Anna studied medicine and specialized in dermatology and after her studies worked in two hospitals and a polyclinic. Recently however she decided to exchange her position as a doctor for that of freelance medical writer and never regretted this step. Her skills are high in demand by various pharmaceutical or cosmetics companies. Anna writes about the anatomy of the skin and skin problems.

What you need to know about your Skin pH

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Everybody’s dream is to have and maintain a glowing skin. To feel the happiness that causes a smile when you walk pass a mirror. You want to own a skin that will boost your confidence and make you walk into places easily, flaunting your skin everywhere you go. I’m talking about a skin that will make people to say “What’s your secret to a perfect skin” and maybe tell you that they are willing to pay.

You’ve looked for the best skin products recommendation and searched the entire store for the perfect product for your skin. You checked the top skin care blogs for tips and advices. In fact you have so much information that you can start your own beauty blogs and give plenty of advices about skin care.

You’ve probably taken an extra step by putting those advice into action; you use the best cleanser for your skin cleansing routine, you apply rich sunscreens and moisturizers with an extra layer. But yet; these skin products that seems to be doing the magic for everyone else is a rebel to your own skin.

It’s frustrating right? Yeah! I know. The pain of trying so hard but failing! You want a glowing skin so bad. What then could been the problem?

Here in this article an important factor that can be a reason why those skin products and your effort isn’t working will be discussed. This might be a breakthrough to getting your “dream skin”

Skin pH

You are familiar with the word “Skin”. I mean, that’s why you are here in the first place. You only want an extra information on how to have a skin that makes you feel and look better. You definitely don’t want the definition of skin. But what about you the ‘’pH’’. Or you already know what pH means, but I still don’t want to assume, so let’s dive straight into it.

What is pH?

This might bring back the memories of your high school chemistry lab sessions. The teacher walking up to the class and announcing that you were about to learn about pH. And then at the practical session, you were given strips that changes color when dipped into different liquid solution to determine the pH of each of the liquid solution.

That was a good memory. pH stands for potential of hydrogen. It has to do with hydrogen ion present in a solution.

pH value is a figure on the scale of 0 – 14 that states the acidity or basicity of a solution. When a solution’s pH falls below 7, it is considered to be acidic in nature. When the solution’s pH falls is above 7, it is basic in nature. And at 7 it is considered to be neutral as in the case of pure water.

On the pH scale the intensity of the pH nature (acidic or basic) depends on how far the figures are from the neutral point – 7. On acidic side of the pH scale (lesser than 7), the acidity at 2 is higher than that of 6.5. The basicity at 14 is higher than 8 at the basic side of the pH scale.

For example an apple juice has a pH value of 3.5 while a lemon juice has a pH value of 2, which makes a lemon juice more acidic than an apple juice.

You need to understand that the pH scale is logarithmic and therefore the difference in the value that seems small are significant and far apart in real sense.

What is Skin pH?

Now that you know what pH means, you would love to know how it applies to your skin.

Our skins have also has a pH value. That is, a value can be attributed to the skin on the pH scale which is determined by its acidity or basicity. However, our skin surface is acidic in nature. The upper layers of our skin including the skin surface is acidic. At birth we have a skin which is averagely neutral, which is neither acidic nor basic. But as we age and our skin begins to experience threats from the environment, it begin to turn acidic. This happens within few weeks after birth.

Skin is a very vital organ of our body that performs various important functions to keep us healthy. One of the important functions of the skin is to serve a protective barrier of our body from the environment. This skin performs this function by setting up a thin, protective surface known as the skin’s acid mantle

Skin’s acid mantle.

The skin’s acid mantle is composed of sebum, which is a form of fatty acids that is secreted by the sebaceous gland. The mantle together with other natural component of the skin surface such as sweat, enzymes, and the skin oil increases the acidity of the skin surface and protects the skin from external threats. It is slightly acidic and neutralises the effects of alkaline-based pollutants, and help keep the skin’s pH in balance to promote its natural qualities.

The skin’s acid mantle is responsible for the pH of your skin. Its acidic nature protects and shield the skin from environmental aggressors, bacteria and infections.  It also help to maintain the balance of the skin pH and keep it moisturized. The skin acid mantle helps prevent our skin from irritation and aging. The ability of the acid mantle to do this entire depends on its pH level, which is required to be kept at balance.

The average adult skin has a pH between 4.5 and 6.2 which makes it acidic in nature. Its values varies for different parts of the body. Areas such as the thighs, armpit and genital parts which are less exposed to the environment have a different pH value compared to the frequently exposed parts of the bod such as the face, hands and chest. Armpit for example are less exposed to air and light which causes the pH level to go up the scale to about 6.5. Its high basic state makes it prone to bacteria which can lead to bad odour. The genital parts of the body is affected in a similar way as the armpit. The pH ranges from one person to another owing to a number of factors.

Internal factors that affects skin’s pH

Some of the internal factors that affects the acidity of our skin as individuals include

  1. Gender. The pH of our skin can be determined by our gender also. There a slight difference between the average pH of a male to a female skin. The male skin has an average pH that is slightly lower to that of a female. Which means that a male ski is more acidic compared to a female skin. This is owing to the fact that the skin of a male is experiences more production of sebum (natural skin oil) than a female’s skin.
  • Hormonal changes. The hormones present in body and at what rate they are secreted affects the formation of our body including the skin’s acidity. At notable stages of our lives such as puberty, pregnancy and menopause where there are significant change in the production of hormones in our body. The skin experience changes in its pH level owing to hormones in the body.
  • Genetics. Like you know, our genes are what we’re made up of. The genes have a way of determining our skin structure and hormonal activities. Just like the way our gene is responsible for the difference in the texture, pigmentation, color and skin type. It can affect the acidic level of our skin owing to the amount of sebum the skin produces to how it reacts to aggressors.
  • Age. As new-borns, the pH of our skin is around the value of 7 which is neutral. But within few weeks after birth the pH level begin to reduce to a lower value which makes the skin slightly acidic. Over time, with continuous exposure to the environment, pollution and bacteria around the pH of the skin is affected and tends to move away from balance, making it more alkaline and prone to wrinkles, irritation and skin aging.
  • Diet. What will take into our body reflects in our skin and general outlook. The type of food we eat can affect the acidity of our skin by either increasing or reducing it. Each food component has a way of increasing the skin acidity or reducing it at a particular rate. Some foods are acidic in nature while others are basic. The irony about food pH is that the food pH before consumption is opposite of its formation in the body. Which means that foods that are considered to be acidic before consumption may influence the skin to be alkaline.

These factors alter the pH level of our skin and makes it vary from one person to another. The conditions are favourable when they help to keep the pH of your skin at a healthy state. To maintain a healthy state the skin pH shouldn’t be too basic, neither should it be too acidic which brings about the idea of skin pH balance.

What is skin pH balance?

For the skin to serve effectively as a protection from external threat it needs to achieve an ideal pH which is neither too acidic nor basic. The natural skin pH level should be average of 4.7 prior to exposure to water (which has a higher pH level) and cosmetics. At this range, the skin is able to perform its functions well by fighting aggressors and harmful bacteria. There is improvement in the skin micro flora which is essential for the natural flourishing of the skin. At balance the skin is plump, smooth and hydrated with gives it a glowing look.

But when external activities and agents come in contact with the skin acid mantle and causes it to shift away from balance, the skin loses its ability to be protected and is prone to attacks. This happens when the skin pH level becomes very acidic or basic shifting away from the ideal range. If your skin is dry and sensitive to irritation, then it may be too basic. When it is oily and you experience more breakouts, your skin may be too acidic.

This can be caused by internal factor and the agents that come in contact directly with the skin. Tap water for example has a higher pH level which is closer the alkaline side. When tap water is introduced to the skin, it displaces it from balance by increasing the skin basicity and reducing its ability to protect itself from external threat. The effect of this is dryness and irritation in the skin which may lead to skin conditions like acne, wrinkling and aging.

External factors that affects your skin pH are;

  1. Environmental factors. Your environment has a direct impact on your skin. The nature of the air around you can stress the skin and disturb the skin’s acid mantle. Changes in humidity and temperature may reduce sebum production and increases dehydration of the skin and make it more alkaline in nature. This causes the skin pH to deviate from balance and make it prone to skin conditions.
  • Lifestyle. Your everyday decisions can reflect through your skin. Careless activities which poses damage of the skin acid mantle such as smoking, excessive drinking and poor feeding makes the skin horrible. Some negative practices in the process of keeping the skin healthy such as over-exfoliating is also bad for the skin. When you over-exfoliate, the skin tends to be more acidic which may trigger acne breakouts. Excessive scrubbing of the skin during cleansing may be bad for the skin and throw the pH off balance.
  • Sun. Exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun is another way the skin pH level can be off balance. The UV rays from the sun attacks the skin’s acid mantle by weakening it and making it less acidic. When sunlight hits the skin, it is becomes more alkaline making it prone to skin condition, wrinkling and aging.
  • Pollution. Pollutants are main culprits in displacing the skin pH from balance. They are in form of air pollutants, dirt, solid or liquid chemicals. Pollutants that settle on the surface of the skin can become difficult to remove by cleansing process, they then work on the skin framework to weaken it and penetrate the skin. The chemicals with a higher pH (Alkaline) are mostly dangerous to the skin. They can damage the skin’s acid mantle and even impair the cell structure of the skin. Pollutants in general drive the skin pH up resulting in dryness and aging.
  • Cosmetics. Certain cosmetics product have very high pH ranges which is not suitable for the skin. When you use these products over time, the pH of your skin can be altered. Due to the fact that our skin pH is not the same for everyone, using a skin product that doesn’t match your skin pH may be very harmful to it. A good product’s pH should fall within the range of a normal skin, outside this range the skin may be subjected to damage.
  • Poor skin care habits. You may be harmful your skin more when you are try in to get it better because you’re doing it the wrong way. Some wrong akin cleansing practice are bad for the skin and may disturb the pH balance of your skin. Some of those practices include:
  • Applying bar soap to your face.
  • Cleansing your face with hot water
  • Harsh scrubbing
  • Applying cleansers with high pH to your skin.

These poor skin care habits will weaken your skin acid mantle and make it lose it acidity and protection.

These factors tends to increase the basicity of the skin by reducing its acidity and moving it up the pH scale. When this happens the natural balance of the skin is disrupted and the skin is posed to damage.

9 Signs that your skin pH is unbalanced

When these factors affects the skin and displaces it from balance, the effects of highly alkaline skin sets in and the health of the skin is compromised. These symptoms shows that your skin pH balance is compromised.

  1. Acne. Acne can be a big threat to your fair complexion and beauty. With a weaken skin acid mantle, you may be prone to experience more outbreaks which may be in form of blackheads, whitehead, pimples and cysts. Although, acne is a normal psychological condition, it may be triggered or worsen by the change in the skin pH.
  • Inflammation. Chronic inflammation may be signs that your skin’s natural pH level has been altered. When the skin becomes more alkaline, dirt and pollutants can penetrate into the skin through the pores, and cause localized skin irritation. Oxidation which damages the skin cells may occur and result in the inflammation of the skin tissues and other chronic conditions.
  • Melasma. When the skin is stripped off of its natural barrier due to change in the skin’s pH level. Air pollutants in form of particles pollution enter into the skin through the pores there’s a reaction that causes disorders in the skin. One of such is melasma a form of facial dyschromia. The darken patches, brown blotches around your forehead, cheeks and nose are signs of melasma. Sometimes, it is triggered by change in hormonal levels in women during pregnancy. Melasma may be signs that your skin’s pH is off balance.
  • Psoriasis. Changes in the skin’s pH can affect the activities of the skin enzymes which may result in inflammation which plays a vital role in causing Psoriasis. When the skin is made to grow through excessive sex renewal the results is obvious scales on parts of the skin.
  • Dry skin. When the skin’s pH is increased to an alkaline nature, the skin is exposed to stress which triggers the sweat glands to produce more sweats. Production of excess stress by the seat pores causes your body to lose more water very quickly. The increased pH of the skin also make the skin to lose its acid mantle and prevent water from leaving the skin. Then you become dehydrated and prone to having a dry skin.
  • Excess oil. Unlike other result of change in the skin’s pH, production of excess oil by the skin can be linked to increased acidity, not alkalinity. When the skin pH goes down the scale and its acidity is increased, the pores produces excess oils which then triggers acne breakout when the oils get trapped in the skin pores.
  • Wrinkling. When your skin experiences an increase in the pH level, its alkalinity increases and it loses its supply of natural oil. This results in dryness and weakness of the skin framework, hereby making the skin to lose it flexibly and plumpness. The damage occurs when the skin’s natural barrier is compromised and there is a breakdown of the collagen tissue in the skin, causing your skin to lose its suppleness and elasticity. Fine lines begin to appear around the mouth and in the forehead and the skin loses it glow.
  • Rosacea. Rosacea is a serious inflammation condition that causes redness in the skin, especially on the face. Rosacea may be triggered by the change in the skin normal pH level which weakens the skin protective barrier and allow particles to enter and clog the pores resulting in inflammation. Radical damage on the surface of the skin due to pollution can also make the condition worse. Rosacea condition makes the skin thicker and red; it also gives it a flushed look.
  • Atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin disease that can be linked to various factors, including genetic, health conditions, and environmental factors. However, it can be easily triggered when the skin’s pH is thrown off balance. When the skin’s pH is moved up the pH scale and the acidity is reduced. The skin becomes dry and sensitive and result in eczema. When people that are prone to eczema sweat, their skin pH is thrown off balance and may lead to an immediate breakout. When the skin loses its natural protective barrier due to its present alkaline state and it’s unable to defend itself from environmental aggressors. Air pollutants such as vehicles fumes and cigarette smoke may also induce oxidative stress in the skin and result in more depletion of the skin natural barrier.

How to restore your skin pH balance

  1. Use moisturizers. With age being an inevitable factor, biological age affects the natural production of oil by sebum) our skin. The reduction in the amount of oils may affect the skin’s acid mantle and throw the skin’s pH off balance. To protect the skin’s acid mantle, you should apply a good moisturizer to your skin regularly. The moisturizers will help rebuild and protect the skin’s acid mantle. It is necessary you get a moisturiser that suits your skin perfectly.
  • Use sunscreens. You shouldn’t skip sunscreen in your daily skin care routine. Sunscreen is a very vital product if you want to keep your skin healthy. It serves as an extra protection by protecting the skin’s acid mantle from the damaging rays of the sun. The skin’s protection is doubled and the risk of going above the balanced pH level is eliminated. Sunscreen is essential if you must keep your skin pH in balance and have a healthy skin. Get a sunscreen product that suits your skin pH and apply is religiously to your skin every day.
  • Use essential oils. Unlike other materials, essential oils doesn’t have a pH value. They fail to dissolve in water, therefore they have other essential molecules together with them. The essential oils protects the skin from oxidative stress and preventing inflammation which may damage the skin’s acid mantle. Reduction in inflammation will bring back the skin H to balance.
  • Use Luke-warm water. Temperature is a factor that determines the pH of materials. Tap water is at the upper part of the pH scale which may want to alter the pH of your skin. To prevent water from driving your skin pH up the scale, you should use water that is lukewarm (or in room temperature). Avoid using hot water to cleanse your face and skin. Cold water isn’t advisable too, use lukewarm water to keep the skin’s pH in balance.
  • Use plant-based hydrosols. You should use hydrosols that are plant-based after cleansing your skin for a healthy skin. Hydrosols have a pH level that is slightly acidic and closer to our skin’s pH. They consist of plant materials that will heal and nourish the skin. Hydrosols are best applied to the skin immediately after cleansing. You can also use it to mix your clay masks in place of water or in combination with body oil. They help to regulate production of natural oils by the skin and also strengthen the skin’s acid mantle and protect the skin from damage.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking water will not just get your gut healthy. In fact, beauty enthusiasts know that taking enough water will make your skin healthy and attractive. Aside drinking water for a supple and well-hydrated skin, drinking enough always will help your skin pH level to stay in balance. You should drink lots of water during the day especially in the morning after getting out bed. This will regulate the acidic contents in your guts and entire body.
  • Use natural honey. Non-processed honey is a wonderful humectant that help the skin to attract water and holds it. It helps to fight harmful bacteria and infection from harming the skin. Honey help maintain a healthy environment on the skin surface. Honey has a slightly acidic pH level that help restore the skin pH to balance. Honey protect the skin from premature aging and wrinkling by keeping the skin moisturized and smooth.
  • Avoid harsh cleansing agents. Your choice of cleansers should be smartly made. They shouldn’t be too alkaline neither too acidic. Most bar soaps contain harsh chemicals that can change the pH level if your skin. When you a cleanser that is too alkaline, it can remove the natural skin which may result to dryness and irritation in the skin. Likewise a cleanser that is too acidic which may promote acne breakouts. Cleansers that are mild and slightly acidic is suitable for all skin types. The cleansers shouldn’t cause irritation to the skin, it should rather protect and maintain the skin’s acid mantle.
  • Apply topical antioxidants. Antioxidants (especially topical) is a key factor in maintaining your skin’s acid mantle. Topical antioxidants strengthen the skin cells and help it combat aggressors in the environment such as oxidation. It also prevent the cells from depleting by protecting and replenishing them. The vitamins A, C and E are great antioxidants. Green tea is another source of antioxidants.
  1. Eat healthy diet. For your skin to be healthy and function properly, it needs to be well nourished. This isn’t only about what put on your skin from the surface, it also has to do with what it get from inside. Our skin requires essential nutrients such as antioxidants in form of spinach, watermelon and berries. This will help to protect and nourish the natural barrier of the skin and protect it from damage. The body’s pH influences the skin pH, therefore it is necessary for your body pH to be in balance, so that you can have a balanced skin pH. Foods that are acidic in nature before consumption increases the body alkalinity after digestion. Lemon for example is in alkaline form when digested by the body. Alkaline foods help to keep the blood pH in balance and allow better absorption of nutrient that benefits the skin.

Maintaining a skin pH balance is big move to owning a great skin. You can easily monitor your skin health and get recommendations when your skin pH in in balance.

Benefits of a balanced skin pH

  1. Anti-aging benefits. When you skin’s acid mantle is reinforced by the balanced pH level of the skin. The acid mantle provide maximum protection from the environmental aggressors that promotes aging. The skin is free from pollutants and oxidative stress, hereby reducing wrinkles and premature aging.
  • Improved elasticity. The skin requires essential nutrient to maintain its elasticity. With a balanced pH level of the body, your skin receives essential nutrient that builds and replenish the skin’s framework. Collagen is supplied and retained in the body, which leads to an elastic skin. The skin ability to stay hydrated also improves the elasticity. There is also reduction in the oxidative stress on the skin which protect the skin structure from damage.
  • Suppleness. With a balanced skin pH, the skin acid mantle is intact and performs it duty effectively. The UV rays from the sun, will be unable to penetrate the skin to cause damages to the cells. With increase in essential nutrients the skin cells are easily replenished. Protection from inflammation and other skin condition will help the skin maintain it firmness and suppleness.
  • Reduces breakouts. A skin with a balanced pH level is neither too acidic nor basic. The pH level is at the ideal level which gives no room to skin conditions. Due to the fact that the skin is not on the alkaline side, there is no dryness, inflammation or irritation. The skin is not vulnerable to the attacks. At the optimal acidic state, the skin experiences less breakouts and maintain a healthy state.
  • Well-hydrated skin. Due to a balanced pH level, the skin protective barrier is maintained. Water is easily retained in the skin which provides hydration. There is also less oxidative stress on the skin. The skin is able to produce the required amount to natural oil to keep the skin smooth. A well-hydrated skin is less prone to wrinkles and aging effect.

Getting your pH in balance is a consistent practice that yield results. The conscious effort you take towards maintain your skin pH gives the best results. You can determine the pH level of your skin with the use of test strips that can be conveniently used at home. The pH kits has paper strips that can be applied to your skin to determine its present pH level. Knowing your skin’s pH level will enable you to understand how to care for your skin better. It will help you in deciding what skin product is suitable for your skin and to also determine if your skin is off balance.

Another way you can determine your skin pH level is to pay a visit to a dermatologist. A dermatologist will have a more accurate and specific means of determining your skin pH and giving you professional advice as regards your skin.

An important way to track your success in getting a balanced skin pH is observe your skin carefully frequently. Symptoms that may suggest that your skin is too alkaline such as irritation, dryness and redness such be noticed and corrected at once.

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6 Responses

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