Allow us to take you back to year 10 science for a moment and talk about pH levels. We know, we know, it’s not the sexiest topic but it is a crucial component of the overall health of your skin. If you’re experiencing skin issues, there’s a good chance that pH level imbalances are to blame. Listening now? Yeah, we thought so. Alright let’s dive right into the ins and outs of pH levels.
What is pH?
pH stands for potential of hydrogen and in a nutshell, refers to how acidic or alkaline something is. pH is a scale that goes from 0 (very acidic) to 14 (very alkaline). For reference, water sits smack bang in the middle of the scale at 7. Skin is slightly more on the acidic side of the scale (don’t worry, that’s a good thing!) with most adults sitting around 4.7 - 5.75. If you’re at the 5.5 mark, call yourself Kourtney Kardashian because sis, you are living your best life. Areas of the skin that are less exposed typically remain more acidic, but your face can creep onto the alkaline side, which is where issues can arise.
Why is a balanced pH so important?
Having skin on the more acidic side might seem counterintuitive, but it is actually imperative for maintaining a little something called the ‘acidic mantle’. Think of it as the barrier that keeps nasties like allergens and pollution off your skin, prevents bacteria growth and helps retain moisture. You’re going to want to keep that little beauty happy. If your skin pH rises above a 7, the acidic mantle is going to become grumpy.
Skin with an imbalanced pH level loses water and dries out quickly, which can be one of the leading causes of premature signs of ageing, and here at esmi, we don’t stand for that! Speaking of fine lines, a disrupted acidic mantle has a harder time fighting off free radicals which only adds to wrinkles. More alkaline skin can also increase sensitivity which can lead to irritation. On the other end of the spectrum, skin that is too acidic can cause increased oil production. So yes, that’s why a balanced pH is so important.
How do you know if your balance is off?
If your skin is feeling drier than the Sahara and more sensitive than a toddler without a nap, you’re likely suffering from alkaline skin. Like we said, this might be leading to signs of aging and sensitivity. On the other hand, if your skin is looking like an oil slick a couple of hours after cleansing, you might be experiencing skin that is too acidic. Hey, it’s a balance!
What can affect your skin pH?
There are definitely some no-no’s to avoid when you’re trying to keep a balanced pH level in your skin. Take notes because these next few things can throw your whole balance out of whack.
Pollution is a massive one. If you’re a big city dweller, you’ve got higher exposure to pollution which can break down the acid mantle which if you’ve gotten this far, you’ll know is super duper important.
Excessive washing can alter the skin’s barrier functions and once it becomes damaged, it can take up to 14 hours to restore. Using alkaline products can also cause issues. Don’t be fooled by that squeaky clean feeling - this is a major red flag and tells you that your cleanser’s pH level is too high. Cleanse 1-2 times a day with a pH balanced cleanser (we’ll get into that later).
It is no secret that UV rays are something you simply don’t want near your skin if you can avoid it. Excess exposure can weaken the protective acidic mantle which can cause pigmentation. Now if someone could please pass the sunscreen.
As always, the food we put into our bodies affects our skin, including the very temperamental acidic mantle. Just to complicate things, whilst our skin should be slightly acidic, our internal pH levels should be slightly alkaline (balance, right?). This will make sure your mantle is thriving. Reach for leafy greens as often as you can. Did someone say kale smoothies?
Of course, like everything in life, our biology and age also factor into our pH levels. Keeping an eye on the above and having a good quality skincare routine can keep things in check. If you take anything away from this, it is to please, please not use a body bar soap or harsh foaming cleansers, otherwise you risk stepping into alkaline territory. Instead, there are some fantastic products that will keep your acidic mantle happy and healthy.
Products for a balanced pH level
Our Uncomplicated Cleanser is beautifully pH balanced and not at all stripping so you won’t be left feeling dry or with that dreaded squeaky clean situation. When it comes to exfoliants, there is a Gentle-Foliant for you, no matter what end of the spectrum you’re on. If you’re a little acidic (on the oily side), our Sea and Salty Sand Gentle-Foliant is going to make your exfoliation and pH dreams come true. If you’re bordering on alkaline (with a dryer edge), the Rose and Bamboo Gentle-Foliant will remove excess skin while keeping things calm and moisturised. Of course, no skincare routine would be complete with the Skin Shield Natural Sunscreen to keep your acidic mantle protected while it protects you!
If you want to know more about where your skin sits on the pH scale and how to keep things balanced, chat to our skincare experts.