Understanding your skin’s pH level is not rocket science and it’s a crucial knowledge to have.
The last time we learned about pH was probably in primary school. Not ringing any bells? It’s that experiment we did by dipping pieces of paper into solutions and check if they turn in colour. Turns out, this chemistry lesson we had is very valuable in understanding our skincare regime.
Considering how vulnerable your skin is to breakouts, the weather and chemical ingredients, keeping your skin’s pH level in check is so important to maintain a healthy and happy skin. But first, what is this skincare science about?
In beauty terms, pH stands for “potential of hydrogen” which refers to the acidity of our skin. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 1 being the most acidic, 14 the most alkaline and 7 being neutral. On average, our skin’s pH level is actually around 5.5. Therefore, if your skin’s pH waivers towards one end of the scale or the other, it’s almost certain that it is suffering from irritation.
Why is it so important to maintain our skin’s pH level?
Essentially, everything comes down to our acid mantle. Acid mantle is the protective film on the surface of our skin that functions as a natural barrier against external aggressors. It is made up of sebum, amino acid and lactic acid which create the skin’s pH. It works around the clock to protect our skin from being attacked by harmful bacteria while working to maintain its natural hydrating oils.
Besides that, our skin’s pH level also plays a vital role in balancing its delicate microbiome. Just like our gut, our skin also has microbes that impact the way our skin looks. Having an acidic microbiome prevents harmful pathogens from multiplying but encourages good bacteria to flourish, hence, the mild acidity level our skin naturally possess.
How to tell if your skin’s pH level is thrown off?
Remember how skincare experts always advise to take it easy with acids and aggressive chemical ingredients? This is because those harsh chemicals can cause irritation and dry out the skin. You can tell that your skin’s pH is a wreck if it doesn’t react well to a product. However, it is actually perfectly normal and actually very common to have temporary mild disruptions to the skin’s pH level. Chemical exfoliants like AHA and BHA are actually pretty acidic, with an average level of 3.6. But there’s no reason to fear such products! The skin will naturally equalises itself to its normal pH within a few hours. Plus, occasional use of acidic products can help stimulate the skin to become more supple and hydrated.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you can apply acidic ingredients onto your skin whenever you wish. Products that are overly acidic or alkaline can cause a more significant disruption to the skin’s pH and lipid barrier. This will lead to the skin becoming so much more vulnerable to external aggressors and trigger breakouts, eczema, redness and sensitivity.
How can I be more mindful about my skincare regime?
It’s not easy to shop for skincare products since most brands don’t list the formula’s pH on the label. The best way to know if your skin’s pH level is balanced is by taking note of your skin’s health. There are many ways for your skin to show you it is upset. It can show redness, flaky skin and blisters to name a few. If you suspect your skin’s health is compromised, try using humectants like hyaluronic acid and barrier-restoring lipids like ceramides to protect and repair the barrier. Most soothing agents have ideal pH levels to reduce skin irritation so you know your skin is in good hands.
The most important tool to keep your skin’s pH under control is by using a good moisturiser. Look out for gentle moisturisers like Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Face Cream and Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel. While restoring your skin to its optimal pH level, try to avoid harsh chemicals or introducing new products that your skin is not accustomed to. If the ingredients list contains long words that you’re not familiar with, chances are your skin won’t like them too.
Furthermore, it’s also important to consider the water you’re using on your skin. Some countries supply hard water which can cause your skin’s pH level to become too alkaline. According to Sciencing.com, you likely have hard tap water if you see white spots on your glassware or calcification on your shower head. To get around this issue, try switching to bottled water to wash your face or cleanse with micellar water. It can be quite a hassle but worth the effort.