Guide to pH and Your Skin

What is skin pH?

Have you ever read, “pH balanced” on a product and wondered what it meant? From irritation, dryness, to acne, let’s discuss how pH levels can either resolve or cause further distress to your skin.

Your skin needs a certain amount of oil to stay waterproof and resist infections. Too little can lead to dry skin and the premature development of wrinkles; too much can lead to oily skin and acne. The oil in your skin is called sebum and it’s produced by the sebaceous glands (tiny ducts that lie next to the hair follicles).

Our skin is naturally designed to fight infection and environmental stresses and its ability to do so is affected by its pH level. The pH level of the skin refers to how acidic or alkaline the skin is. On a scale of 1-14, 7 is considered a neutral reading for your skin’s pH., with 1 being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline. Our skin has a thin, protective layer on its surface, referred to as the acid mantle. This acid mantle is made up of sebum (free fatty acids) excreted from the skin’s glands, which mixes with acids from sweat to create the skin’s pH, which ideally should be slightly acidic – at about 5.5.

Many factors can interfere with the delicate balance of the skin’s protective layer, both externally and internally. As we age, our skin becomes more acidic in response to our lifestyle and our environment. Everything that comes in contact with our skin (products, smoking, air, water, sun, pollution) can contribute to the breaking down of the skins protective layer, disrupting the skin’s ability to protect itself.


Maintaining the Acid Mantle  at Optimal pH

The acid mantle is an effective form of protection, but if your pH level is too alkaline or too acidic, the mantle is disturbed and skin conditions such as dermatitis, eczema , and rosacea may result. A skin care product may claim to be pH balanced, but you can verify the actual pH of a product by using an at-home pH testing kit (available at most stores).


Most cleansers tend to be too alkaline for the skin, and they strip away natural oils causing dryness and irritation. Skin that is too alkaline can be more prone to acne because a certain level of acidity is needed to prevent bacterial growth on the skin. Choosing mild cleansers and toners that are slightly acidic (close to 5) will benefit all skin types and properly maintain the acid mantle.


skin treated with products that are overly acidic also can be problematic. They too can over-strip natural oils, which can temporarily disrupt the oil barrier of the skin. Ingredients such as alpha hydroxy acids, if not used properly, can weaken the skin’s natural defenses to bacterial infection and environmental damage. Most over-the-counter products are suitable for everyday use. However, it is still important to pay careful attention to your skin when using any acidic product. If your skin starts to look dry or red, if it becomes more sensitive, or if you notice an increase in breakouts, you may be using a product too strong for your skin, or you may be applying it too often.

Choosing Good-for-Your-Skin Oils & Moisturizers

As we age, the amount of oil naturally produced by our skin decreases, influencing the acid mantle and its ability to protect the skin. Using effective moisturizers  helps rebuild this important barrier. Oils that work particularly well with the skin’s natural oil secretions include jojoba, coconut, argan and olive oils.


Factors Affecting Your Skin pH Levels – Skin’s pH Level

  • Age
  • Excessive Sun Exposure
  • Your Eating Habits
  • Using hot water to wash your face (or skin)
  • Scrubbing too hard (using scrubs and washcloths on your face almost every day)
  • Using harsh cleansers
  • Taking long showers


How To Keep Your Skin’s pH Level Balanced

Restoring your skin’s pH level requires repairing its barrier function. This helps maintain the hydration levels of your skin and keeps it radiant and glowing. Here are some things you can do:

  1. Eliminate Harsh Cleansers
  2. Use Apple Cider Vinegar (as a toner, excellent for regulating your skin’s pH levels)
  3. Use Good Oils And Moisturizers
  4. Use Acids Carefully
  5. Use Sun Protection
  6. Change Your Diet (Your daily diet should contain lots of antioxidant-rich foods and fruits

Acid Test

Answer these questions to find out where you fall on the pH spectrum.

  1. How does your skin feel after cleansing?
    a)Soft and smooth
    b) Tight and dry
    c) Still slightly oily or not thoroughly clean


  1. How often do you moisturize your face?
    a)At least morning and evening
    b) Once a day
    c) Never


  1. Has your skin become sensitive to products you regularly use, including makeup and creams?
    a)No, it feels normal, like always.
    b) Once in a while
    c) Yes. It seems like it reacts to everything I put on it lately.


  1. How often does your skin have dry, flaky, rough patches?
    b) Sometimes
    c) Usually


  1. Do you notice that your skin looks duller and has more lines in the morning?
    b) Yes, usually
    c) It’s a very rare occurrence.


  1. Is your skin excessively oily and prone to breakouts (whereas it wasn’t in the past)?
    b) Occasionally
    c) Yes


  1. Does your skin often look red and feel irritated?
    b) It stings only after applying products.
    c) Yes


  1. Does your skin look plump, moist, and dewy?
    a)Almost always
    b) Rarely
    c) It’s plump, but more greasy than dewy.

If you answered mostly b’s, your skin’s pH is. . .
Too high. Your chronic dryness and wrinkling likely mean your acid mantle is being dismantled—you’re too alkaline. With its protective lipids removed, your skin is falling victim to bacteria, UV rays, and harsh ingredients. Take a close look at how (and how often) you’re cleansing, scrubbing, and hydrating. You need to make sure that your skin can defend itself against the damaging factors that are making it look older than it should.

If you answered mostly a’s, your skin’s pH is. . .
Just right! Your skin (and its pH) live in a shiny, happy place not inhabited by premature aging and wrinkles. Having skin this good isn’t an accident, so well done to you for moisturizing and exfoliating, and using the right products. Stay on the same course and you’ll continue to glow.

If you answered mostly c’s, your skin’s pH is. . .
Too low. Your regular oiliness, breakouts, and sensitivity point to acid overload. Chances are, you’re overdosing on the peeling products (think acids) in an effort to remove excess grease. And while this type of exfoliation can make for a healthy complexion, your skin is suffering from too much of a good thing. Your mission: Use products in moderation instead of abusing them (and your skin).


And, of course, don’t forget to take care of your skin. You need to show it some love and care if you want to keep it happy. 



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