Healthy Skin: The Importance of pH Balanced Skin Care

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Many of us are familar with the term "pH balanced," when it comes to skin care. But do we even really know what it means? Sometimes we can find this term on a product label or package. But are the skin care companies giving us all the information we need? It is not unreasonable that the consumer be given this critical information before making a purchase.

I am not suggesting that skin care companies are being deceptive, but it is interesting to note that out of the thousands of products out there, how many actually tell us what the actual pH level is? The next time you find yourself looking at skin care products in your local store, see if you can find this information somewhere on the product packaging. If provided, it would read something like, "pH balanced at 5.5." Here you are looking for an actual numeric value; a real number.

First, we need to understand what pH refers to and why pH balanced skin care products are critical to the health and beauty of your skin. The term pH (power of hydrogen) refers to how acidic or alkaline a substance is. The pH scale ranges from 1-14. A pH of 7.0 is considered neutral (water is neutral) and anything over a pH of 7.0 is alkaline.

Healthy skin has a slightly acidic pH in the range of 4.5-6.0. This is referred to as the acid mantle. The acid mantle is a film on the surface of the skin consisting of sweat, sebum and amino acids. The acid mantle has a critical purpose; A slightly acidic environment can fight off bacteria, fungus and pollutants. The acid mantle can also be negatively affected by stress and hormonal changes, causing it to break down. As a result, the skin's pH can become more alkaline.

When the skin becomes too alkaline, it not only can become dry and irritated, but also loses its ability to fight off bacteria which can lead to blemishes and breakouts (pH imbalance may be a major contributing factor in acne). Alkaline products should be avoided, or minimized. Most commercial cleansers are very alkaline, with a pH of 8.0 or more (particularly foaming cleansers). Most soaps have a pH of 9.0- 11.

Conversely, using products that are overly acidic (such as strong glycolic peels) may also damage the pH of the skin, causing excessive redness, dryness, irritation and vulnerability to the sun. Using gentle exfoliating products which effectively slough off dead skin cells without damaging your skin will help keep it healthy, smooth and radiant.

Always choose skin care products that have a pH close to that of your own skin (alpha hydroxy products must have a lower pH in order to exfoliate). As a result, you will feel more confident that the products you use will not disrupt the skin's protective acid mantle.

Avoid potentially toxic ingredients which are used as pH adjusters. Triethanolamine (TEA) is commonly used in many products for this purpose. It may be contaminated with nitrosamines which have been associated with cancer.

Learn as much as you can about the products you use on your face and body. Arm yourself with as much information as possible. A well informed consumer always has the best advantage.

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