Woman check cosmetics pH level

Whether you’re a skincare enthusiast trying to up your game—or whether this is all completely foreign territory for you and you just want to know what the heck everyone’s talking about when they talk about “skin pH,” here's the scoop. 

Strap in tight, because we’re taking this journey along to uncover why knowing your skin pH is an important step in helping you decipher the best products for your skincare routine! Get ready to get schooled as I break down everything from understanding why healthy skin requires a balanced environment for its cells and how different levels of acidity help maintain this harmony- no lab coats required!

What is pH in skin anyway? A Quick Science Lesson for Beginners

Knowing your skin's pH level is the first step toward maintaining healthy, beautiful skin. The 'pH' stands for 'potential of hydrogen', and it measures how acidic or alkaline your skin is on a 14-point scale: 0 being the most acidic, 7 being neutral, and 14 being the most alkaline. 

In this sense, the skin has a slightly acidic mantle on the surface which acts as a protective barrier from the outside environment. Maintaining a balance between acidic and alkaline components helps retain moisture, preserves essential proteins, and supports overall skin health. Knowing your own skin pH is helpful when selecting skincare products, since those with different levels of acidity can upset the delicate balance.

But, what do acidic and alkaline mean and how does that affect your skin? Let’s unwrap it 

What does skin acidity mean?

Having acidic skin does not mean that you are literally acidic like a vat of vinegar! Rather, it is a way to describe the level of acidity—or pH—of your skin. Skin acidic means that a person's skin has a low pH level. A healthy range would be anywhere between 4 and 6 -- slightly acidic as opposed to neutral or basic on the pH scale. 

Our acid mantle, as it's often called, helps to keep bacteria from entering our bodies and making us sick. This acidic barrier also maintains our hydration levels and strengthens collagen production so that our skin remains healthy and moisturized. The acid mantle is an important function of our bodies that keeps us safe from environmental damage and infection. 

If the balance is thrown off due to exposure to sun or harsh chemicals, an increase in breakouts, dryness, or acne can occur. 

What does it mean if your skin is alkaline?

When something is alkaline, it means its pH level is higher than seven - the neutral marker. Your skin, like other parts of the body, should have a slightly acidic pH to keep bacteria in check and stay healthy. 

With an alkaline skin pH, your skin may be prone to irritation and blemishes due to its weakened protective nature. An alkaline skin condition can be caused by using overly harsh cleansers, incorrect product selection for your skin type, sweat, dehydration, or a poor diet. 

What is the pH scale?

The skin pH scale is an important measure of a person's skin health. On the scale, a value below 7 is considered acidic and above 7 is alkaline. A healthy skin pH falls between 4.5 and 5.5 and when the balance leans too much to one side, that's usually when your skin starts becoming irritated or feeling dry.  This measurement was discovered by Danish chemist Søren Sørensen in 1909, who called it “pH” for its measurement of potential hydrogen.

The scale is used in skin pH tests to determine how acidic or alkaline your skin is. 

How to measure the skin’s pH level?

Measuring the pH level of your skin may seem like a daunting process, but it’s easier than you might think! All you need to do is acquire a pH testing strip that can accurately measure your skin's acidity levels. After moistening the strip with lukewarm water, carefully dab it against your facial skin and wait for at least 30 seconds. 

When finished, compare the revealed color with the provided color reference chart to get an exact measurement of your skin’s acidity. Remember that you want a reading of 5.5 or lower — this range indicates balanced levels of healthy acidity and will keep your complexion looking radiant and vibrant!

What is normal pH level?

If you're interested in keeping your skin looking great and healthy, learning about the optimal skin pH is essential. Unlike other parts of the body, the surface of your skin has a slightly acidic pH level, which would ideally be between 4.5 and 5.5 on a scale from 0 (acidic) to 14 (alkaline), otherwise known as the acid mantle. 

Basically, skin pH levels that sit somewhere between 4.5 to 5.5 on the acidic side, will help maintain the barrier functions and protect us from environmental aggressors. It is best to maintain this delicate balance to ensure proper nourishment and hydration, as well as a better defense against potential infections, irritations, and signs of premature aging. 

What happens when your pH balance is off?

When the skin pH balance of your body is off, it can wreak havoc on your health. An imbalance in the levels of acidity and alkalinity in our skin can cause the next symptoms: 

If your skin is too alkaline: 

1. Acne

When your skin's natural pH is too alkaline, it can cause bacteria to over-grow and settle in the oil glands on your face, causing an explosion of acne on your otherwise perfect complexion. 

Acne is caused by a combination of factors, including blocked skin pores from dirt and excessive sebum production; this is something that affects all skin types. But since alkaline skin has a low acidity level, it can be especially prone to blocked pores due to excess grease – which encourages acne-causing bacteria and inflammation. 

2. Dryness

Alkaline is a raised pH level, which in turn disrupts the skin barrier function and makes the skin dehydrated - causing flakiness, tightness, and itchiness. In fact, even if you’re using a strong moisturizer, it might not be enough to counteract this whether your skin's pH is too high. 

3. Irritation and inflammation

The increased pH leads to the depletion of magnesium, iron, and natural oils which keep our skin hydrated, balanced, and healthy - without those components, our bodies are unable to do their job properly and protect us from underlying conditions that come from bacteria growing at an excessive rate, like irritation, inflammation, eczema, and psoriasis. 

4. Accelerate aging

Having a high pH can actually speed up the aging process. The reason for this is that an alkaline environment encourages free radicals to form, which can in turn damage skin cells at a quicker rate than normal. In addition, when the skin has an alkaline pH it is more prone to bacteria and inflammation, making wrinkles more prominent and causing accelerated aging. 

In other words, it's like having a slippery slope of sorts—when the naturally-occurring acid mantle on the surface of the skin is compromised, damage due to free radicals and other chemical compounds ensues. If this cycle isn't broken by introducing substances with corrective acidity, wrinkles and age spots appear more quickly as time passes.

5. Oily skin

The pH balance of your skin plays an important role in determining its oiliness, as a higher level of alkalinity disrupts the natural oils our skin produces and exacerbates grease production. It's why sometimes people with seemingly normal or dry skin can still experience excessive oil or shine - their base pH level is tipped too far into the alkaline range. 

If your skin is too acidic

1. Water loss

People with acidic skin can suffer from water loss due to the highly acidic environment produced by their natural oils. This leads to a disruption of the protective barrier that normally maintains hydration in the skin, resulting in dry patches and other uncomfortable symptoms. 

2. Redness and irritation

Redness and irritation are common side-effects, as acidic skin can strip away natural oils, disrupt your skin’s pH balance, and increase sensitivity to touch and temperature. The underlying cause of this typically comes down to pH imbalance, which fails to shield the barrier of the skin from environmental aggressors like bacteria and allergens, which, in turn, cause irritation. 

3. Eczema and psoriasis

Our skin has a delicate pH balance and when it is thrown off, resilient skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis can pop up. When our body produces too much acid or fails to maintain proper alkalinity, the acidic pH of our skin surface becomes too prominent. This is known to leave our skin dry, inflamed, and prone to developing eczema and psoriasis. 

What's more, a decrease in your skin's natural pH could cause already existing eczema or psoriasis to worsen.

4. Acne (yes, again)

Simply put, when your skin pH is too acidic, it can disrupt the balance of beneficial bacteria that naturally exist on your complexion. This imbalance leads to inflammation, clogged pores, and whiteheads or blackheads that eventually turn into pimples. What's more, oily skin can also cause an increase in acidity levels since natural oils often have a low pH

How to tell if your ph balance is off?

Everyone's skin has a natural pH balance and it can be a great indicator of overall health. The best way to tell if your skin is off-balance is to observe and assess your skin’s condition. Look out for signs like dryness, increased or decreased oil production, breakouts, itching, rashes or discolorations. You may also feel uncomfortable tightness after washing your face or notice flaky patches, particularly on the face and neck. These signs could be indicative of an imbalanced pH in your skin.

If you notice any of these symptoms, take a pH level test to double-check if your skin is too acidic or too alkaline

What’s causing your skin’s pH imbalance?

The skin’s pH balance generally resides somewhere between 4.5 and 5.5, and can easily be thrown off by a number of factors. Harsh soaps, hard water, excessive sweating, and even stress can disrupt the pH level of your skin, leading to irritation and poor protection. 

Pollution particles floating in the air are another major contributing factor causing skin pH imbalance. When our environment is filtered with high levels of air pollutants creating oxidative stress on the cell's membrane, this messes up the organic balance that's been in place since you were born! 

What to do to balance your skin’s pH?

Here are our top 4 tips to balance your natural skin surface pH: 

1. Use gentle cleansers

Using a gentle cleanser to keep pH levels balanced is one of the simplest ways to maintain healthy skin. A cleanser with an appropriate pH level can help keep bacteria, oil, and dirt from accumulating on the surface of the skin, leading to breakouts and redness. This is why choosing a mild cleanser that won't disrupt your skin's natural chemical balance is so important. 

Facial Cleanser
Pure Pearlsation PH Balancing Quick Cleansing Pad
Facial Cleanser Pure Pearlsation Ph Balancing Quick Cleansing Pad
Sale price$30.00
Facial Cleanser
Low PH Rice Cleansing Bar
Facial Cleanser Low PH Rice Cleansing Bar
Sale price$12.00
Facial Cleanser
All Clean Balm | One Step Cleanser
Facial Cleanser All Clean Balm
Sale price$20.00

2. Get the right toner

Using the correct toner helps regulate pH levels in your skin and restore it to its natural level. This helps to maintain a healthy acid mantle, which is important for keeping harmful bacteria out of the pores and nourishing the skin with crucial hydration. 

A good toner makes all of this possible because it works on a cellular level to promote balance within the epidermis and remove excess oil, dirt, sweat, and other impurities that can cause a range of skin issues.

Facial Toner
All Clean Low pH Balancing Vegan Toner | Clear Skin
Facial Toner All Clean Low Ph Balancing Vegan Toner
Sale price$20.00
Mist
Low pH PHA Barrier Mist
Mist Low pH PHA Barrier Mist
Sale price$21.00

3. Exfoliate

Exfoliation not only unclogs pores but also removes dead skin cells, dirt, and debris which can all build up and affect your skin's pH levels. On top of that, exfoliating prepares your skin for further treatments such as moisturizing or applying masks. 

Using gentle yet effective products such as BHAs and AHAs can leave your skin feeling refreshed and with a healthy level of hydration.

Facial Exfoliator
CNP Invisible Peeling Booster
Facial Exfoliator CNP Invisible Peeling Booster
Sale price$50.00
Facial Exfoliator
AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid | Gentle Exfoliator
Facial Exfoliator Cosrx AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid
Sale price$22.00
Facial Exfoliator
Apricot Blossom Peeling Gel | Gentle Exfoliator
Facial Exfoliator Apricot Blossom Peeling Gel
Sale price$15.00

4. Moisturize

Moisturizing the skin is one of the best ways to get a balanced skin pH. This is because moisturizers help to lock in natural oils which form a barrier to keep the skin from becoming too dry or oily. 

Providing enough moisture in the skin helps to prevent excess sebum production, which can disrupt the skin's natural pH balance. In addition, moisturizing has been known to reduce inflammation and irritation, which can also lead to an imbalance in the pH levels of your skin. 

Moisturizer
Yuja Niacin Brightening Moisture Gel Cream
Moisturizer Yuja Niacin Brightening Moisture Gel Cream
Sale price$20.00
Moisturizer
Oil-Free Ultra-Moisturizing Lotion | Hydrate & Moisturize
Moisturizer Oil-Free Ultra-Moisturizing Lotion
Sale price$30.00

pH-balancing skincare: Where to find it?

Now that you know why having a balanced pH is the key to keeping your skin healthy, it’s time to get you the right products to keep an optimal skin pH level. 

If your skin is too dry or oily, if you’re suffering from acne-prone skin or aging skin, in Asian Beauty Essentials you’ll find all the products you need to finally get your skin balanced and boost your skin care routine. 

Visit our website to find the must-have pH-balancing products you’re craving for!

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