Thing you need to know about pH-optimized skin care
If you're interested in skincare, you've probably heard a lot about balancing your skin's pH. You've gotten ingredients talking about "balancing skin pH" and "supporting skin pH," but what does that actually mean? What should my skin look and feel like when it is in balance? How do I know when it is out of balance?
"The skin's pH is naturally slightly acidic, about 5.5," says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a dermatologist in New York City. For this reason, the outer skin layer is often referred to as the acid mantle. This pH is necessary for proper skin cell metabolic turnover and the function of enzymes needed to maintain skin hydration, antimicrobial defense, and barrier function. People with impaired skin barrier (conditions such as eczema ) are more likely to experience pH disturbances. Additionally, as we age, the skin's pH becomes more alkaline, interfering with proper skin function.
What are the causes of pH imbalance?
Many things can cause a pH imbalance. Washing off your face strips essential oils from the skin, which can break down the skin's barrier and affect the skin's pH. Dr. Zeichner recommends washing your face in the morning and/or evening (depending on the needs of your skin) and after heavy perspiration. Exfoliation can help remove dead cells from the skin's surface and improve texture, but more is not always better. Dr. Zeichner explains that harsh and excessive exfoliation can cause microscopic breakdown of the skin barrier, leading to inflammation and pH imbalance.
Cleansers are also very important to consider when examining your overall skin care regimen. "True soaps have an alkaline pH and can be damaging to the skin," says Dr. Zeichner. "Instead, stick to non-soap cleansers that are more pH-balanced against the skin's acidic mantle." Additionally, hard water The water systems most commonly found in groundwater sources contain minerals such as calcium, which can cause dryness and irritation. Disruption of the skin barrier can alter the pH of the outer skin layer. Dr. Zeichner said that hard water can be problematic, especially for people with sensitive skin or conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.
He also states that you need to be aware of which laundry detergent you are using because you are regularly wearing face masks and pressing the fabric against your skin. "Stick to fragrance-free and dye-free detergents that don't cause skin allergies," he says. "Only use the amount of detergent recommended on the bottle, as the fabric is perfectly suited for our face. An overdose can cause skin irritation as the cleansing ingredients get trapped in the fabric's weave.
And finally, overuse of acids on the skin-especially glycolic acid (often used for exfoliation and pore size reduction) and salicylic acid (commonly found in acne treatments)-can drastically lower the pH and cause peeling. This is what happens when too much alpha and beta hydroxy acids are used on the skin. "It is okay to use low concentrations of hydroxy acids daily," says Dr. Zeichner. "But if you notice dryness or irritation, wait a few days for the skin to repair before resuming."
How do you recognize a pH imbalance?
"Whenever your skin is dry, red, itchy, or flaky, there may be some degree of pH imbalance," Dr. Zeichner says. "Immediately apply a non-irritating moisturizer containing ingredients such as colloidal oatmeal or ceramides to repair the skin barrier."
If you suspect a pH imbalance, there are a variety of products you can use to test your skin and products. This Hanna Instruments device is a medical-grade skin and scalp pH tester, the Hicarer ($8; amazon.com ), which tests products for pH levels. La Roche-Posay has released a wearable, more high-tech sensor called My Skin Track pH (the brand already has a UV sensing version).
What products and materials do I need to look for?
High pH (>9) acidic products such as chemical strippers made with AHA - can be used in moderation. However, too much of these solutions can dry out the skin and make it sensitive. In contrast, overly basic products (less than 4 on the pH scale) compromise the skin barrier, making it more susceptible to damage and texture problems. For optimal skin care to help balance facial pH, look for products in the range of 4.6 to 5.5, which is close to the skin's natural pH to prevent skin flaking.
Following are a few products that can help readjust the skin's pH and treat inflammation caused by pH disturbances.
1 Summer Friday Super Amino Gel Cleanser
This gentle gel cleanser is advertised to help balance the pH of your skin with a combination of 11 amino acids, marisal (atomized seawater), and vitamin E.
2. Taccha rice flour
It's easy to over-exfoliate the skin, but unlikely to happen when regular exfoliants are so gentle. This powder-to-foam product is made with soothing Japanese rice and is activated with water to ensure maximum gentleness. Additionally, it is pH neutral, so it will not affect the skin's balance.
3. DrunkElephant Lara Retro Whip Moisturizer
This one-time moisturizer is perfect for both daytime and nighttime routines. With a pH of 5.5, it has the texture of a thick face cream, but is still lightweight enough to use during the day. It also contains ceramides which help to reduce inflammation caused by pH imbalance.
4. Acwell LicoricepH Balancing Essence Mist
pH balancing is especially common with K-beauty brands, and some, like Acwell, even disclose the pH of their products on the packaging. This Essence Mist (pH 5.5) brightens and soothes the skin with licorice water, root extracts, bamboo water, and camellia sinensis leaf water.
5. Cosrx One Step Original Clear Pads
These pre-soaked cotton pads are saturated with betaine salicylate and willow bark water to gently exfoliate skin and cleanse pores. They have a pH level of between 4 and 5 to help maintain your skin's moisture barrier.