What Is Skin’s pH Level And How To Maintain It?

Achieve that much-loved happy and healthy skin by balancing its pH level.

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Vindhya L VeerulaDr. Vindhya L Veerula, MD, FAAD
By Ramona SinhaRamona Sinha, Certified Skin Care Coach  • 

Your life is all about balance. Be it balancing between your personal and professional life, or family and friends, you always strive to balance everything to lead a happy and peaceful life. But what about your skin’s pH level? Have you thought about the pH balance of your skin? Yes, your skin also has a balancing game that needs to be maintained for healthy and happy skin.

Confused? Wondering what that is? Or how to take care of your pH level? Keep reading to know why you need to think about your skin’s pH level.

What Is Skin’s pH Level?

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Turns out, your skin is extremely happy and functions well when it is right at that sweet middle spot. You’ve probably heard the term ‘pH balance’ in the advertisements of most skin care brands and passed it off as a marketing gimmick. But this is something that you should pay attention to.

The term ‘pH’ means ‘potential of hydrogen.’ In other words, it is the measure of the concentration of hydrogen ions in any substance. This pH scale was devised in the early 1900s by Danish chemist S.P.L Sorensen for measuring acidity and alkalinity. It ranges from 0 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline).

Your skin also has an acid mantle, which is the skin’s barrier. This acid mantle is formed when your skin secretes sebum and breaks down fatty acids. It is responsible for keeping your skin healthy and moisturized by blocking all the germs and toxins from harming it.

Did You Know?
Heuss discovered the acidic composition of the skin’s surface in 1892. In 1928, Schade and Marchionini first coined the term “Säuremantel,” or “acid mantle,” to describe the stratum corneum’s natural acidic composition (1), (2).

Your skin is at its best when there is a balance between its acidity and alkalinity. Throw it off track, and your skin will go crazy. So, let’s explore why you should be extra careful about that oh-so-delicate pH balance of skin.

Why Should You Care About Your Skin’s pH?

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When the acid mantle of your skin is too alkaline, your skin becomes sensitive and dry. You may even experience inflammation and signs of aging due to certain enzymes that can destroy your collagen levels. This usually happens when you change your skin care products too often.

When you use products that have a high pH (alkaline), it affects the permeability of your skin. When your skin’s permeability is compromised, it becomes vulnerable to skin issues, irritants, and microorganisms. Higher skin pH levels may cause skin issues such as:

  • Ichthyosis vulgaris
  • Atopic dermatitis (or eczema)
  • Candidal intertrigo (a skin infection caused by the yeast Candida albicans)
  • Tinea pedis (or Athlete’s foot)
  • Acne (P. acnes grows on the skin when its pH level is between 6 and 6.5) (1),(2)

High pH level can also accelerate your skin’s aging process (3).

StyleCraze Says
Skin care products with a pH of 5.5 are ideal for the skin. Products with a high pH (8 to 14) may strip the natural oils and products with extremely low pH (below 4.5) may irritate the skin.

So, what is the ideal pH level for your skin? And how do you know whether it’s balanced or not? Here’s how you can figure it out.

What Is The Ideal Skin pH? How Can You Find Out Your Skin’s pH?

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Ideally, our skin should be slightly acidic. Thus, its pH level should be 5.5. However, it is fine if it is somewhere between 4.8 and 6. This ensures your skin’s barrier function is active and guarding you against all toxins, bacteria, and other external factors.

It is tough to measure the pH of skin and hair directly. However, a dermatologist can help you determine it. They use a pH meter to analyze your skin’s surface thoroughly, identify any shifts in your pH level, and evaluate the condition of your skin or the state of your skin issues.

However, there are still ways to find out if your pH levels are off-balance. Usually, your skin will give you signs when something is not right. Keep an eye out for these signs:

  • Excessive oiliness
  • Dry patches
  • Redness and rashes
  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Acne
  • Signs of aging (fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin)

All these are signs that your skin’s acid mantle is damaged. But how did it get so bad? There are several factors (and habits as well) that can disrupt your skin’s pH levels. Keep reading to find out more about them.

Factors Affecting Your Skin pH Levels

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1. Age

As you get older, your skin becomes more alkaline. This causes wrinkles, fine lines, pigmentation and other issues.

2. Excessive Sun Exposure

The harmful UV rays of the sun weaken your skin’s acid mantle, making it more alkaline and prone to issues such as pigmentation, dullness, and acne. Prolonged sun exposure even in your teens can kick-start this process quite early in your life.

3. Using Bar Soap On Your Face

Soaps are the biggest culprits behind the disruption of your skin’s pH balance. The pH level of bar soaps is usually around 9, which is much higher than the normal pH of skin. Applying bar soap on your face leaves behind an alkaline residue, which makes it vulnerable to skin issues and damage.

4. Your Eating Habits

Your diet has a direct impact on your skin’s pH level. Your diet should not be very acidic. Having too much acid in your system will affect your skin. Too much caffeine, sugar, yeast (found in bread and baked goods), processed grains, and alcohol increases the level of acid in your system.

5. Other Skin Care Habits

Certain skin care habits can also disturb the pH level of your skin. These include:

  • Using hot water to wash your face (or skin)
  • Scrubbing too hard (using scrubs and washcloths on your face almost every day)
  • Using harsh cleansers
  • Taking long showers

All these habits strip off your skin’s protective acid mantle. Now, there must be some way to prevent it and get it back on track, right? Yes, there are ways. Keep scrolling!

How To Keep Your Skin’s pH Level Balanced

Restoring your skin’s pH level requires repairing its barrier function. This helps maintain the hydration levels of your skin and keeps it radiant and glowing. Here are some things you can do:

1. Eliminate Soaps And Harsh Cleansers

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This is the first thing you need to do if you love your skin. Do not use any bar soap on your face and avoid any cleanser that contains harsh chemicals. Choose pH balanced skin care products. Avoid any product that does not mention all the ingredients on the packaging. Always use lukewarm or room temperature water to wash your face.

2. Use Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is excellent for regulating your skin’s pH levels. However, dilute it with water before applying it to your face. Mix half a cup of apple cider vinegar with four cups of water. Mix well and store in a spray bottle. Use it as a toner.

3. Use Good Oils And Moisturizers

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As you age, your skin’s ability to produce natural oils and sebum decreases. As a result, the acid mantle gets damaged, affecting the pH balance of skin. Using gentle moisturizers and oils will keep your skin hydrated and help in rebuilding its moisture barrier. You can use jojoba, argan, coconut, and olive oils to moisturize your skin.

4. Use Acids Carefully

Ingredients such as retinoic acid, alpha and beta hydroxy acids, and amino fruit acid are good for your skin and can help in maintaining its acid balance. However, when not used properly, these acids can damage the natural defense of your skin. Most of the over-the-counter products that contain these acids are buffered and are extremely safe to use on your skin. However, if your skin starts to feel dry and appears red and sensitive, it means that product is too harsh for your skin. Stop using it immediately.

5. Use Sun Protection

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Using sunscreen regularly is crucial for maintaining your skin’s pH level and shielding it from further damage. Use a sunscreen with a broad spectrum SPF and do not forget to apply it daily before going out into the sun.

6. Use Topical Antioxidants

Topical antioxidants strengthen your skin cells so that they function properly. They protect your skin from environmental damage and stress. You can use vitamin C (which is available in the form of L-ascorbic acid) as it is known for balancing the pH of your skin. Although vitamin C formulations are slightly acidic, they can safely be used on the skin (provided you are not using any other acidic product at the same time).

7. Change Your Diet

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Your daily diet should contain lots of antioxidant-rich foods, such as leafy vegetables (spinach is good for your health and your skin) and fruits (opt for low sugar fruits such as banana, berries, and watermelon). Avoid having processed food as it increases your body’s acidity, which can have an impact on your skin’s pH level. Make way for salads and cut down your sugar intake.

Infographic: Best Ways To Maintain Skin’s pH Level

Maintaining the skin’s pH level is important for healthy and happy skin. Though several methods are discussed above, there are a few simple tips that will help you in the long run. Along with regulating the skin’s pH level, these will also help you achieve glowing skin. Check out the infographic below to learn further.

best ways to maintain skin's ph level [infographic]

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Maintaining the skin’s pH level is essential for overall skin health. Keep in mind that maintaining a perfect skin pH is all about having healthy habits. Choose a mild skin care routine, avoid harsh cleansers, and seek medical advice for product recommendations tailored to your skin type. In addition, include fruits and vegetables in your diet to enhance antioxidant levels, and drink at least eight glasses of water per day. Finally, if your skin has not been doing well for a long time, you should contact a dermatologist. They can thoroughly analyze your skin and provide products that can assist you in recovering the proper pH levels for your skin.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is oily skin more acidic?

Yes, oily skin can be more acidic as sebum is slightly acidic in nature.

What pH should your face wash be?

Your face wash should ideally be slightly acidic, with a pH level below 5.6.

What pH is good for acne prone skin?

Acne proliferates on skin with pH higher than 6, so products with pH between 4.7 and 5.75 is ideal for those with acne prone skin. However, it is recommended to consult with your dermatologist before selecting products for acne prone skin.

Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. The pH of the Skin Surface and Its Impact on the Barrier Function
    https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/16432246.pdf
  2. Skin pH: From Basic SciencE to Basic Skin Care
    https://www.medicaljournals.se/acta/content/html/10.2340/00015555-1531
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