For most of us, leading a more balanced life ranks at the top of our priorities. But balance doesn’t 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.
What’s Your Ideal Balance?
The term pH-balanced gets thrown around a lot these days, but many often don’t know what it really means. We all have an internal pH, the one inside our body, and an external pH, the pH of our skin. The best pH for your is when it’s in an acidic state, with a pH of 4 to 5.5. Conversely, our body operates at its best with a pH that is alkaline, from 7.35 to 7.45.
How The Balance Is Disrupted
When skin has the proper pH balance, it is not too dry nor 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 intact. 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), 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 both our internal and external pH. You can find out your internal pH by testing your saliva with a multicolored pH strip—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.
What To Use, What To Avoid
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 remove dead skin cells more evenly and safely than physical exfoliants, like microbeads, washcloths, and scrubs. Exfoliation properly 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 skim 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. [ed. note—try a gentle micellar water instead.] 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).
Eat This, Not That
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. It sounds like a lot, but I promise it’s worth it.