Your skin tends to have a naturally acidic pH depending on the areas of your body. Factors like the environment and your skin care routine can affect your skin’s pH level. Learn how to keep a balanced skin pH.

Potential hydrogen (pH) refers to the acidity level of substances. So what does acidity have to do with your skin?

It turns out that understanding and maintaining your skin’s pH is important to your overall skin health.

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The pH scale ranges from 1 to 14, with 7 considered “neutral.” The numbers below 7 are acidic, while above 7 are considered alkaline or non-acidic.

You might be surprised to learn that a healthy skin pH is more acidic. With more acidity, your skin can combat harmful microbes and damaging free radicals that might quicken the aging process.

Still, it can be a bit challenging to level out skin pH. How can you maintain your skin’s acidity levels without causing harm? Read on to learn more.

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A pH above 7 is alkaline, while a pH below 7 is acidic. The skin’s pH is weakly acidic, so the ideal products to use on your skin should have a similar pH.

Remember that a neutral pH is 7, with anything higher being alkaline, and anything lower being acidic. The skin, though, tends to have a broad pH range, with acidity ranging between 4 and 7.

An older 2006 study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science reported that the ideal pH level is below 5.

Newborns have relatively high pH levels all over their skin. As babies get older, their pH levels rapidly decline. The average newborn has a skin pH of about 7. This is compared to the average adult skin pH of 5.7.

Skin pH varies depending on the area of your body. Lesser exposed areas, such as the buttocks, armpits, and genital area, tend to have a higher acidity. This is unlike your face, chest, and hands, which tend to be more alkaline.

Such differences are often due to acid barrier differences.

Other factors that can affect skin pH include:

These factors can lead to unbalanced skin pH. Having skin pH that is too high can make you more likely to have acne.

Below are a few ways you can check the pH of your skin.

At-home test strips

Thanks to at-home pH kits, it may be possible to determine your skin pH on your own. These come in the form of paper strips that are applied to your skin and measured.

For the best results, buy pH kits meant for your skin. Saliva and urine tests can measure your body’s overall pH levels, but these will do little to tell you the pH measurement of the surface of your skin.

Home kits may not be as accurate as testing from a skin care professional.

Through a dermatologist

A dermatologist may also offer pH testing in their office. In addition, they can help you with cosmetic and other skin-related care that you’re interested in.

Observe and estimate

It’s possible to get a general idea of your skin pH level through careful observation.

Skin that has a healthy appearance without dry spots could be considered balanced. Irritation, acne, redness, and dry spots may all be signs of a high skin pH leaning toward a more alkaline profile.

Below are a few ways to help maintain healthy skin and balanced skin pH.

Wash with gentle cleansers

Whether gentle for you means using a specially formulated commercially made face wash or cleaning your skin with DIY natural or plant-based items, remember that water affects your skin too, even if momentarily.

More alkaline facial cleansers may make your skin more prone to irritation.

More acidic cleansers may help combat acne, which may clear up once your pH levels reach below 6. More acidic-based skin care ingredients may also help maintain healthy skin in conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

Look for products with a pH of 4 or lower to help maintain your skin barrier. Not all products list pH, but some do.

Don’t splash and dash

Remember to wash your face long enough to get the most out of your routine.

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Use a skin toner

According to Paula’s Choice, skin toner usually has a pH between 5 and 7, which can help neutralize any remaining alkalinity adversely affecting your skin’s optimal pH levels.

Toners are discouraged in people with some skin conditions, such as rosacea. Speak with your skin care professional before using toner if you have a skin condition.

Astringent vs. toner

These similar products can both tone and tighten skin. And you can follow up cleansing your face with either a toner or astringent.

Astringents are usually alcohol-based while toners are often water-based, making them gentler.

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Follow up with a moisturizer. You can choose from moisturizing oils, lotions, gels, and thick creams. You may even want to adjust your moisturizer for the season, too.

One 2018 study found that certain petrolatum-based emollients could help protect and maintain ideal skin pH.

Keep moisture just right

Whether your skin tends to be oily, needs additional moisture, or is sensitive to products, there are a lot of options on the market. These include oils that won’t clog your pores and moisturizers for dry skin.

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For some, exfoliating your skin as often as once a week with gentle exfoliants can be good for your general skin care routine. The type of exfoliation and frequency varies depending on your skin type and needs.

Maintaining healthy skin may also be assisted with acids used in chemical peels and microdermabrasion. Talk with a skin care professional about these options to see if these procedures can help even out or tone your skin.

Ask your skin care professional what type, if any, of exfoliation is a good option for your skin.

Read more about how, when, and how often to exfoliate.

Skin pH is just one of the aspects of overall skin health. Taking care of your skin with a cleanser and moisturizer for your skin type helps strike the right balance of oil your skin needs to stay at its healthiest.

Daily sunscreen is also a must-have to protect your skin from damage from ultraviolet (UV) light and other particles.

Any specific skin care concerns, such as acne or dermatitis, should be addressed with a dermatologist. They can help resolve any underlying skin issues and help you keep your skin healthy.