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Understanding Skin pH

What is Skin pH and Why does it matter?

You hear it talked about a lot these days; you see it in books, magazine articles, and the Internet. The pH levels of our bodies, our water, and our food are a constant topic of conversation and interest. Are the levels acidic or alkaline? Which numbers on the pH scale are healthiest for the particular topic of discussion? What is Skin pH?

The abbreviation “pH” stands for the “potential of hydrogen” or the measure of “hydrogen ion concentration.” Levels of pH are measured on a scale that ranges from zero (acidic) to 14 (alkaline)

Your skin’s pH level is between 4 and 5.5, which means it is more acidic. Actually, your skin has a “film” on its exterior called the “acid mantle.” The purpose of the acid mantle is to protect your skin from contaminants, bacteria, and viruses. These attackers tend to be alkaline in nature, so the role of this acidic mantle on your skin is protection, which it accomplishes by dissolving the harmful molecules trying to penetrate it.

This is why maintaining your skin’s naturally acidic pH is important. Using skincare products, such as cleansers and moisturizers, which are too alkaline can destroy the protective acid mantle. Believe it or not, the pH of the typical bar of hand soap is 8.0. Because of the damage it does to the acid mantle (and other reasons to be discussed later), cleansing with soap like this is terrible for your skin.

It is also significant to understand how the active ingredients in your anti-aging and acne skincare products are affected by their pH levels … this is why you can have two products with the same active ingredients, yet one is more efficacious than the other.

The molecules that constitute many of the active, acidic ingredients incorporated into today’s skincare products can be “bound” or “free.” The more “free” these acids are, the more potent and effective they are for your skin (remember that healthy skin has a more acidic pH). If the acid’s are “bound” the acid cannot penetrate the skin and is therefore ineffective.

What assists in “freeing”up these molecules is the pH level of the product. The lower the pH, the higher the free acid. However, it is also imperative that the power of pH is understood in order to control the strength of the acid being used so it does not become too irritating to the skin.

For instance, if a face cream had a pH of 1, which would free up a high concentration of  “free acid” molecules, applying it on your face would be very irritating. Obviously, there needs to be a healthy balance maintained when developing a skincare product; and this is most effectively done through controlling the pH levels.

Properly formulating the high quality active ingredients and understanding the science behind pH levels works remarkably well in achieving impressive results for your skin.