Why You Should Say Goodbye To Your Face Cleanser Unless…

Why You Should Say Goodbye To Your Face Cleanser Unless... 1
Did you know that our skin pH is acidic and that common skincare products disrupt this physiological pH?
pH is a scale used to measure how acidic or basic something is. Neutral pH is referenced as pH 7. Below pH 7 environment is said to be acidic, and above pH 7 it is basic (aka alkaline).
The natural, physiologic pH of the skin surface is slightly acidic ranging between pH 4.2 and 6.1. When we apply soap or foamy cleansers designed at removal of dirt, we are raising skin’s pH making it more basic. This strips off not only dirt, but also natural oils and friendly, beneficial bacteria which together act as vital protectors of our skin. A healthy skin barrier prevents entry of harmful bacteria and pollution into our skin as well as prevents water loss from the skin (aka transepidermal water loss).
What happens to the skin surface when cleansers are applied?

Ok, so you have your handy cleanser that you hope does a great job at cleansing the skin, but let’s take a closer look at what it actually does to the skin surface.

  • Skin surface pH goes up by +3 units (even washing the skin with tap water can increase skin surface pH up to +1.0 unit)
  • pH recovery requires several hours (as long as 12 hours!)
  • Increase in pH reduces natural protective function of epidermal barrier
  • Negative effects on skin microflora which reduce natural antimicrobial defence mechanisms due to increase in pH

Ref: Blaak, J., & Staib, P. (2018). The Relation of pH and Skin Cleansing. Current problems in dermatology, 54, 132–142. https://doi.org/10.1159/000489527   

Repetitive use of cleansers with neutral or basic pH results in skin irritation, dryness, roughness, scaling, tightness, inflammation and itch. In addition, excessive drying of the skin with cleansers makes the skin prone to premature ageing by stripping the skin off of its natural oils and beneficial bacteria. Cleansing molecules interact with proteins in our skin (keratin, enzymes) and change their structure, which plays a role in skin barrier damage.

Signs of skin’s pH being out of Balance

When people complain that their skin is too red, too dry, too itchy, too flaky, too oily- too anything- it’s potentially because the ideal balance of the skin is off, and the pH is shifted, creating a cascade of inflammatory factors and unevenness in the natural flora. A pH that is too alkaline causes drying and decreased hydration of skin, leading to eczema flares and potentially highlighting signs of aging ( like fine lines, wrinkles). While skin ranging too far low on the acidic pH spectrum creates redness and inflammation. Any deviation prevents skin from looking, feeling and performing it’s best.

Full interview at Dermstore. More on Schweiger Dermatology and Dr. Rachel Nazarian, MD

Over more than 120 years ago the acidic nature of the skin surface was discovered, and later in 1928 established as the “acid mantle” by Schade and Marchionini. Just over 10 years ago, 2 research groups have established the physiological skin surface pH as just below pH 5. Since then, three epidermal barrier functions have been found to be related to acidification of skin: restoration, regeneration and integrity.
Skin restoration and regeneration is directly dependent on the acidic skin surface which allows for restorative enzymes to function optimally. Recovery of the skin surface is delayed by as long as 12 hours after repetitive application of neutral or basic skin cleansers, interfering with natural restorative and regenerative processes of the skin. In addition, harmful bacteria Propionibacterium acnes that causes acne has been found to flourish in neutral and basic environments but is inhibited by acidic pH (below pH 5.5). Not surprising then that combating acne is so difficult as majority of the products available on the market are not formulated to our physiological skin pH. Changes in physiologic skin pH also contribute to the development of skin conditions such as eczema, atopic dermatitis, sensitive skin (among many others). It becomes clear that acidic pH is crucial to maintain healthy and beautiful skin, and that careful attention should be paid to the choice of skincare products for everyday use.

Acidic nature of the skin discovered over 120 years ago! Discovery of pH of the skin was not until just over 10 years ago

Using skincare products adjusted for the right acidity is especially important for the ageing skin

As the skin ages, pH of the skin increases and the epidermal barrier function decreases. Using skincare products adjusted for the right acidic pH is especially important for the ageing skin. Recent study published by the Journal of Dermatology examined the effects of using acidic pH skincare products in visibly aged skin. Skincare formulated to have pH 4 and 5.8 was used for 4 weeks by those whose skin showed signs of ageing. After the treatment, the skin was challenged to a chemical designed to test the skin barrier. Skincare with more acidic pH of 4 resulted in improved skin hydration, skin barrier, lipid structure and levels. The study concluded that acidic skincare is beneficial for the ageing skin, and improves moisture, regeneration, lipid structure and content. 

Kilic, A., Masur, C., Reich, H., Knie, U., Dähnhardt, D., Dähnhardt-Pfeiffer, S., & Abels, C. (2019). Skin acidification with a water-in-oil emulsion (pH 4) restores disrupted epidermal barrier and improves structure of lipid lamellae in the elderly. The Journal of dermatology, 46(6), 457–465. https://doi.org/10.1111/1346-8138.14891

Are your favourite skincare products pH balanced?

As you can see, there’s much more to skincare products than just mixing all the ingredients into a cream formulation or a cleanser. pH balanced skincare is a new and exciting area of research that we will definitely be reading and hearing more about, with more pH balanced skincare options also available on the market in the near future. As a matter of fact, Victoria, founder of Vita Epidermology Center was very fortunate to have met a French beauty guru Joelle Ciocco, who is a pioneering natural facialist and natural skincare formulator. Joelle Ciocco has known the importance of pH-balanced cleansing and skincare long before it started to gain recognition. For more than 40 years she has been working with plant-based, pH balanced skincare, creating it in her own laboratory with high potency ingredients. She has been transforming her client’s skin into healthy, glowing and radiant by supporting the skin barrier and microbiomeCheck out her sensitive skin friendly, plant-based, pH balanced cleansers.

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