Choose mildly acidic products for more radiant skin

Take a tiny bit of your skin serum or toner and put it on the end of your tongue. If it tastes slightly tart, as if you just dabbed a little lemon juice on your tongue, then your skin care product is in what I call the magic zone. Beauty products formulated to be in the range of mild acidity, between pH 4.6 and 5, will help your skin look and feel its best.

Internally, our bodies need to be alkaline (with a pH of higher than 7) to function optimally, but the surface of the skin should be mildly acidic. The acid mantle is a thin barrier that helps your skin remain healthier, with fewer blemishes. It protects the skin from wind and pollution, and it neutralizes bad bacteria and irritation.

Many contaminants that affect the skin, such as harmful bacteria and chemicals from the atmosphere, are alkaline in nature. Ultraviolet rays, pollution, everyday stress and topical products with a high pH can break down the acid mantle. If your skins acid mantle is disrupted or loses its acidity, your skin becomes more vulnerable to damage and infection.

What should you use on your skin to help keep this barrier intact? Thats where the taste test comes in. Check the products in your bathroom and see how many deliver that tinge of tartness. Look for products based on natural, plant-based acids and nutrients. Read labels obsessively for ingredients like vegetable-derived levulinic acid and corn-derived ascorbic acid. Maintaining the skins pH at the proper level will help maintain its health and beauty long-term.

A 30-second guide:

  • Women: Use treatments, serums and toners with mild acidity. Theyre great for naturally brightening skin and reducing fine lines around the eyes and mouth.
  • Men: Alkaline soaps and shave creams can leave skin-tight and sensitive. Pre- and post-shave products with natural acids can leave a soft, fresh feeling.
  • Teens: If you have acne, refrain from using anything with a pH over 5.5, as this creates a perfect environment for the acne bacteria to thrive.

Try the taste test and get whats best. Cheers!

Just the Facts: Acid vs. Alkaline

pH is the measure of the acidity of a solution. The lower the pH, the more acidic the liquid; the higher the pH, the more alkaline or basic the substance. For practical purposes, pH ranges from 0 to 14, with pure water being neutral at pH 7.

Acids refer not only to caustic chemicals like sulfuric acid but to many vital nutrients in the body, such as essential fatty acids. Common acids in beauty products include lactic acid, hyaluronic acid and ascorbic acid (vitamin C).

Alkaline or basic substances include baking soda (pH 9) and calcium carbonate or chalk (also pH 9)

Karen Sinclair Drake is the research and development director at Sophyto.