Skin pH is an important topic that is often overlooked by clients. For those seeking skin that is more “normal,” having a grasp of pH has the potential to bring about dramatic skin improvement.
First, a quick refresher: pH is a measure of the concentration of hydrogen ions that are present in a solution and can range from 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral, while anything higher is alkaline and anything lower is acidic. The pH scale is logarithmic, which means that for every jump between whole digits, there is a 10-fold change in pH strength. For example, a pH of 4 is 10 times stronger than a pH of 5. The natural pH of skin is slightly acidic at 5.5, a level that is considered in balance. If skin’s pH strays too far from that level, a range of issues can occur. For example, if skin is too alkaline, it may become increasingly dry and sensitive. If skin is too acidic, it may become inflamed and experience breakouts.
Looking at it in another way, skin pH can be considered a measure of the health of the acid mantle – the invisible barrier that lies on the surface of the skin. A mix of skin oils, dead skin cells, amino acids, and more, the acid mantle helps to keep essential moisture in the skin and harmful pollutants and bacteria out. However, the acid mantle can be easily damaged by the products clients put on their skin. Clients who consistently cleanse their skin with soap or use products with alcohol are stripping away their acid mantle, as evidenced by the tight, uncomfortable feeling that is left behind. Similarly, those who over-exfoliate with products that are too harsh for their skin are left with a skin pH that is out of whack and characterized by redness and a stinging sensation.
While consumers today can purchase sensors that allow them to test their skin pH, the step is an excessive one. A client consultation form likely already asks the questions necessary to determine if an individual has unbalanced skin pH. What should follow is a short conversation about the importance of pH to the health and balance of their skin. A run-through of the products they are using and the steps in their skin care regimen – morning and night – will likely point to the culprits damaging their skin. With several weeks of a back-to-basics skin care approach focused on gentle cleansing, use of a hydrating toner, and an emphasis on moisturization, the acid mantle can be coaxed back to a state of balance and well-being.