A trend I’ve noticed in recent months is all of my fave beauty gurus on Instagram are raving about using a low pH cleanser. It appears to be the answer to having beautiful healthy glowing skin. So why haven’t I heard much about it before?
This week I’ve been researching into the benefits of using a low pH cleanser and what it’s all about. Here is some of what I found:
I guess the best place to start would be to actually clarify what is pH?
If you paid attention in your science lessons you will already know that PH stands for “power of hydrogen” and it measures the acidity vs alkalinity of a solution of water + something.
PH 7 is the neutral point. Anything below it is an “acid” and anything above it a “base” (or alkaline).
On the surface of the skin lies a protective layer that is made of sebum (fatty acids) secreted by the skin’s oil glands, amino acids and sweat. It is actually a genius design that works to do two very important jobs:
- It keeps water into your skin so that it stays soft and hydrated
- It keeps germs, bacteria and pollutants out of the skin, preventing infections and irritations
The pH of your skin’s protective barrier (acid mantle) is between 4.5 and 5.5
When your acid mantle is intact, your skin is moisturised and healthy. But when it starts to crack, your skin becomes dry, sensitive and more prone to irritations and/or acne.
So where does skincare comes into this?
Well when you skin comes into contact with anything (including water!) the pH changes.
When a cleanser has a pH that is too high, it will start to weaken the skin’s barrier. The clever two way system of keeping in water and keeping out germs is compromised and it begins to allow the opposite effect to take place.
How does the high pH/acidic cleanser affect things?
Have you ever used a cleanser that leaves your skin feeling so clean that it feels a little bit tight? Or have you ever washed your fast with something and felt the need to slather on a really thick moisturiser? Well this can be because the cleansing agents in the product strip away too many of the skin’s natural lipids along with the dirt and makeup.
When you disrupt the acid mantle:
- Moisture evaporates, drying out the skin
- Skin can feel tight
- The skin can’t protect itself from the environment/pollution and it becomes more sensitive
- Germs and pollutants get in, irritating skin
- Bacteria proliferate, causing acne and breakouts
The loss of natural lipids can also result in skin appearing to be oilier than normal.
My personal theory is that the breakdown of the lipid barrier’s healthy structure by stripping away the sebum means that your body panics and starts creating more and this mixed in with all the other germs and bacteria getting in causes spots.
Now that we all know what the issue is, all we have to do is make sure the acid mantle stays intact, right?
Well it turns out that It’s actually not that easy. 95% of cleansers and skin care products are not labeled with pH numbers. There’s not easy test other than to purchase some litmus paper and test it yourself. (Small side note but can I just have a apt on the back for remembering it is called litmus paper without having to google *does a small dab*)
In general it’s a very interesting topic which surprises me in how little it’s talked about by skincare gurus.
I think the one thing I can take away from all this research is that the pH of your cleanser matters. It is better to opt for acidic cleansers that don’t compromise your skin’s acid mantle and eventually good things will happen.
If however you have a skincare routine that really is working fine for you then I wouldn’t necessarily start changing things but at least you’re more informed now right?
I am still very curious to see the effects of using a low pH cleanser on my acne prone skin so I have purchased the wonderfully titled Cosrx Low pH gel cleanser. A review will of course be put together after I’ve worked my way through the tube so watch this space!