Introduced by K-beauty brands, the concept of Low pH skincare has been steadily growing in popularity. Whether you’re already a fan or you’re still wondering if you should try it out, here are some of the most important facts to consider.
What is pH?
First, a very short chemistry lesson J The two letters in “pH” refer to “potential of hydrogen”. It indicates the concentration of hydrogen ions in any water-based solution. The pH scale runs from 0-14, with the neutral point being 7 – the pH of pure water. Anything below is considered acidic: for instance, lemon juice, with a pH of 2. On the opposite side of the spectrum, everything over 7 is alkaline, like ammonia, with a pH of 12.
Why is pH important for your skin?
The answer is very simple: with an ideal pH of 5.5, healthy skin is slightly acidic. And it needs to maintain this pH level in order to fight off bacteria and prevent irritation, acne and even premature aging. The problem is that a lot of cosmetic products, especially the cleansers, tend to be on the alkaline side and can easily alter this defence mechanism. This is where a Low Ph skincare routine becomes useful.
Your skin’s acid mantle
At the surface of the skin, its natural oils, ceramides and amino acids create a protective film called the acid mantle. Exfoliating too aggressively or using cleansing products with an alkaline pH (the vast majority of available mass market products), results in disrupting the skin’s pH balance. This makes it less capable of repairing itself and more susceptible to inflammation and acne, since it’s less able to defend itself against harmful bacteria.
Signs of an imbalanced skin pH
You may wonder, at this point, how you can check the integrity of your skin’s acid mantle if you don’t have access to a chemistry lab. While a pH strip test is the only sure-way to determine this, there are quite a few signs that may point to a chronic pH imbalance in your complexion: stubborn dry patches or excessive oiliness, redness, acne, development of eczema or premature signs of aging, like fine lines and sagging skin.
COSRX’s low pH line
One of the first brands coming out with skin care with the low pH concept was COSRX. Their Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser – the first of its kind – was released years ago and has been a customer favourite ever since (it’s Amazon’s No.1 best-selling facial cleanser!) It has a pH value of 5.3-6.3 and combines very effective, yet gentle cleansing agents with calming and moisturizing botanical ingredients such as tea tree oil, Indian lotus or evening primrose extracts. It is good for all skin types.
After the initial success COSRX followed up with the Low pH BHA Overnight Mask that is meant to clear up rough skin texture and balance sebum production. It is a sleeping mask (basically a night cream that does not absorb into your skin immediately) with a pH value of ~4.0. The main active ingredient is salicylic acid which is a chemical peeling meant to remove excess oil and dead skin cells from your skin. In order to be effective, it needs low pH environment for at least 20-30 minutes. It is a must with oily and acne-prone skin types.
The Low pH Cleansing Gel got a little sister next, the Low pH First Cleansing Milk Gel. It is essentially a makeup remover (hence “first cleansing”) that has specifically been designed for sensitive and irritated skin. It has a pH value of 5.5-6.5 and instead of an oil-base, it uses papaya fruit extract to remove sunscreen and makeup from the skin.
Two years ago, they came out with the Low pH PHA Barrier Mist, another innovative product that has not really been present on the market before. It is essentially a “shield” type of face mist that should be applied as a very last step in your skin care routine to lock in all the other products. Unlike toner mists, that should be applied right after the cleanser to help your skin bounce back to its healthy pH, this mist helps to prolong that low pH value for the whole day. Besides, it has PHA (Gluconolatone) which is a newer generation, very mild chemical peeling that works similarly to hyaluronic acid: attracting moisture from the air. It has a pH value of 4.5-5.5 and work very well on normal to dry skin.
The newest addition of the low pH family is the Low pH Centella Cleansing Powder. Yet another quirky product 🙂 It is a really finely grinded, separately packaged facial cleanser that is perfect for travelling, gym bag or a sleepover. It is designed to help sensitive and irritated skin to reach and maintain optimal pH level while effectively cleansing off excess sebum while Centella Asiatica extract helps calm your skin. It has a pH value of 5.6.
If you have been rather unsure to try low pH skin care so far, you are definitely missing out on something really great!