Soap, pH, and The Skin's Barrier Function
Have you ever heard someone say about a cleanser (or other personal care product) 'it doesn't leave my skin feeling clean enough' ?
This is quite an interesting statement.
When is skin clean enough?
- when it's squeaky clean?
- when it feels taut?
- when there is no detectable scent?
- when it smells like soap?
We are creatures of habit, but sometimes habits are just that – habits.
Must we wash our skin with soap to be clean?
The answer is no.
Upsetting The BalanceOur skin is called the acid mantle for a reason. Human skin remains 'in balance' with products of pH 4.5 - 5.5
If the skin's pH balance is 'disturbed', it works toward re-establishing it's normal pH.
Just getting into a tub of plain water is enough alter the skin's pH. Water – which is neutral – has a pH of around 7.0
If soap is added to the equation, the skin's pH is nudged even further from its natural state. Soap is alkaline and the harsher ones can have a pH of up to 12.0
pH Balanced ProductsIf you see a product advertised as pH-balanced, it's ok to snicker a little. Products for skin care are all formulated to be as skin-friendly as possible, so they are, in effect, as pH balanced as they can possibly be.
There is no need to shop specifically for 'pH-balanced'.
What About Soap?It is generally understood in our society that 'it takes soap and water to get clean'. Soap is one option for cleansing, but if you find your skin feels taut and dry after using soap and water, perhaps soap is not ideal for your skin.
There are quite a few alternatives to soap that cleanse quite effectively.
Any one of these can be used as a face cleanser. Rhassoul and clay are equally suited as body cleansers.
It's all a question of how your skin fares best. The most difficult part might be getting used to the idea that the skin can be effectively cleansed without soap.
It actually took me a while to fully realize that my skin just doesn't do very well with soap. Now, I can't remember when I last used soap on my face. I will use soap for showering on some days – but even though it is as gentle and baby-friendly as a soap can possibly get, the cleanser that leaves my skin feeling best of all is an oil and salt scrub.
Do TellDoes the idea of cleansing without soap seem strange to you?
Info and Nerdy Stuff About Soap, Skin, and the Barrier FunctionChanges in epidermis metabolism after exaggerated soap use - Journal og Investigavtive Dermtaology
The influence of soap on the permeability of the epidermis
Alkaline surfactants and the water barrier function of the epidermis
Effects of soap on skin surface pH in newborns
Effects of soap and detergents on the barrier function
Healthtap: is washing the face with soap bad?
What Does pH balanced mean?