pH is an abbreviation for 'potential of hydrogen'. It's a way of measuring acidity levels in any given environment, product or our skin! Our skin types all have different acidity levels and, therefore, a different pH value. pH values are measured on a scale of 0 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline). When we talk about pH neutral, it means a value of 7. However, when it comes to skin, values vary between 5.2 and 7. In other words, our skin's pH level determines whether we have dry, normal, oily, or combination skin. It's also the reason why we need to carefully choose products according to our skin type.
Healthy skin will have a pH level of between 4 and 6, meaning it's slightly acidic. Beauty products for normal skin cater for skin that falls within this margin. Skin needs to be slightly acidic so as to protect it from bacteria and keep its natural, protective barrier intact. However, damaging external factors can harm the hydrolipidic film (AKA acid mantle), throwing its pH level out of sync, with direct consequences for our skin. So, if your skin's dry it means it has a pH level lower than 6.5, probably nearer to 4. It's therefore extremely acidic and needs extra nourishing care. Oil skin has a pH level that exceeds 6.5 - an alkaline skin that needs more acid.
Certain factors - alkaline products, tobacco, stress, alcohol - damage skin's hydrolipidic film, leaving our skin dry, sensitive and prone to spots or irritation. In order to keep our skin barrier intact, we should use products that have a pH value lower than 7. These not only match healthy skin's level but will neutralise bacteria that may cause our skin's immune response to go into overdrive and produce lots of sebum. If you want to measure a product's pH levels, chemists now sell colour-coded pH testing strips. If the colour highlighted veers towards the red zone, it means your product is acidic rather than alkaline.
To avoid harming our skin we need to respect its pH value and adopt a suitable beauty routine. That said, whatever the pH level, it's still wise to avoid all harsh products that have an alkaline pH value and opt for pH neutral treatments. So, steer clear of any alkaline soaps/shower gels/facial gels, as they'll throw your skin's natural pH value off kilter. Opt instead for oil-based formulae, as they're gentle and have a skin-friendly pH level.
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