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Skin’s pH: Why Does It Matter?


You may have read the phrase “pH balanced” on your favorite skincare product and wondered what it meant? When it comes to skincare products, a lot of things, such as the formula structure of a product and its ingredients, start sounding like a chemistry course! But in reality: the pH of your skin matters a lot!

Unfortunately, a lot of things can easily mess with your skin’s pH and spoil its protective barrier. Let’s discuss how to keep your skin’s pH balanced in order to avoid skin issues.

What exactly is skins ph?

The potential hydrogen (pH) level of the skin indicates how acidic or alkaline your skin is. The pH scale ranges from 1 to 14, with 7 considered a “neutral”, 1 representing “acidic,” and 14 representing “alkaline.” The optimal pH value of the skin fluctuates between 4.7 to 5.75, which is considered mildly acidic. Your skin’s pH must stay in this range to maintain the balance of acidity and alkalinity that protects our skin from harmful microbes and fights free radicals.

The pH of the skin isn’t the only buzzword; many beauty experts out there are also talking about the “acid mantle” that maintains the skin’s mildly acidic pH.

So, What’s The Acid Mantle?

You can’t talk about the skin’s pH without mentioning the acid mantle. Your skin is protected by a thin barrier on its surface that maintains the slightly acidic environment of the skin, called the acid mantle. The acid mantle of your skin is made up of free fatty acids from sebum that mix with amino acids and lactic acid from sweat to create the skin’s pH.

The acid mantle is responsible for protecting your skin from environmental factors, which may cause skin problems. By maintaining your skin’s pH, the acid mantle keeps your skin firm, prevents it from infections, and seals in moisture. Also, your skin’s microbiome prefers a slightly acidic environment to ward off pathogens.

As you age, the delicate balance of the acid mantle is compromised, leaving your skin less acidic and making it more prone to wrinkles and dryness.

Why Does Skin’s pH Matter?

How your skin looks and feels is highly influenced by the skin’s pH. The key to the skin’s protective barrier is the acid mantle. It plays a critical role in helping the skin’s natural flora thrive by maintaining an optimal acidic environment, inhibiting bacterial growth, and neutralizing alkaline-based aggressors.

The mantle is disturbed when your skin’s pH is too alkaline (above 9). Due to the disturbance in the acid mantle, your skin starts losing more water, and essential lipids in the epidermis cannot be synthesized, leading to the dryness of the skin. Dryness of the skin causes the epidermis to no longer serve as the skin’s protective barrier.

A compromised protective barrier makes your skin more sensitive and less resilient to environmental stressors. The skin becomes prone to infections in this condition, such as rosacea and atopic dermatitis.

What Can Affect Skin’s pH?

Just as your stomach flora becomes upset when you eat something too acidic, your skin’s pH is also affected by internal and external factors. Let’s dive right in.

1. Age and Sex: 

Your skin becomes more alkaline as you age (higher pH). With the natural aging process, the amount of sebum and NMF (natural moisturizing factors) in the skin decreases, interfering with the acid mantle. This results in the appearance of pigmentation, fine lines, and wrinkles on the skin.

As for sex, men have a lower skin pH than females because of the high rate of sebum production.

2. Your Skin Color:

Your skin will be more acidic if you have a darkly pigmented skin color. The pH of darkly pigmented skin ranges from 4.5-5.0 compared to the pH of lighter skin (5.0-5.5).

3. Excessive Sun Exposure:

Prolonged exposure to the harmful UV rays of the sun interferes with the proper function of the skin’s pH and makes the skin more alkaline. This causes the skin to become more susceptible to acne, dullness, and pigmentation.

4. Your Eating Habits:

Your dietary routine highly impacts your skin’s optimal pH levels. Your diet shouldn’t be too acidic because too much acid in your stomach can affect your skin’s pH. Instead, consuming alkaline foods, such as citrus fruits, leafy greens, soybeans, and carrots, are good for your stomach and skin as well.

5. Your Skincare Habits:

The pH levels of your skin are also disturbed by certain skincare habits. These habits include:

  • Taking long showers
  • Using harsh cleansers
  • Scrubbing too hard on your face
  • Use hot water to wash your skin

These habits impair the skin’s protective acid mantle, resulting in skin dryness.

How to Keep Your Skin’s pH Balanced?

Fortunately, there are many ways to protect your pH balance and maintain the glow and radiance of your skin. Here’s what you can do:

  1.  Modify Your Diet:

Sustaining your skin’s natural pH levels starts with a healthy and well-balanced diet. Avoid processed foods and consume lots of antioxidant-rich foods, such as fruits (watermelon, berries) and leafy greens.

2. Use Sun Protection (SPF):

Photoaging and dryness of the skin are some consequences of too much sun exposure. Harmful UV rays also play havoc ith your skin’s delicate pH balance. Therefore, use an SPF with a built-in moisturizer to shield your skin.

  1. Avoid Harsh Cleansers and Use Products With a Low pH:

Harsh cleansers can strip off the skin’s acid mantle and disrupt the skin’s pH levels. Using cleansers and soaps with a lower pH is good for maintaining pH levels. One study found that participants using alkaline cleansers experienced more breakouts, and participants using acidic cleansers had less acne.

  1. Keep Your Skin Moisturized:

Using gentle oils and moisturizers keep your skin adequately hydrated and rebuild the protective acid mantle of your skin, thus regulating the normal pH levels of the skin.

A Word From Us:

Your skin’s pH levels and acid mantle are what keep protect your skin from infections, pigmentation, and many more. Many internal and external factors can mess with your skin’s pH levels, resulting in dehydration and dryness of the skin. Even the food you eat highly affects the skin’s pH. Using skincare products with a lower pH, keeping your skin moisturized, and eating a healthy diet can restore the radiance of your skin by balancing the skin’s pH levels.

Remember, take a moment for self today!

Dr. Arlene Emmons

+ The Endulge Me Team

Doctor’s Lounge

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