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

Medically reviewed by Dr. Vindhya L Veerula, MD, FAAD
Written by Ramona Sinha

You devote a lot of energy to finding that middle ground in your life. Be it striking a balance between work and personal life, trying to be present at reunions and family functions, or taking out time for that special someone and not saying ‘no’ to your bosses at the same time – life seems to be a pursuit of balance. But have you ever spared a minute to think about the skin’s pH level that also needs to be balanced?

Wondering what that is? Read on to know why you should care about your skin’s pH level.

In This Article

What Is Skin’s pH Level?


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.

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.

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Why Should You Care About Your Skin’s pH?


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).

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.

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


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.

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Factors Affecting Your Skin pH Levels


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.

[Read: What Are The Top Acidic Foods You Should Avoid? ]

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!

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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


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.

[Read: DIY Apple Cider Vinegar Facial Toner ]

3. Use Good Oils And Moisturizers


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


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


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.

And, of course, don’t forget to take care of your skin. You need to show it some love and care if you want to keep it happy. Here’s a list of products that can keep your skin happy by maintaining its pH levels.


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Products That Balance Skin pH

1. Kosmoderma

This is a gentle and soap-free face cleanser that doesn’t irritate your skin and protects its acid mantle. It is suitable for all skin types.

Buy Now From Amazon

2. Lotus Herbals Basiltone

This is an extremely gentle and refreshing toner for your skin. It contains basil and cucumber extracts that tone your skin and balance its pH level.

Buy Now From Amazon

[ Read: 15 Homemade Skin Toners ]

3. Sebamed Liquid Face And Body Wash

This is a soap- and alkali-free cleanser that keeps your skin moisturized and prevents dehydration.

Buy Now From Amazon

4. Perricone MD Firming Facial Toner

This toner has DMAE, which is an anti-inflammatory agent and antioxidant that keeps your skin healthy without upsetting its pH level. It also prevents signs of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles.

Buy Now From Amazon

[ Also Try – Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser ]

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Thankfully, balancing your skin’s pH level is much easier than balancing your life! Jokes apart, sustaining natural pH of skin starts with a good skincare routine. It need not be too elaborate. Just keep a few things in mind and know your skin’s limits – what it likes and dislikes. That’s how your skin will stay happy for the rest of your life. Have any more questions about pH value of skin? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Ramona is a journalist-turned-content writer. She holds a Master’s degree in English Literature and has been writing for the digital world for over five years. She specializes in writing for Skin Care. She has done a certificate course titled ‘Dermatology: Trip To The Skin’, offered by Novosibirsk State University. She believes that beauty begins with a good skin care regimen and is on a mission to eliminate all toxins from her routine. She helps and guides readers in selecting products and ingredients specific to their skin type/issue. When Ramona is not working, her books and passion for music, good food, and traveling keep her busy.