Continual use of non-balanced pH skin care products could disturb the skin’s pH and lead to or worsen many problems, including a dry, tight feeling from washing with bar or liquid soaps.
Skin care products that are “pH-balanced”, refer to products formulated with a pH that falls in the range of normal, healthy skin. That range is between pH 4 and pH 7. If some skin care products have pH numbers outside this range, it isn’t generally a cause for concern.
Research has shown that mild disruptions in the skin’s pH from using an AHA or BHA are temporary. Within an hour the skin will naturally equalize to its pH balance. Research also shows that acidic products stimulate skin to produce key substances it needs to look smooth, supple, and hydrated.
On the other hand, using highly acidic (pH 2.5 or lower) or alkaline (pH 8 or greater) products causes a more significant disruption in the skin’s pH, so it takes the skin longer to get back to normal.
The skin is more vulnerable to breakouts, eczema, redness and sensitivity. That’s why daily use of products whose pH is too high or too low can or will visibly and progressively damage the skin.
Diet plays an important role in determining our internal and external pH levels. It is important to note that a food’s acid or alkaline formation in the body is not the same as the pH of the food itself. In an interesting paradox, foods that are considered acidic before digestion (like lemons) become alkaline-forming in the body. Most animal products, which are alkaline prior to digestion, are considered acid-forming in the body. According to dermatologist Dr. Jeannette Graf, “We need our diets to be less acidic than alkaline, otherwise internally,we become too acidic.” This means that an ideal diet consists of consuming an abundance of alkalizing foods such as leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, tomatoes, carrots and soybeans.
Common pH ranges for the major categories of skin care products:
- Cleansers: pH 4.5–7
- Toners: pH 5–7
- Sunscreens: pH 5–7.5
- AHA and BHA Exfoliants: pH 3.2–3.9, with any reading between 3 and 4 considered most effective
- Moisturizers: pH 5–7
- Serums: pH 4–6
- Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) products: pH 2.6–3.2
- Retinol products: pH 3.7–5
Kathleen Flanagan, CEO and Founder of Espirit de Vie Day Spa, Aromatherapist, Harmonic Healer, Esthetician and Author.