Further to the pH testing I do on questionable skin care products, I’ve asked a dermatology professional to help me get strictly fact based information about skincare products. Because I’m kind of obsessed with pH, considering it is so important in so many ways but especially with regard to our skin, I asked Dr Maryam Zamani to help me with my questions. And yes, Dr. Zamani takes consultations, or questions, you can find out about all of that on drmaryamzamani.com
Obviously, THE most important things to consider when you are choosing a product for your skin is pH because you’ll be putting on your skin almost every day / every day / twice a day / every few hours. I’m therefore presenting you with “What Dr Zamani Said”. From the professional source itself, Dr. Zamani should be trusted much more than me because I am just another consumer. I’m and educated consumer, but I’m not a dermatologist. Dr. Zamani is, however, a doctor and that holds weight. So I asked her, “will a skincare product of 11.95 pH cause problems with your skin?” Seeing as I have been talking a lot about a product with just such a pH, Jeunesse Instantly Ageless, and because the pH of so many skincare products tend to be much lower and closer to the average pH of our skin, this was an important question. I already knew that whatever magic potion the company labels it to be, Instantly Ageless can’t be harmless with a pH level as basic as that. And so, without further ado, here is the interview with Dr Maryam Zamani.
Anne: I understand that the average pH of healthy skin is 4.7. What ranges have you seen and would you agree that this is a good average to cite?
Dr Maryam Zamani: Variable skin pH values have been reported in the literature, all in the acidic range of 4 – 7. 4.7 is the estimated natural skin surface pH. Skin pH with less than 5.0 has better skin barrier function, moisturization and scaling. The acid pH of skin helps keep it resistant to bacterial flora while a higher pH promotes skin flora to proliferate. The higher the pH the more of the fat from the skins surface goes, and that makes it more dry.
A: What environmental factors alter the pH of skin?
MZ: Prior to cosmetic use, such as soap, the environment has a profound influence on skin pH. Similarly, tap water (Europe has a high pH of around 8.0 [A – and NYC tap water is 7.2!]) will increase the skin pH for up to 6 hours after application before returning to its normal value of 4.7. Areas with higher moisture and sebum production also have a higher pH. Sun, smoke and pollution also deteriorate the skin’s protective ‘acid mantle’ making it more alkaline. Some scientific articles have reported that skin pH is lower in darker skinned individuals when compared with white skin. Occlusion of skin increases skin pH as well.
A: How does diet affect skin pH?
MZ: There is no scientific proof yet that diet affects skin pH.
A: What steps can be taken to redress the pH balance?
MZ: Most people have the problem of having a too alkaline skin pH. This can be addressed by not smoking, decreasing UV radiation, wearing looser clothing, using less abrasive skin products, supplementing your skin care with alpha hydroxy acids (because they are generally buffered).
A: What happens if your skin pH is too acidic and what about if it is too basic?
MZ: Products with an alkaline pH [A – bigger number on the pH scale], such as things with sodium lauryl sulfate, impair the skin’s barrier function and damage cell structure so skin is dry and sensitive. This makes skin more susceptible to skin infections and flare ups of rosacea, fungal infections, acne or atopic Dermatitis. Increasing acidity [A – lowering the pH level], like with topical alpha-hydroxy acids, helps improve the skin’s barrier function and improves skin diseases.
A: What information should we look out for on the labels of our skincare products (good and bad)?
MZ: Avoid alkaline soaps! Benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, or resorcionol antibacterials should be avoided. Good – antioxidants: A,C, E help maintain acid mantle. Vitamin C has a low pH, for instance, and helps protect from environmental stresses. Good – sunscreen: defends acid mantle. Good – pH balanced skin care products.
A: What, if any, regulations are cosmetics and skin care manufacturers bound by when it comes to the pH of their products, and labelling?
MZ: Unfortunately, there is no compulsory regulation of pH labelling on cosmetics as they are not very stringently monitored.
A: What key ingredients should we avoid in our skincare products due to their high acidity or high alkalinity?
MZ: Avoid alkaline soaps, benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, propylene glycol, DEA (diethanolamine,), TEA triethanolamine, MEA monoethanolamine or resorcionol antibacterials. Mildly acidic products actually help sooth the skin, retain moisture and strengthen the skin barrier.
A: What would you have to say about a product that has pH of 11.95? Is it advisable for any reason for regular use of such a substance on your face?
MZ: These are often in baby products because neonates are born with a higher skin pH than adults. Creating an alkaline skin will decrease the barrier function of the skin, making it appear more creppy, dry and aged while also exacerbating any underlying skin conditions like rosacea or eczema. In the long term, it will actually enhance the aging process instead of trying to maintain the best skin for longer.
A big thanks to Dr. Zamani and there you have it. Using any product with pH of 11.95 will ruin your skin if you carry on using it, no matter how high the hopes for instant youth. Take care of yourselves, eat well, sleep well, help your skin with natural oils and products that are gentle on your skin, and you’ll be not just better off in the long run, you’ll actually have healthy skin.
Lots of love to your skin,