Skin pH: What is it? How can it affect my skincare?

Skin pH

While browsing through the skin care aisle at your pharmacy, you're likely to come upon various products which claim to heal and protect your skin by balancing its pH. You may remember pH having to do with acids and bases in high school chemistry, but how does it actually affect your skin — and how can you incorporate products into your skincare routine to effectively manage your skin’s pH?

pH stands for the potential of hydrogen, so when we are taking the pH of something we are literally measuring the acidity of it. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 0 being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline (basic). Purified water is generally neutral, with a pH of 7, making it safe to wash your face with. Naturally, our skin’s pH lies somewhere between 4 and 6, which is a little bit more on the more acidic side. At this pH, your skin is best able to work in conjunction with your natural oils and bacteria to serve as a protective barrier for the body. At a pH of 4 to 5.2, the skin may be oily, while a pH of 5.5 to 7 is common for those with fungal acne. Though a pH of 5 versus 7 may not sound significant, the pH scale is logarithmic,so a pH of 5 is 100 times more acidic than a pH of 7 — explaining the difference in skin quality associated with slight pH shifts. 

To maintain a healthy protective barrier and improve the overall quality of your skin, it is important to use skin care products that do not compromise our skin’s natural pH level. A higher pH is associated with more developed fine lines and wrinkles, meaning that keeping your pH balance is important to deter the effects of aging. Fortunately, most skin-care products are formulated with pH in mind so they do not react and cause any burning or discomfort during application. If you have sensitive skin, aim for cleansers, toners, serums, and moisturizers that are within the pH range of 4.6 to 5.5. Avoid prolonged use of harsh exfoliators and acids as they can damage your skin barrier. The FABrx Antioxidant + Cannabis Calming Serum is a great moisturizing serum that will help calm irritation and restore balance to the pH of your skin’s protective barrier. If you are on the oilier side, consider the FABrx Blemish Control Serum and FABrx Pore Refining Cleanser. These products contain light AHA’s and BHA’s to help lower your skin’s pH to help improve acne, blackheads, and whiteheads, as a higher pH is associated with acne.  

Like everything, your genes, environment, and diet can affect your skin's pH, so maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important. Fruits like oranges, pomegranates, and berries provide a boost of antioxidants, while avocados, olive oils, and seeds are a healthy source of fats. Drinking lots of water, eating nutritious foods, and maintaining a dermatologist recommended skincare regime will ensure that your skin pH is kept in balance.