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Is a pH Imbalance Causing Your Skin Issues?

by Michelle Doan

| Posted on February 25 2020

If you’re anything like us, you were probably surprised to hear about skin pH levels. Your skin’s pH level is a critical component of good skin health. An imbalanced pH level may be the root cause of common skin issues, such as breakouts, dryness or excess oiliness. We put together some information on your skin’s pH level so you can learn more about how it impacts your skin and some easy ways to maintain its balance. 
 
The term pH is short for ‘the potential of hydrogen’ - it refers to the Acid vs. Alkalinity ratio in a given substance. pH is usually categorized by acidic, neutral or alkaline. It is also commonly referred to as your skin’s acid mantle. PH is measured on a scale between 1 to 14. The lower the number, the more acidic, the higher the number, the more alkaline. Our body’s overall pH level is around 7, so scientists consider the body to be slightly alkaline. Our skin’s pH is slightly lower, at a level of about 5.5, which means that our skin is weakly acidic

Anything you put on your skin that is higher or lower in pH level will have the corresponding effect, raising or lowering the skin's pH level. When products are too alkaline, say with a pH level higher than 7, skin naturally becomes more acidic to neutralize the harm. When the skin's pH level is compromised, it is unable to neutralize the threat, this can cause damage to the skin.

pH Scale:
1-3 = Strongly acidic. Examples: grapefruit juice & vinegar
Being in this zone may result in oily, acne-prone skin that suffers from redness and inflammation. 

4-5 = Skin goals - weakly acidic Example: black coffee

6-8 = Weakly alkaline - Examples: tap and seawater

11-14 = Strongly alkaline - Examples: Bleach, ammonia 
Being in this zone may result in skin dryness, inflammation, premature signs of aging, skin irritation, redness, and breakouts.

the Importance of maintaining a healthy skin pH mantle
Your body's pH level is its first defense against germs, bacteria, environmental stress, and free radicals. Skin with a healthy and balanced pH mantle is also more effective in retaining moisture and hydration. 
If the skin’s acid mantle becomes compromised or broken down, the skin will be less effective in fighting bacteria and germs. This can lead to more sensitive skin, that is more vulnerable to skin irritations, breakouts, and premature aging. 

The breakdown in the defenses of the skin mantle will also impact the skin's lipid barrier, compromising its ability to heal and repair itself as efficiently as before.
 

What is a healthy skin pH level? 
Healthy skin has a pH level between 4.2-5.5. At this optimal balance, skin can actively fight bacteria. If you have chronic dry skin, premature fine lines, and wrinkles, your skin may be too acidic. 

Signs of Skin pH Imbalance
*For informational purposes only, consult a Doctor or Dermatologist when dealing with skin issues
- Chronic breakouts 
- Tight feeling skin
- Consistently dry skin
- Redness
- Enlarged pores 
- Flakiness and rough texture 
- Heightened skin sensitivity 
- Premature signs of aging, such as lines and wrinkles 
- Eczema
- Psoriasis 
- Rosacea  

If you want to be certain of your skin’s pH level, some dermatologists offer liquid pH testing services. There are also at-home test strip kits to test pH levels, but these tend to measure the body's pH level more than the skins.

 

How to avoid disrupting your skin’s pH level 
- Avoid using hard water to shower and clean your face (hard water is alkaline (pH level may be as high as 8.5) 
- Choose skincare and beauty products carefully. Many bar soaps or face cleansers have pH levels above 7, some as high as 12. Look for a cleanser that has a pH balance of 5, no more than 6. 
- Look for products rich in antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. 
- Don’t use hot water to wash your face, lukewarm is best.
- Skip products with harsh chemicals or toxins. 

Common products or treatments that may cause a pH level disruption
- Acid peels
- Some Retinol treatments 
- Some chemical exfoliants 
- Bar soap

Now that you know how important a properly balanced pH mantle is to the health of your skin, you can identify if a pH imbalance may be what is triggering some of your skin issues. Most importantly, start looking for products that will work in harmony with your skin's acid mantle.

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