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pH in skincare - is it important?

pH in skincare - is it important?
"pH balanced" - it's such a common marketing claim used in skincare.
We've been trained to look at this marketing message and instantly give that product a tick of approval. But is using a pH balanced skincare product actually the best thing to be using? And why is pH important when it comes to skincare?

What is pH?

To set the scene, most of you will probably remember the pH scale - taught to you probably in high school chemistry - where a pH of 7 is neutral and anything above that level is considered alkaline and anything below is considered acidic. So a pH of 1 is extremely acidic and a pH of 14 is extremely alkaline.
pH actually stands for "potential of Hydrogen" and to have a pH in the first place, the substance must be water-based - something like avocado oil doesn't have a pH because it is not an aqueous solution.
Water unsurprisingly has a pH of 7. Lemon juice, two. Bleach, 13. Our soaps register a pH between 8 and 10.

What is the best pH then for skin?

Now this is where is gets interesting and where I hope I can convince you that pH neutral isn't necessarily the best thing to be using.
Our skin is naturally acidic. It actually has a protective acid mantle that usually sits at a pH of 5.5. This pH allows the skin to be protected from harmful bacteria and other pathogens.
Given the acidic make-up of our skin mantle, intuitively you'd think that it would be a bad thing to be using something alkaline on your skin. And that would be the case if you were leaving an alkaline product on your skin for hours at a time.
But the thing with soap is when you use it, you are always using it with water. The short amount of time that you are using the soap on your skin and the fact that you are using it with water means when cleansing your skin with our soaps, you are doing very, very little to disrupt the pH of your skin. In fact, there's a study that compared infants that were washed with just water with others that were washed with a natural soap. The pH rise was 1.2 points compared to 1.1 for those just washed with water. Using a natural soap does little to the pH of your skin but what a good quality natural soap does is it ensures that your skin mantle is working the best it can by ensuring it remains clean and hydrated.

pH balanced?

Despite the evidence, many beauty brands would like you to believe that a pH neutral or acidic product is a superior choice for cleansing the skin. The problem is that anything but natural soap usually contains synthetic surfactants that "clean" by stripping your skin of its natural oils, such as any type of sulphate. By stripping your natural oils, a surfactant can irritate your skin because it's so disrupting to the natural flora of your skin. These sort of products can be further irritating with the addition of artificial fragrances or perfumes.
There's a whole another blog for us to explain fully how our soaps clean as opposed to detergents (It'll be the next one I write - I promise) because it does take a bit of explaining and it's also absolutely fascinating. But for now, let's just say that all our soaps only use pure natural plant oils that mimic your skin's own natural oils. And we make our soaps using our own unique slow-set process that ensures that the integrity of these oils are preserved in the final product. Quite simply, you get the best of both worlds - a superior cleanser that cleans the skin without disrupting its natural make-up that also uses nourishing plant oils.
So the next time you see a beauty product touting itself as "pH balanced", we'd recommend seeking out the ingredients list for that product because that's what's most important.
Soapy hugs. Emma x
Emma