Skip to content

Quick Tip: Skin pH – What is it and why does it matter?

March 9, 2009

You may well have seen products that claim to be “pH balanced” or “Neutral” or “restored pH balance” but have you ever wondered what that term means? pH  (potential for hydrogen) is the scale used to work out if a chemical (or mix) is likely to be a hydrogen donor – ACID or a hydrogen acceptor – BASE. Great! Now what?????

What is the natural pH of the skin?

Well, a group of scientists (some from the German Society for Scientific and Applied Cosmetics and others from industry and the Skin Investigation and Technology Institute) investigated this and published their results in the IFSCC Magazine, Vol 10 no 2 2007. IFSCC is the International Federation of Societies of Cosmetic Chemists.

Their study showed that skin pH varies. They measured using a pH meter placed on the skin over a period of time, taking three measurements each time and using the skin on the forearm.

They found that for a product to be “skin friendly” it should have a pH of 4.1-5.8.

Isn’t that a bit acid?

Yes it is. A pH of less than 7 is acid and more than 7 is alkali. The scale goes up to 12! Acid values of less than 3 would irritate most skins and alkali of over 8 would do the same. Some products are formulated to be acidic so that they do irritate the top layer which then peels off – Acid Peels, AHA’s (alpha hydroxy acids) etc.

The skin is acid for a good reason. The acid mantle acts as the first line of defence against bacteria and other bugs.

Is the skin acid all over?

Well, some parts are more so than others. The skin under the arm and the skin in the groin area has a different pH and so wasn’t tested in the above study.

Should I look out for pH balanced products?

If you have very sensitive skin it may be best for you to look for products that are in tune with the skin’s natural pH and it would also be wise to avoid or limit exposure to acid peels or peroxide containing skin bleaching products.

How can I measure a products pH?

You can get pH paper or Litmus paper from science shops or online. It is very cheap and it comes in a booklet with little strips that you can tear off and dip into the product. The paper won’t tell you the products pH but it will change colour in acid or alkali formulations and will stay the same if the solution is neutral.  We would be looking out for the products to be a little on the acid side.

The drawback of litmus paper is that it doesn’t tell you how acid a product is. What you should look out for is a very slight tinge of pink on the blue litmus paper and no change on the red.

So what happens when my skin pH  is out of balance?

Your skin needs to be slightly acid for it to do its job. When you wash the skin you strip away the protective barrier to some degree meaning that the skin has to re-protect its self. Healthy skin can sort its self out quite quickly but if your skin is sensitive, dry or otherwise compromised you can end up with problems.  Skin pH is influenced by the whole body so as with all health and beauty tips – skin care starts on the inside!

If you would like to receive more cosmetic news and tips into your inbox please Join the Realize Beauty Panel. We look forward to getting to know you more.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. March 22, 2009 3:29 am

    thank you for all the info. i have struggled with skin issues for a long time.

  2. March 22, 2009 3:30 am

    great information. i did not know all this untili read your blog.

  3. RaiulBaztepo permalink
    March 29, 2009 10:58 pm

    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  4. PiterKokoniz permalink
    April 8, 2009 3:54 pm

    Hi !!!! 😉
    I am Piter Kokoniz. oOnly want to tell, that your blog is really cool
    And want to ask you: will you continue to post in this blog in future?
    Sorry for my bad english:)
    Thank you!
    Piter Kokoniz, from Latvia

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      April 9, 2009 12:19 am

      Dear Piter,
      Thanks for the comment. Yes the plan is to keep blogging! Feel free to sign up to the newsletter for the inside news.

  5. June 20, 2009 8:04 pm

    Beauty Tips,Hair Care,Nail Care

  6. June 21, 2009 12:30 am

    Nice mark out of things – Interesting – one could think this way also . Thanks for the post

  7. June 12, 2010 1:39 am

    You made some good points on this topic.

  8. pervez permalink
    November 27, 2010 3:48 am

    Can a fabric be like litmus paper? So that it changes colour when it comes in contact with skin say over an hour or two of contact?

  9. shafaq ahmed permalink
    September 20, 2012 9:53 pm

    I would like to know more about ph

  10. Tracy permalink
    October 23, 2012 5:17 am

    Can you alter your skin pH by ingesting something? Like apple cider vinegar ? And is turmeric acidy?

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      October 23, 2012 11:31 am

      Hi Tracy,
      I am not sure of the specifics and if the effect is long-term or temporary but have read that what we eat does affect our skin pH. Keep in mind that our body is 70% water and the bigger we are the more litres that 70% amounts to so a cup of apple cider vinegar in a dehydrated person weighing 50Kg is going to have markedly more impact on their homeostasis than if a well hydrated 100Kg person drank the same. I would imaging that the greater the stress on our body to maintain an optimum pH, the worse the skin condition becomes although some people may maintain great skin and sacrifice some other bodily function. I guess it depends on an individuals constitution. I doubt that helped but it did make me think!

  11. April 18, 2013 11:45 pm

    First off I would like to say great blog! I had a quick question
    in which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.
    I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your
    head before writing. I have had a hard time clearing my
    mind in getting my thoughts out. I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems
    like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually lost simply just
    trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or hints?
    Thank you!

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      April 20, 2013 4:41 am

      Hi there,
      Thanks for the compliment! To be honest my writing is like a feast or famin. I have times when I just can’t stop writing and other times when I can’t string two words together. The key, I think is to just go with it. Writing is a creative process like any art and people will notice if you force it. Obviously if it is your job you have to hae some discipline around the process which includes research time, writing and editing. I write commercially as well as this blog so sometimes my commercial work is all I can do, I don’t beat myself up about that though, there’s no point as self-critisism does hamper creativity. Good luck

  12. February 24, 2014 4:41 am

    I’m amazed, I must say. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s
    both equally educative and entertaining, and without a doubt, you’ve hit the nail on the head.
    The issue is an issue that too few people are speaking intelligently about.

    Now i’m very happy I found this in my search for something relating to


  1. Quick Tip: Skin pH - What is it and why does it matter? « Realize … | Lighter Skin Direct
  2. Quick Tip: Skin pH - What is it and why does it matter? « Realize … | Lighter Skin Direct
  3. What does a pH-Balanced Skin really mean? | Beautifly

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: