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Skin pH seems to have had a moment in the last few years, with influencers and companies suggesting that you need to know your skin’s pH – and balance it out if it’s off. But are they right? What exactly is skin pH? How does it relate to your skincare routine, and what, if anything, do you really need to do about it?

Let’s take a closer look at everything you need to know about pH and your skin.

What is pH?

The scientific term pH is shorthand for “potential of hydrogen” – while we don’t need to get into the nitty-gritty right now, it’s essentially a way to express how acidic or alkaline something is.

pH is expressed on a scale of 0 to 14, where 0 is the most acidic something can be (like battery acid) and 14 is the most alkaline (like bleach and liquid drain cleaner). 7 is a neutral pH. 

Lemon juice, for example, has a pH around 2, while eggs have a pH around 8.

Wait, so… does skin have a pH?

Yep! Human skin ranges from around a pH of 4 to 7. We all have something called a skin barrier or acid mantle – a very fine, slightly acidic film on our skin – that helps our bodies protect themselves from harmful microbes and keeps our skin healthy and hydrated.  

Babies tend to be born with more alkaline skin (closer to 7), but by adulthood the average skin pH is closer to 5.5 – though there’s still a pretty wide range for adults.

Does your skin’s pH make a difference?

It does! A study from the International Journal of Cosmetic Science back in 2006 found that, without any products, our skin’s pH naturally falls to around 4.7, and that the ideal skin pH is actually below 5.

This is because a slightly more acidic skin pH is better for the good bacteria in your microbiome, while a higher pH weakens your acid mantle and microbiome. This can leave you more vulnerable to acne, infections, reactions to environmental irritants, and even the effects of aging (thanks to dry skin and less protection against free radicals)!

Your skin pH can be affected by all sorts of things, but products that touch your skin, like makeup, soaps, and detergents, are particularly likely to bring up your skin’s pH. Of course, how often and how you wash can also have an effect (sweat and sebum can shift your pH), as can age and genetics.

What do you need to do about your skin pH?

That depends! If your skin is healthy and hydrated, you probably don’t need to think about it. But, if you’re struggling with stubborn acne or other skin irritation, it’s easy to take an at-home skin pH test to find out if a high pH might be making matters worse. 

If your skin’s pH is on the high side (or super low, which is less common but can also lead to irritation!), you should consider switching up the products you’re using and how you’re using them. 

The right skincare routine, with a gentle microbiome-friendly cleanser and slightly acidic toner, can help you get closer to an ideal skin pH and rebuild a weakened skin barrier. While genetics will play a part in the skin’s actual healthiest pH, these probiotic skincare products can give your system a boost in the right direction.

And that's what you need to know about your skin's pH.

If your skin is giving you trouble and you’re having a hard time pinpointing the root of the problem, an off-kilter skin pH could be the culprit! The skin’s acid mantle and microbiome, when working properly, should help protect against infection, irritation, dryness, and blemishes. When things are off, you can have all sorts of bummer skin issues. 

But fortunately, pH problems are generally easy to fix! Take a skin pH test and try gentle, skin barrier-boosting skin products and you can be on the road to happier, healthier skin today.

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