How to determine the pH of your skin (and why it matters)
No marketing department is above a little pseudo-science to bolster the merits of a product. However, instead of arching an eyebrow at moisturisers and lotions claiming to be pH-balanced, this one deserves to be taken seriously. The pH of your skin matters, which means the pH of what you put on your skin matters too.
So, first things first: what exactly is pH?
What is skin pH? A very brief chemistry lesson
When we talk about the pH of your skin, we’re referring to its place on the pH scale, which measures alkalinity and acidity. The scale moves from 1 to 14: 1 is completely acidic, 7 is neutral, and 14 is completely alkaline (see table below). Our skin’s pH level sits at 4.5-5.5, which is slightly acidic.
Why is skin pH so important?
The main job of our skin (apart from holding us together) is to protect us from infection. In order to do this effectively, the pH of our acid mantle needs to be between 4.5 and 5.5. What’s the acid mantle, I hear you ask? It’s simply a fancy name for the surface layer of our skin, made up of sebum (free fatty acids) which is secreted by your sebaceous glands in hair follicles and pores. This, mixed with lactic and amino acids from sweat, determines your skin’s pH level, known as your skin barrier.
How do I know if my skin’s pH is balanced?
An impaired skin barrier can be the root cause of many skin conditions, such as dermatitis, eczema and rosacea. There are many internal and external factors that can impact upon our skin barrier, such as incorrect product usage, some medications, poor diet, smoking, pollutants and sun exposure. If your skin becomes too alkaline or acidic, the barrier will become compromised and you may experience redness, inflammation and dry or rough skin.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, then it’s likely your skin’s pH is out of whack.
What products can I use to maintain a correct skin pH?
The problem with generic bars of soap and basic cleansers is that they are usually quite alkaline. Not only can these products destroy the natural oils in your skin, they can also decrease the acidity of the skin barrier. When your skin becomes too alkaline, it has more difficulty in fighting off infection and bacteria, which can then breed on your skin and lead to acne and breakouts.
Cleansers at skin clinics have been carefully selected to not cause damage to your skin barrier. At VC Dermal, our products of choice are crafted by Lira Clinical, which we find to be pH balanced and appropriate for treating a wide range of skin conditions.
Moisturisers and serums
The right moisturisers and serums keep your skin hydrated and help maintain the acid mantle. When we say ‘right’ moisturisers, we mean those packed with antioxidants, which reduce and prevent free radical damage, responsible for destroying healthy skin cells.
Some of the most effective antioxidants utilised by Lira Clinical include gooseberry, BV-OSC (vitamin C), Co-Q10, vitamin E, green tea and liquorice extract.
Sunscreen is the most important weapon you have in the fight to protect your skin barrier. It is, without doubt, the Holy Grail, and your skin therapist will preach that you ALWAYS wear sunscreen – rain, hail or shine. Yes, UV is still a factor even in winter. And yes, even indoors, because of the windows…. Okay, okay, I’ll save the sunscreen lecture for another blog. But wear it!
Like all products these days, not all sunscreens are created equal. Zinc oxide is our favourite, as it sits on top of the skin, creating a physical barrier which reflects all UV away from your skin. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, absorb the rays into the skin but metabolise them into non-damaging wavelengths.
Ever noticed a sunscreen burn or tingle when you apply it? This is most likely a chemical sunscreen. Switch to Lira Zinc SPF and thank me later.
Yours in beauty,