I am talking about pH. There has been a lot of talk about alkaline diets but little talk about how pH affects your skin.
As it turns out, how pH relates to our skin and the products we use is fascinating. And despite the worry, finding pH-balanced skin care is easier than you might think. Keep reading and put your mind at ease about using skin care products with different pH levels so you can get through your routine faster.
What is pH?
Bear with me as I nerd out a moment.
The term “pH” refers to “potential of hydrogen”. It concerns the activity of hydrogen ions (ions are molecules that carry a positive or negative charge) in a water-based solution. Hydrogen makes up two thirds of water, water being two hydrogen molecules plus an oxygen molecule, H²o.
The pH of a solution is indicated by a numeric scale that runs from 0-14. Anything below 7 (which is pH neutral) is considered acidic, while anything with a pH greater than 7 is considered alkaline. Lemon juice has a pH of 2—very acidic, while ammonia has a pH of 12, which is highly alkaline, also referred to as basic, as in acids and bases.
What is the natural pH of Skin?
The skin’s surface and uppermost layers are naturally acidic, making it compatible with acidic skin care products. Although research on skin’s pH range cites various numbers, the collected research shows skin’s average pH is 4.7.
Skin’s acidic pH also plays a role in keeping its delicate microbiome balanced. An acidic microbiome makes it more difficult for harmful pathogens to multiply, but lets the good stuff flourish.
Repeatedly disturbing skin’s pH to a strong degree can lead to or worsen many problems, including common skin disorders and that dry, tight feeling from washing with bar or liquid soaps (most soaps are alkaline).
Unfortunately, not all products are labeled with their pH levels. So, what should you do? The good news is that the vast majority of rinse-off and leave-on skin care products are already pH-balanced. Cosmetic chemists are aware of how the pH of skin care products impacts our skin, so they usually take formulary steps to ensure a balance.
Research has shown that mild disruptions in skin’s pH (such as from using an AHA or BHA leave-on exfoliate whose pH is 3.6 or a mineral sunscreen with a pH of 7.5) are temporary. The skin naturally equalizes to its normal pH, typically within an hour. And there’s actually a benefit: Research has shown that acidic products stimulate skin to produce key substances it needs to look smooth, supple, and hydrated.
Is it ok to mix acidic with alkaline products? Absolutely!
During conditions of normal use, it’s chemically impossible for a higher-pH product to make a lower-pH product ineffective, and the reverse is also true. You can gain the visible benefits all of these ingredients provide, no need to adjust your routine!
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