Could pH optimized skin care be the next big thing for fighting the effects of aging on skin?
For centuries people have been searching for ways to combat the effects of aging. From skin creams to supplements to plastic surgery, the modern attempts at slowing aging range from various ineffective “DIY” methods to the greatest extremes currently possible with modern science. While science repeatedly assures us that there is no “true” fountain of youth, there are certainly steps that we can take to look better and feel better throughout the various stages of our lives.
The Truth About pH and Skin
The pH scale is a numeric scale with a range from 0 to 14 and is a measure of the concentration of hydrogen ions in a solution. The higher the concentration of hydrogen ions, the higher the number. A solution with a high concentration of hydrogen ions is considered alkaline, and a solution with a low concentration of hydrogen ions is considered acidic. A pH of 7 is considered neutral.
The body operates best when, overall, it is slightly alkaline. But we live in a world where people frequently consume too many acid promoting foods, and where problems related to excess acidity in the body have run rampant. Excess acidity can be very bad for our health, causing problems ranging from cancer to serious and deadly digestive system complications.
What many people don’t realize is that the skin—one of the major organs in your body—requires a much lower pH than other systems in the body. The skin has what is referred to as an “acidic mantle” which is a layer of acidity that protects your body from outside germs and bacteria. It is because of this acid mantle and the important functions it serves that products targeting the skin should be formulated in such a way as to allow it to function optimally. What this means in practice is that skin products shouldn’t be overly alkaline. If a skin product is too far on the alkaline end of the scale, it could neutralize the acid mantle, which would in turn break down this protective barrier and promote skin damage, disease, and accelerated aging. Most skin problems can be attributed to the pH of the acid mantle having been thrown out of balance.
What’s the optimal pH for your skin? Experts say 4.0 to 5.5… most definitely on the acidic side of the pH scale.
A lot of people make the mistake of assuming that the skin products they use should promote alkalinity. To the contrary, skin products on the alkaline end of the scale can damage the skin because of their neutralizing effects on the protective acid mantle.
The Delicate Balance of pH
Overly dry or oily skin, or inflamed and irritated skin, can be caused by both an overly acidic diet and by using skin products that are too alkaline. This is surprising to some, but it highlights the importance of maintaining the right balance in various parts of the body.
Acid forming foods affect the body negatively on many levels. They promote inflammation, and reduce the effectiveness of the body’s systems overall—including the immune system, the cardiovascular system, and more. If your body’s pH is in the right balance, ALL of your body’s systems will work more efficiently and you’ll be healthier as a result.
While the skin’s pH is naturally more acidic thanks to the acid mantle, a poor diet high in sugars and other acid promoting foods often leads to unhealthy skin. Why? Wouldn’t higher acidity help? The answer is again found in the key idea of “balance”. When everything is in balance—when your body’s other systems aren’t overrun with acidity—your whole body will work better and more efficiently. A poor diet that is high in acid-promoting foods makes your whole body work harder to maintain it’s acid/alkaline balance. This means that every system—from your cardiovascular system to your skin—must work harder to do its job. The result is increased inflammation and, for your skin, many of the problems commonly associated with poor health and aging.
Internal Versus External
The biggest thing to understand when considering skin products and diet and their relation to your pH is this: your body has different needs internally than it does externally. For optimum health, your food intake should lean towards the alkaline side of the equation. For your skin, however, more acidic skin products will be better for your skin because they will not damage the protective acid mantle.
You can test your internal pH by measuring the pH of your saliva or urine. Your skin, however, can’t be tested in the same way. The easiest way to determine if your skin’s pH is out of balance is by simple observation. If you have acne, redness, inflammation, or other irritations, the chances are high that the pH of your skin is off kilter.
Foods That Promote Healthy Skin
The key here is understanding which systems are affected by the foods you eat. Remember: inside or outside. Food goes inside your body and therefore affects first and foremost the systems inside your body. Those systems need a pH that leans slightly towards the alkaline side of the pH scale. “Eating Healthy”, to put it plainly, is a very important tool in promoting skin health… and the way to eat healthy is to maintain a mostly alkaline diet high in vegetables and fruits, while low in refined sugars, meats, and other acid-promoting foods. Most foods that are considered “alkaline” also happen to have the same vitamins and minerals that are required for healthy skin. By following the alkaline diet, you promote a healthy body from the inside out.
The Effects of Lifestyle on Skin and Aging
It has long been known that numerous lifestyle factors can negatively affect the skin. Many of these same factors promote excess acidity in the body and in turn promote accelerated aging. Some “negative” factors, affecting the skin and the rest of the body in negative ways include:
- coffee/caffeine consumption
- dehydration (not enough water)
- lack of sleep
- alcohol consumption
We believe it is no coincidence that some of the same factors can lead to both excess acidity internally and negative effects on the skin externally.
The Recipe for Optimal Health
The bottom line when it comes to skin and acidity is this:
Your skin will be healthiest when your internal and external pH levels reach the proper balance.
- To keep your body’s inner pH in balance and thus promote overall health and healthier, younger looking skin, you should eat a diet rich in alkaline-promoting foods such as leafy greens, fruits and vegetables, and healthy grains.
- To keep your body’s outer pH in balance and avoid damaging the skin’s acid-mantle, you should avoid cleansers and skin products that are too alkaline. The alkaline diet promotes healthy skin. External products that are alkaline do not.