Understanding Your Skin’s pH (And Why It Matters)
There’s a lot to think about when it comes to skincare and getting it right. You have to make sure you use the best products, that you apply them in the right way - and that you consider your skin’s pH and how to maintain it.
Feeling lost? You’re not alone. Most guys don’t really think about pH outside of their high school chemistry classes. But it’s more important than you might think.
Here’s why and how to get it right.
Your Skin’s pH: Everything You Should Know
What's the Right pH for Your Skin?
Going back to the science class, pH is a scale that measures how alkaline or acidic something is. The scale goes from one (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline). A pH of seven is considered neutral.
Human skin is slightly acidic, resting at a pH of about 5.5. That’s because the skin has a protective layer called the acid mantle (otherwise known as your skin’s protective barrier). This mantle is made up of a mix of sebum, lactic acid, and amino acids generated from your own sweat. It helps protect your skin, block toxins and keep in vital nutrients and hydration.
Why pH Matters
The acid mantle does its job best if the skin is at the correct pH. When it’s operating at 100%, the acid mantle can:
- Block bacteria that cause acne
- Protect against candida infection
- Prevent dermatitis
- Prevent trans-epidermal water loss
When the pH is thrown off, though, it disturbs that acid mantle. Your skin has to focus on trying to get back in balance (rather than protecting itself against invaders). That leads to a ton of common concerns, including acne, dry skin, sensitivity, skin congestion, and excess sebum production.
Factors That Throw Off Natural pH
Believe it or not, this is really easy to do. And you do things every day that throw off your pH and compromise your skin's acid mantle. They include:
- Coming into contact with smoke and pollutants
- Sun exposure
- Using skincare products with harsh ingredients like alcohol, sulfates, detergents, or artificial fragrances
- Washing your face
But, the problem isn't that it gets out of balance (again, this happens all the time) - it’s if it stays out of balance.
What's most important is to restore your acid mantle as quickly as possible to prevent big-picture concerns.
How to Balance Your Skin’s pH
Maintaining your skin’s pH is all about making sure you have the right skincare regimen.
But that’s easy to get wrong. Many cleansers, for example, are too alkaline and strip away the skin's natural oils. Similarly, many chemical exfoliants (like AHAs and BHAs) are acidic and can cause problems when used improperly.
To get it right, pay attention to your regimen and look for restorative ingredients like:
- Barrier-repairing moisturizers that balance your oil production and help rebuild your acid mantle
- Antioxidants, like vitamin C and vitamin E, that protect your skin from environmental stressors that can throw it out of whack
- Sunscreen that prevents UV damage to your skin
Also, consider using a men's skin toner. Toners balance pH, so applying one after you use face wash for men is a simple way to get things back on track. Choose a high-quality, alcohol-free formula to avoid irritation.