For many of us when we hear pH, our minds immediately return to high school chemistry, testing the acidity or alkalinity of a given substance, ensuring we don’t blow something up or create the wrong chemical reaction. But this unit of measurement also plays an incredibly important role in determining the health and well being of our skin.
As we preach religiously at Immunocologie the skin is the body’s largest organ, and it is through its slightly acidic pH balance (optimum level: 5.5) that it creates it own barrier protection, known as the acid mantle. This brilliant biological phenomenon helps to maintain hydration levels while preventing bacteria from wreaking havoc with our complexions, and its stability is imperative to maintaining skin health.
Often, harsh alkaline cleansers (products like traditional bar soaps) will destroy this acid mantle and imbalance the skin’s pH. If you have oily or acne-prone skin and use these harsh cleansers, then you end up in a vicious cycle: after your skin is stripped of its barrier, it fights to restore itself to its optimum levels by creating extra oil and thus making itself oilier.
“Your skin’s ph is one of the most important regulators of your skin’s health and wellness” -Karen Ballou, Immunocologie founder
Not only is this process ultimately ineffective, but it is even counter productive: a repeated use of alkaline products (harsh cleansers, alcohol-based toners or mists, fragranced serums, etc) not only results in skin that will become dry and sensitive (even extending to eczema and rosacea), but it can also trigger inflammation that inhibits the skin’s ability to protect against enzymes that destroy collagen. In addition, skin that is too alkaline isn’t properly equipped to fight against acne and infection so is vulnerable to breakouts.
Ultimately, your skin’s best defense against both external and internal stressors is its natural response: it knows how to balance itself, and it knows at what pH it operates most effectively. A natural pH balance enhances skin health, meaning a better defense system and thus a better complexion. By forcibly disrupting its innate responses, all we are doing is making our skin’s job harder and so it is best for us to support its organic processes, keeping its pH stable and letting it look after itself. By sticking to cleansers lower on the pH scale – those that use alpha (glycolic, lactic and mandelic acids) or beta hydroxyl acids (salicyclic) -- we support our skin in its optimum immune efficiency and everyone is happier for it. Go easy on your skin; that’s all it needs.