By: Susan Tomback
VP of Sales and Marketing
We’ve all heard the phrase “pH balanced,” but what does that mean to us in the world of skincare? Potential of hydrogen, or pH, measures the amount of acidity or alkalinity in a substance, and since our bodies are composed of over 70% water, this is an important element to watch. Though the general rule is that maintaining a slightly alkaline environment in the body helps to prevent disease, as bacteria and viruses, even malignant cells, cannot survive in an alkaline environment (drink your Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar, people!), the opposite is true for the skin.
The body’s ideal pH is around 7.4 (slightly alkaline on the 0-14 pH scale); however, the skin’s pH usually hovers between 4.2- 5.6, more on the acidic side, as our skin is mostly comprised of the acidic compound: protein.
Our bodies have brilliant, self-regulating mechanisms in place to maintain this balance between the gatekeeper that is the skin and the constant external attacks from the outside. Enter: The Acid Mantle, the protein-rich, acidic blockade comprised of sebum (that lovely excretion that comes out of a popped blemish, if you’ve had a white or blackhead) and perspiration to regulate the acidic levels of the skin. Without these protein packed chemicals, we would hardly be able to contain ourselves – literally!
Let’s go back to high school biology where we learned that amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Keratin, the protein comprised of 18 important amino acids, is a very high maintenance protein – it must remain at an acidic level to maintain its cross-linking strength. The majority of keratin is comprised of the amino acid cystine, the hero character responsible for the strong protein bonds and tight, fit skin. As keratin becomes more alkaline, cystine and the protein bonds (the not-so-popular Doo-Wop group of the ‘50s) become less and less effective, creating more of an opportunity for bacteria, allergens, and other villains to penetrate the skin’s surface…and the blocks come a-tumblin’ down (enter: pimples and wrinkles, stage left).
So, the first step in maintaining an ideal skin pH, lest we upset the delicate balance, is to use a cleanser that is detergent-free with an intrinsically low pH level. Lowering the pH of the skin during the cleansing process can actually prepare your skin to receive the benefits of whatever Act II is in your skin care regimen; many serums and moisturizers cannot be fully welcomed into the lower dermis layers while your pH is out of whack (that’s an industry term). So, in the interest of time, it’s best to use a cleanser with a lower pH right from the get-go. Cleansers from brands such as Actifirm, Sircuit Cosmeceuticals, Obaje, and SkinCeuticals (most of these brands can be found in our wellness boutiques!) have pumped big dollars into R&D to bring us the most effective cleansers on the market.
You can play the hero(ine)in your own skin’s balancing act; assicystine (get it?!) your skin on its self-regulating journey towards a joyous cellular renewal exode of its own.