Skin, pH and the Moisture barrier and Why it's Important

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Hello again, everyone. Today we're going to talk about pH and why it's important to the skin. In my last articles I talked a bit about how you don't want to use anything that's too low or too high of a pH on the skin because of how it interferes with how the skin functions. And in this article, we're going to explain why. 

The skin's natural pH should fall somewhere between 4.5 and 5, ideally. Sometimes you'll hear before 4.5 and 5.5, but ideally you're going to be somewhere in the 4.7 range, but generally, below 5.5. Because the pH of tap-water varies from place to place and around the world, your skin's pH will fluctuate based on your environment and the products that you use and what you use after you wash your face. 

How to bring back the natural pH of the skin

This is part of the reason why we like to use toners after we cleanse, because toners are supposed to be "pH-balanced" -- this is a term that you hear sometimes -- "pH-balanced" to help restore the natural pH of the skin. pH-balanced does not mean pH-neutral, however, these toners are meant to be acidic to bring down the pH of the skin after cleansing. So when we talk about pH-balanced, we're talking about things that bring back the natural pH of the skin after you've interfered with it by applying water. What makes water more alkaline in various areas is the presence of alkaline minerals -- this is what we generally hear referred to as "hard water". So, if you live in an area with hard water, you definitely want to make sure that you're using a toner after you cleanse to help keep your skin's pH consistent. 

Moisture barrier or Lipid layer

Now, why is this important? It's important because, among other reasons, of something called the "moisture barrier" or "lipid layer". And this is a protective coating, if you will, that helps the skin to be healthy, to keep outside objects outside the body, to keep from getting infected, to keep from bacteria and any other sort of foreign invaders from entering the body. Cosmetically, it also means that the skin doesn't get dehydrated, it helps to prevent premature wrinkling and generally, it helps the skin to recover faster from any sort of injury or damage. 

To demonstrate the concept of the lipid layer, I am going to use this extremely high-tech piece of technology -- your basic kitchen sponge. Let's just go with me on this, I know it's a very loose analogy, but for the purposes of this demonstration, it works very well. So let's say that this dark blue area down here is your dermis and this light spongy area up here is your epidermis.

Now, the epidermis can absorb water and in order to hold that water in, we have something called the moisture barrier or lipid layer, which is represented by this piece of high-tech plastic right here. So the lipid layer helps to keep the water in the epidermis inside the skin so that it doesn't dehydrate. Now, what happens is that when you're using substances that interfere with the natural function of the lipid layer like apple cider vinegar or lemons or baking soda, it breaks down the integrity of the lipid layer and decreases its functions. 

So if, for example, this sponge were wet and I left it on the surface covered in plastic, it would retain water much better than it would if the plastic were not on it. Very similarly, if you did not have a lipid layer or if your lipid layer is compromised, then the water in your skin that is there naturally and is there by way of you washing your face and bathing is going to evaporate. And the problem with that, like I mentioned, is that your skin becomes vulnerable to infection, it becomes dry and uncomfortable, it's more prone to irritation and dermatitis and a number of other things. And when the skin is irritated, it is more prone to premature aging, hyperpigmentaion and acne. 

Keep the moisture barrier healthy

So just remember that the moisture barrier is part of your skin to keep it healthy, to keep it vibrant and intact and resilient and glowing and beautiful. So you don't want to mess with it too much by applying things that are too low or too high of a pH on a consistent basis. 

Skin responds best to consistent care

Now, a lot of people have asked: "Well, is it really that big of a deal, like, can I do it just once in a while?" Yes and no. I mean, you can. Some people can get away with using really, really harsh and inappropriate products every now and again, but there's just absolutely no point to it. It doesn't really matter if you do one amazing thing for your skin every year. What matters is what you do every day. So I just don't see the point. Like, why would you want to apply something like lemon juice once or twice when:
  • It doesn't make a big difference if you only do it a couple of times. 
  • If you do it consistently, it's going to damage your skin. It's going to damage the functionality of your skin fundamentally, but also, it will damage the aesthetic appeal of your skin. 

Alcohol and strong detergents

This moisture barrier is also part of the reason why you don't want to be using overly harsh products like alcohol and strong detergents on your skin, because, just like with pH, strong solvent products and harsh detergents can strip the lipid layer. This is what you hear when you hear about products that strip the oils from the skin or strip the moisture barrier from the skin and they're also a problem for that same reason. You need to keep your moisture barrier intact, so that your skin is healthy and resilient. 

So, overall, you just want to make sure that you are consistently caring for your skin using products that are appropriate for your skin's pH and gentle enough to not interfere with its natural function. I hope that gives you a better idea of how the skin functions with pH. If you have any questions let me know.  If you have any more suggestions for future articles, please do leave them in the comments. I'm keeping a running list and I will try to get through them as quickly as I can. Otherwise, I really hope that you all have a wonderful day. Thank you so much! Bye.


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