Have your ever washed your face and then had that dry, tight, itchy feeling afterwards? For the longest time, I thought that was just the uncomfortable reality that came with washing my face- a task I know is important for healthy skin. But it turns out, soap and many face cleansers just aren’t formulated the right way. And that tight, itchy feeling all comes down to two little letters: pH.
What the H is pH?
If you haven’t thought about pH much since high school chemistry, you’re not alone. pH, which is the scale used to measure a substance’s acidity, is actually crazy important when it comes to skincare. As a quick refresher: the pH scale goes from a 0 to 14, with 7 as the neutral marker; water is a neutral 7. Something that is more acidic is closer to zero, while something that is more alkaline or basic falls towards 14.
Our skin naturally falls towards the acidic end of the spectrum, at around 5.5. This is our skins’ sweet spot, where the top later of film on our face, known as the acid mantel (a mix of amino acids, lactic acids, and oils) is in perfect harmony to protect our face from pollutants, aging, and bacteria. Drier, fragile skin will tend to be slightly more basic, while acne-prone, oily skin can get a bit more acidic. The goal is to get and keep skin at that lovely 5.5 where our skin thrives- this is the acidic state where our skin looks and feels the smoothest, softest and most even.
But get this: soap is naturally basic. Classic bar soap - while a wonderful cleaning agent- naturally comes in at a 9 or above on the pH scale. The same goes for sodium laureth sulfate, aka SLS, a foaming agent found in many face cleansers. So when you use that bar of Dove soap or your super foamy face cleanser, while you are certainly removing dirt from your face, you’re also stripping your skin of the acid mantel it needs, and throwing the pH all out of whack. Remember that dry, itchy feeling? That’s your skin dealing with the wrong pH, and it’s super uncomfortable, and also, unnecessary!
Enter the Good Guys
Of course, you still need to clean your face. But the great news is that there are new, scientifically advanced cleansers on the market that both gently remove dirt and excess oil, while maintaining your skin’s acidic pH. Look for oil or gel based cleansers that specify that they are pH optimized, like our Everyday Face Cleanser. Cleansers that contain low-doses of glycolic or salicylic acid are also likely to be acidic. If you're ever really in doubt and want to double check a cleanser's pH, you can use an inexpensive at home pH strip test, like the kind they sell at any pharmacy. But, you can also go by the feel of your face. Just remember, if your skin feels itchy and tight after you've washed your face, that isn't right!