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pH BalanceBalance is key to living a healthy life.  It is mandatory on every level!  So when the skin is out of balance , many skin disorders can flair out of control causing skin to be less then healthy.  pH levels must not be overlooked when choosing the right skin care for your skin type.

What is pH?

pH refers to the acid/alkaline ratio of a substance.  On a scale of 1-14, with 1 being the most acidic to 14 being the most alkaline, 7 is considered a neutral  pH.   There are issues if there isn’t a proper balance between the two.  For example, when you are experiencing heart burn/acid reflux your stomach is acidic.  In order to experience relief, you might take baking soda in water or milk of magnesia.  Both of these remedies are highly akaline and will balance the acidity in the stomach.

Our skin has what is called an acid mantel.  It is made up of sebum that interacts with sweat and the environment.  It’s pH should be around 5-6, slightly acidic.  The acid mantel is how the skin protects itself.  This can’t happen efficiently when the skin’s pH level is either too acidic or too alkaline.  Damage occurs to the acid mantle when balance is not achieved.  When the acid mantel is damaged, acne, dermatitis, rosacea, wrinkles and excessive dryness can occur.

Just in case I haven’t made clear how detrimental an improper pH is to the skin, dermatologist, Audry Kunin from the  Dr. Oz Show, might shed some more light….

According to Audrey Kunin MD via Dr. Oz:

The epidermis is protected by an external layer of tightly knit cells arranged like shingles on a roof. Any disruption to the acid mantle, elevating overall skin pH, interferes with this protective barrier, wrenching cells away from each other and results in dehydration, roughness, irritation and noticeable flaking. Skin is left defenseless and susceptible to further environmental damage.

As cells pull apart, minute breaks become exposed, leaving skin more vulnerable to bacterial invasion. Under normal circumstances, bacteria not only have a difficult time penetrating through the shield-like structure of the skin and the acid mantle also creates a hostile environment for bacteria which prefer an alkaline environment to flourish. A rise in pH plays mayhem with our natural infection prevention, further increasing the risk of infection. Once the pH exceeds 6.5, bacterial invasion increases dramatically, a loss of normal skin integrity results and a variety of skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis and irritant contact dermatitis flare.

In order to keep our skin and body pH balanced, a healthy diet is a must.  Environmental factors such as pollution and even stress can throw off your pH levels.  Skin care can greatly effect your pH levels in good and bad ways.

So what does this mean for the products we are putting on our skin?  and…What does this mean for our DIY products??

I have done loads of research lately on the proper way to make skin care products.  I have sought out other bloggers, skin care professionals and even chemists to help me sort through the topic of pH balance in products.  I’m so thrilled with the knowledge I’ve obtained.  I’ve had fun testing my products pH levels!!

When it comes to products, let’s start with cleansers.  In order to be effective, cleansers need to have more of an alkaline pH in order to dissolve dirt.  The problem with most cleansers is that their pH is way higher then they should be and this causes major damage to your skin’s acid mantle.   Soap has a pH of 9-12.  This pH is way too high for skin.  This is one reason why the oil cleansing method has become so popular!  It allows you to avoid soap so your skin can stay pH balanced.   For many of you, the OCM is not working well and cleansers are a must.  You should be using a cleanser with a pH of 5.5-6.5.  If you are making your own cleanser and using castile soap, you will need to add a pH adjuster like citric acid.  Citric acid will lower the pH of a substance.

Moisturizers can have a lower pH since their function is not meant to cleanse.  I have always used citric acid in my DIY lotions.  Before I really understood the chemistry of making a lotion, I thought citric acid was a preservative.  Come to find out, it is a pH adjuster.  Many people use it to inhibit bacteria growth because bacteria has a harder time growing in a lower pH.  My facial creams (with the citric acid) had a pH of around 3.  This is rather low for a moisturizing cream, but on the bright side, my creams were truly “anti aging” creams because with a pH that low, slight exfoliation was occurring.  For a cream that solely moisturizes, a pH around 5 is a better choice.  I have since ditched the citric acid and added a preservative.   This brings the pH were it should be.

Now, toners are actually meant to correct pH.  Toners were really popular to use after using soap or a cleanser to clean the face since they were able to correct your skin’s pH after the cleanser shot it up to 9 and up.  This sounds great except that adjusting your pH from one extreme to another is very hard on your skin and still can cause damage to your acid mantle.   Once you have corrected your pH levels of your cleanser and moisturizer, your toner can server as an “assistant” to your cleanser and moisturizer and actually help “tone” the skin.

Chemical exfoliants have a pH around 2-3.  Applying a product that is this acidic will help dissolve dead skin cells and encourage new cells to form.  Using products with a low pH too often can really irritate your skin though.  Because everyone’s skin is different, you must always be aware of your own pH and how your skin responds to different products.

It’s not easy to test your pH yourself.  Doctor’s usually use a saliva test.  I have heard this is possible at home but I haven’t tried it yet.  Below are common characteristics of out of balance skin.

How to Determine if Your Skin is out of Balance:

Skin that is too acidic:

  • Skin feels oily after cleansing.
  • Moisturizer makes skin too greasy feeling.
  • Skin is reactive and sensitive to products.
  • Skin is prone to breakouts.
  • Skin looks red and feels irritated

Skin that is too alkaline:

  • Skin feels tight and dry after cleansing.
  • Moisturizer is needed more than once a day.
  • Skin has dry patches.
  • Skin looks dull with more fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Skin stings or feels irritated after applying products.
  • Skin rarely appears plump or dewy.

This is a lot of info.  I hope I have explained it in an understandable way.  pH very likely could be your key to beautiful skin.  Testing your skin care products is easy.  As of now I test all my products with simple pH strips.  It’s fast, easy and affordable.  Soon I will upgrade to an electronic pH tester.  Of course, if you are following my recipes and using my suggested ingredients, there is no reason to test for pH-I’ve already done the experimenting for you!

***testing lotions can be difficult because they are too thick for you to see your test strip once they have been dipped into your cream.  In order to test lotions, I take 1 tsp. of cream and mix it with 4 tsp. of water, then insert my pH strip.***

Stay tuned for more posts on what I have learned about the chemistry of DIY skin care.  I have tweaked many of my former recipes to reflect my knowledge but please know-my recipes were still effective and safe.   Now they are pH balanced and protected better from possible mold and bacteria!  Go HERE for a summary.

Please leave me questions below-It is your questions that have pushed me to find out better ways to make more effective products!  Many blogs out there are giving you false info. due to lack of education.  Here at JRC I want to always be open and upfront about making your own products and provide correct recipes that are safe and natural!

xx, Jenni

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Jennifer Phillips

Jennifer Phillips

Jennifer Phillips worked as a licensed aesthetician for over 8 years before creating the green beauty blog, Jenni Raincloud and her natural skin care line, J. Raincloud Organics. Jennifer has been blogging full time for 9 years and loves to gain and share knowledge on how to achieve beautiful skin the natural way.

50 thoughts on “pH Balance and Skin Care”

  1. I use some of your DIY skin care recipies to make my own at home but after reading this blog I realized I certainly have a problem with my skins PH. Have you adjusted the recipies on your website to indicate the changes you’ve made to give your skin care products the proper PH levels?

    1. Hi Jenni, I read above that you have deleted Citric Acid from your moisturizers and are now using a preservative. Can you share which one you are using? Thanks for the very informational post.

        1. Thanks so much Jenni! One more question, did you use the same amount of NEO as the citric acid you had previously used?

          Love your page..

    2. Colleen-I have adjusted all the lotions. The lotions were at a pH of 3-this is a bit low but when a lotion is acidic, it actually helps to exfoliate gently. Cleansers are more likely to cause your skin to get out of balance and I haven’t changed those yet. My goal is to finish that today. I will be adding citric acid to those because they were at a 9 which is normal for most cleansers but it’s better to have them more around a 6. Thanks! Oh, you don’t have to worry about salves, balms and serums, those are all fine. It’s only products that contain water.

  2. I really appreciate that you actually tweak your recipes, some other websites don’t go back when they figure out new information:)

  3. Hi Jenni,
    I love your blog, so many useful information. Thank you!
    Do you have any suggestions for red skin/rosecea? I have it on my cheeks and my forehead…
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Alma-Rosecea is hard to remedy-Have you ever tried chamomile essential oil? Lavender and chamomile are great for redness and inflammation. Almond oil is a great carrier oil for these to essential oils as well. You could make a serum by adding 5 drops of each essential oil to 1 ounce of almond oil. I’m sure you know to avoid heat, spicy foods and alcohol as best you can. Aloe vera gel might also be good for hydrating!

  4. Hello,
    Came upon your blog looking for a solution on testing moisturisers because I can’t determine if they are at 5 or if it’s just a fluke! Just wondering though — would mixing it with water raise the pH since water is generally on the 6-7 range?

  5. I have seborrhea, which is prone to fungal and sensitive to yeast and acid. Do you have any recommendations about how to address that? I know most people tend the other way.

    1. Marcie-Have you tried using essential oils? Most of them are anti fungal. Also coconut oil is as well. Apple Cider Vinegar is also very helpful when it comes to skin issues-not sure if this would cause sensitivity for you though. You can always dilute it with distilled water. I have several specific recipes that might help if you haven’t tried the above options-let me know if you’d like me to point you in the right direction!

  6. Thanks for your informative blog. I’ve made a body lotion but the ph is between 1-2. I’m assuming, from reading your article that I have to make it more alkaline. What can I do to increase the ph to 5?

    1. Tonje-I got pH strips to test my lotions and found that even when omitting citric acid, my pH was so low. From what I can figure, pH strips aren’t very accurate. I spoke with a lady who is quite the expert in making lotions and she told me that unless I’m using something to lower the pH, my pH should be around 5 on creams. I will say, neodefend has a pH reducer built in because the lower the pH, the less bacteria and mold will grow. That’s why it’s a common misconception that citric acid is a preservative. I wish I had more answers. I have researched my buns off and still come up with more questions then when I started! I think it’s safe to say, unless you are using citric acid, your pH is higher then 1-2 and your strips just aren’t giving you an accurate reading. As far as raising pH, I don’t have an answer on that one. I will continue to research though!

  7. Hi Jenny

    Baking Soda totally ruined my skin!! I had really bad acne as a teen and this continued into my late 20’s. I’m in my early 30’s now and have alot of acne scarring. I also have sensitive combination skin so can only use products for sensitive skin. After reading lots of reviews of how baking soda can help fade acne scars I thought i’d try it. OMG BIG MISTAKE i made a baking soda mask mixing a small amount of baking soda and water into a runny paste and applied it. Within minutes my face was burning and i tried to leave it on as people suggested but after 5 mins i had to wash it off. My face was all red and tingly so i applied my moisturiser and went to bed. A while later I noticed that my face looked really smooth and clear but when I woke up the next day OMG it was soooooo dry. I can only describe it as dry wrinkly skin. I was mortified. It has now been 6 weeks and i still have dry skin patches all over my cheeks, forehead and I am doing everything to rehydrate the skin but its a very slow process.

    I now have to use E45 as a moisuriser during the day and as a night cream. Please please do not use baking soda on your face. I am hoping this dryness will eventually go away but I for one will NEVER do anything like this again!

    Can you please advise how I can restore my Acid Mantle??

    1. Sash-Baking soda is for sure harsh for the skin. Not everyone will react immediately as you did. Your skin will eventually heal itself but in the meantime, I would look into a very nourishing moisturizer or facial oil. Oil Cleansing would be gentle and possibly help to rebalance your skin. I would avoid makeup as much as you can and spritzing with rosewater through out the day could be calming. Good luck! If you are looking for a facial oil/serum, I offer a great one in my Etsy shop or can customize one for you. As far as a moisturizer, I would look into anything from Eminence. Good luck!

  8. Hello, I’ve only just come across your website and it is great πŸ™‚ I am interested to try the Olive Oil and Lavender Cleanser recipe you have, with the castile soap and citric acid. I was wondering if you could please let me know what you’ve found the pH level on this to be?

    1. Jennifer-I have not found out what exactly the pH is. I find it very hard to get an accurate reading without the right machine-I forget what they are called at the moment. I know castile soap has a very high pH so that’s why I added the citric acid so I can lower it enough so that it will be still cleansing but less harsh. I’m hoping it’s around 8-9.

  9. Thanks Jenny. I have been using Almond Oil as a facial oil at night for 2 weeks now and that has really helped brighten my skin again. Ended up having to go see the Dr a few weeks ago as it wasnt getting any better. They have given me QV cream to use as a moisurtiser. This seems to stop the dryness but the wrinkly skin is still there so they have referred me to a dermatologist. I’m really glad you posted this blog as it highlights the damage baking soda can cause, i just wish I’d read it before i tried it!

    Thank you for your reply, I’ll check out your store when I get a few mins πŸ™‚

  10. Hi Jenni. Love that you are a researcher. Me too!
    I have a Baking Soda question… Not a facial one!! I’ve made a deodorant which has Baking Soda, Aloe, Coconut Oil, Shea, Beeswax, sweet Almond Oil, essential oils, Arrowroot. It is higher alkaline than I want it to be though it works really well. I know it’s not useable long term. What can I add as an acidifier without setting off the Baking Soda into fizzing madness (not vinegar I’m guessing!)…and still be able to be sweet smelling me!

    1. Ann-Citric Acid will lower the pH since baking sodas pH is around 8. I’m not sure how much you would add though. How do you check your pH? I’ve found the strips to be unreliable with my formulations and thought about buying a hand held pH machine-I can’t remember what they are called! You would have to add small amounts at a time to determine how much. Does a high (alkaline) pH burn the skin? I know when my face creams were too low (acidic) they weren’t very moisturizing. I also found that a low pH can even exfoliate the skin! Hope this helps!!

      1. Hi Jennifer. I suspect the high PH of the Baking Soda is causing the itching and rashes some people experience with home-made deodorants. An alkaline burn. My testing is also a bit hit n miss and I don’t have a metre. I’ll definitely try Citric Acid to bring it down a bit. Thanks for your advice. Ann

  11. Hi Jenni,
    My question is about my homemade face cream. It’s an emollient mix of water, oils, essential oils and a tiny bit of beeswax. I checked the pH and it’s a 7! My face feels great at first when I apply my cream but throughout the day it starts to feel dry. Could this be why? What would you suggest I do differently to my recipe to lower the pH? Thanks!

  12. Hi Jenni!

    Your blog is very informative! Thank u so much! I have one question, how do I check if products in the market is good for me now that I know that my skin is too acidic? What things do I have to watch out for or look for? Thank you so much! Hope to hear from you! πŸ™‚

    1. Marian-Thank you! It’s always good to see if the bottle claims to be pH balanced. However, most higher end product lines are pH balanced but they don’t mention it. One thing you should always do is use a toner though. This will help balance your skin. Also, remember that if a cleanser is soap based, the pH will most likely be very high. This is why I only Oil Cleanse now. Find more about that HERE. Hope this helps!

  13. hello so im kind of new to this some Im just wondering I am pretty positive my skin is to alkaline now do I need to use products that are more on the acidic side to balance it out or do I use one with a neutral balance (ph 7) then eventually my skin will balance its self out??

    1. Jessika-You should always use pH balanced products and you will eventually even out. Products that are not balanced can really irritate your skin. Acidic products will burn your skin and cause you to become very sensitive. I would avoid using harsh cleansers-You might look into oil cleansers. This will be gentle and help. Go HERE for how to oil cleanse and HERE for a recipe! Good luck!

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  15. Hey Jenni! Thanks for all the wonderful information! I made a facial toner loosely based on your recipes (made my own hydrosol) but ended up with a ph level of 4.2! I wonder what I could add to bring it up to a 5.5 or so…?
    Thanks for any advice or feedback!

    1. Kristie-Thanks so much! Hmmmmm, I’m not sure what you could add to raise it. I’m good at lowering pH just not raising it. It could be that 4.2 is ok especially if you are using a soap based cleanser.

  16. Thank you so much for taking time to research & share your findings. This really cleared things up for me and gave details in a simple way to understand. As an esthetician, so many people I see for facials don’t understand the importance of having a balanced pH! Great source to educate them.

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  19. Hi Jenni,
    Thanks for this super informative article πŸ˜€ you’re such an inspiration!!
    I’ve been trying to DIY my first skin serum (newbie alert!) but can’t seem to find any information on ph requirements for different skincare ingredients – for example, I heard L-Ascorbic Acid needs ph 2.5-3.5 to work, but Vitamin E needs ph 6-8… Does that mean they won’t work when mixed together? And how can we find these ph levels for other skincare ingredients like Niacinamide or Hyaluronic Acid etc? πŸ™
    So confused….

    1. Yen-Thank you so much! Don’t get too bogged down about pH. I don’t worry about it unless I’m making soap based cleansers (which I never do anymore). Vitamin C naturally has a low pH but adding vitamin E isn’t going to mess with the effectiveness of it. You can get pH strips to check out pH levels in other products however, they aren’t always that accurate.

  20. Reading this in 2018 but thought i’d let you know that water itself has a PH so if you mix it with water it will not give you the reading of the cream…

    other than that really good read!!

  21. Question for toners, if it ‘tones’ does that mean it will return the ph of the skin to normal 4.5-5.5pH? or will it be the pH of the toner?

  22. Do you mind if I quote a few of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your site?

    My blog is in the very same niche as yours and my visitors would genuinely benefit from some of the
    information you present here. Please let me know if this okay
    with you. Thanks a lot!

    1. Thank you! Sure-I just ask that you don’t copy and paste entire posts. It hurts my google ranking. Otherwise, I appreciate linking back! Thanks!

  23. Hi Jenni
    Just stumbled upon your website and it’s really informative- thanks!
    I wanted to ask do you ever check the ph of your products a few months later? I made a body lotion a month ago and when tested it came back with a ph of 5.0 however when I tested it today it came back with 4.0 so obviously dropped. Any ideas as to why this happened?

    1. Madeleine-You’re welcome! Wow-I’ve never considered that pH could change with the age of a product but now that I think about it, I guess it makes sense. I’m not worried about a pH of 4 however 3-3.5 is a bit too acidic for the face. I’ll have to do some digging around to see if I can find out more about why this happens! Thanks for sharing!

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