Why Your Skin’s pH Matters

When it comes to choosing the right skincare products, the pH of the formula is an important consideration. pH can affect everything from shelf-life to bacteria growth and, ultimately, the effectiveness of that particular product. Read on to learn more about what pH is and why it is so important to the health and appearance of your skin and the efficacy of your skincare products.

What Is pH?

The pH of a substance or formula refers to its concentration of hydrogen ions. The higher the pH, the lower the concentration of hydrogen ions, and the lower the pH, the higher the concentration. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, where 0 indicates a very low, and therefore extremely acidic pH, and 14 is the highest or most alkaline pH. The exact middle of the scale, at 7, is completely neutral. This is where water exists on the pH scale. Battery acid is an example of a substance with a very low pH, and bleach has a very high pH (Elmhurst College).

It’s important to note that even though the pH scale runs from 0 to 14, it is logarithmic, meaning that each pH value is ten times the value of the surrounding numbers. For example, something that has a pH of 6 is ten times more acidic than water, which has a pH of 7. Something with a pH of 5, then, would be 100 times more acidic than water, and so on. Thus, even a seemingly small difference in pH can have a very large impact, especially when it comes to the delicate balance of your skin’s pH.

The pH of Your Skin

The average pH of human skin is 4.7. As you can see, this means that your skin is actually slightly acidic, as it is below 7 on the scale (International Journal of Cosmetic Science). Therefore, when you use skincare products, you need to be careful not to disrupt this natural pH. Using products that are too alkaline, such as baking soda, can cause your skin to become overly dry and flaky. On the other hand, you can also experience adverse effects when using products with very low pH values. This is why applying pure lemon juice to your skin can result in stinging and burning sensations, as lemon juice has a pH of around 2.

Skincare Formulations and pH

In addition to maintaining a balanced pH for your skin, you also need to pay attention to the pH of the products that you put on it in order to choose the most effective formulas. Vitamin C serums are a great example of a product that can greatly vary in effectiveness, depending on the pH of its formulation. In order to be effective on your skin, topical vitamin C products need to be a pH of 2 or 2.5. However, because this is on the acidic side of the scale, people with sensitive or reactive skin might notice stinging when applying vitamin C serums (Miami Herald).

For this reason, be sure to choose a vitamin C serum that is appropriate for your specific skin type. SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic is an example of a properly formulated vitamin C serum, but this product is best for OSNW, ORPW, ORNW, DRPW, and DRNW skin types. Take a look at the various vitamin C serums available on to find one that matches your skin type to help you reap the benefits of this powerful antioxidant without damaging your skin.

In Summary

The pH of your skincare products can play a major role in not only their effectiveness but also how well they interact with your skin. If you’re unsure about the pH of a particular product or whether or not it is right for your skin type, consult your dermatologist. He or she can provide an accurate assessment of your skin type and recommend the most appropriate products to help you achieve the clear, healthy-looking complexion you want.

Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D. and her team at Baumann Cosmetic Dermatology believe in proof, not promises. World-recognized for both cosmetic and general dermatology, our treatment strategies rely exclusively on evidence-based, scientifically verified products and procedures that promote skin health and a natural appearance. We combine effective medical procedures with individualized instruction on proper skincare, nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle in order to maximize the health of the skin and body as a whole while minimizing the effects of aging. For more, visit Dr. Baumann’s blog for daily updates Monday through Friday, or inquire about an appointment through

September 8, 2017 Skin Type, Skincare