When we talk about skincare, we always hear people talking about pH levels of the skin. What is pH? pH is short for Potential hydrogen and it is a term used to describe the acidity level of the substances.
What has acidity level to do with my skin? Well, maintaining the pH is responsible for your skin’s health and looks.
An Insight into the Skin pH Scale
To understand the concept of pH, let us briefly explain the pH scale. The range of the scale varies from 1 to 14. 7 is considered to be neutral, numbers below 7 are acidic and above 7 are alkaline. A healthy skin balance is more on the acidic side as it helps combat microbes and free radicals. The right pH keeps your skin looking youthful and healthy.
Your skin pH range varies from 4 to 7. The right pH level should be just below 5. Newborns have a low pH while people who get older generally have a higher pH. Moreover, the skin of different areas of the body has different Ph levels. Parts that are less exposed generally have a lower pH than those that are exposed.
Some other factors that affect pH include:
- Air pollution
- Anti-bacterial products
- Seasonal changes
- Antibacterial soaps
- Skin moisture
- Tap water
- Sun exposure
Checking the pH Level of Your Skin
First things first, you have to check the pH to determine the condition of your skin. Here are a few easy ways to do that:
1. At Home Strips
You can easily purchase the at-home pH testing kits that will help determine the pH of your skin. They usually come in the form of paper strips that can be directly applied to the skin. Make sure you purchase skin pH strips instead of the regular ones (because they are meant to test the pH levels of your entire body)
2. Visit a Dermatologist
The best way to determine the exact pH of your skin is by visiting a dermatologist. They will not only test your skin but will recommend suitable products and treatment options to balance your skin.
3. Observe and Estimate
Observing how your skin is behaving is one of the best ways to determine the pH level. If your skin is soft without dry spots and problems like redness, acne, and irritation, it is more likely balanced. If you are experiencing skin problems, you need to alter your skin care routine.
Signs Your Skin pH is Out of Balance
There are several signs that indicate your skin’s pH is not at an ideal state:
1. Dry and Tight Skin
If your skin is too alkaline, it can disrupt the natural balance of your skin. It will affect the moisture level of your skin while triggering transepidermal water loss. When the water is lost through the epidermis, it evaporates into the air, leaving your skin dry and itchy.
2. Inflammatory Skin Conditions
Any of the following skin conditions such as rosacea, acne, and psoriasis indicate inflammation. The inflammation is responsible for skin flare-ups. Alkaline skin throws off the balance of the skin microbiome which leads to deteriorating skin health and can lead to serious skin problems like yeast infections, skin ulcers, and aggregated skin aging.
3. Increased Sensitivity
Increased skin sensitivity is one of the major indicators of a compromised barrier function. If your skin is sensitive and reactive, your skin’s PH balance is surely disrupted.
How to Maintain a Healthy Skin Balance?
Here are a few tips to better the condition of your skin:
1. Use Gentle Cleansers
Make sure you are using a gentle cleanser for your face and body. Look for one that is natural, made from plant-based items, and is free from chemicals. If your skin is getting easily irritated by a cleanser, chances are your cleanser is on the alkaline side.
Acidic cleansers help with acne and maintain a healthy skin balance. They also help people struggling with eczema and psoriasis.
2. Skin Toner
Always use a skin toner post the alkaline facewash. It is an important step when you wish to restore the optimal skin pH balance.
Exfoliation is an important part of a skincare routine. It is best to ask your dermatologist to recommend an exfoliating product that suits your skin type.
5. Avoid Sulfates
Unfortunately a lot of products that we use contain sulfates. From cleansers to toners to face mists, almost everything contains sulfate. Go through the ingredient list and do not purchase anything that lists sulfate as one of its ingredients.
Dos and Don’ts of a Healthy Skin Balance
Here are a few dos and don’ts to maintaining a healthy skin pH:
Don’t use very hot water while using washing your skin. Aim at using lukewarm water especially on your face. If the water is too hot, it can strip your skin of natural oils and lipids. The pH of the water is higher than your skin and can impact your skin’s barrier function.
Do use ingredients like squalane, hyaluronic acid, ceramides, botanical oils, and moisturizing agents to help maintain the skin barrier. All of these elements combined will restore the pH of your skin and won’t disrupt the microbiome.
Don’t use skincare products that contain sulfates or you are setting your skin up for failure. It will make your skin’s pH go into the negative spiral and it takes a long time to fix that.
Do nurture your skin with the right moisturizers. Use microbe-specific products to maintain a consistent pH of the skin. There are products designed to nourish the microbiome of your skin. Use them to your advantage.
Don’t over-exfoliate your skin. Exfoliating one to three times a week based on your skin type will do the job. Ask your dermatologist to recommend you a suitable product.
Your skin is a complex organ that requires a lot of care. pH is your starting point. If your pH is acidic, your skin will behave in a good manner. Aim at keeping it around 5 by following the tips mentioned in this post. If your skin is acting up really badly, it is time to visit a dermatologist before trying out any products on your own.