In all things, balance is necessary. In the wild, adaptation and evolution counters competition. At sea, the upthrust from water below keeps the heavy boats afloat. Balance is everywhere in nature, and humans are no exception to the natural world’s search for stability.
The human body works best when its systems are well-balanced. Healthy practices maintain the body’s balanced production of hormones and enzymes that allow it to function continuously.
The body has inherent detection systems that check if things are working fine and signal when they aren’t. Among these natural meters, you may have heard of the “pH level,” most probably through skincare products.
In skincare chemistry, there is a system of accuracy maintained in leveling pH contents. It can either result in the worst moisturizing cream or the best face toner formula. But how exactly?
What Does pH Stand for?
The term “pH” is short for the “potential of hydrogen” and indicates the concentration of hydrogen ions in a liquid substance. High concentrations of hydrogen ions result in a low pH (acidic substance), whereas low concentrations lead to a high pH (basic substance). The pH scale from one to 14 determines the acidity or basicity in common solutions, such as lemon juice and gastric acid.
For the most part, the body operates within 7.2 to 7.6 on the pH scale. Outside this range, the organs could malfunction, down to the cellular level.
But as for the skin in particular, it is naturally quite acidic. The International Journal of Cosmetic Science previously reported that the average skin surface pH is below 5, on average.
Acid Is Good for the Skin
The study further reported that skin with pH values below 5 are in better condition than those above the number. Data was collected by measuring moisturization and scaling among respondents. The study also tested pH values on the adhesion of skin microflora or the microorganisms that protect the host from pathogenic bacteria, which are the dangerous ones.
Acidic levels (4 to 4.5) were found to keep the microflora or natural bacteria attached to the skin, while alkaline levels (8 to 9) disperse them.
How Skincare Affects pH Levels
The skin’s pH levels are mostly self-correcting. So the good news is that you don’t have to do anything to “correct” an imbalanced pH level in your skin.
But you can mess this corrective system up by applying products that are too harsh on either end of the scale—either too acidic or too basic. The neutral level is 7.0, the most acidic level is 0, and the most basic level is 14.
Layering Different Products: Does It Affect the Effectivity?
The simple answer is no. People often wonder if you really have to wait more than 10 minutes to apply the next product in your skincare routine. Since these products differ in pH levels, they may affect each other’s absorption into the skin. Well, not necessarily.
Aside from the lack of evidence and data supporting this myth, skincare chemists have already put the issue into consideration. Most products have ingredients that establish a product’s pH range to keep it contained even when another substance is applied. Once the pH range of the product is absorbed and established, applying another on top of it will be fine.
Following the Ideal Order Might Help
Nonetheless, if you want to make the most out of every product, some dermatologists recommend an ideal order for skincare products. Generally, the order goes as follows:
- Hydrating creams or moisturizers
- Sunscreen (in the morning)
Cleansers provide deep cleansing to prepare your pores. Toner then further removes traces of dirt. Traditionally, toners were specially formulated for acne-prone skin because it removes excess oil on the skin. But new formulations are milder and still remove dirt while providing replenishment for the skin after undergoing a deep cleanse.
Cleansers are usually alkaline to balance out oily skin that is too acidic. But they cause dryness. Applying the toner rebalances the skin back to the normal acidic level it should have. Toners are commonly neutral or mildly acidic, within the 5 to 7 level range.
Toners rehydrate the skin after cleansers dry it out. And with proper hydration, the skin can now better absorb other reformative products you’ll use, such as moisturizers and anti-aging serums.
What a Balanced pH Level Can’t Do for You
An optimal pH level makes the skin a great canvas to work with. But it is not a quick solution to patch over acne and scars. It is the ideal place to start. Nonetheless, it is equally important to couple it with proper diet and exercise.