Why Neutral pH Is Not Good for the Skin

November 18, 2022

Maintaining a balanced pH protects the skin from infections and external aggressions, but this concept generates confusion. It is often thought that neutral pH is the most appropriate, but this is far from the actual pH of the skin.

You probably have it engraved in your mind that pH-neutral products are the most suitable for the skin and that the ideal level is the famous 5.5. But none of this is true: neither that the skin has a pH of 5.5, nor that neutral pH is the best for it.

There are many myths and misconceptions about the pH of skin hygiene and cosmetic products. It is crucial to learn about proper skin pH because a correct pH allows us to have healthy skin, and its barrier function is in perfect condition to protect us against agents such as pollution. 

What Is Skin pH?

The pH of the skin indicates its degree of acidity. The values in the pH table range from 1 to 14. 1 is the most acidic value, and 14 is the most alkaline. Right at number 7, the middle is the neutral pH, but our skin is slightly more acidic. 

The skin is an organ whose main function is to barricade against infections and external environmental factors. It is covered with the so-called acid mantle, a mixture of water and lipids from the sweat and sebaceous glands. This mantle provides the skin with the acidity it needs to be protected. 

Advertising has sold us the idea that the skin's pH is 5.5 and that products with this pH are the most suitable. But in reality, the pH of the skin is 4.7.

What Happens If We Use Products with a higher pH than our Skin?

Using products with a higher pH could alter the skin's natural flora, weakening it and diminishing its protective function, and as a result, it may become drier or more sensitive. 

Disorders such as atopic dermatitis or rosacea can also have an altered pH. That is why it is essential to use products with the right pH to keep them at bay.  

Why Is Neutral pH Not Good for the Skin?

If the neutral pH is 7 and the skin has a pH of 4.7, it is obvious that pH-neutral products are not suitable for the skin, but quite the opposite. According to dermatologists, neutral pH weakens the skin's barrier and changes its acid mantle. 

Ideally, hygiene and cosmetic products should have a pH of 4.7.

By destabilizing the pH, we destabilize the microbiological ecosystem of the skin and this can result in dermatological conditions. Fortunately, the skin's pH can be balanced with proper care.

How to Care for the Skin's pH?

Choose soaps with a pH similar to that of the skin. What most affects the skin are aggressive chemicals with a very low or very high pH. 

In this sense, we need to pay special attention to basic products of daily use such as soaps. 

Neutral pH soaps are not suitable for your face since a neutral pH of 7 is high for the skin. 

However, most soap brands are misusing the pH terminology and refer to a pH of 5.5 as neutral. 

But since we can't be sure, it's best to look for the number on the label. Use cosmetics with an appropriate pH. They are not as dangerous as soaps because they have a pH closer to that of the skin, although many cosmetics still tend to use a pH of 5.5 instead of the skin's pH of 4.7. 

In addition to slightly raising the skin's pH, it causes premature aging, and oxidative stress and can promote skin inflammation in prone individuals.

Tap water alters the pH. It is one of the factors that can most affect the skin because its pH is slightly higher than 7. Some studies estimate that it can take up to 6 hours for the skin to recover its pH after washing with water. This should not obsess us, but we should take it into account if we have delicate skin.

It is not advisable to abuse long showers or wash the skin more than necessary.

After showering, use moisturizers with a pH as close as possible to the skin's real pH, 4.7, to restore its natural balance.

Beware of antibacterial products. They affect the skin flora and have an impact on the skin's pH, so do not apply them to areas that do not need them. 

Final Word

We've been misled to buy pH 5.5 cosmetics all our lives while our natural pH is 4.7. 

The best way to restore the damage is to choose products closest to the natural skin acidity index and avoid neutral pH soaps, especially for face care. 

Finally, the skin pH index is measured from 1 to 14, which means that the 'neutral' would be 7, which is too high for our natural skin acidity.