What is pH Balance in Skin Care?

What is pH Balance in Skin Care?

While you may have some vague memory of learning about pH balance in your high school chemistry class, you might not understand how it applies to your current skincare routine. So, let’s talk about pH balance in skincare, what it means, why it’s important, and how to restore skin pH balance naturally.


Main Takeaways: The pH scale runs from 1 - 14. The lower a substance tests on the scale, the more acidic it is. The higher it tests, the more alkaline it is.

Good to Know: There are many ways to naturally restore your skin’s pH balance.

What Does pH Stand For?

Let’s talk about what pH means for your skincare routine. The term pH stands for Potential or Power of Hydrogen. Just as the term sounds, it means the amount of hydrogen that is in a substance, so pH is a scale used to determine that amount.

The pH scale ranges from 1 to 14. Any substance that rates a seven or below is considered acidic. Any substance that is above seven is considered more alkaline. A rating of seven is considered neutral.

What pH Level Should My Skin Be At?

You might be wondering, how does pH affect my skin? And why do I need to worry about this? Well, your skin looks its best under very specific conditions. When your pH levels are balanced, your skin can perform at its best; but when they aren’t, your skin can look dull and lifeless, and can become easily irritated.

The skin’s pH balance hovers somewhere between about 4.5 and 5.5 for most, which means that our skin is naturally slightly acidic. This is the ideal level to keep your skin balanced and protect your “acid mantle.”

What Is the “Acid Mantle”?

Your acid mantle is the acidic layer on your skin that protects it from bacteria and other environmental stressors. It is basically a mixture of sweat and sebum that creates a very fine invisible layer on the surface of your skin to create a protective barrier.

When your acid mantle is damaged, your skin may respond with irritation or dryness. That’s why it’s so important to know what pH balance is in skincare so you can make sure you’re using the products that are right for you.

What Can Cause Your pH Levels To Become Unbalanced?

Environmental stressors, perspiration, the sun, irritants like artificial fragrance or cleaning products, hormones, pregnancy, your menstrual cycle, tap water, medication, and certain foods– these all can cause your skin’s pH levels to become unbalanced. This is why it is important to use the right skincare products, in the correct order, to keep your skin balanced.

You can find kits that allow you to check your internal pH balance. However, if you really want to see if your skin’s pH balance is off, the best way to do so is via a visit to your dermatologist.

How to Restore Your Skin’s pH Balance Once It's Off

The good news is that restoring your skin’s pH balance is actually pretty easy. Mainly, it’s a matter of figuring out what’s causing the imbalance and then rectifying the situation.

First, a proper skincare routine will restore your skin’s pH balance. If your skin feels too tight and dry after using a cleanser, it is possible that the cleanser is not balanced for your skin. This goes for any other skincare product that you may be using.

You should also take a look at your diet. Chances are, if your skin is off balance, it’s because you’re consuming food that’s on the acidic side of the pH scale (meaning it has a low rating like 3 or below) like refined sugar, soda, chocolate, fried food, pasta, pastry, etc.

It won’t surprise you that the healthier your diet is, the more likely your skin is to have balanced pH levels. If you feel your pH balance is off, try adding some fruit to your diet like apples, peaches, grapefruit, grapes, pears and oranges, all of which measure about an 8-9 on the alkaline side of the pH scale (lemons and limes measure about a 10). Also, you might want to up your intake of vegetables like broccoli, cucumbers, spinach, and carrots, all of which measure about a 9-10 on the alkaline side.

The other thing you can do is to have your tap water checked. Although there are standards that determine pH parameters for healthy drinking water (the EPA sets them between 6.5 and 8.5), that doesn’t necessarily mean your tap water falls within those bounds.

We hope that helps clarify exactly what pH balance is in skincare and gives you some ideas about how to restore it if yours gets out of whack.

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