What is the pH of the skin? How can you tell if your skin is healthy? Why is the pH of your skin important? Here's everything you need to know about pH and skin, including how to determine the pH of your skin and how to choose the ideal pH for skin care products.
pH this pH that and alkaline, acidic, and neutral pH. You’ve probably seen several products tout their pH levels but what does this all mean to you? Bear with the basics without the nitty gritty scientific specifics and it’ll help you understand it a lot better!
What is pH?
PH is a measure of how acidic/basic water is. pH is measured on a logarithmic scale that goes from 0 to 14; 0 being the most acidic and 14 being the most Basic.
A pH of 7 is neutral which is the pH of pure water – it is neither acidic nor basic. pHs less than 7 are acidic and pHs greater than 7 are alkaline (basic).
What's the typical pH of skin?
Skin is on the acidic side of the scale and on average around a pH around 4.7. There’s a natural range to this depending on your skin type! It can be slightly more or it can be slightly less.
The pH of oily skin tends to range from 4 to 5.2, while the pH of dry skin is typically above 5.5.
Why pH is important for skin?
The pH of the skin plays an important role in the condition of the skin. The pH of your skin depends on the skin's acid mantle, a protective layer of skin that shields the skin from external threats such as acne-causing bacteria and dermatitis infections.
The protective acid mantle is made up of ceramides, cholesterols and enzymes and it is important to the mantle’s pH balanced to ensure that your skin is always protected.
Simply put, when we say your skin is healthy, it means that there is a good balance between acidity and alkalinity and that the acid mantle is maintained in skin care products with optimal pH.
Which pH is good for skin?
This may surprise you that the surface and top layers of the skin are naturally slightly acidic. The optimal pH of the skin on most of our face and body lies between 4.7 and 5.75.
Balanced skin maintains its barrier best at around 5.5 - slightly acidic and this is the ideal pH value of our skin. When the skin maintains the ideal pH level of 5.5, the skin is able to maintain a good skin barrier and act as a real protective defense organ along with natural oils, moisturizers and bacteria.
* Beauty Tip: Your hair's natural pH is slightly acidic, around 4.5-5.5, and it's important to keep it at this level to ensure the overall health of your healthy hair.
Choose hair care products such as shampoo or conditioner with a pH between 3.5 and 5.5. Because as if it falls below 6.0, then the hair cuticle contracts and contracts.
Be wary that many conventional products can disrupt this delicate pH balance of the hair and push it into the alkaline side, which can lead to cuticle damage and fiber breakage.
How do you know if you skin pH balance is off?
When the pH is out of the ideal range, your skin is less protected and you may experience some skin troubles, such as acne, dryness and skin conditions like psoriasis. This is why it's important to be aware the pH of your skin care products to ensure you aren't doing anything that make your skin compromised.
What does alkaline skin mean?
Alkaline skin is much more common than skin that is too acidic as soaps with a pH between 9 and 11 are widely used in cosmetic and personal care industries due to their water solubility.
Remember, 7 is neutral on the pH 1 to 14 scale. So if the pH is above 7, it is alkaline. When the pH rises above 7 on the pH scale, the skin becomes alkaline. If it's too alkaline, like nine and up, the skin becomes dry and sensitive due to the weakened lipid layer.
How do you know if your skin is too alkaline?
Have you ever felt squeaky clean after using your soap or facial cleanser? How about if your skin feels dry after washing? These are signs that the acid mantle we talked about earlier is no longer at its optimal pH and is stripping the skin of its natural barrier.
The skin's barrier is slightly acidic for a reason which helps keep moisture in and bacteria out. If your pH balance is off and it's too alkaline, you’ll notice some unpleasant changes in your skin.
Here are symptoms if your skin is too alkaline:
- Dry, tight skin
- Sensitive skin
- Prone to sun damage
- Premature skin
- Flaky, rough patches
- Skin redness, irritation
How do you balance the pH level your skin?
1. Avoid harsh/alkaline facial cleansers and soaps
A facial cleanser or a soap are skin care products that can easily adjust the pH of your skin to the side of alkalinity. Even just using plain water (pH 7) would increase the pH of your skin!
2. Use properly PH balanced face toners
Choosing a pH-balancing facial toner after cleansing will help recalibrate and restore your skin’s pH balance. The great thing about Korean toner is that they often have more wonderful benefits beyond restoring your pH! They also prep your skin for the next skin care steps to help deliver skincare ingredients deeper into skin.
What is the best pH for a facial cleanser?
While using the wrong facial cleanser can easily throw your skin's pH out of tune, there are several pH friendly cleansers out there that you can depend on!
Ideally, you should look for facial cleansers with a pH close to your skin's natural level – usually between 4.5 – 7. Products with a pH lower than 4.5 can be too acidic and hot harsh people with dry or sensitive skin.
( Related blog post: How To Pick The Right Face Cleanser for Your Skin Type?)
Best pH balanced Korean facial cleansers
Heimish All Clean Green Foam is an excellent example of the best cleansing foams for your healthy skin. This hypoallergenic product has a pH of 5.5 that maintains the optimal pH balance of the skin while effectively removes impurities on the skin.
It made up of natural active ingredients, such as Centella Asiatica and Witch Hazel, which is known for effectively soothing and healing properties, make it perfect for sensitive, inflamed or stressed-out skin.
We also love Cosrx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser and is popular for all the right reasons. It's a mildly acidic formula with natural BHAs that gently slough away dead skin cells and restore the skin's optimal pH balance without irritating the skin! This peeling cleanser has a pH value in the range of 5-6.
For those with acne-prone skin Pyunkang Yul Acne Facial Cleanser is a great choice with a pH in the range of 5.5-6.
This gel-type cleansing foam features several acne-fighting ingredients such as natural BHAs which gently exfoliates while addressing and calming redness, irritation on blemished skin – all while restoring and maintaining optimal skin pH!
* Tip: All three are ideal facial cleansers as a second step in the double cleansing method in your Korean skin care routine!
What is the best pH for a toner?
A good toner formula should have a pH of around 5-7. These will help all skin types maintain the acid mantle and once the pH is back in balance, skin also becomes less sensitive to environmental threats.
(Related blog post: 11 Best Korean Hydrating Toners for Glowing Skin)
Do toners really balance pH?
Toners - especially hydrating Korean toners - are primarily designed to balance your skin's pH, as cleansing can throw off this balance. This means that facial toners usually have a neutral or slightly acidic pH to keep your protective mantle healthy.
In addition, pH-adjusting toners help your skin work better to pH-dependent actives like AHA (glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid), azelaic acid, niacinamide, BHA (salicylic acid), vitamin C and retinoids (tretinoin, retinol).
What toners are bad for skin?
When choosing a toner, do yourself a favor and avoid toners with alcohols! Alcohol-based toners are actually a bad idea for every skin type, as alcohols strip the skin of natural lipids and risk drying out the skin.
Alcohols can cause disruptions to sebaceous glands (under your skin) which are responsible for the skin’s oil production which is important for our skin’s balance and protection. This will further exacerbate dryness and lack of moisture. We’d like to avoid that of course!
The Best pH-balancing Korean facial toner
If you’re looking for a hypoallergenic and ultra-mild face care product, Huxley Extract It Toner is a great option for all skin types, including those dealing with sensitive skin.
This refreshing toner is made from 90% naturally-derived ingredients, including certified organic, ethically-sourced Sahara Prickly Pear seed oil and cactus extract, that maintain the skin's pH balance, tones, and smoothes the skin while leaving it fresh, clear, and moisturized.
Another amazing option is the Olivarrier pH 5.5 Dual Moist Toning Lotion. This product does the job of both a toner and a lotion and is jam-packed with wonderful ingredients, antioxidant-rich green tea leaf extract, micro-hyaluronic acid and panthenol, which promotes moisture and nutrients while soothing irritated, reddened skin.
This unscented moisturizing toner is mild acidic that is similar to the pH of healthy skin and works well on all skin types. This is a perfect face care product if you want to have a vegan and cruelty free option.