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What’s so important about pH? These two letters, which stand for “potential of hydrogen,” might just be the missing piece to your perfect skincare puzzle.

A brief refresher on this chem-class topic: “pH” is essentially a measurement of acidity. It runs on a scale of 0-14, with zero indicating more acidity, and 14 being more alkaline. A 7 is neutral; that’s the pH of water. Anything tipping below that runs more acidic (think vinegar, which has a pH of 3), and anything above is more alkaline (e.g., bleach, with a pH of 13).

Here’s why pH matters for your skin: The ideal human skin level is slightly acidic—women typically have a skin pH of 5.5, and men, 5.8. When your skin is at its optimal level, it’s able to do its thing: Combat germs, absorb antioxidants, and generally ward off acne and premature wrinkles. When it’s unbalanced, however, the outermost protective layer (called the acid mantle) starts to crack. That’s when skin becomes sensitive and more prone to irritation, as well as premature wrinkles and sagging.

Luckily, an off-balance skin pH level is pretty easy to fix. Here’s how to assess, restore, and maintain optimum pH levels in your own skin:

1. How to determine your pH levels

The easiest way to estimate your skin’s pH levels? Take a look in the mirror.

Is your skin dry or fragile? Chances are, it has a more alkaline pH. This is the likely culprit behind any itching and inflammation you might be experiencing.

If it’s the opposite, e.g., you have acne-prone skin that tends to be oily and red, you might have overly acidic skin.

If your skin is healthy, a.k.a. at normal pH levels, it will be smooth and soft. pH-balanced skin also doesn’t usually flake, get irritated, or become itchy.

What you use to wash your face and body affects your skin’s pH levels. To get a precise reading on your skincare products’ pH levels, you can use pH-testing strips to make sure they’re pH-balanced (between 4 and 6).

Puracy’s soaps, shampoos, and conditioner all have a pH level between 5-6. Puracy’s lotions have a pH level between 6-7. All of these have been formulated to work in harmony with your skin, hair, and scalp’s natural pH.

2. What to eat for healthy pH levels in your skin

What you eat might not directly affect your skin’s pH levels, but many experts believe there’s at least a connection.

Try promoting skin health from within by consuming an alkaline diet that’s rich in antioxidants. Think leafy veggies (kale, cabbage, broccoli), fruits that are low in sugar (e.g. berries, watermelon), nuts, seeds, and whole grains (like quinoa). Alkalizing superfoods like spirulina are reputed to boost skin pH, too. Cutting down on your consumption of acid-forming foods, such as sugar, dairy, red meat, soda, and anything that’s been highly processed, may also help. When possible, try following the 80/20 principle: Eat a diet that’s 80% rich in alkaline goods, and 20% acidic.

Raw, organic honey is also a sweet treat for your skin—it has an average pH of 4.0. In addition to consuming it, you can apply it topically as either a cleanser or face mask to keep your skin pH-balanced.

3. Consider how water quality impacts your skin’s pH

If your scalp and skin always feel dry no matter what shampoo and body wash you use, you might need to invest in a water softener or a shower filter. The pH levels of your shower water can affect your skin; the best water for bathing is of a soft, non-alkaline, non-mineral, and heavy quality. And always stick with lukewarm water, which won’t dry out your skin.

4. Best products to balance your pH levels

To keep your skin healthy, avoid harsh soaps (typically bar soaps, which—thanks to their general pH of 9—are especially hard on facial skin). Look instead for pH-balanced soaps, like Puracy Natural Body Wash, which has a pH between 5-6. Our gentle blend of coconut cleansers, clinical grade moisturizers, and Himalayan pink sea salt is pH-balanced and free of any harsh chemicals that might strip your skin’s natural oils.

Following up with a toner immediately after cleaning might help to calibrate your skin’s pH. But before you spritz, read the ingredient list: If alcohol is listed high on the toner’s order of ingredients, then it could dry out your skin rather than nourish it. You can DIY your own toner using ingredients that range from rose water to apple cider vinegar.

You should also double check the ingredient list on your shampoo and conditioners. Sulfates, like SLS and other synthetic ingredients that many conventional products use to create a lather, can be extremely drying and can disrupt your skin’s natural pH levels. Stick with products free of sulfates. And always treat your hair to a natural conditioner—conditioning is one of the most beneficial things you can do during your daily shower routine.

Immediately after showering, lock in crucial hydration by applying a nourishing organic moisturizer.

Beauty is in the balance: Once you have a general understanding of your skin’s pH levels, you can restore them to an optimal level. Stick with lukewarm water to wash your face, opt for pH-balanced products, and as much as possible, consume a diet that fosters healthy pH levels inside and out.

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