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What is pH balance of skin? And how do I maintain it?

How to maintain pH balance of skin

What is ‘pH balance’ with respect to my skin? How does pH help my skin? Can a disturbance in this balance contribute to premature ageing? Can external factors (e.g., pollution, water quality) disturb this balance? And what role does the humble soap play in all of this? Here's all your skin pH questions answered in plain English!

So, what exactly is pH?

pH literally stands for "potential of hydrogen". It is used to describe the acid-alkaline ratio of a substance, which ranges from 0 (the most acidic) to 14 (the most alkaline). Water is neutral and has a pH of 7.

Now what does this have to do with my skin?

The human body maintains a certain acid-alkaline balance, and any deviation brings problems - whether it’s our tummy or whether it’s our skin.

Our skin's optimum pH should be 5.5, i.e. slightly acidic. The topmost layer of our skin is an “acid mantle”. This acid mantle is our skin's safety barrier. It keeps the moisture IN and germs, infections, toxins and disease OUT. When this acidity is disturbed (i.e., the pH goes out of balance), our skin becomes prone to irritation, breakouts, blemishes, and other skin-related problems. This could also lead to premature ageing.

How does the pH balance of the skin get disturbed?

Using soap and harsh surfactants (which are alkaline in nature) is the No. 1 everyday reason for loss of pH balance. External factors like air pollution, water pollution and excessive exposure to the sun, lifestyle factors like smoking and internal factors like poor diet and insufficient water intake can also lead to a change in the skin’s pH. This in turn leads to the skin losing its ability to protect itself.

How do I get back my skin’s pH balance?

Here are some simple, everyday tips to keep the balance!

From within
  • Drink lots of water. Yes, it’s been said umpteen times, and it’s critical
  • Choose fresh food over processed food
  • Add tomatoes, apple, citrus fruits and blackberries in your diet. The minerals in these fruits help maintain the pH balance naturally
From the outside
  • Soaps are highly alkaline in nature - avoid soap. Quite a few of us love the squeaky clean feel that soap gives - that feeling is simply of your skin stripped of its natural protective layer. ‘Cleaning’ and stripping the skin of moisture and natural oils are two different things. It is best to opt for a soap-free, mild face wash (& body wash). There are plenty of options out there for every skin type.
  • Moisturise regularly. If you have oily skin, look for an oil-free hydrator.
  • Wear a sunscreen regularly.
  • Toners also help maintain skin pH. Use an alcohol-free toner or a home-based toner like rose water or diluted apple cider vinegar.
  • Choose antioxidant-rich skin care products. Look for antioxidants like Vitamins A, C, E and polyphenols (e.g., white tea, green tea) on skin care labels.
Simple, isn't it? Striving for balance has never been easy. But by maintaining basic good habits and following a disciplined approach towards skin care, we can keep our body's largest organ, the skin, in good shape - and in the right balance.
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