While we always read about pH balanced skincare products, most of our knowledge about pH levels come from high school chemistry that are all but forgotten. It turns out those lessons can heavily impact our skin. As Glamour writes, the pH scale ranges from 1 to 14 with 1 as the most acidic, 7 being neutral and 14 the most alkaline. While most would assume that a neutral pH would be best, our skin's pH level roughly sits at 5.5 and is slightly acidic.
So what do we do with this information? Essentially, pH levels in skincare affect our skin's acid mantle. As dermatologist Dr. Onyeka Obioha tells Good Housekeeping, the acid mantle is composed of amino acids and lipids and functions as a natural protective barrier. If this barrier is compromised, our skin will be vulnerable to dehydration, inflammatory conditions like acne and eczema and will suffer from accelerated signs of aging.
You can buy litmus paper and dip it directly on your skincare products. Find a pH scale online so you can assess the pH levels at home. You can also try home kits such as La Roche-Posay My Skin Track. Another way of telling if your acid mantle is compromised is if skin feels too tight and dry after cleansing.
Skincare products that have a high pH level are a threat to your skin's pH and protective acid mantle. Cosmetic chemist Ginger King tells Allure that while high pH products may initially smoothen skin, they will eventually disturb the skin and will results in a rough texture. That tight and squeaky-clean feeling that most associate with a good deep cleanse is actually the clearest sign that the skin barrier has been damaged.
Skincare products that have a low pH level are closer to the skin's natural pH, so they are more effective in aiding cell turnover. However, products with a very low pH level, like exfoliants, are equally damaging. Since exfoliation is a key step in removing deep-seated grime and dead skin cells, make sure to moisturize well after to restore the acid mantle's barrier function. In general, look for products that have a pH level between 4.5 and 7. Of course, 5.5 is the ideal pH level.
Allure recommends Korean skincare brand COSRX's Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser, One Step Original Clear Pads and Balancium Comfort Ceramide Cream. Several Allure editors are also fans of Acwell's Licorice pH Balancing Cleansing Toner and the new Licorice pH Balancing Essence Mist. Both are labeled "5.5" so it's easy to determine their pH level. Allure Korea editors like low pH skincare products Atrue Sweet Song Black Tea One-Step Cleansing Water and the gentle exfoliating Dr.G pH Cleansing Foam Gel. Korean skincare brands consider pH levels crucial in skincare formulation so you may want to look into it.
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