Do You Have a pH Problem?

If you’re on the market for a new cleanser, you’ve likely seen products marketed as “pH balanced.” Clearly, this is meant to be a good thing. But if the last time you really thought about pH was high school science class, then it might seem weird that it’s coming up in skincare. So what’s the deal with skin and pH?

All About Acid

A brief pH primer: pH is the scale used to measure a substance’s acidity. The scale goes from a 0 to 14, and 7 is the neutral marker- for instance, water is a neutral 7. Something that is more acidic is closer to 0, while something that is more alkaline or basic falls towards 14. 

Your skin naturally falls towards the acidic end of the spectrum, at around 5.5. This is skin’s sweet spot, where the top later of film, known as the acid mantel (a mix of amino acids, lactic acids, and oils) is in perfect harmony to protect your face from pollutants, aging, and bacteria. When your skin is at that balanced pH it looks and feels the smoothest, softest, and most even.

Out of Whack Attack

So what happens when your pH gets thrown out of whack? Well, have you ever used a bar soap to wash your face and your skin felt super tight and dry afterwards? That happens because soap is naturally super basic- at a 9 or above on the pH scale. So using it on your face can really mess with you skin's acidic balance. 

Your pH can also lead to different skin issues. If you’ve someone who deals with acne and/or oily skin, your skin is probably more acidic than 5.5. And if you are someone with drier, fragile skin, it's likely to be more basic.

Balance is Everything

The good news is that the right products can help bring and keep your skin at that 5.5 where skin thrives. It really is important to use a pH optimized cleanser, like Alder New York’s Everyday Face Cleanser, to wash your face. Steer clear of heavy duty bar soaps or anything with SLS- those will be too basic for your skin.

It's not as common for moisturizers to advertise if they're pH balance, but you do want to use one that falls somewhere between 4-6. If you ever want to check the pH of a product, you can use an inexpensive at home pH strip test, like the kind they sell at any pharmacy or garden store. But, you can also go by the feel of your face. If it feels itchy and tight, something you're using is too basic. If you're looking and feeling healthy and glowy, stick with what you've got.


Leave a comment