I did a fun experiment over the weekend, trying to determine the actual pH level of some of my skincare products using pH test strips. pH is a chemist’s term meaning “Potential of Hydrogen” and refers to the degree of acidity or alkalinity in our outer skin layers. It is measured on a scale ranging from 0 to 14 where the center of the scale (7) is neutral and a reading below 7 indicates that the substance being measured is acidic and above 7 is alkaline. Ideally, our skincare should have a balance pH level of 5.5 so as not to alter the skin’s natural protective capabilities as normal skin pH is said to be somewhat acidic and in the range of 4.2. to 5.6.
I wrote about why it’s important to maintain a balance pH level on our skin back in 2008 and mentioned that a high pH level can cause our skin’s acid mantle to break down, while low levels of acid can cause our skin to become over drying. Moreover, pH imbalance is widely known to be the most critical cause of acne. Hence, maintaining the skin pH at the natural pH no greater than 5.5 is vital to prevent acne, infection, irritation and more importantly, slows down skin aging.
What causes pH to become imbalance?
Environmental stress like UV rays and pollution as well as changes in diet and hormones can cause the acid mantle to break down and make our skin more alkaline. You may also like to know that each time you wash your skin, the balance of acidity in our skin is distorted due to the alkaline in water and the cleanser and it can take half an hour or longer for the normal pH level to be restored. And the bad news for older skin is that it can take up to 8 hours to regain its acidity.
Anyway, I did some test on my facial cleanser and was glad to find out that it is about 5 to 5.5. So are my shampoos and some of the body cleansers in our home. But as many of you know, commercial cleansers are very alkaline, which also changes the skin’s pH to alkaline levels on the skin surface. This is very harsh on the skin, and can lead to increased irritation, acne, moisture loss, skin aging etc. With the damage to the acid mantle, bacteria can grow and multiply. I ran a test on a bottle of Lux we have at home and found out that its pH level is the same as the laundry detergent! Good grief!
The pH level of two toners I use – one is Hada Labo Moisturizing Lotion and the other is Marie Veronique Organics Anti-Aging Mist – seems to have a pH level of about 5.5 or 6.
Where to get the pH test strips
For those who are interested to test, you can get pH test paper strips from the bigger pharmacies. I bought mine from Guardian at Suntec City for about S$15 and the box contains 200 strips. I’m not sure if I will bring one along to test when I purchase products but because the strips are so small, it’s a possibility! Anyway, the strips test pH levels from 1 to 11 only, but I think it’s good enough as I doubt anyone wants to buy anything with a high pH level!