What Does pH Have To Do With It?
How pH may be the first line of defense against acne
Acne is the most common skin disorder in the United States today. 40-50 million people visit the dermatologist for just this disorder every year, according to a study done by the American Association of Dermatology. This begs the question, WHY? Even experts haven’t whittled down the exact answer to this question, but it’s apparent that the balance of pH both inside the body and on the skin is a very important factor.
What is “pH”
“pH” stands for “potential of hydrogen”. This “potential of hydrogen” is what determines the acidity or alkalinity of a substance. The pH of a substance is measured on a scale of 1-14. Substances with values lower than 7 are considered acidic and those above 7 are considered alkaline or basic. A value of 7 is a perfect neutral.
The human body is a fairly neutral entity coming in at about 7.4. Small fluctuations are normal, but every body is different. The skin on a human body measures in at an acidic 4.5-5 though. This is a very important factor in regard to acne and many other skin disorders.
pH and Bacteria
Of course, it’s been proven that acne is often caused by the Propionium bacteria that become trapped beneath the skin. As it begins to multiply and grow, as bacteria does, it becomes an infection. This infection then begins to show above the skin’s surface and becomes a comedone or “pimple”. Of course, when the skin is at its natural optimum acidity of 4.5-5, it’s better able to protect itself and the rest of the body from bacteria, allergens and other pollutants in the environment. This pH factor alone would greatly reduce the amount of bacteria on the surface of the skin, as more alkaline environments are a favorite breeding ground for bacteria.
There are many ways to balance the pH of the skin to its normal pH value. From diet to skin care, pH levels can be affected both positively and negatively. For instance, when someone has a bladder infection it’s normal to advise them to drink cranberry juice. The reason for this is that cranberry is a very acidic berry and quickly changes the pH of the body, especially the urinary system of the body. After a short time, the person suffering the bladder infection often begins to feel relief, as the acidic environment stopped the growth of the bacteria causing the infection and are flushed away. It is exactly the same idea that protects our skin from bacteria and other environmental factors.
How to Normalize pH
Inside the Body – Eating foods that begin to normalize the inside of the body as well as using skin care products that return the acidic pH to the skin is the first step to healthier skin. There is a layer of protection on the skin called the “acid mantle”. Here is where most of the warfare on bacteria and allergens takes place. The acid mantle is built by the functions of the body and skin and for that structure to be built correctly, the building blocks must also be correct.
Diets consisting of foods that are processed, artificial sweeteners, heavy meats and dairy products are considered acidic. These are foods that are considered a Western diet. I’s not at all uncommon that many people include these foods in their daily diets. By eating foods that are more alkaline such as dark leafy greens, cucumbers, green beans, garlic and even lemons and limes you can help to balance the inside of your body. This will allow it to begin functioning properly and part of that function is to create an acid mantle for the skin. As the acid mantle is returning to normal there will be a healthy change in the skin. Skin care products can completely cancel this improvement if not chosen properly though.
On the Skin – Most bar soaps (even those labeled as “facial bars”) are extremely alkaline. They usually measure in on the scale around a 10-11! Even though the skin feels oil free, fresh and clean after using these soaps, the truth is, they have stripped away the acid mantle. It takes about 16 hours for the body to replace the acid mantle completely, but by then, the face has already been washed again and the cycle can never really complete, leaving the skin vulnerable to the environment and bacteria as well as either over or under producing oil in order to compensate for the stripping away of its own natural moisturizing factor. Over produced oils and sebum is again, a breeding ground for bacteria.
Choose skin care products carefully for treating acne conditions. Look for products that will balance the pH of the skin after cleansing and exfoliating. Even look for full lines of products that are pH balanced for the skin, as Proactiv products claim to be. The right products will promote the healthy construction of the acid mantle to protect your skin from further bacterial infection. It will also cause the skin to relax and not feel the need to over produce oils in order to protect itself. Healthy skin will begin to prevail over acne and healing can begin.
Although there is much research and many articles on this particular avenue of fighting acne, it’s still not well understood. As dermatologists and skin care researchers become more and more convinced of its importance though, there will be a surge in importance among skin care manufacturers as well. Knowing the truth about pH and realizing its effects on the skin may be the next battle to be won in the war against acne