5 things you need to know about your skin’s pH level

JACLYN GUNASILAN explains what it is and more.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

JACLYN GUNASILAN explains what it is and more.

Photo showbit.Com
Photo showbit.Com

What is pH?
Here’s a quick science lesson: pH stands for “potential hydrogen” and a pH level expresses the acidity or alkalinity of a substance. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 0 being the most acidic and 14, the most alkaline.

What do pH levels have to do with the skin?
The skin has its own barrier, known as the acid mantle, that is made up of fatty acids (produced by the sebaceous glands) as well as lactic and amino acids – this gives skin its naturally slightly acidic pH of 5.5. At this pH level, the acid mantle is able to keep the skin hydrated while protecting it from bacteria and pollutants; skin looks plump and radiant as a result.

What products should you use if your skin is too acidic?
Use those with a neutral pH, and cut down on treatments such as chemical peels.

And if your skin is too alkaline?
Look for oil- or gel-based cleansers with a neutral or slightly low (ie acidic) pH, with ingredients such as alpha-hydroxy acids. Avoid using soaps with a high pH – a fair number of bar soaps fall into this category – as these can cause dryness.

How can you tell if your skin’s pH is off - balance?
If your skin is parched and sensitive, it’s probably too alkaline; you may be using products with a high pH that are too harsh and drying. Think of it this way: Extremely alkaline chemicals (such as bleach) are used for industrial cleaning, so you definitely don’t want to use anything with a high pH on your face. A less common problem: overly acidic skin. If you have a greasy, acne-prone complexion, you may be using products with too many acidic ingredients. Alpha-hydroxy acids, for instance, are good for treating acne, but too much can make the skin more vulnerable to bacteria and pollutants.