What You Need to Know About pH Levels

May 2017

what you need to know about pH levels

It’s about time that you know something about pH levels and how it can affect your skin. pH is the power of hydrogen, a measurement of hydrogen ion concentration in your body. Depending on the pH level it can go from 1 (acidic) to 14 (alkaline). 7 is considered neutral.

The Basics of pH

Esthetics school still emphasize the need to know about basic physiology and epidermal anatomy. This includes lessons dedicated to skin pH. People have been trying to balance skin pH by manufacturing beauty products like toners and more. Normally a skin’s pH goes around the range of 4.5 to 7 (which is the ideal). Every layer of the epidermis can adjust to any environment. Keratinocyte formation ideally needs a pH of 6 whereas enzymes that create lipid barrier functions is best at pH 5. S. Epidermidis and P. Acnes needs to maintain a pH of 4.5.

Skin Care and pH Levels


Daily Skin Care and Beauty products usually use low pH levels of 2-4. Recent evidence shows that acne or pimples are not bacterial problems. Using skin care products with low pH means that it is killing the “good bacteria” while removing coenocyte layers and lipids. The skin will shed off a small amount of your pH when using acidic products to normally 3.5 level. This causes the stratum granulosum and stratum spinosum (lower layers of the skin) to increase barrier replacement components and lipid production.

When acidic portions of the skin are removed, the natural course of action is for the skin to adapt the pH levels of the deeper layers of the skin. Acids are normally neutralized in minutes since the skin’s next priority is to repair the stratum corneum.

Normally soaps have the capacity to change pH from 4.5 to 6.6.  Neutral soaps with pH 6.5 have basically the same or lower levels of alkalinization as alkaline soaps with pH 9.5. The immediate effect is evident but lasting effects is caused by the disruption of lipids and surface bacteria.

Alkaline and its effects

Using alkaline water with pH 8 or higher will change pH from 4.5 to 6 as water is saturated on the top layers. This is true when prolonged soap or rigorous scrubbing on the body isn’t done. Showers usually have a pH of 7 hence the combination of shower and bath soaps can normally cause dryness on the skin.

The skin needs 1-3 days to recover bacteria and lipids. Saturation from alkaline solution can last up to a few hours providing that we do not do additional stripping of the barriers.

Skin Care Products

Face products should ideally have a pH of 5 to reduce barrier disruption and at the same time improve skin sensitivity and hydration. pH 5 is also ideal for cleansers. Exfoliating and scrubbing causes pH disruption. Scrubs can increase skin pH. Toners (normally alkaline) can cause over alkalinization on skin.

Therefore, to create balance, use only skin care products with a pH level close to 5.