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The Highs and Lows of pH

By: Kirsten Sheridan
Posted: June 9, 2008

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Measuring the pH of a solution is easy to do, and can be accomplished by using a pH pencil or testing strips. Utilizing a pH pencil as a retail tool allows you to educate clients about the importance of pH-balanced product choices for achieving healthy skin. Testing products that clients may have at home will help them to weed out poor product choices. Setting up a workstation where clients can test a product’s pH while waiting for their appointments is a fun and engaging way to encourage questions.


Another consideration when thinking about pH is water. Water is used in face and body treatments, showering, mixing products, filling steamers and soaking steam towels. You probably are aware of the negative effects of using tap water in your steamers—sediments and mineral deposits collect on the element and result in the malfunction of the unit. Distilled water prevents this. It has a neutral pH of 7, while tap water is alkaline, although the degree of alkalinity depends upon your location. Knowing the negative effects of prolonged alkalinity on the skin, it could be concluded that distilled water is a better choice due to its reduced chemical content and closeness to the skin’s natural pH.

Before you embark on a distilled water-only policy, however, take a look at the bigger picture. It is unlikely that your clients are using distilled water at home for cleansing and skin care purposes, and utilizing distilled water in the treatment room can be costly and time-consuming. However, installing filters on your taps and showers will go a long way in reducing the harsh chemicals found in the water supply that offer no skin benefits whatsoever.

Internal pH

Although the importance of maintaining the acidic PH of the stratum corneum now is understood, maintaining internal pH balance is crucial, as well. As skin care professionals, you work topically, but you also can educate clients about their general health and encourage them to seek more information that will help them in their quest for it. Aging is a huge factor for today’s clients, and understanding that internal pH plays a part in the aging process is key to helping them achieve overall well-being. Internal body pH should range from 6.8–7.4 in order to maintain cellular health. Although the trillions of cells in the body are acidic in nature, they are surrounded by alkaline body fluids. For example, the optimum pH of the blood is 7.45, while stomach acid is highly acidic at pH 1.5.

Just as you can test the pH of the skin, you also can test the overall pH of the body. pH strips can be used to test either your urine or saliva, although the most reliable results come from saliva. Always test first thing in the morning before brushing your teeth, or eating or drinking anything. Health food stores sell pH testing strips specifically for this purpose—they do not display the full pH range, but span pH 4.5–7.5.