Skin health 101: Ph in layman's terms

March 12, 2019

Warrior 1 ph test

When was the last time you measured the ph of your favorite cleanser? Face mask? Cream? Unless you geek out over skin care chemistry like we do, the answer is probably never.
So, why should you care about ph, what does it mean for your skin care regimen and how can you measure the ph of your current lineup?
First things first...

Ph stands for 'potential hydrogen' and basically tells us how acidic or alkaline something is on a scale of 1-14, based on hydrogen ion concentration. Products with a low ph (like glycolic peels) have high concentration of hydrogen ions and products with a higher ph (like bar soaps) have low concentrations of hydrogen ions.

For perspective, lemon juice is acidic and has a ph of about 2.2, distilled water is neutral at a ph of 7, and bleach is alkaline at a ph around 13. Warrior 1 rings in at approximately 3.5-3.8, which ensures a fair amount of free acid to exfoliate without irritating the skin.

So what does this have to do with your skin and what you put on it?

Imagine a thin, protective film covering the outter most layer of your skin, made up of sweat, fatty acids, natural oils, and other skin-protective goodies. This film is what gives skin its acidity and research suggests that healthy skin leans toward a ph of around 5. We call this slightly acidic water/oil film the 'acid mantle' - it helps keep things like bacteria and fungi out while also preventing moisture loss from deeper skin layers and ensuring the skin can carry out normal functions. It's amazing, delicate and very important.

Alkaline products, like cleansers that leave skin feeling 'squeaky clean', temporarily raise the skin's ph and can disrupt the acid mantle, leaving it prone to infection, inflammation and dehydration. Finding cleansers that fall within the skin's natural ph range of about 4-5 help maintain that protective barrier. In general, I use products with a ph below neutral (ph 7). Bar soaps (not all, mind you) tend to fall into the very alkaline category, so choose carefully.

For those of us with acne-prone skin, this is an important piece of info since higher ph is correlated with greater incidences of acne.

So, how can find out the ph of your favorite cleanser? Some brands disclose product ph, some will tell you if you simply reach out, or you can measure at home in less than 2 minutes.

If you don't have a correctly calibrated ph meter on hand, ph papers will give you a good ballpark. I love the @hydrion strips which can be found on Amazon. Take a small amount of your cream, cleanser or mask and mix it with with water in a glass dish. Do not use metal. Dip the end of your strip into the watery solution and compare to the color chart. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

And remember, when all else fails, ask your dermatologist. Your skin is as unique as the rest of you, so follow what feels right, ask lots of questions and consult your doc for specific skin care needs.
- Sara + the Nadi team

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