pH balance is essential for healthy skin. When your skin condition changes, say from normal to dry and tight, it’s a sign that the pH balance is off. However, in order to change or correct that imbalance, you need to understand what pH balance you are aiming for, causes for the imbalance, and how to affect a change.
Things That Affect pH Balance
pH refers to the levels of acidity and alkalinity. On the pH scale, O is the most acidic and 14 is the most alkaline. Normal skin pH ranges from 4.5 to 6.5, the ideal level for your skin’s protective barrier being 5.5 – a slightly acidic level (7 is neutral). When the acidity level of the skin is at about 5.5 it retains moisture and keeps infections and irritants out. But the simple act of washing your face can disturb this delicate balance and cause the condition of the skin to change.
The ideal complexion is smooth, moist and soft to the touch. If your pH level is too alkaline or too acidic, the balance is disturbed and skin conditions such as eczema and rosacea can result. Skin that is too alkaline can be more susceptible to acne because a certain level of acidity is needed to inhibit bacterial growth on the skin. In more simple terms, if your skin is flaky, sensitive, oily or irritated, the pH balance is off. However, there are things you can do to improve the condition of your skin in about two to four weeks (hey, change takes time). Here are some common things that affect pH balance:
Check your bar soap – most bar soaps contain harsh detergents that are good at clearing the skin of dirt and grim, but they also strip your skin of protective lipids. Studies show that using a skin cleanser that is alkaline, like regular soap, can cause pH imbalance after just one use – and the effect is cumulative over time. Avoid harsh ingredients like sodium-stearate, palmate, tallow and palmitate and see a recommended list of pH friendly products below.
Check your water – water is usually at a pH level of 7 (neutral), which makes your skin more alkaline. Correct this by moisturizing right after washing to rebalance the barrier.
Easy does it – be gentle when washing. Scrubbing the skin can raise pH levels. Maintain control (and the correct amount of pressure when washing) by using hand-held tools like the Clarisonic® Mia2 cleansing system which is designed to apply the right amount of cleansing without damaging the skin.
Watch the acids – glycolic scrubs and other acid peels are an essential treatment for sloughing off dead skin cells and stimulating cellular turnover, but over doing it can severely change your pH level. If your skin is red, irritated or sensitive after an acid peel or scrub, take a break and allow more time (say 4 – 7 days) between treatments.
Use sunscreen – when your skin is sunburned, moisture from within is drawn to the surface to cool and calm it down. That raises the barrier’s pH level and the skin can no longer protect or heal itself adequately. Wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen blocks UV rays in the first place and prevents the entire process from happening (that’s one more reason to use that sunscreen to protect your skin).
Suggested pH Friendly Products
Look for products that are free of soap and detergents that strip the skin, and seek out gentle formulas that clean the skin without damaging it or altering the pH level. Consider some of these well-known, gentle brands:
ZenMed Gentle Cleansing Cream – Removes impurities from the skin while preserving natural pH. Leaves skin nourished and soothed. Oil-free, alcohol-free, Doctor-formulated, vegetable-based.
Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser gentle formula removes excess oil, dirt and even makeup while protecting skin’s natural moisture barrier to leave it feeling soft—never too dry, never too tight.
Aveno Positivity Radiant Brightening Cleanser – a soy complex that helps improve skin tone, texture and clarity to reveal brighter, more radiant skin. And it lifts away dirt, oil and makeup without over drying.
100% Pure Cucumber Juice Facial Cleansing Foam – A gentle facial foam washes away impurities without stripping or dehydrating your skin. This pure cleansing foam does not contain any synthetic chemicals, artificial fragrances, alcohol, chemical preservatives or any other toxins that can damage or irritate your skins.
Want to learn more about pH levels and your skin? Read about maintaining pH balance and pH levels in our article pH Balance for Your Skin.