While reading about pH balance might be a throw back to your high school chemistry class, you’ll probably find it much more interesting when you discover the life-changing magic of balanced pH in healthy skin.
Let’s jump right into it: pH is a 0-14 scale that measures acidity and alkalinity. 0 is the most acidic, 14 the most alkaline, and you might remember that 7 is water-alkaline, or neutral. Our skin’s pH is around 4.7-5, slightly acidic, explaining the cute name we give its outer layer, “acid mantle”.
The acidity of your skin prevents bad bacteria from breeding, the kind responsible for those dreaded breakouts. Adding on to its natural superpower, that acidic level also allows the good bacteria to work its magic and keep the right stuff in (water to stay hydrated and the good kind of fat). In scientific jargon (now that we’re at it), that’s called the moisture barrier.
When a cleanser is too harsh, it messes up the delicate balance of our skin by stripping its healthy oils and bacteria that is essential for maintaining healthy skin. When the cleanser modifies the pH of our skin, we’ll unmistakably feel it: our skin regularly gets tight, sensitive, irritated, washing away both dead skin and our dreams of healthy skin. The moisture barrier can’t do its job properly anymore, meaning our skin is much more vulnerable to air pollution, chemicals, UVs, creating the irritation and dryness we feel.
So how do I choose the right cleanser?
Luckily, we don’t need to attend beauty school or get a degree in chemistry to find the option that works for our face.
The best is to go for a pH balanced gentle cleanser that will clean our face while leaving our oily and protective friends where they are. So back to our quick science class; a cleanser with a pH of around 4.7 - 5.5 is ideal and will keep your skin healthy and happy.
You also want to steer clear of nasty chemicals in the cleanser itself (duh) and shiny marketing that says the cleanser you’re about to be tricked into buying is “gentle”. Unless it states that it's pH balanced, refer back to our short and sweet skin science class.
If your skin is doing well, there’s no need to change your routine. But if you’re following a skincare ritual to the T and can’t find the root cause of your blemishes or sensitivities, consider testing out a low pH cleanser — time to become your skin’s best judge!