It has been said, after all, that life is about balance. The highs and the lows, the yins and the yangs, the gins and the tonics, the acids and the bases. The acids and the bases? Isn’t that something you learned about in chemistry? Ph (or potential of hydrogen) balance is the measure of the acidity and alkalinity of a fluid, and we have lots of fluids in our bodies that we need to keep balanced in order to keep looking and feeling our best. The fluid in our skin is no exception.
PH in the Skin
PH plays an important role in the acid mantle of the skin. The acid mantle functions as a barrier for the skin, keeping moisture in, and pollution and bacteria out. The acid mantle is strongest, and most balanced when the skin is slightly acidic, at a pH of about 5.5. New York dermatologist Howard Sobel says, “You need some acidity to inhibit bacterial growth on the skin, which is why skin that’s too alkaline may, for example, be susceptible to acne.”
In addition to acne inflammation, alkalinity may also be responsible for aging. According to a study published in the “British Journal of Dermatology,” women with an alkaline pH level developed more crow’s feet and fine lines over an eight-year period than women with more acidic levels. Sobel says, “Skin with a balanced pH appears healthier, is slightly moist, looks plumper, and has a healthy glow.” Alkaline skin, he says, “may be acne-prone, dry or excessively oily.”
Addressing Excessive Alkalinity
Most experts agree that swapping soap for cleanser is one of the first steps in decreasing alkalinity. Sobel also notes that there are “several effective treatments that can help the skin be more acidic, such as glycol peels which have an exfoliating effect. “
Although many experts argue that the food you eat does not affect the alkalinity or acidity of the skin, others claim that there is a connection. Microbiologist Robert O. Young says that green vegetables can aid digestion, boost immunity and improve skin. He also cautions against meat, sugar, dairy, alcohol, caffeine and sweet fruits, which he claims turn alkaline when metabolized.
Dermatologist Jeannette Graf, MD, recommends alkalizing “cocktails” containing super foods mixed with fiber, along with a high fruit and vegetable intake. However, she does not rule out the occasional meat or dairy product. She says, “It’s human; you’re probably going to drink coffee and alcohol too, and that’s okay, you just have to balance it all out.”
Other Graf recommendations are her vegetable based cleanses. “Even if you have only one day when you’re doing nothing but drinking juice and lots of water, your pH will go up. If you take mineral supplements and eat salads every day, your pH will go up.” Saliva pH-testing strips are available in drug stores to check that your levels remain at a healthy 7 – 7.5, but the doctor says, “Your barometer should just be feeling and looking good.”
Let us know if keeping a pH balance is helping your skin! What are you doing to keep your skin healthy and glowing? We love to hear it!