The proper acidity of your skin

Importance of proper acidity of your skin

Updated 4 may 2024

Many of us shower daily and apply various skin products, but what are the consequences for our natural skin barrier?

The skin barrier protects us against external influences, such as harmful microorganisms, ultraviolet radiation and dehydration. The skin barrier consists of a horny layer and a thin skin film made up of a mix of 25% cholesterol and 15% free fatty acids and 50% ceramides. The latter are lipid molecules that form fatty bonds and are partly responsible for the structure and functioning of the skin.

The layer ensures that the ‘normal’ skin becomes more acidic: a skin acid mantle.

But what does this mean? pH is the measure of acidity of an aqueous solution. The acidity ranges from 0 (acid) to 14 (basic). pH neutral has a value of 7. For example, lemon (acid) has a pH value of 2 and liquid soap (alkaline) has a pH value of 10. Research has shown that for the skin, the “ideal” pH is 4.7. This is in contrast to the common assumption that the skin surface pH would be between 5.0 and 6.0.

Skin Acidity, Chlorine, Microbiome, Sebum, Sebum, Skin Barrier Formic Acid Acidity And Iconic Elements Products
Skin And Acidity Iconic Elements

What Causes pH Changes?

Both internal and external factors can cause skin pH fluctuations.

As we age, the pH value of the skin increases. The skin is less able to recover and the buffer capacity decreases. Weather changes can also throw the pH out of balance.

pH of the skin is not the same everywhere

The pH is not the same everywhere on our body. Depending on the skin location, the pH is higher in the space between the toes/fingers, armpits, groin and under the breasts. Particularly in the armpits, a higher pH value leads to the colonization of certain odour-producing bacteria such as Propionibacteria and Staphylococcus. Deodorants with citrates (citric acid) lower the pH and have a bacteria-inhibiting effect. In addition to bacteria, Candida fungi also like a high pH environment. In addition, the sebum layer, hydration and sweating influence the pH values ​​of the skin.

Showering raises the pH value of the skin – it takes 6 hours for this to be restored

What we ourselves have some influence on are the external factors. Our tap water in Europe averages around pH 8.0. After a shower session, our skin raises pH to such an extent that it takes 6 hours to return the natural pH to the ideal 4.7 pH. In addition, cosmetic products, including soaps, can also increase pH values.

What happens in the skin due to the pH changes?

The top layer of the epidermis, or the stratum corneum, is affected by the changing pH. The more alkaline the skin, the more less the integrity, less bonding and more flaking. A low skin pH contributes to a moisturizing effect of the skin.

A lower pH value gives better hydration

A Korean study investigated the influence of pH and wrinkle depth in 300 volunteer women from Korea, Singapore and Vietnam. It was concluded that factors such as hydration, melanin (pigment), transepidermal water loss (TEWL), sebum and skin temperature influence the pH value. Wrinkle formation decreased significantly as skin pH became more acidic.

Less wrinkles at a lower pH value

Normal skin flora benefits most in an acidic environment, while harmful Staphylococcus Aureus (cause of boils, impetigo and aggravation of eczema) prefers a neutral environment.

Skin conditions and pH influences:

In people with eczema, the pH value is higher than in people without eczema. Causes are a reduced amount of free amino acids and urocanic acid in the stratum corneum (upper skin layer), lactic acid in sweat is also reduced in people with eczema, so that the skin is more alkaline.

Too high a pH can lead to bacterial infections of the skin

Due to this disrupted skin barrier, the Staphylococcus Aureus bacteria thrive in a neutral pH environment in eczema patients. This makes people with eczema more susceptible to bacterial infections. It is all the more important for eczema patients to have the right lifestyle to keep the skin barrier as optimal as possible.

Diaper eczema and fungal infections

Various factors play a role in diaper eczema, elements such as urine, faeces, scalding, changes in skin flora and skin pH values. Exposure to urine and faeces increases the formation of ammonia, creating an alkaline (high) pH environment. Certain stool enzymes are activated by the high pH value and disrupt the skin barrier. The aforementioned Candida (fungal) infection is also sensitive to a high pH environment. Diaper rash and yeast infection are often seen together.

Do not wash your vagina with soap

Soap is not always desirable to keep the skin clean, including for the intimate areas such as the genital region. Soap with an average pH value of 7-9 can even seriously unbalance the pH value of the vagina, which can lead to infections. It is therefore advisable to wash the vagina with water only.

Your period raises the pH of the vagina

An interesting fact: the vaginal pH in healthy and pre-menstrual women is between 3.5-4.5. Under the influence of menstrual blood (7.4 pH), the vagina becomes more alkaline. As a result, more susceptibility to fungal infections.

Wash acne skin with more acidic products

In one study, a subset of people with acne used an alkaline soap with a high pH versus an acidic soap with a low pH for four weeks.e. The amount of skin inflammation was significantly higher in people who used the alkaline soap as opposed to the acidic soap.

The power of acid: moisturizing, anti-wrinkle, inhibiting bacteria

We now know that a lower acidity counteracts micro-organisms and wrinkles, but also has a moisturizing effect. By using the right skin care products and skin treatment, you can (temporarily) make the pH value of the skin more acidic and thus benefit from the benefits of a lower pH. Always get good advice from a dermatologist, skin therapist or beauticians with specializations in acne, for example, about the treatment that suits your skin.


The importance of the correct pH of the skin is an underexposed item and there are many factors that influence this. It is important to use good cosmetic products that have a low pH value to properly hydrate and protect your skin and that may also have an anti-aging effect. Unfortunately, you often do not see this on the packaging.

This post by Dr. Francis Wu was published on

Did you know that the acidity of all Iconic Elements skin care products is around the ideal pH 5

Picture of Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu, een vooraanstaande dermatoloog, is de drijvende kracht achter Iconic Elements. Hij heeft sinds 2004 zijn expertise ingezet om een veilige en effectieve huidverzorgingslijn te creëren, geschikt voor zowel gezonde huid als huidproblemen. Iconic Elements, opgericht in 2016, is de eerste brede skincare lijn in Nederland ontwikkeld door een dermatoloog. Als medisch specialist streeft Dr. Wu naar het bevorderen van het welzijn van mensen door hoogwaardige en effectieve huidverzorgingsproducten te bieden. De proefdiervrije en vegan producten vermijden schadelijke chemicaliën en bevatten natuurlijke ingrediënten.
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