Your pH is more important than you think and when it’s out of whack your skin pays the price. Here’s how to balance it…
Skin looks and feels better in a middle ground between acid and alkaline. Throw this balance out of whack (by using the wrong products or eating the wrong foods) and your pH levels will suffer resulting in sensitivity, wrinkles, inflammation or acne. Snoozed during chemistry class? Dr Colbert tells us that the phrase ‘pH balanced’ is more than a marketing ploy. “Our body and skin require a balance between alkaline and acidity for our acid mantle – the barrier that keeps moisture in and germs and toxins out. Anything over seven is considered alkaline. Skin that falls on this end of the scale tends to be drier and more wrinkly, while skin that’s too acidic can appear red, irritated and itchy. Slightly acidic, around 5.5, is epidermal heaven.”
SKIP TAP WATER
Cameron Diaz is rumoured to wash her face in Evian, and if she does she’s onto something. Nichola Joss, facialist and Sanctuary skincare expert tells us why: “Hard water has a high mineral composition containing heavy metals like iron, copper, zinc, and nickel that can lead to irritation, inflammation and itchiness and it can even breakdown collagen and elastin. It can also contain chlorine, which is drying stripping the top layer of the skin of its natural oils.” Yikes! She recommends opting out of hard water to her patients with hypersensitive skin. If there’s a build-up in your showerhead you know your water is hard and this is the same residue deposited on your face. You can find out just how hard your water is with a simple test or by looking up your area’s drinking water quality report.
PH-ACT: Bathing in Evian not an option? Sprinkle Therapie Himalayan Detox Salts, £37, into your bath to balance your energy flow.
JUMP ON THE MICELLAR WATER WAGON
French women are spearheading the anti-tap-water movement. In its place they’re using Micellar water that was developed in France in the nineties to combat their harsh water. “Micellar waters are cleansers that don’t need to be rinsed, they are a fast track to cleansing and toning your skin with or without makeup,” says makeup extrodinaire Terry de Gunzburg.
“They contain cleansing molecules called micelles that trap and sweep away dirt and oil, making them great as an alternative to foam cleansing.” We love By Terry Cellularose Micellar Water, £43, or Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water, £4.99. Once wiped off, spritz your face with a thermal water spray like Eau Thermale Avène Micellar Lotion Cleanser, £13, or La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water, £7.50.
PH-ACT: Apply moisturizer while skin is still damp. Our favourite healthy pH promoters include: Origins United State Balancing Tonic, £18.50, Triology Balancing Face Lotion, £26.50, REN Rose O12 Moisture Defence Serum, £42, and Algenist Concentrated Reconstructing Serum, £36.
Be mindful of formulas and ingredients. “To maintain a healthy balance in the skin, it’s best to avoid harsh soaps that have an alkaline pH and instead use neutral or slightly acidic soaps with alpha or beta hydroxy acids, these especially help the bacteria/pimple cycle,” says celeb facialist Anastacia Achiellios. “I have seen thousands of skins transform from just making changes to cleansing routines.” Though lathering up might help you feel squeaky-clean, harsh soaps dry you out, leaving skin feeling tight.
PH-ACT: Consider oil or gel-based cleansers. Femfresh Everyday Care Daily Gel Wash, £2.99, is great for the body and won’t leave you itching. For the face Elemis Balancing Lime Blossom Cleanser, £22.50, Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel, £28, or Avene Cleanance Cleansing Gel, £10.50, are all pH friendly. Other soaps that won’t chafe are Eucerin Dry Skin Replenishing Wash, £8, Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, £8.99, and Fresh Soy Face Cleanser, £30.
INVEST IN PH STRIPS
If you’re not sure where your pH falls on the scale try one of the pH testing strips that measure alkalinity and acidity levels in saliva or urine. Try Simplex Health Strips, £8.99, or consult your dermatologist.
PH-ACT: The Organic Pharmacy offers their Health Assessment, £150, that can help determine your pH. Give yourself a hand; avoid fizzy drinks and swap your morning coffee for green tea, which is more alkaline. Try The Organic Pharmacy’s Phytonutrient Capsules, £28.95, which help alkalise the body.
INSTALL A WATER-SOFTENER
It’s believed that hard water and soap scum exacerbates eczema and unbalances pH. All is not lost: dermatologists suggest using a water-softening system. A water softening unit removes minerals (like limestone from rain water or water from lakes and rivers) that cause the water to be hard. Limestone is mainly calcium carbonate – magnesium is also prevalent in some areas – and it’s this you’ll find collecting in boilers and kettles.
PH-FACT: As well as being beneficial to skin, water softeners benefit your household. Kinetico Water Softner System, from £1449, has a 10-year warranty and so a great long-term investment in skin protection. Wickes Water Softener, £399, provides softened water through the home and maintains skin’s pH balance, reduces costs associated with replacing heaters, dishwashers and showerheads. Harvey Water Softeners can be rented on a monthly basis from £40-per month if you prefer the flexibility.
LOOK AFTER YOUR INTIMATE SKIN
Around 60% of UK women aren’t aware that regular shower gels cause intimate imbalances. Here’s the science bit: “Skin has a normal pH of between 5.4 and 5.9, but intimate skin is the most sensitive skin on a woman’s body and has a pH of less than 4.5 – it’s significantly lower,” says Dr Ian Currie, head of the Royal College of Gynaecology. “Good bacteria in the vagina called lactobacilli should regulate pH and prevent the growth of harmful organisms. If the vagina’s pH increases (making it less acidic) levels of lactobacilli falls and harmful bacteria multiply, increasing the likelihood of infections such as thrush.” Antibiotics, pregnancy, sex, contraception, heat, sweat, hormonal changes and things such as scented panty liners all unbalance our pH.
PH-ACT: A lot of women prefer to use a more appropriate skincare everyday like Femfresh Everyday Care Daily Wash, £2.99 – it’s SLS and paraben-free, hypoallergenic, pH balanced and dermatologically and gynaecologically tested.
pH BALANCING FOOD
Your body is a machine, and the things you put inside it affect the way it looks on the outside. “When your body is functioning at its best, your cells are able to maintain healthy blood pH easily,” explains Nutritional Therapist and Founder of GP Nutrition Gabriela Peacock. “However, when our bodies have to work to filter the foods you eat to maintain blood pH, then you could be more susceptible to illness and our diets sometimes tend to be on the acidic side.” Acid-producing foods include meat, poultry, cheese and dairy and, sadly, baked pastries, white bread, caffeine and processed foods. “Alkaline foods balance the body and allow our blood to absorb more oxygen to aid digestion, which will in turn lead to clearer skin,” says Peacock.
PH-ACT: Eat plenty of pH balancing kale, cayenne pepper, garlic, carrots, cabbage, and apple cider vinegar. Dalton Wong founder of TwentyTwo Training recommends drinking green juice, which is like a ‘salad in a glass’, with spinach, kale, lemon and cucumber.