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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.

The pH scale ranges from 1 to 14, with 7 considered “neutral.” The lower numbers are acidic, while the upper levels are considered alkaline, or nonacidic.

You might be surprised to learn that a healthy skin pH is more on the acidic side. With more acidity, your skin can combat harmful microbes and damaging free radicals that might increase 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 pH of skin 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. For the skin, though, pH scales tend to be a bit more broad, with acidity ranging between 4 and 7.

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

Newborns have relatively high pH levels all over the 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 maintain their natural acidity. This is unlike your face, chest, and hands, which tend to be more alkaline. Such differences are due to the fact that the latter areas of skin are more exposed to the elements.

Other factors that can affect skin pH include:

  • acne
  • air pollution
  • antibacterial products
  • change in seasons, with different humidity levels
  • cosmetics
  • detergents
  • antibacterial soaps and gels
  • sebum/skin moisture
  • sweat
  • tap water
  • too much sun exposure
  • too frequent washing 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 that are 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.

Through a dermatologist

A dermatologist may also offer liquid 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 soft texture without dry spots would be considered balanced. Irritation, acne, redness, and dry spots may all be signs of a high skin pH that’s leaning towards a more alkaline profile.

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.

The more alkaline your facial cleanser, the more skin irritation you’re likely to see.

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

Don’t splash and dash

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

Use a skin toner

A skin toner can help neutralize any remaining alkalinity that’s adversely affecting your skin’s optimal pH levels.

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. Read more about them here.

Moisturize

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

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.

Exfoliate

Exfoliating your skin as often as once a week with gentle exfoliants can be good for your general skin care routine.

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

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

Skin pH is just one of the aspects in 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 UV light and other particles.

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