What is pH and How Does It Affect Your Skin?

What is pH?

PH stands for potential hydrogen, a measure of the number of free hydrogen ions in a substance. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, lower numbers indicate that the substance is more acidic while higher numbers indicate a more alkaline substance.

What is your skin’s acid-base?

When it comes to the skin the ideal pH range is between 4.5 and 6.5. To maintain this acid-base (also known as the acid mantle) the skin naturally produces a film layer (sebum) that has a balanced pH. Sebum consists of natural fatty acids that the skin produces to keep bacteria and toxins out while also keeping skin moist and youthful. Balanced skin has a strong defense system against the harmful acne-causing bacterium.

Why is an acid-base important?

Anything that disrupts the acid mantle elevates the pH of the skin which can lead to skin issues. When the balance is disrupted the pH can increase beyond healthy levels and become alkaline instead of acidic. Alkaline skin can result in rough texture, dryness, irritation, flaking, bacterial infections, and acne. Our skin is very capable of defending against germs thanks to the secretion of sebum bad bacteria cannot settle on the skin. Bad bacteria can deplete the water from the skin cells and dehydrate them. Alkaline skin has a less effective defense system against this harmful bacterium. Once the pH exceeds 6.5, the probability of bacterial invasion increases dramatically, which can cause a loss of skin integrity, atopic dermatitis, seborrhea, or ichthyosis.

What disrupts your acid-base?

Many products can cause the skin to become alkaline such as soap or serums that are not designed with pH in mind. This natural base can also be disrupted by sunlight, diet, or excessive sweating. Another very disruptive factor is the water used to wash your face. ‘Hard water’ is tap water with a very high mineral content. Skin can be very sensitive especially when harsh water is used daily. This is why many people who live in places with ‘hard water’ use micellar water to wash their faces.

How can you help support your skin’s acid-base?

The most common and dramatic cause of alkaline skin is the use of alkaline soap. For more information on what to look for (and what to avoid) in a soap read our blog post on the soap.

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