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July 20, 2021
When talking about skincare, most of us, if not all, are concerned mostly with product ingredients, formulations, and perhaps diet, while one important aspect is often overlooked——water. It turns out, the pH of water you use to wash your face and body actually does matter a lot.
Our skin's barrier is slightly acidic with a pH between 4.5 and 6.2, depending on factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, climate, and body part, whilst collected research shows the the skin is healthiest at around pH 4.7. This is because with more acidity, the skin can combat harmful microbes and damaging free radicals that can accelerate the aging process. It also helps with barrier function, moisture retention, and microbiome health, i.e. more good bacteria and less bad bacteria on the epidermis.
On the other hand, more alkaline skin is often associated with, and may even cause eczema, dermatitis, rosacea, rash, acne, inflammations, dryness, itchiness, etc. In fact, if you find your skin more prone to irritations and dryness as you get older, it may be a direct result of alkalinity, as the skin naturally becomes more alkaline with age.
Here is the problem. According to the Water Supplies Department, the pH of water in Hong Kong is between 8.2 and 8.8, meaning it is alkaline. This can raise the skin’s pH, and could damage the skin barrier, deteriorate the skin's natural water retention and defence function, resulting in dry, itchy, and inflamed skin, as well as worsened eczema symptoms and flare ups.
While the difference between 4.7 and 8.2 - 8.8 does not sound that much on paper, it is actually a huge difference. Think of it this way, an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.7, simply cannot compare to an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.2 - 8.8. This is how much of a difference it is.
So, how do we correct the skin’s pH balance?
Using distilled water to wash the face is not something new. In fact, it has long been practiced in Japan and Korea. The reason is that distilled water has a mildly acidic pH of 5.8 to 6.7, thus won’t disrupt the skin barrier.
Case in point——renowned model Christine Au-Yeung has previously revealed how she started using distilled water instead of tap water to wash the face under the recommendation of an ex Korean beauty queen, and since then her skin sensitivity issue disappeared!
We have mentioned countless times how sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) that are present in foaming cleansers can disrupt the skin barrier. Guess, what, they are both alkaline, and SLS for instance, has a pH of 7.5 to 8.5. Whilst, bar soap generally has a pH range of 8.0 to 10.0 (even handmade soap is considered alkaline).
This alkalinity can increase the skin’s natural pH, disrupt and damage the skin barrier, strip the skin of its important oils, deteriorate the skin's natural water retention and defence function, resulting in dry, itchy, and inflamed skin, as well as worsened eczema and rosacea symptoms and flare ups.
In fact, this doesn’t only apply to skincare products. Laundry and dish detergent, all-purpose cleaners, tile cleaners, and bleach etc. are all very alkaline. This is exactly why a lot of housewives get contact dermatitis——the alkalinity disrupts the skin’s pH, damages the skin barrier, thus leaving the skin susceptible to bacteria, inflammations, dryness, cracking, etc.
MARIE REYNOLDS LONDON
Goji Mallow Cleanse™ <- Click to shop
Smooth Operator Purifying Cleansing Gel <- Click to shop
Not only can acids remove dead, unhealthy skin cells that are causing itchiness, flakiness and roughness, increase skin turnover so healthy skin underneath can reveal itself, target acne, pigmentation, uneven skin tone and rough texture, and help serums, oils, and other topical treatments penetrate the skin better, they actually help rebalance the skin’s pH, so it stays mildly acidic instead of alkaline. The result? Healthier skin that glows.
Acids may sound irritating to many, however, with the right formulation and concentration, they can be used by all skin types, even sensitive, rosacea, and eczema prone skin. In fact, you might be surprised how some acids actually pull in water for the skin and help increase hydration! (For detailed properties of different acids and their respective functions, click here)
Just avoid glycolic acid though, as it could easily irritate the skin due to its small molecular size.
No. 9 Exfoliant <- Click to shop
acid(wash) Lactic Acid Brightening Cleanser <- Click to shop
Due to the alkaline water from our taps, our skin after cleansing is likely to be alkaline. Most toners are at an optimal or slightly acidic pH level, thus can recalibrate the skin to its optimal pH level. Once the pH is back in balance, the skin barrier is then protected, thus can better retain moisture and block out bacteria and irritants.
What’s better, it can help prep the skin for better absorption, as serums, oils or moisturizer penetrate much better on damp skin, whilst giving the skin a lot of hydration, as well as other benefits, depending on the formulation.
Do remember though, to avoid anything with drying alcohol (learn how to distinguish between drying alcohol and skin-benefiting alcohol here).
holi(water) Hyaluronic Pearl & Rose Essence <- Click to shop
Ultra Revitalising Elixir <- Click to shop
We have previously talked about how topical live culture probiotics secrete anti-bacterial, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory substances that penetrate bad bacteria and kill them before they trigger an inflammation, whilst providing a protective shield to keep bad bacteria from reaching skin cells, as well as calming parts of the skin cells that want to react to the bad bacteria, thus stopping them from sending an “attack” message to the skin’s immune system that leads to redness, swelling, patchy skin, or acne-like bumps.
Here’s an additional benefit——studies have proven that topical live culture probiotics can restore the skin’s essential acidic pH, thus can help further improve skin health.
One point to note though, is that products that claim to contain probiotic often comprise ingredients such as fermented ingredients like Lactobacillus ferment, meaning they do not actually comprise living bacteria, and therefore are not technically probiotics. Also, even if a formula claim to contain live cultures, moisture, as in a water-based formula, can be threatening to the well-being and effectiveness of these little guys. In addition, some preservatives, natural or otherwise, would render any probiotic cultures inert and therefore useless, unless the preservative systems are crafted to address “bad” bacteria without harming the “good”.
MARIE REYNOLDS LONDON
Restore <- Click to shop
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