Many of us know pH from testing our water or learning about different types of foods. Our skin also has a pH, and it plays a major role in our skin’s health and appearance. But what exactly is pH in relation to our skin, and how do you restore your skin’s optimal pH balance? We’ll break it down in our guide to understanding skin pH: how to restore your skin’s pH balance.
pH and Its Effect on Our Skin
In layman’s terms, our skin’s pH refers to how acidic or alkaline our skin is.
Skin with a balanced pH is effective at keeping moisture in and harmful bacteria out. This happens through the acid mantle, which is a healthy barrier made of a slightly acidic film on the surface of the skin.
A healthy pH does wonders for our skin; it minimizes signs of aging, keeps skin hydrated, and reduces acne breakouts. We can improve our skin’s pH by eating the right foods and following an appropriate skincare routine. We can also wreak havoc on our skin’s pH through our diets and using harsh products that aren’t right for our skin type.
How Is pH Measured?
pH is measured through something called the pH scale. The scale ranges from 1 to 14, with 7 being neutral. Numbers 1 through 6 are acidic, while numbers 8 through 14 are alkaline (nonacidic).
A healthy skin pH leans more to the acidic side, as the acid mantle features a slightly acidic composition. While our first thought tends to be that acidic equals bad, that’s not the case for your skin. The more acidic your skin is, the more effective it is at combatting harmful bacteria and free radicals. The more alkaline your skin is, the more susceptible it is to damage, breakouts, and dryness.
Factors That Affect Skin pH
Different parts of your body have different pH levels by design. Areas of the body that remain covered, such as your armpits, retain their acidity on their own. Parts of your body that are more often exposed, such as your face or hands, tend to veer away from acidic levels into alkaline territory.
Some of the most common factors that influence your skin’s pH levels include:
- Air pollution
- Antibacterial soaps and gels
- Season changes and fluctuations in humidity levels
- Beauty products
- Laundry detergents
- Harsh cleansers
- Tap water
- Overexposure to sunlight and UV rays
Sebum and pH: A Critical Relationship
Sebum is another word for the oil that our skin naturally produces. This natural oil is the substance that moisturizes, hydrates, and protects our skin. When we don’t produce enough sebum, our skin’s pH tends to be more alkaline. This means we’re prone to breakouts, sensitivity, and dryness. Skin that’s low in sebum isn’t as elastic, making it susceptible to fine lines and wrinkles.
When we produce too much sebum, our skin suffers, too. Even though more sebum leads to more acidic pH levels, too much sebum can lead to problems. These issues include oily, greasy, easily irritated, and breakout-prone skin.
Maintaining the ideal pH and sebum levels is the balancing act we all must learn for healthy, youthful skin.
Now that we understand skin pH, how do you restore your skin’s pH balance?
Determining Your Skin's pH Level
The first step to restoring your skin’s pH is determining what your pH levels are. After all, if your skin tends to be more acidic, you’ll want skincare products that slightly ease the acidity. If your skin is more alkaline, you’ll want products that slightly reduce your pH levels. To find out what your skin’s pH is, you can:
- Observe your skin. If your skin is soft and has no issues with dryness or an over-production of oil, your pH levels are likely well-balanced. If your skin has rough spots, is dry, and seemingly won’t hold moisture, you likely have an alkaline pH. If your skin is very oily, your pH is likely excessively acidic.
- Visit a dermatologist. Skincare professionals such as these are able to test your skin to determine its precise pH level and recommend a specific product for you to use.
- Use an at-home test. There are a variety of tests you can take at home to determine your body’s pH levels overall. This includes urine, saliva, and topical skin tests.
How To Balance Skin pH Through Skincare
Now for the moment that we’ve been waiting for—once you’ve determined your skin’s pH level, you’ll be able to take the next steps to balance everything out. To balance your skin’s pH through skincare, you may want to integrate the following steps into your routine.
Avoid Harsh Cleansers
Cleansers that contain harsh ingredients strip your skin of that essential sebum and have excessively high pH levels. Harsh ingredients to watch out for include parabens, fragrance, silicone, and BHT. Lifeline skin care products have excellent cleansers that won’t damage your skin.
Use a Good Toner
Toners (without alcohol) are powerful pieces of the skincare puzzle. After cleansing, use a toner formulated to suit your skin type to rehydrate and replenish your skin’s pH. If you use a toner made with alcohol, you’ll likely notice an increase in redness, irritation, and fine lines and wrinkles. This is because alcohol naturally dries out the skin.
Replenishing your skin’s moisture contributes to a softer, brighter, more youthful glow. However, it’s important to choose a lotion that suits your skin type.
A good moisturizer will do wonders in supporting your skin’s acid mantle. Dehydrated skin causes damage to the acid mantle, which increases your alkalinity. Hydrated skin supports the acid mantle, which contributes to a healthy pH and youthful, protected skin.
Regardless of the products you use to restore your skin’s pH, look for skincare items with Vitamin C and antioxidants. You can also apply aloe vera gel from an aloe plant or diluted apple cider vinegar to your skin.
In addition to applying various skin care products, you can also restore your skin’s ideal pH levels by eating a balanced diet, applying sunscreen daily, and avoiding harsh ingredients in cleansers.