We've all heard the phrase ever since deodorant companies started using it in advertisements---strong enough for someone else, but pH-balanced for you---but truth be told, we were never completely sure what it meant until we found that the pH of your skin can be an important factor outside of the underarm area. If you've ever noticed that your complexion is looking slightly worse for wear, or is more dry or oily than usual, the pH (short for power of hydrogen) of your skin has probably been knocked off its kilter from environmental aspects, your diet, or simply picking the wrong product. "Healthy, radiant skin with the proper pH has an even color and tone, very little to no redness, and no dry patches or flakes," says Marisa Vara Arredondo, who founded Phace Bioactive after searching for a remedy when her own skin had become inflamed. As it turns out, the pH was the culprit, and Arredondo launched her line to fill the need for products that balanced both the acidic and alkaline levels in her skin.
"Skin, or at least the outermost layer of it, is slightly acidic. The acidic layer helps retain moisture, serve as a protective barrier, and inhibits inflammation from harmful chemicals and bacteria," she explains. "If you use a soap that's too alkaline, it will break up the acid in your skin, causing dryness and inflammation." This could also prompt your skin speed up signs of aging, so a product close to your skin's own pH level of 4 to 5.5 is ideal.
Unless you're already using the Phase Bioactive line, most products don't have the pH listed on the bottle, but many will have the term "pH optimized" printed somewhere on the label. If not, either grab litmus papers to test the exact levels in the products you use now, or ditch your current face wash for a cleanser that isn't too harsh. Products that burn your skin are too acidic, ones that are overly-drying are too alkaline, and you'll want to avoid anything that lists detergents like sodium laurel sulfate, or emulsifiers like DEA, TEA, and MEA on the ingredient list. y
Another easy way to achieve balance is to amp up your sun protection. "Start using a day cream with SPF, like the Phace Bioactive Soothing Day Cream + Primer ($86; phacebioactive.com)," she says. "Outside of skin care, there are several exogenous factors that can affect your pH balance." Arredondo notes stress, lack of sleep, excessive sun exposure, and lack of exercise among the common factors, but you'll also want to take a closer look at your diet to make sure it isn't due to lack of water, or your caffeine, alcohol, and acidic food consumption. "Use pH optimized skin care, and consume an alkaline diet internally," says Arredondo. "This means eating antioxidant-rich foods like leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fruits, and avoiding acid-forming villains like caffeine, sugar, dairy, meat, processed grains, yeast, and alcohol."