Is pH balance the be-all and end-all of skincare? pH & skin care-two seemingly separate worlds with no possible connections with each other?
The world of skincare is currently riding on a wave of products that claim to re-balance skin pH with every use. Most online products these days list the pH of their ingredients to create buzz and attract younger consumers. But what has any of this got to do with healthy skin. To know more, we must revisit our Chemistry class & learn more about pH and its relation with our skin.
WHAT IS PH OF OUR SKIN?
pH measures how acidic/ basic something is. The pH scale ranges from 1 to 14, with 7 being “neutral.” The lower numbers are acidic, while the upper levels are considered alkaline, or nonacidic. Well, it might be a surprise, but your skin is slightly acidic in nature. We have what is referred to as an acid mantle on our skin; a layer that helps to combat harmful acne &
infection-causing microbes and retain moisture.
SO, DOESN’T AN ALKALINE SKINCARE PRODUCT DISTURB THIS LAYER?
Of course, it does, but the truth is any skin cleansing agent, even normal tap water (with a pH between 6 and 8.5), influences the acid mantle and thus impacts the surface of our skin. In fact, many other things such as gender, stress, hormonal imbalance, how much we eat and even the weather can affect the pH of our acid mantle. The human body is
fascinating, & our skin does a tremendous job every day of regulating itself and adjusting to the changes in the environment. If your pH balance is off and it’s too alkaline, your skin is going to look flaky and red. If it’s too acidic, you’ll increase your
chances of inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and acne.
As long as you are not using harsh cleansers that are extremely acidic or alkaline, the pH of most skincare products will not cause any long-term changes in the natural pH of your skin. So that brings us to a question, what then is ‘pH balanced skin care’?
WHAT IS PH BALANCED SKINCARE PRODUCT?
Soap by definition is alkaline, because if it is neutral then it can’t do its basic job which is removing the dirt away. This means pH value alone does not determine whether a product is gentle, harsh, or even effective. These qualities are determined by the chemical constituents in the product. In other words, all the ingredients used to create the skin or hair care product.
Common ingredients in products that cause many of our skin troubles include artificial fragrances, drying alcohols, and harsh cleansing agents such as sodium lauryl sulfate, which can cause inflammation and disrupt the acid mantle.
No product can make a difference in the health of your skin barrier if you’re using another product that is actively causing it harm. Our body doesn’t work that way — We can’t eat unhealthily and then do some fitness training assuming they will cancel each other out.
The whole idea of pH-balanced skin cleansers protecting our acid mantle (but with chemicals) then becomes a fallacious marketing gimmick. The problem is that gullible consumers trade-off natural soaps for synthetic
detergents-based pH-balanced products for no logical benefit.
SYNTHETIC SOAPS VS HANDMADE SOAPS
A synthetic soap might promote itself as more acidic, skin-friendly, and pH-balanced. Yet we must remember that these synthetic soaps consist of harmful artificial foam boosters, emulsifiers, colors, and fragrances which can make our skin dry & flaky. They might also contain chemical preservatives that can dissolve the natural protective fat
layer on our skin with every use.
A natural soap may be mildly alkaline and may temporarily increase the pH of the acid mantle, but it bolsters our skin’s natural ability to combat infection-causing microbes through its nutritive oils and butter that are rich in antioxidants and vitamins. Also, if your skin is healthy and you use an alkaline cleanser, your skin is going to revert back in just
a few minutes. On the contrary, many synthetic additives can strip the skin of its natural fatty acids inhibiting its natural moisturizing quality and preventing the skin from managing its own pH balance.
So, all these claims of our skin being “acidic” and the synthetic soaps being “acidic too”, and thus being better for our skin is logical but far from the truth. Always choose natural your skin deserves the rejuvenating qualities of natural oils and butter rather than the so-called pH- balance of chemical ingredients.