Are Your Natural Soaps & Shampoo Bars pH Balanced?

We often receive e-mails asking, "Are Your Soaps & Shampoos pH Balanced?"

The question is based on the fact that on the surface of our skin sits a thin layer made up of mainly sweat, skin oils (sebum) and microflora called the "acid mantle."

The acid mantle has an average pH between 4.5 and 6.5, meaning it is mildly acidic. The acidity comes from the fatty acids present in sebum, the acids present in sweat and the microflora that break down the fatty acids.

This question is very difficult for me to answer because I disagree with the whole premise that pH balanced skin cleansers are necessary for healthy skin.

I absolutely agree that we need a healthy, intact acid mantle. However, the idea that we must use "pH balanced" skin care products or else something will be terribly wrong with our skin, is problematic for me.

Here are my issues:

    1. Studies show that cleaning your skin with an alkaline product, like soap, temporarily disrupts the skin’s acid mantle. But, studies also show that cleaning with simple tap water also disrupts the acid mantle.

    2. The purpose of any skin cleansing agent, whether it is pH balanced or not, is to get rid of the fatty sebum (oily) layer on your skin that holds the dirt and contaminants. While removing this fatty layer may make us feel clean, aren’t we disrupting the “acid mantle” by removing it? So basically we are creating a problem because of our cleanliness.

    3. The acid mantle pH fluctuates and varies depending gender, time of day, age, physical activity, weather, what and how much we eat, what and how much we drink, ethnic origin, health, medication, the environment and the uniqueness of the micro-flora and the normal secretions of your skin and even the region of the body it is covering. With so many factors influencing the skin’s pH, how can a product claim to be "pH balanced." I guess the question we should ask is, pH balanced to what?

    4. The claim "pH balanced" is advertised by many skin care companies. The claim implies that these products are more beneficial to your skin. While pH balanced skin and hair care products may have a lower pH, are the ingredients, like synthetic detergents, needed to make them "pH balanced" really better for your skin? There are so many studies that link irritated and inflamed skin conditions to synthetic additives in skincare products.

    5. The pH of a well made natural soap (which is used and rinsed off) will not cause long-term changes in the natural pH of skin. After bathing, your skin begins re-secreting the mantle immediately and "healthy skin will regain its acid mantle within 15 to 30 minutes." (Dr. Zoe Draelos: "Dermatology" April 1, 2011)

Whatever product we choose to clean our skin, pH balanced or not, will not only remove the natural sebum (fat) but will also remove the natural skin microflora or good bacteria, which help stabilize the pH of the skin as well as protect us from bad bacteria.

After reading so many studies about things that affect the acid mantle, it seems to me that cleaning our skin is actually not a very good idea.

If you really ponder the thought, our method of bathing is a relatively new concept in the long history of humankind.

For much more detailed information please read our blog, "What is pH Balanced Skin Care?"

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