the signs of imbalanced skin pH?

Your skin might already be trying to tell you its pH is imbalanced. Visual indicators can include:

  • Irritated and sensitive skin

  • Visible redness

  • Dry or rough texture

  • Regular breakouts

Tightness or dryness after cleansing can also be a clue that your acid mantle is being compromised. Monitoring the daily changes in your skin’s behaviour can help gauge the pH level of your skin.


How can I maintain my skin's pH balance?

Skin care is a crucial factor in restoring the skin moisture barrier and maintaining the natural skin surface pH. Here are a few tips for maintaining a balanced skin pH.

  • Wash your face no more than two times a day.

  • Avoid aggressive cleansers with harsh ingredients, opt for gentle cleansers like the Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser.

  • Look for slightly acidic toners to reestablish the acidic nature of your skin.

  • Exfoliating as little as once a week can help to remove dead skin cells that can clog pores and affect the skin's pH balance.

  • Combat the side effects of imbalanced pH by using a hydration lotion such as the CeraVe Advanced Repair Balm.

You may also benefit from speaking to a dermatologist who can recommend the best products for you.


Testing the pH of your skin

Can I test my skin's pH at home?

You can test your skin's pH using a pH test strip at home. Before testing, ensure you haven’t overly washed the skin for a full day prior, and abstain from any activities that cause excess sweating. This will ensure more reliable results.

Test strips will indicate the pH level of your skin by altering the colour (make sure to read the instructions and information sheet to determine your score). Although test strips can gauge your skin surface pH, they aren’t a precise method and can’t guarantee fully accurate results, so use it as a general guide instead of as an exact result.

Consult a dermatologist

If you're still concerned about your skin's pH level, speak to a dermatologist who can provide you with more precise measurements of pH levels, as well as a tailored skincare routine to help address not only your pH levels but any other skin concerns you have.


Balance is key!

Our skin thrives on equilibrium, and a balanced pH level is one of the most important factors in keeping this equilibrium for happy, healthy-looking skin. And don’t forget to support your skincare regime with a healthy diet and lifestyle.

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