Skin pH What is it and Why it Matters

The skin is the body’s largest organ. It has a lot of important functions, one of which is to protect the body from external factors, such as chemicals, dirt, and pollution. The skin’s functionality or ability to fight infections and aggressors is hugely affected by its pH level. This refers to how acidic or alkaline the skin is.

What is skin’s pH?

pH stands for potential hydrogen, which is a quantitative measure of a solution’s acidity or alkalinity. The pH scale ranges from 1 to 14, with 1 being the most acidic, 14 being the most alkaline, and 7 being neutral. The skin’s pH sits between 4.7 and 5.75, which is considered slightly acidic. 

Another important thing to know about the skin is that it has a thin protective layer on its surface, called the acid mantle. This barrier helps maintain the skin’s slight acidity (which is normal and ideal), as well as restore and keep the optimal environment for the skin’s natural flora to thrive.

The acid mantle is composed of sebum (free fatty acids), excreted from the skin’s sebaceous glands. The sebum mixes with amino and lactic acid from sweat. This then creates the skin’s ideal pH at around 5.5 (or below). Due to the skin’s slightly acidic nature, it pairs better with slightly acidic skincare products. 

Why does skin’s pH matter? 

Slight changes to the skin’s pH are okay, like when you’re using an AHA or BHA exfoliant with a pH of 3.4 to 3.9. This is helpful in exfoliating or removing dead skin cells from the skin surface. What’s not okay is using products that are extremely acidic or alkaline (less than 2.5 or higher than 8). They can disturb the skin’s acid mantle and damage the skin.

Prolonged use of highly acidic or alkaline products can lead to a host of skin problems. It can compromise the skin’s pH, making it susceptible to damage and infection. If its pH, for instance, goes into the alkaline range, the skin loses water and then dries out. With this, the skin’s surface layer will be unable to function as a protective barrier.

When this happens, the skin becomes more sensitive to external factors and environmental stressors. And as it is more prone to infection, it can become dry, sensitive, or hypersensitive and may lead to the onset of skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, eczema, and redness. 

What affects skin’s pH levels?

A number of external and internal factors affect the skin’s pH levels. Skin conditions can also alter its level.

External factors:

  • Dirt and pollution
  • Chemicals
  • Washing/cleansing too often
  • Changes in humidity and temperature
  • Alkaline cosmetics
  • Certain medications and medical procedures

Internal factors:

  • Genetics
  • Hormones 
  • Biological age 

So, is your skin’s pH balance off? 

Common indicators that your skin’s pH is out of balance include acne, redness, dryness, and other skin conditions. If it’s more on the alkaline level, you’re likely to experience dry skin and notice an increase in signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles. If it is more acidic, it is likely to be inflamed. 

There are also different ways to test your skin’s pH and see where it stands. Do take note, however, that not every test can give you an accurate reading.

  • At-home test strips – come in the form of paper and are applied to the skin. Just make sure to buy test kits that are meant for the skin.
  • Through a dermatologist – they may use a skin pH meter or provide liquid pH testing. They can also help you with your skin concerns and recommend products that are right for your skin.
  • Through observation – pH-balanced skin has a soft texture and has no dry spots. If you notice redness, acne, and dry spots, it is likely to be more alkaline. 

How to restore and maintain healthy skin pH

If your skin’s pH balance is off, you don’t need to use more acidic or more alkaline products to balance it out. Healthy skincare habits are still the key to maintaining healthy and ideal skin pH.

Use a gentle cleanser – A cleanser with a pH level of 5.5 can help in rebalancing your skin by making sure it is not stripped off. Just be sure to choose a formula that is right for your skin. Our own skincare line, Dr. Sylvia Skin Care, has gentle cleansers that are formulated to balance the skin’s natural pH. Our Perfecting Cleanser with Rose Hip Seed lifts dirt and impurities while delivering regenerative benefits and nourishing vitamins. 

Use a toner – It is likely for the skin’s pH to not be at the right level after cleansing or exfoliating. Toners can help rebalance the skin to its natural acidic level and therefore protect the acid mantle. Dr. Sylvia’s Refreshing Toner with Herbal Astringents helps balance pH levels, constrict pores, and reduce the amount of oils and dirt buildup that may occur throughout the day. Learn the 5 reasons why you need to use a toner after cleansing

Don’t forget to moisturize – Apply moisturizer after cleansing and toning to protect your skin barrier and maximize product absorption. Keep in mind that you still need to moisturize even if you have oily skin. Just make sure to choose a product that is not so heavy on your skin and won’t clog your pores. 

Take advantage of antioxidants – Antioxidants neutralize free radicals to protect the skin and improve its appearance. They are available in foods, especially fruits and vegetables, rich in vitamins A, C, and E, resveratrol, polyphenols, and niacinamide. Skincare products like Vitamin C serums also have antioxidants and anti-aging benefits. 

Don’t over-exfoliate – Exfoliating helps in drawing out impurities and unclogging pores for a more radiant complexion. Just make sure not to overdo it, as it can dry out the skin and throw the skin mantle out of balance. Take it easy with exfoliation (once a week) or ask your dermatologist for skincare tips and products.

Your skin’s pH is one important aspect that affects its functionality and overall health. Being gentle with it matters, along with using the right products that can protect your skin from damage. Browse through our website today for more skincare tips and product recommendations or visit Cutis Medical Laser Clinics in Singapore to schedule a consultation with our aesthetic doctor

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