If you've ever seen the term "pH balanced" on a skin care product, you probably didn't pay it much attention or didn't know what it meant. A product's pH indicates whether it is acidic or alkaline.
What is the pH of skin?
The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 0 being neutral and 14 being acidic. Skin pH is typically about 5.5, which is slightly acidic. The "acid mantle" of the skin is maintained by sebum glands, sweat glands, and normal skin flora. As a barrier, the acid mantle prevents bacteria, viruses, and other pollutants from penetrating the skin.
- Acidic skin: It can become irritating, red, inflamed, and even painful to touch if the skin pH is excessively acidic (less than 5.5). Acne can be exacerbated by having acidic skin. Because the acid mantle is disrupted, the skin's natural exfoliation process is inhibited. This can eventually result in a build-up of dead skin cells, clogging pores and increasing acne breakouts.
- Alkaline skin: If the pH of your skin is too high (more than 5.5), it can become dry, sensitive, and even cause eczema. Inflammation can also be caused by an alkaline skin pH. The skin's capacity to fight matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), the enzymes that breakdown collagen and create wrinkles and sagging, is hampered by inflammation.
pH balanced products
If a product's label does not state "pH balanced," you can check its pH with an at-home pH testing kit (available at most drug stores).Because the skin's natural pH is around 5.5, you'll want to look for skin care products with that pH. It's fine if the pH isn't exactly 5.5, though. The ideal pH range for products, according to most skin care specialists, is between 4.5 and 7, with somewhat acidic ones being preferable. Vitamin C, retinol, AHAs, and BHAs, for example, must be made at a lower pH to function well.