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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Questions about pH and pH papers

pH is a measure of hydrogen ion concentration and refers to the acidity or alkalinity of any given substance. The pH scale ranges anywhere from 1 to 14.

Your skin is naturally acidic—about 5.5 on the pH scale. In order to maintain this pH balance, you only want to use acidic skin care products, or rather products that are acidic on the pH scale. The reasons for this are twofold. First, bacteria (the type found in infected blemishes) cannot thrive in an acid environment. Therefore, if you use acidic products, you help to fortify this natural acidic state, keeping bacteria away. Secondly, using alkaline products almost always strips the skin of its natural oils and surface water, causing the skin to become dehydrated. This can look and feel like dry, flaky skin.

Because it is so important to know the pH of all of your products, I highly recommend purchasing pH papers. This will enable you to test any product, whether for your face or body, and know if it’s the proper pH for your skin. Here are a few emails from readers that will help me explain:

One of the first things I did after reading Timeless Skin was order Nitrazine papers. It’s been a long time since chemistry class, and I don’t remember if 4 is on the acidic side or the alkaline side. Exactly what numbers do I want my products to be on the pH scale?

I just picked up pH papers from the local science store with a range from 1-14. So far all of my products have been a 4, 5, or 6. One Clinique® toner was an 8. Please refresh my memory: the products I check should be at what pH level?

If you are using pH papers, whether Nitrazine or otherwise, they will provide the pH values on the package. When you put some product on the paper, it will turn a color that corresponds to one of these values listed on the packaging. You will know immediately if the products you are testing are what you want to use or not. Neutral is 7 on the pH scale. Acid is considered anything less than 7, and anything above 7 would be considered alkaline. In answer to these specific emails, anything in the 4 to 6 range is acidic and the proper pH for a skin care product. The toner at a pH of 8 would be too alkaline, and I wouldn’t recommend using it.

Remember: it is alkalinity you want to avoid. I can think of no good reason to use an alkaline skin care product on your face. This is precisely why it is so helpful to have these papers to test the pH level of any and all of your products. 

I used the pHydrion strips that I found in the chemistry department, and they worked the same as the Nitrazine papers you recommend.

You can buy a single roll dispenser of pHydrion much cheaper than Nitrazine papers. They do the same thing, but they do it for one third the cost. If you cannot locate these papers at your local pharmacy, ask them to order some for you. No matter which brand you are able to find, do make a point to locate pH test papers.

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