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pH Matchmaker Physicians Formula.

June 16, 2013

Ok so when I first saw this product I was pretty excited.  I am one of ‘those’ people who has skin that every now and then decides to throw a ‘let’s turn orange’ party and wreck my beauty life for a few days.  Let me explain.

I’ll wake up on some mornings, wash, moisturise and then apply my usual goop of choice and then get on with getting on.  However, a quick check back at the face before leaving the house reveals that my usual light beige face is now a flaky shade of orange.  My skin has reacted to the make-up and ruined it completely.  This orange tone is usually worse on my forehead, bridge of nose and just below the cheek bones which is enough to make me look seriously dodgy in the make-up department.  I basically have to go back to the bathroom, re-wash and spend the day either without the slap or with only a tinted moisturiser and the lightest amount of powder.  This is OK but after spending over 25 years of my life with acne on and off I am not one of those people who ‘looks good naked’…..

So, when I saw a pH matchmaker formula my immediate thought was ‘great, this would help me during my orange phase.  I need never suffer again!’ and so I purchased some – $24 ish which isn’t too bad but is more than I’d usually spend on a pressed powder to be fair. I’m a bit  stingy when it comes to my personal make-up regimen.

pH matchmaker

Anyway, it was only after the credit card was accepted that I sat back for a mo and thought  “REALLY?”

Is pH the likely cause of my dramas or is my skin telling me something else?

After delving into this in a little more depth I find that while our skin is capable of changing pH in relation to a number of stimuli – product use, environment, trauma, diet – it quickly returns to a state of homeostasis (sameness and balance) leaving the measurable pH pretty much constant (or at least statistically insignificantly changed) most of the time. The only time that the skin pH changes for a prolonged period is while still in contact with a high or low pH substance as commonly happens with nappy rash or when acidic or basic products are left on the skin too long.

The ‘normal’ pH of the skin ranges from around 4.5-5.8.

So, our skin does change pH but the changes are quite subtle and mostly stay within the above limits.

My next thought was this.  So the skin pH doesn’t change much but it can change. If the skin pH was to change slightly upon make-up application say from 4.5 to 5.8 would that be enough to ‘turn’ my make up?

It turns out that cosmetic grade pigments ARE affected by pH and can change colour when conditions change.  This colour change is a result of the pH change inducing oxidation of the pigment – a degradation process. These free radicals not only take the shine out of the colour but can also irritate the skin and in extreme cases CAUSE premature ageing – Oh My Goodness, that is NOT a selling point!  Thankfully most cosmetic manufacturers know this and add antioxidants to their blends to help quench (or stop) these reactions but the success isn’t guaranteed, especially given the complexity of some colour containing products and the differing needs of each pigment.

So if the skin pH can change and that could start to change the colour of the make-up can the make-up fight back?

The short answer is yes.

The pH Matchmaker formula contains a pH stable (in terms of oxidation) pigment called Orange 5 (CI 12075).

I found this patent by BASF, a leader in colour chemical manufacturing for the cosmetics industry (the other big one is Merck).  That patent is good because it identifies Orange 5 (which is classified as an AZO dye) as being stable to oxidation but pH responsive – it changes colour slightly from red to varying shades of orange across the pH of the skin.  However, I also found this information from the European Cosmetics Directive that lists Orange 5 as a carcinogen and an ingredient that can cause dermatitis and after checking on the COSING database found that the pigment is banned in EU cosmetics!  Hmmmmmm.

Now at this point I must say that I am slightly confused.  How can orange 5 be in a cosmetic if it is not legal to put it into a cosmetic?  Maybe I’ve got something wrong……

Next I checked on the CTFA website to see if the USA call this ‘orange 5’ another name or if there is a safer version of this orange 5 out there.

I found that there is another CAS number relating to Orange 5: CI 45370 and that is indeed an allowed colour although like all cosmetic colourants, there are restrictions surrounding its use.  CI 45370 is Orange 5 in the USA. As Physicians formula is a USA brand this makes more sense – they aren’t trying to kill us after all!  Orange 5 is even allowed in mouthwash in the USA so it can’t be that bad! 

A quick search of google scholar uncovers lots of patents for colour cosmetics using this version of the Orange 5 so we are on the right track and I do find that this colour does change slightly across the skin-friendly pH.  Indeed that is why this pigment is used – colour changing cosmetics are the ‘next big thing’ after all!

So, after that ‘google’ merry-go-round will this product actually work?

Yes and no.

Yes the product can and does change colour subtly to blend into your skin tone – more or less yellowish really it can’t do much more than that.

The ‘magic’ orange 5 is the main fancy ingredient but I wouldn’t be surprised if the mica or other colourants weren’t also light reflecting and ‘perfecting’ to one degree or another too.

No because what I also found with my research was that the colour change on the skin that I experience from time to time is most likely to be due to a reaction between my acid mantle trying to recover the skin barrier function at the same time I applied my make-up and while that is to do with pH it has more to do with the fats and oils that are being pumped out to re-build my dry skin than the acidity or otherwise of the surface.   I am one of those ‘dry yet greasy’ people who can sometimes over-wash their skin and end up with the skin launching a mega fight back to regain homeostasis.  While the pH doesn’t swing like a pendulum my oil production does and those oils can send a foundation (liquid or powder) slightly rancid – speeding up oxidation.  I believe (although I only have bits of evidence for this) that is what is happening to my skin – the foundation is ‘turning’ rancid quicker due to my abundance of fatty acids that are pumped out to re-build my freshly washed (and over-dried) epidermis.

The answer for me it would seem is to wash with a very mild soap replacement product, moisturise with a ‘neutral’ moisturiser and then leave for at least 1/2 hour before applying make-up to give my skin time to re-calibrate and settle down.

Applying my pH matchmaker as a final step to beautification would then make some sense.

Full Ingredient List: Talc, Zea Mays (corn starch), Zinc Stearate, Dimethicone, Zeolite, Dimethiconol, Sorbic Acid. May Contain: Iron oxides, mica, orange-5, titanium dioxide.



PS: I was surprised as how glittery this product is.  It is great for night but I find this powdered bronzer a little too ‘bling’ for every-day wear.  Still, I’ll definitely be rocking it around town when I go out to party (If I ever get off this computer :))

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