Before I started Bright Body, I didn't really like chemistry that much. I much preferred biology and thought that I'd never need to retain any of the high school chemistry that I was forced to take. Alas, cut to more than a decade later and here I am, happily teaching myself cosmetic chemistry.
Even if you're not a science nerd, having a basic understanding of cosmetic chemistry is really important to be a knowledgeable consumer. I used to think that if a big company made a product for your face that it has to be good for your skin. But alas, since going down this rabbit hole I've learned that isn't always the case. The big shocker for a lot of people is that not all skincare products are pH balanced for your skin.
Why should I care about pH?
Your skin and hair have a natural pH somewhere between 4.5 and 5.5, and are healthiest when kept at these pH levels. You see, the skin has an acid mantle - an invisible, thin coating - that acts as the skin's protective coating. If you use products that are too acidic or too alkaline on your skin for an extended period of time, you will disrupt your skin's natural acid mantle.
Before we go further, let's take a quick interlude to talk about what exactly pH is. pH measures the acidity or alkalinity of an aqueous solution. pH is measured on a scale of 1 to 14, where values between 1 and 6 are acidic, 7 is neutral, and 8 to 14 are alkaline. You can only measure the pH of aqueous solutions, meaning oils do not have a pH, but solutions containing both oil and water-based compounds do, it's just the oils don't influence the pH. Another important fact is that the pH scale is logarithmic. Don't worry, no math degree required - basically, that means that the difference between a pH of 7 and 6 isn't just 1, it is actually a tenfold difference.
Now back to how this applies to skin. When our acid mantle is disrupted, our skin can show signs of stress and dysfunction in many different ways, including:
- dry, flaky patches
- "tight" feeling
- overproduction of oil
- sudden sensitivity
- redness, inflammation, and irritation
- premature signs of aging
- more susceptible to scrapes, tears, and cuts
- slow wound healing
Now, some of us are prone to these regardless of the pH issue, but having a disrupted acid mantle can exacerbate your skin's predisposition to imbalance.
So what does this mean in terms of my skincare?
This means you should only use products that are pH balanced for your skin, in that sweet spot of 4.5-5.5 pH. When I developed Bright Body Facial Washes & Toners, I kept my litmus paper handy to make sure I was landing in that sweet spot. I'm happy to report that all of our aqueous facial skincare products have a pH of approximately 5, thanks to lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) balancing out the more neutral and alkaline ingredients.
You'd be surprised how many conventional beauty products are not in that ideal range. And there are soooo many Pinterest posts about exfoliating with baking soda or putting straight-up lemon juice on your face. Just. Say. No. If you want to get creative with some DIY skincare, I recommend purchasing some litmus strips. They're relatively inexpensive and well worth the investment. And next time you are looking to purchase a skincare product, ask the maker/manufacturer/company what its pH level is! You might be surprised.
Until next time,