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What’s Up with Your pH Balance?

When it comes to the pH balance of your skin, you may hear about it a lot, but not really know what it means or how to balance it. pH is one of the often overlooked components in a healthy skincare routine, and while many influencers tout products that are “pH balancing,” it’s likely that even they don’t know what that means (or if it’s true). Keep reading to learn more about balancing your skin!

What is pH?

pH has to do with where your skin falls on the scale from acidic (low pH) to alkaline (high pH). According to Healthline.com, “The pH scale ranges from 1 to 14, with 7 considered “neutral.” The numbers below 7 are acidic, while above 7 are considered alkaline or non-acidic. You might be surprised to learn that a healthy skin pH is more acidic. With more acidity, your skin can combat harmful microbes and damaging free radicals that might quicken the aging process… Remember that a neutral pH is 7, with anything higher being alkaline, and anything lower being acidic. The skin, though, tends to have a broad pH range, with acidity ranging between 4 and 7.”

A diagram of the pH scale, including the “ideal” spot for your skin (around 4 or 5 pH).

When we are born, we tend to have high pH levels all over our skin, but those decrease over time as we grow older. Especially once puberty hits, and hormonal factors come into play, the pH balance of your skin can become hard to keep steady, leading to skin sensitivities and worsened acne. Some other factors that can affect your skin’s pH at any age include “sebum and skin moisture, sweat, area of the body, genetics and age, detergents, cosmetics and cleansers, antibacterial products like soaps and gels, certain skin conditions,” and more.

How do I know if my pH is imbalanced?

There are a number of official ways to test your skin’s pH, like with test strips from a pharmacy, or by visiting the dermatologist’s office. However, if you’re looking for a more affordable way to tell if your pH is out of whack, simply look! Clear skin without any dry spots or irritation likely has a good pH balance. Redness, acne, inflammation, dry spots, and other topical complaints can be indicators that your pH needs attention. It can’t hurt to begin treating that imbalance, and you can do so easily, starting today!

What can I do about it?

Your pH balance can be sensitive, but it’s possible to care for your skin in a way that supports that balance. Check out a few of our favorite tips below!

  1. Wash with a gentle cleanser (or an acidic one)

  2. Although every cleanser on the market claims to be good for the skin, some are flat-out bad, while others may be too alkaline to promote a healthy (slightly acidic) skin pH. Make sure that you’re washing your face with something that contains good, simple ingredients, and lists a pH lower than 4. If that information isn’t available on the bottle, Google it to see if the company lists it somewhere else. Some acidic cleansers are formulated specifically for acne-prone skin, although these may be too astringent for sensitive skin, and create more problems than they solve. For an effective, natural cleanser that supports a healthy pH, we recommend Osmosis Beauty’s “Cleanse” Gentle Cleanser, which “stimulates the senses with a hint of peppermint while this luxurious, gel cleanser removes impurities, makeup, and environmental toxins.” This cleanser also supports the skin’s lipid barrier, which is crucial for maintaining skin that appears plump and hydrated. Visit our beautiful studio in Newport Beach to pick up a bottle or two!

  3. Wear sunscreen daily

  4. Applying a good sunscreen (meaning, one with coverage of 35 SPF or greater) to your face daily doesn’t just protect from sun damage, dark spots, and cancer — it also protects your skin’s pH. Stressed skin, or skin that experiences a lot of environmental wear and tear (such as sun damage, exposure to pollutants, exposure to smoke, etc.) does not have the bandwidth to support a healthy pH level. When your skin is focused on healing damage, it’s just not possible for it to remain balanced on the pH scale. If you can protect your skin from other stressors, it’s much more likely to remain clear and happy. Sunscreens, particularly ones that also filter out airborne pollutants (like this line from Colorescience) can help fend off some of the external causes of sensitive, irritated skin, paving the way for a stable pH balance.

  5. Get treatments that support your skin

  6. Often, when you are fighting bad skin on your own, you can be tempted to invest in popular products, create DIY solutions, or simply give up and use whatever is easiest/cheapest/nearest to your bathroom counter to treat your skin. The truth is that without holistic, professional assessment of your skin, you risk damaging your pH balance even further, leading to more acne, hyperpigmentation, and scarring. Sometimes, products that claim to be “soothing” or “balancing” actually occlude pores and cause a build-up of dead skin, sebum, and bacteria, which causes breakout. Products that claim to be “pH-friendly” can actually be highly alkaline, pulling your skin further away from its goal pH. The best way to be certain that your skin is getting personalized, effective treatment is to involve a professional. At Integrative Esthetics, we subscribe to a skincare philosophy of holistic wellness, and we take into account all the interconnected systems of your body in order to treat your skin. You may need a specific type of facial, or a certain professional-grade product in order to rebalance your skin — with decades of experience and an attitude of “no person is identical to another,” we take treating your skin seriously and do it with care. If you’re feeling stuck with your skin, come visit us at our studio in Newport Beach for personalized skin treatment that will feel like a fresh start.

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