Acne, dryness and wrinkles, oh my! Ever wonder what causes our skin to misbehave even with the use of high-end skincare?
Just like our lives, our skin requires a certain balance to function properly. When the acid mantle (the top layer of the epidermis) is disturbed, our pH level changes, which can cause skin conditions such as dermatitis, eczema, and rosacea. Our skin is naturally designed to fight infection and environmental stresses, and its ability to do so is affected by its pH level.
If you don’t remember from that high school chem class, pH stands for “Potential Hydrogen.” pH works on a scale of 1-14, 1 being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline. Our skin’s pH is naturally balanced between 4.5-6.5. A pH of 7 is considered neutral.
When skin is too alkaline it tends to become dry and sensitive and can cause wrinkles. Studies have shown that women with more alkaline skin experience a greater number of fine lines and crow’s feet than those with a more acidic balance. However, when skin is too acidic it can cause acne and unwarranted breakouts.
So, how does your skin’s pH balance get thrown off? Imbalance occurs when using the wrong skin care products and even by eating the wrong foods. Everything that comes in contact with our skin (products, smoking, air, water, sun, pollution) can contribute to the breaking down of the acid mantle, disrupting the skin's ability to protect itself. As we age, the amount of oil or sebum naturally produced by our skin decreases. Ingredients such as alpha hydroxy acids, retinoic acid, beta hydroxy acids and amino fruit acids, if not used properly, can weaken the skin's natural defenses to bacterial infection and environmental damage.
What can you do to help balance your pH?
Many cleansers and shampoos are now avoiding the use of sodium laureth sulfate, which has an approximate alkaline pH level of 10 and can be very drying and irritating to the skin.
Our advice is to select mild cleansers and toners that are slightly acidic (close to 5). This will benefit all skin types in properly maintaining the acid mantle. Topical antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, E, and green tea are important in maintaining the acid mantle in two ways. First, they strengthen cells so they can function at the highest level and second, they protect the cells from environmental stresses and oxidation. Oils that work particularly well with the skin's natural oil secretions include jojoba, coconut, argan and olive oils.
Using sunscreen on a daily basis defends the acid mantle by shielding the skin cells from sun damage and increases the skin's ability to protect itself. We have selected some of our favorites to help get you on the right track.
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