Are Your Skin-Care Products PH- Appropriate?


You might have come across the words PH balance and PH level from time to time especially when it comes to your skin, body, skin care products, and diet. We’ve been seeing products circulating in the market that claims to maintain your skin PH level. But before you invest in such products, you need to understand what PH level is and why it is so important for the skin.

Read more: Is Skincare for men different than women? Let’s find out!

What is pH?

To start with, PH stands for Potential Hydrogen which refers to the acidity level of a substance. Maintaining an ideal PH level is significant for the overall health of your skin. Measuring the PH level helps you in determining how acidic or alkaline your skin is. Healthy skin means that the skin’s PH level is more on the acidic side. Acidic PH level will allow your skin to combat damaging and harmful germs and will safeguard your skin from radicals that might escalate the aging process.  

What is the ideal skin PH level?

The neutral PH level is 7, anything above 7 is alkaline and below 7 is acidic. The skin PH level differs depending on the area of the body. An ideal PH level for skin ranges between 4 and 7. Newborn babies generally have a higher PH level and as they grow their PH starts to decline. The ideal skin PH for women ranges between 4.5 and 5.5 which is acidic and for men, it ranges between 4.7 and 5.75.

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Factors that can affect the skin PH level

You must remember that the skin PH level keeps on varying depending on things like

  • Your diet
  • Skincare products you use
  • Sleep Cycle 
  • The environment you live in
  • Your skin type, for example, the PH of oily skin type will range between 4 and 5.2 whereas a dry skin type will have above 5.5. 

Other factors that can affect skin PH are:

  • Air pollution
  • Sweat
  • Sun exposure 
  • Frequent washing of the face
  • Humidity level
  • Acne 
  • Tap water 

How can I test my skin’s pH?

The PH level of the skin can be tested at home using the home kits available on the market. These kits come in the form of paper strips that are applied to the skin to check the PH level. All you have to ensure is that the kit is meant only for the skin. This is because urine and saliva tests reveal the overall body’s PH and do not disclose much about the skin. PH test strips are available in the market for less than INR 500. A dermatologist generally uses the liquid PH testing kit. 

You can realize the imbalance of the skin PH by becoming familiar with your skin. You must keep a tab on what works to keep it soft and supple, and what irritates the skin and causes inflammation. You can also tell if there is an imbalance by seeing how it feels after cleansing. If the skin is feeling dry or tight then there is a high chance that your PH balance is off. 

Why is it important to maintain skin PH levels?

An acidic skin PH level is always advised by professionals because it leads to the improved formation of the lipid or fat layer on the skin which serves as a barrier and prevents redness and inflammatory conditions, dehydration, and aging. It also helps in keeping the skin moisturized and allows your skin to combat damaging and harmful microbes. An acidic pH helps keep your skin balanced, healthy, and radiant.

A low pH subdues the function of enzymes like serine proteases that leads to scaling off the skin. An alkaline skin PH level may lead to skin conditions like:

  • Dry patches
  • Eczema 
  • Acne and breakouts
  • Fine lines and wrinkles
  • Premature aging 
  • Fungal, bacterial, and yeast infection 
  • Irritant contact dermatitis

What’s the best way to restore the pH balance of my skin?

To maintain a good skin PH level, you must adopt healthy habits like:

  • Wash your face with a gentle cleanser. This face wash can be commercially formulated face wash or DIY natural facewash but always remember to avoid alkaline facial cleansers. An acidic face wash will help prevent acne. On the other hand, an alkaline face cleanser can prevent skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. The best way to understand if the cleanser has high PH or low is by seeing the texture of the cleanser. Generally, Low pH cleansing formulas look out for gel, cream, and milk varieties. 

Important ingredients in the cleanser to ensure deep cleaning and PH balance 

Retinol  To minimize the wrinkles 
Hyaluronic Acid  To hydrate the skin and maintain an alkaline PH 
Peptides  To keep the skin firm 
Salicylic acid  To prevent acne and maintain acidic PH
Vitamin C For the glow 
Ceramides  To retain moisture 
Ceramides  To lock skin moisture 
Vitamin E  For skin nourishment 
  • Use skin toner to neutralize the skin and maintain the alkalinity that will affect the skin’s PH level. A toner will help you tone and tighten the skin. 

Types of toners and their ingredients 

Astringent  High alcohol content. This toner is meant for oily skin  Cetearyl Alcohol, Alcohol Denat, Witch Hazel, Rose Water, Acids like Glycolic 
Hydrator  Lowest alcohol content. perfect for all skin types   Water, Micellar water, Glycerin 
General toner  Some parts of alcohol and some parts of distilled water. Meant for leftover cleanser Alcohol, Rosewater, Aloe Barbadensis, Leaf Juice
  • You can use moisturizer in the form of oil, lotion, thick cream, or gel to adjust the hydration of the skin. Always use a moisturizer that won’t clog your pores and will provide moisturization to dry skin. Click here to find the right product for your skin type.
  • Gentle exfoliation of the skin at least twice a week will help you in maintaining healthy skin and the PH level of the skin. 
  • Probiotics can help restore the balance of skin and bacteria both externally and internally but before consuming any such thing you must consult a dermatologist. 
  • Give skin the nutrients and minerals it needs by including fruits and vegetables like dark leafy greens and berries in your diet. These food items will help in boosting the antioxidant levels, and maintain the PH level.
  • Hydrate with at least eight glasses of water per day. A person can also shift to Alkaline water like Kangen water as this water is a rising trend in health and fitness in recent years. Alkaline water cleanses the body and provides balance to the immune system. Drinking Kangen water can lead to fat burning as your body has to work hard to maintain its pH and that means that over time, your body will produce more gastric juices and digestive enzymes.

Pros and cons of alkaline water. 

Improved hydration, Antioxidative properties, Reduce acid reflux, Decelerates bone loss, Decrease blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood lipid levels  Decreases stomach acidity, Mineral deficiencies, Alkaline water is expensive, Might affect the blood PH

How can I tell the PH of my skincare products?

Generally, the product packaging has the details on the PH level but many skincare-related products don’t list pH levels but may say PH balanced. Most skincare products have acidic PH balance unless they are formulated to treat medical conditions like psoriasis. Such specific products will have an alkaline PH level. 

Generally, cosmetics contain a combination of core ingredients: water, emulsifier, preservative, thickener, emollient, color, fragrance, and pH stabilizers. Stabilizers comprise a variety of compounds that can maintain the function and activity of other ingredients such as active ingredients, fragrances, and essential oils. Several agents are used for stabilizing the pH value thereby avoiding excessive acidity or alkalinity. A balanced pH value is particularly important for creating stable emulsions. Commonly used acids like citric acid or lactic acid are used to stabilize the PH of your products. Both of them could be prepared quite synthetically or by fermentation. 

If you find yourself in a situation where you are unsure about the PH level and you can’t figure out from the label or the brand’s website, then it is highly advisable to consult a dermatologist to find out if that product is right for your skin.