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The Importance of pH for Your Skin

A huge part of maintaining optimum health and wellness is working with your body and providing it with the tools it needs to naturally take care of itself. When it comes to skincare, a big part of that is using products that help your skin maintain its optimum, balanced state.

Here’s why pH plays an important role here and how it can lead to healthier, clearer skin long-term.

What is pH and Why Is It Important For the Skin?

pH is a scale that measures how acidic or alkaline a substance is. The pH scale goes from 1 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline), with a pH of 7 being “neutral.” Your skin has a thin, protective layer on its surface known as the acid mantle that is responsible for keeping in nutrients and moisture while blocking toxins and pollution. The acid mantle is made primarily up of sebum mixed with lactic and amino acids from sweat to create the skin’s pH. Ideally, it should be slightly acidic, reaching a pH of about 5.5. When your skin is within the appropriate range and this mantle is intact, it can effectively protect itself against premature aging, bacteria, and other damage.

When your pH is unbalanced and your skin’s acid mantle is disturbed, it creates a suitable environment for:

Acne and skin congestion
Candida infections
Dry skin and sensitivity
Excess oil production

Why? The skin is without its shield, which makes it prone to acne-causing bacteria and transepidermal water loss (one of the culprits behind dry skin).

What Can Affect Your Skin’s pH?

Your skin’s pH is constantly being thrown off. Anything that comes in contact with your skin affects your pH in some way – including smoke, pollutants, sunlight, and skincare products (particularly those that contain harsh ingredients like alcohol, sulfates, detergents, and artificial fragrances). Even something as simple as washing your face with water can disturb your skin’s pH balance.

Fortunately, this is normal. The problem isn’t the contact itself – it’s if your skin stays out of balance for long periods of time. That’s when you’re prone to damage from environmental stressors or the growth of bad bacteria. To avoid this, the key is to restore your acid mantle and return your skin’s balance as quickly as possible, as consistently as possible.

How to Maintain Skin’s Optimum pH

Many skincare products are way outside your skin’s natural pH. As a result, they strip away your skin’s natural oils and encourage irritation. The solution? Choose balancing products that rebuild your skin’s natural barrier and encourage optimum pH. This includes:

Effective moisturizers: These can help rebuild your barrier. Some oils, in particular – like jojoba, coconut, and argan oil – work well at moisturizing without clogging pores.
Topical antioxidants: Antioxidants – like vitamins A, C, E, and green tea – can help fortify your cells and protect against oxidation and environmental stressors.
Mild cleansers and toners: Products like Thayers Witch Hazel formula have a pH of around 5. These will help all skin types maintain the acid mantle.
Again, it’s all about working with your skin and finding natural, nourishing solutions that’ll encourage your skin to thrive on its own.

By Dr. Maura Henninger, Licensed and Board-Certified Naturopathic Physician. For more information on Dr. Maura, please visit


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