pH stands for ďpotential hydrogenĒ and is a measure of acidity and/or alkalinity. Everything about you has a pH level and a pH balance that is very important for proper health. A proper pH level is also a major factor in how we look. Skin and hair have a natural pH as do the products we put on them. Choosing products that are too high or too low in pH will affect our skin and hair by either nourishing it or irritating it. While opinions on optimal pH levels for beauty products may vary, here is a brief explanation of how pH works and what to look for in some of the most popular products today.
The pH level of the skin is really a measure of the acid mantle which is a fine film on the surface of our skin that helps skin stay healthy and fights blemishes. It plays a very important role in our skinís defense against pollutants, weather, bacteria and fungal infections. The pH of our skin is affected by environmental stress like UV rays and pollution as well as changes in our diet, hormones and the products we use. pH is even affected when we wash our face with clean water. Why? Because water has a pH of 7 and our skinís optimal pH is 5.5. After a simple wash it may take up to 30 minutes for the normal pH of our skin to be restored. It takes even longer as we get older Ė up to 8 hours!
When the acid mantle of our skin breaks down, we are more prone to damage and infection; however, low levels of acid can cause our skin to become overly dry. Even a moderate pH imbalance is known to be the most critical cause of acne. This is why it is so important to maintain the skin pH of no greater than 5.5 in order to prevent acne, infection, irritation and more importantly, slow down skin aging.
When it comes to cleansers, look for products that are mild and have a pH of 5.5. Bar soaps normally have a high pH, around 9 to 10. This means that bar soap can change the pH of skin and promote overgrowth of certain types of bacteria which increase acne outbreaks and duration. Use alcohol-free toners to help restore the skinís pH after cleansing. Avoid over washing as water has a pH of 7. Avoid cleansers with harsh chemicals as these cause major pH imbalances that are difficult to restore.
In the fight against aging, buy only products with an AHA level of 10 percent or less and a pH of 3.5 or more. The optimum pH level for exfoliation and cell renewal stimulation is about 4.0. At higher pH levels little (if any) exfoliation occurs, resulting in the product acting more like a moisturizer than an exfoliant. Levels much below 3.5 would be very irritating to the skin and should be avoided.
The pH level of hair is between 4.5 and 5.5, so a healthy level for your shampoo would be 6.5 to no more than 7.5. A shampoo with a higher pH would be drying and cause your hair to be brittle. It is also important to know that a one point difference in pH levels could have a significant impact on your hair A product with a pH of 13 is 10 times more alkaline than a product with a pH of 12. Hair relaxers and other chemical treatments should never have a pH greater than 12.5.
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