A lesson in why pH levels matter for your skin
Science was never my strong suit. History was my happy place and maths I could manage, but any time a Bunsen burner was added to the equation I was in trouble. And whilst I would still struggle to list the different types of microbes, and most of the terms used on The Big Bang Theory go right over my head, skin science is an area I do have a good grasp on (it is my job after all).
It took me a while to get there, but I’m always down to persevere if enhancing my knowledge also means glowing skin. One topic I find particularly fascinating is that of pH levels.
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Not sure what pH levels are? Let me explain.
Our skin has a thin, protective layer on its surface called the acid mantle – it’s made up of sebum excreted from the sebaceous glands, and when this sebum mixes with lactic and amino acids from sweat (nice, right?), it creates the skin’s pH (this stands for ‘power of hydrogen’ FYI).
There are three levels on the pH scale – acidic (where our skin should ideally sit at a level of 5.5), neutral and alkaline, and our skin’s levels get knocked up and down by what it comes into contact with, from products to pollution. When they do go north or south, however, it’s important to have a few balance-restoring tricks up your sleeve to get your complexion back on track.
So… how do our skin’s pH levels work?
Enter expert: Jurlique’s Education Specialist Danielle Williams, who says,“pH is the measure of acidity or alkalinity on the surface of the skin. The skin naturally has a pH of between 5.5 and 6.5, so it is actually slightly acidic when it is perfectly balanced.”
“This helps prevent the skin from becoming too dry or too oily. We want to keep our skin within this range so it is healthy and can function at its best”, she says.
What are the differences between acidic, neutral and alkaline?
“The pH scale ranges from 1-14. When your skin is acidic it is generally on the oilier side with a lower pH. If it is neutral, it will be at a pH of 7, which is a little too alkaline for our skin’s needs, and if it is alkaline, it will sit higher on the pH scale and tend to be dry”, she explains.
Which lifestyle factors affect our pH balance?
“Basically everything we do will affect the pH of the skin, such as what makeup we wear, perspiring when we workout, the quality of our tap water (which you use to wash your face)…everything!”, says Danielle. “If the water in your area is particularly harsh, we would recommend wiping over with spring or rainwater after cleansing to remove any heavy minerals. This is why it is so important to perform our skin care ritual morning and night even if we haven’t worn makeup that day”, she explains.
How can you tell if your skin is unbalanced?
“When your skin is out of balance you may notice an array of characteristics more commonly found in a variety of different skin conditions”, Danielle explains. “For example, you may be dehydrated and breaking out or you might feel dry and experience an oily t-zone towards the end of the day. Balanced skin doesn’t exhibit the extremes of symptoms and therefore your skin care products can be more effective because they are not trying to compensate for the imbalance in the first place”.
How can you bring balance back to your skin?
“Our best plan is to care for the acid mantle or hydro-lipidic film that coats your skin and protects it from invading bacteria and trans-epidermal moisture loss. If this layer of water and oil is healthy, the skin will glow and take on a radiant appearance”, Danielle tell us. “Good skin health really starts with hydration and making sure that we not only drink enough water, but are also careful to use non-drying, plant-based cleansers to treat our skin and maintain the pH of our acid mantle within the healthy range. Ensuring you use the right skin care ritual morning and night, as well as misting your skin regularly throughout the day will help restore balance as you are exposed to the elements”, she says.
Main image credit: @angelcandices
How much did you know about pH levels? What was the most interesting thing in this article for you?