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How to Balance Your Skin’s pH

May 02, 2021

How to Balance Your Skin’s pH

The secret to happy, healthy beautiful skin is a balanced pH. Basically, when your skin is balanced, it’s at it’s best. It’s more hydrated, more resilient, more vibrant, and more healthy. We’re breaking down what’s behind pH, the impact it has on your skin and how and why to balance yours. Whether your complexion is dry, oily, or acne-prone, we’ll help you restore your skin ph balance naturally.

What is pH?

PH refers to “potential of hydrogen”, a scale used to denote the concentration of hydrogen. It refers to the activity of hydrogen ions (molecules with a positive or negative charge) in a water-based solution. If this all sounds a little too high school chemistry class for you, that’s because it is. What you probably want to know is, how does this affect your skin?

Well, because it’s made of mostly water, skin’s pH can alter how it retains moisture. The pH runs on a scale from 0-14, where anything below a 7 is considered acidic, and anything higher is considered alkaline. Since your skin is composed of a large amount of water, it can easily move up or down the pH scale, for better or worse.

Why does your skin’s pH matter?

While your skin’s pH can bounce back from any slight variation pretty quickly, it’s when it gets taken to an extreme that you start to see issues. An unbalanced pH level can lead to things like fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and breakouts.

Your skin performs best at a slightly acidic pH level between four and six. This is the optimal level for your skin’s acid mantle to function. The acid mantle is an invisible shield that's crucial for a flawless complexion.

Anything that disrupts the acid mantle throws off the balance of the natural oils and bacteria on the skin. Messing with this balance means that the good bacteria are no longer able to keep the bad bacteria in check. The result is skin issues like eczema, redness, dry patches, acne, oiliness, and premature signs of aging.

Skin pH: Alkaline Vs. Acidic

If your skin’s pH is too alkaline, your skin will appear tight and dry. This can lead to a lack of protection against free radical damage and even cause premature wrinkles. Skin may feel overly sensitive, look lax or saggy, and may be more prone to inflammation. The chronic dryness comes from the depletion of skin’s lipid barrier resulting in transepidermal water loss.

If your skin’s pH becomes too acidic, your skin’s barrier can also become compromised. This in turn means excessively oily skin, breakouts and sensitivity. Because the balance is disrupted, your skin is more prone to acne-causing bacteria and other irritations.

What can affect the pH balance of your skin?

Your skin’s pH can be raised or lowered due to several different factors and knowing how to identify each is the first step in correcting the imbalance. The following factors can affect your skin’s pH balance:

  • Skin-care products, especially those with harsh active ingredients like retinol or acids
  • Environmental factors like sun exposure, seasonal changes and pollution 
  • Washing your face too frequently
  • Using the wrong water temperature to wash your face 
  • Using soaps with surfactants rather than mild cleansers
  • Using an abrasive washcloth or manual exfoliator
  • Certain cosmetics
  • Your diet, especially foods with a high glycemic index like white bread, white rice, and sweet potatoes

Sebum and pH Balance

Sebum is the oily substance that the skin produces and secretes. Sebum hydrates, moisturizes, and protects the skin from damage.

When the skin’s pH is too alkaline, above 7 pH, it’s not producing enough sebum. This is when we experience sensitive, dry skin and possibly also breakouts. Skin that isn’t sufficiently moisturized with sebum isn’t as resilient, making it especially vulnerable to fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging.

When the skin’s pH is more acidic, below 7 pH, it’s producing more sebum than necessary. This is what causes oily skin. Acidic skin is actually ideal for fighting off free radicals and slowing the aging process, but when the skin is too acidic, it becomes oily, greasy, increasingly sensitive, and easily irritated.

Maintaining an optimal skin pH level allows the skin to enforce a much-needed skin barrier (the acid mantle) by producing just enough sebum.

What are the signs of your skin pH being out of balance? 

If your skin is too red, too dry, too itchy, too oily, basically  too anything, your pH is out of balance. A pH that is too alkaline causes drying and decreased hydration of the skin, leading to eczema flare-ups and premature aging (like fine lines and wrinkles). Skin ranging too low on the acidic pH spectrum creates increased redness and inflammation.

The same is true in your gut. You have natural bacterial flora that helps boost the immune system and helps minimize bad bacteria. And it turns out when you throw off the pH balance in your gut, it can show up on your skin. This is known as the gut-skin axis.

The Gut-Skin Axis 

The gut and skin enjoy a constant dialogue via what has become known as the gut-skin axis. The gut and skin microbiome are made up of trillions of microbes, from thousands of different strains, that live together as an intricate ecological community. 

If you experience any issues with your digestive tract, like inflammation, leaky gut or digestion problems, your skin is likely the first place you’ll notice the problem.

How to Check Your Skin's pH 

Knowing your skin’s pH can mean the difference between a good skin day and a bad one. If your skin is more acidic you’ll want skincare products that bring your pH level up. If your skin is more alkaline, you’ll want skincare products that bring your pH level down. Here’s how determine your skin’s pH level:

  • Listen to your skin: The condition of your skin has everything to do with where it’s at on the pH scale.  If your skin has a naturally soft texture with no noticeable dry patches or oily areas, your skin, it’s most likely balanced. If your skin is rough and dry, and no amount of moisturizer seems to re-hydrate, you probably have an alkaline, high pH level. If you’re battling oily skin, you probably have an acidic, low pH level. 
  • See a dermatologist: Seeing a dermatologist is the most accurate measure for determining your skin’s pH. Your doctor can use a skin pH meter to test your skin’s level. This measurement will help you understand your skin type and the products or lifestyle changes needed to balance your skin’s pH level. 
  • Use an at-home test: There are several at-home tests that can measure your skin’s natural pH level. Urine tests, saliva tests, and topical skin tests can show you exactly where your body’s natural acidity and alkalinity level lies on the pH scale.

  • The Best Ingredients to Balance Your Skin’s pH 

    Adding any of these powerful ingredients to your daily skincare routine can help balance your skin’s pH:

    Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse
    1. Pour 1 part Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar into a glass jar.
    2. Add 2 parts filtered water.
    3. Shake the bottle to combine the mixture.
    4. Apply the rinse to your freshly cleansed skin using a cotton ball or pad.    
    5. Shake well before each use.

    Skincare Tips to Balance Your Skin’s pH 

    It’s almost impossible not to negatively affect your pH levels every day, but you can combat the constant fluctuations with these skincare tips:

  • Choose a mild cleanser

  • Squeaky clean is too clean when it comes to washing your face. It may feel like your face is thoroughly cleansed, but the cleansers that are too alkaline disrupt your natural pH level. This leaves your skin dry and irritated. Rather than banishing excess oil, harsh cleansers can actually trigger more! Look for cleansers with a pH level similar to that of your skin to effectively cleanse without stripping.

  • Use a toner after cleansing

  • A toner is designed to reset your skin to it’s normal condition. This is why it is a must-use product after cleansing and when your skin seems irritated or more sensitive than usual. Plus, using a mild toner helps to remove and make-up residue and provides hydration. This contributes to an overall more balanced and healthier complexion. Look for toners with naturally balancing ingredients like witch hazel, aloe, rose or chamomile. 

  • Avoid using acids too frequently

  • Acid exfoliators are wildly popular in the skincare community, and with good reason. Whether you're looking to treat darks spots or acne, there's an acid for every skin type. But too much of anything can be a bad thing. Applying acidic products too often can disturb your skin’s pH levels. Consider using a moisturizer with calming properties after exfoliating with a skin acid.

  • What’s good for your body isn’t good for your face

  • An alkaline state is great for your body, but dermatologists see no benefits for skin

    Any deviation in your skin’s pH level prevents it from looking, feeling and performing its best. A clear, glowing complexion is a balancing act – and it’s all in the pH!

    Check out Herbal Dynamics Beauty Balancing Collection: