pH In Skin Care: How Your Products Could Be Hurting Your Skin

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Playing pH In Skincare Products Explained | Dr. Whitney Bowe
pH In Skincare Products Explained | Dr. Whitney Bowe Aired January 09, 2020

When it comes to choosing skincare products, there is so much (read: TOO much) to think about. And now you have to pay attention to the pH level, too?! (Sigh.)

Don't fret, though. Leading NYC dermatologist and the author of The Beauty Of Dirty Skin, Dr. Whitney Bowe, is breaking it all down. 

"pH stands for potential of hydrogen," Dr. Whitney explains, "and it has to do with how acidic or basic something is."

"Another word for basic is alkaline. And you've probably heard of people drinking alkaline water or eating alkaline diets," she continues. "Those are hot right now, but when it comes to the skin, it is the opposite. The skin does not like being alkaline. The skin likes to be slightly acidic." 

Let's look at a pH scale for reference:

ph scale
Rachael Ray Show

So, where does the skin like to be? "The skin likes to be slightly acidic," the derm says. "The skin likes to be at about a 4.5 to 5.5." 

"When the skin is in that zone," she goes on, "it's able to trap in moisture, fight off infection, control inflammation [and] slow down the signs of aging."

Now, the question is — can we control the pH level of our skin? 

"As we mature, our skin pH starts to actually climb into the alkaline range," Dr. Whitney explains. "You can use your products to bring it back, [but] sometimes products are hurting the pH of your skin." 

Scary, we know. But the good news is you can buy pH strips (for as little as $4, the derm says) and test the levels of your skincare products right at home. (Watch the video above to see the pH level of one viewer's soap. Yikes!)

The even BETTER news is that skincare brands are starting to list pH levels right on labels. "They're going to be doing the work for you," Dr. Whitney says. Music to our ears!

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