The seemingly inconspicuous term ‘pH,’ often associated with high school chemistry classes, plays a crucial role beyond the confines of the classroom – it significantly influences your beauty regimen. Whether conscious of it or not, maintaining the proper pH levels is more integral to your skincare routine than you might have realized. The pH levels of your go-to cleanser, toner, and moisturizer wield considerable influence over your skin’s well-being. Opting for pH-balanced formulations can prove to be a wise decision.
Now, you might be wondering how to discern the right pH-friendly beauty products to enhance the look and feel of your skin. Fear not, as we’re here to guide you through the intricacies of how pH impacts the skin, the importance of adhering to a meticulously pH-balanced skincare routine, and even provide insights on how to verify the pH balance of your cosmetics. Elevate your skincare game by understanding the significance of pH and making informed choices for a healthier, radiant complexion.
What is pH?
In chemistry, the term ‘pH’ stands for ‘potential of hydrogen’ or ‘power of hydrogen,’ signifying the activity of hydrogen ions in an aqueous solution. Its primary purpose is to determine a solution’s acidity, basicity, or alkalinity levels (1). The pH value serves as an indicator, with higher values indicating a more basic or alkaline nature and lower values signifying acidity. The standard pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with seven being neutral. Values below seven are considered acidic, while those above 7 are alkaline (2).
In cosmetics, pH plays a crucial role, denoting a specific product’s acidity or alkalinity degree. Consequently, understanding the pH scale becomes essential when selecting various cosmetic products to ensure compatibility with the skin and overall effectiveness. Considerably considering pH levels contributes to making informed choices for a well-balanced and harmonious skincare routine.
Water is pH-balanced as it has a pH value is 7. On the other hand, lemon is acidic with a pH value of 2~3 and ammonia is alkaline with a pH value of 11.6.
What is the pH of Our Skin?
Researchers have found that understanding and maintaining the pH of our skin is critical to its overall health and appearance. So, how are pH and our skin linked to each other? Being a delicate organ, the human skin performs most efficiently and effectively only when it has an ideal pH level. The surface and uppermost layers of healthy adult skin are naturally acidic. Though the perfect skin pH is 5.5, it ranges from 4 to 6, averaging 4.7. Studies have revealed that skin pH varies from one body part to another. For example, your face, hands, chest (to some extent), etc., are more alkaline than your armpits (3), buttocks, genitals, etc., as they are more exposed and, hence, are more capable of maintaining their natural acidity.
After the birth, the skin pH of babies remains neutral or around 7 (4). It starts turning acidic after a couple of weeks and declines rapidly as they get even older. Also, the pH of men’s skin always tends to be more acidic than that of women’s skin.
How Does pH Affect Our Skin?
Nothing is called ‘perfect skin’ as we all have unique skin issues. However, when the skin’s pH remains balanced at 5.5, it works optimally. Our skin has a protective film called ‘acid mantle,’ which perfectly aligns with natural ingredients like ceramides, cholesterol, enzymes, sweat, and sebum. This balances the skin’s pH, seals moisture, keeps it firm, and protects it from external threats to stay healthy, glowing, and free from infections.
But as we grow old, this acid mantle diminishes naturally, thus throwing the pH balance out of whack. If the skin becomes less acidic, it turns dry and aged (5), while too acidic skin appears red, inflamed, and itchy (6). There are also many other factors, including acne, air pollution, wrong skincare products or cosmetics, sebum, sweat, poor diet, tap water, detergents, excessive sun exposure, frequent cleansing of the skin, season changes, etc., which take a toll on skin’s pH level. As a result, we suffer from various skin conditions, such as acne, inflammation, rosacea, sensitivity, eczema, and many more.
Observing your skin carefully will give you a general idea about its pH level. Soft, smooth, and hydrated skin is known to be pH-balanced rather than red, irritated, acne-prone skin with dry spots. You can also use at-home pH kits available in the market to determine the pH of your skin on your own. Moreover, a dermatologist may also help you figure it out through liquid pH-testing.
Why is the pH of Cosmetics Important?
As we mentioned earlier, choosing the wrong cosmetics may disrupt the skin’s pH, and it is one of the most common mistakes we ever make. Most of us feel tempted to pick up many skincare products just by hearing about them or seeing their advertisements. We hardly notice the products’ actual chemical configurations and pH levels. But each cosmetic has a pre-determined pH level, which does not always suit our skin. If we use too acidic or alkaline skincare products and cosmetics daily, the acid mantle gets disturbed, and the skin fails to maintain its natural pH balance. Doing this repeatedly reduces the performance of the skin. It increases water loss, which worsens many common skin disorders like dryness, scaling, irritation, itching, inflammation, sensitivity, redness, eczema, oiliness, breakouts, acne, blemishes, etc. Consequently, healthy skin becomes visibly and progressively damaged. Hence, using the right pH-balanced skincare products or cosmetics is essential.
Mild pH disruptions in the skin caused by slightly acidic or slightly alkaline cosmetics are temporary. In such cases, the skin usually bounces back to its natural pH condition within an hour or so. In fact, slightly acidic cosmetics may stimulate the production of key substances in the skin that help it stay hydrated, smooth, and supple.
What is the Right pH for Cosmetics?
So, how do you use cosmetics without causing any harm to your skin’s pH? Well, focus on a ‘pH-balanced’ or ‘pH-optimized’ beauty routine, and you will be all set to level out your skin’s acidity. When buying cosmetics or skincare products, you must ensure their pH levels are similar to your skin’s acid mantle. In other words, the pH of your cosmetics should always be at a level of 5.5 for healthy skin.
How do you check the pH balance of cosmetics?
Many brands focus on the typical pH range between 4 and 7 to maintain balance. But still, many products lack proper mention of pH levels on their labels. If you want to figure out the pH balance of your favorite cosmetics, the following techniques may help you out:
pH strips are readily available in the market, and you can instantly test your products’ pH levels with them. They come with an instruction manual to simplify the entire process. You must pour a few drops of your cosmetics onto the strip and notice how the color changes. Match the color change against the table in the manual, and you will find the pH level.
2. Litmus Papers
You can also use Litmus papers to determine the exact pH level of your skincare products and cosmetics to avoid using inappropriate stuff on your skin.
How to Maintain a Balanced Skin pH?
Now, here are a few crucial skincare tips that you must follow to maintain the proper pH balance for healthy skin:
- Always use a gentle cleanser to cleanse your face. Also, give yourself enough time for this step.
- Do not skip your toner, as it neutralizes the excess alkalinity of your skin.
- Moisturize your skin thoroughly. You may need to keep changing your moisturizers based on the season.
- Exfoliating your skin with gentle exfoliants like plant acids at least once every week is vital.
- Keep a close eye on your daily diet. For example, emphasize alkaline foods that naturally balance your skin’s pH rather than consuming more acid-producing foods.
pH refers to the ‘potential of hydrogen’ or ‘power of hydrogen’, which determines the acidity and alkalinity levels of an aqueous solution. It is measured on the ‘pH scale’ of 0 to 14 in which anything below 7 is acidic and anything above it is non-acidic or alkaline. In cosmetics, pH denotes the degree or level of acidity or alkalinity of a particular product and the pH scale is an important aspect to consider while choosing different cosmetic products. Our skin performs optimally only when it has an ideal pH level i.e. 5.5. Hence, the surface and uppermost layers of healthy adult skin are naturally acidic. The protective film over the skin called acid mantle helps in balancing its pH level. But the acid mantle diminishes due to a number of factors including the selection of wrong skincare products or cosmetics. This disrupts the skin’s pH and makes it less acidic. Each cosmetic has a pre-determined pH level, which does not always suit our skin. Using too acidic or too alkaline products repeatedly reduces the performance of skin and results in common skin disorders like dryness, scaling, irritation, itching, inflammation, sensitivity, redness, eczema, oiliness, breakouts, acne, blemishes, etc. So, focus on a ‘pH-balanced’ beauty routine and you will be all set to level out the acidity of your skin. The pH of your cosmetics should always be at a level of 5.5 pH for healthy skin. You can use pH-strips or litmus papers to figure out the pH balance of your favorite cosmetics.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is 9.5 pH Water Good?
If the water is obtained from a natural source, it will contain lots of natural minerals and, hence, be safe to use. However, if it is artificially sourced alkaline water, you may not consider it sound as it may contain contaminants.
What is the pH of Lipstick?
The pH value of lipsticks usually ranges from 7.45 to 7.75.
What pH is Shampoo?
Typically, the pH value of all shampoos remains between 3.5 and 9.0.
- “The Symbol for pH,” CHE.uc.edu
- “About Skin pH and Why It Matters,” Healthline.com
- “Axillary pH and Influence of Deodorants,” PubMed.NCBI.nlm.nih.gov
- “Skin pH: From Basic Science to Basic Skin Care,” MedicalJournals.se
- “Why the pH Balance of Your Skincare Products Matters So Much?” Allure.com
- “Did You Know that pH Balancing Skincare is Key to Healthy-Looking Skin?“, MariecCaire.co.uk