For most of us, leading a more balanced life ranks at the top of our New Year’s resolutions. But balance does not only pertain to external factors like stress, work, and your personal life. Balance within your body, otherwise known as pH, is extremely important to your overall health. You could say achieving it is one of our most important balancing acts.
We all have an internal pH, the one inside our body, and an external pH, the pH of our skin. We hear the term pH-balanced, but often don’t know what it really means. Skin is at an ideal pH when it is in an acidic state, with a pH of 4-5.5. Conversely, our body operates at its best with a pH that is alkaline, from 7.35-7.45.
When skin has the proper pH balance, it is not too dry or too oily, it can better absorb antioxidants and other anti-aging ingredients, and it can ward off acne and wrinkles. The reason for this is that when skin is at its naturally acidic pH, its outermost protective layer, the acid mantle, remains in tact. But it’s really easy to disrupt the acid mantle with seemingly innocuous behavior: washing with water that’s hot or too cold (lukewarm is best), using cleansing brushes or over-exfoliating, and using cleansers with harsh detergents, or foaming agents, like sodium laurel sulfate.
Our lifestyle also influences our pH. Things like poor diet, too much alcohol, and too little exercise all contribute to our internal and external pH. You can find out your internal pH by testing your saliva with a multicolored pH strip first thing in the morning. The best way to test the pH of your skin is by looking in the mirror. Healthy, radiant skin with the proper pH has an even color and tone, has very little to no redness, and no dry patches or flakes.
The best way to achieve proper skin pH is by sticking with a cleanser that uses chemical exfoliants, such as alpha-, beta-, or polyhydroxy acids. They can more evenly and safely remove dead skin cells than physical exfoliants like beads, washcloths, and scrubs. Doing this sets up your skin to receive all of the ingredients it needs from a serum and moisturizer: antioxidants to protect against UV damage and environmental stress, peptides and amino acids to firm skin cells and encourage new collagen formation, and vitamins and minerals to replenish the skin. It’s best to avoid toner, as many contain alcohol, which can be drying to the skin. Many serums and moisturizers are formulated with an alkaline pH, so it’s important to avoid ingredients like Propylene Glycol, Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA), and Monoethanolamine (MEA).
It’s also immensely important to stay hydrated and eat an alkaline diet that relies heavily on antioxidant rich foods like leafy green vegetables (kale and spinach are excellent, as well as avocado, broccoli, asparagus and bell peppers), low sugar fruits (like apples, lemons, bananas, berries, pomegranate and watermelon), nuts (walnuts, almonds and chestnuts are best), grains (quinoa, steel cut oatmeal, amaranth), and seeds (such as chia, flax, pumpkin and sunflower). Avoid acid-forming categories like sugar, dairy, red meat, processed grains, yeast, alcohol, and caffeine. Alkaline-forming foods are naturally high in the exact vitamins and minerals needed for good skin - antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamins A, C, and E, omega-3 fatty acids and zinc. They lead to a stronger immune system, improved digestion, and better skin tone. We follow the 80% alkaline /20% acidic principle while eating.
A body with an alkaline pH functions much like a well-oiled machine. Cells are communicating with one another, energy and focus increase, sleep is deeper, and immunity is higher. So with a little awareness and some daily practice, getting your pH in balance this year may be your most productive resolution. It sounds like a lot, but I promise it’s worth it.
Photo Credit: Mimi McCormick, Shutterstock