- The acid mantle is a protective film that fights against bacteria and microbes.
- Low pH cleansers maintain the balance of your skin’s pH level and acid mantle.
- Low pH cleansers are beneficial for all skin types, especially those who experience dryness or breakouts.
Face cleansers are essential products in your daily skin care routine. By clearing away impurities and excess oils from your skin, they prevent clogged pores and breakouts, while improving your overall complexion.
To achieve the best results from your cleanser, it’s important to use one formulated with a low pH close to your skin’s natural level. Those with high pH levels can be harmful to your skin, disrupting its natural balance and often causing unwanted symptoms such as acne, dryness and sensitivity.
What Is a Low pH Cleanser?
The pH scale refers to how acidic a substance is. To defend itself from bacteria and other contaminants, your skin has a thin protective film on its surface known as the acid mantle. As the name suggests, the acid mantle has a slightly acidic pH level, creating an environment in which bacteria and harmful microbes cannot grow.
Sun exposure, pollution and cigarette smoke can break down the acid mantle, leaving your skin susceptible to sensitivity. Traditional soaps, cleansers and other skin care products can also have a negative effect on your skin’s pH level, causing irritation and dryness.
The pH scale ranges between 1 – 14, with 1 being the most acidic. The average skin pH level is around 4.7. Low pH products are specially formulated to be slightly acidic, to restore and maintain your skin’s natural balance – they typically range between 4.5 – 6 on the pH scale.
Low pH cleansers effectively clear away make-up, impurities and excess oils from your skin, without disturbing the acid mantle.
Benefits of a Low pH Cleanser
If you have ever used a soap bar or cleanser that has left your skin feeling tight or dry, it’s likely that it had a high alkaline pH, and affected your skin’s acid mantle. Many skin care products need to be rinsed with warm water – tap water is also known to raise the pH of your skin.
Low pH cleansers prevent your skin from becoming too alkaline, restoring its pH to normal levels. By doing so, this helps to prevent conditions related to an impaired acid mantle, including:
- Dehydrated skin
- Skin sensitivity
- Eczema (Atopic dermatitis)
How to Choose a Low pH Cleanser for Your Skin
While low pH cleansers are beneficial for all skin types, it’s a good idea to choose one with added ingredients that provide additional benefits for your skin’s individual needs.
For dry skin
A low pH cleanser will help to protect dry skin from further irritation, by supporting the acid mantle.
Dry skin requires extra moisture, so it’s essential to opt for a cleanser with hydrating ingredients. Hyaluronic acid is widely used to treat dry skin, due to its highly moisturizing benefits. It has been found to improve the appearance of rough, dry skin after just two weeks of topical treatment.
Those with dry skin should avoid cleansers containing harsh ingredients that may be too drying, such as alcohol and witch hazel.
For oily skin
Use a low pH cleanser to clear away excess oils from your skin, while also maintaining your skin’s pH level. Choose a cleanser containing clay, an effective oil-controlling ingredient that works by absorbing excess oils and impurities from your pores.
Avoid cleansers with “heavy” formulations such as creams and lotions developed for dry skin, as they may have comedogenic effects on your skin.
For acne-prone skin
Your acid mantle helps to protect against harmful bacteria – a major cause of acne. Use a low pH cleanser to support your skin’s natural defenses, while clearing away any excess oil. Look out for cleansers containing benzoyl peroxide, a safe and effective anti-acne ingredient that fights bacteria and helps to heal lesions.
Avoid cleansers containing oils, such as coconut and mineral oil, which may clog your pores and cause breakouts.
For sensitive skin
An imbalanced skin pH can lead to increased sensitivity. Use a gentle low pH cleanser to help protect your skin from irritants. Shea butter is a mild ingredient known for its skin-soothing effects, helping to reduce inflammation and ease irritation.
Those with sensitive skin should avoid cleansers containing sodium-lauryl sulphate, a widely-used ingredient that has been identified as a skin irritant.
Should You Use a Low pH Cleanser?
Generally, low pH cleansers are well tolerated by all skin types. Those who experience skin sensitivity, acne, eczema or dryness may see improvements in their symptoms after using a low pH cleanser, as these conditions can often as a result of, or worsened by, an imbalanced skin pH.
Ideally, you should look for cleansers with a pH close to your skin’s natural level – usually between 4.5 – 6. Products with a lower pH than 4.5 may be too acidic and harsh for those with dry or sensitive skin.
An imbalanced skin pH can lead to a number of conditions, including acne, sensitivity and dryness. Low pH cleansers balance your skin’s natural pH level, supporting its protective acid mantle.
When choosing a low pH cleanser, opt for one with added ingredients that benefit your skin type. Cleansers with soothing and moisturizing ingredients are best suited to those with dry and sensitive skin, while antibacterial and oil-controlling ingredients are most effective in targeting oily and acne-prone skin.
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