Wednesday, 12 July 2017

pH Matters: A Beginners Guide To Chemical Exfoliants & Cleansers

Natasha Kendall, Beauty Blogger, Cambridge Blogger, Skincare Blogger, Skincare shelfie Pinterest

(A gentle reminder that I support my blog through affiliate links. These are always included when I recommend products, but there is no obligation to buy through them!)

Chemical exfoliation is a relatively 'new' mainstream concept. With the likes of Pixi, Nip & Fab and even Superdrug own brand releasing new and 'innovative' chemical exfoliators, we're spoilt for choice! ... Or are we? Nope, we're not. Allow me to explain.

Your skin has something called the acid mantle. This is probably the most unknown yet important part of skincare - it's kind of like the o-zone layer for your skin. Brands occasionally slap on the bottles 'PH balanced' but you can't always believe this. Most of the time, brands create 'skincare' that strip your skin of all oils, as well as the make-up on your face - ever wondered why even the gentle cleansers for 'sensitive' skin still make you feel squeaky clean once you've rinsed off that foam? Yep, not great for the acid mantle. Your face shouldn't feel dry, tight and 'matte' after rinsing off a cleanser!


Lots of things can affect the acid mantle, but here are some common examples:
- Skin IrritantsThink lavender extract.. citrus extract... fragrance.. 'essential oils'. Sound familiar? these are popular ingredients in skincare. Cheap to source but the consumer always seem to fall for it being slapped on the labels of products - it sounds good and smells good, basically. And it makes people think that the lavender or tea tree oil is actually helping their skin, because why else would the company put it in the formula otherwise? "Lavender is relaxing, right?" .. "Tea tree oil is good for spots, right?" ... Nope. Often these essential oils are cytotoxic  - that means that they kill healthy, living cells!
- Soaps: Soaps usually have a very high pH. When you use bar soaps (charcoal, Dove, etc) your skin is always dry as a crocodile's back. People love it. Their pores look smaller, spots seem "dried out" ... It's all good. And then bam, oil production goes into overdrive and your poor skin becomes even more congested. 
- Weird Pinterest 'hacks': Lemon Juice has a pH of around 2, baking soda has a pH of around 8. They wreak havoc on your skin, all for the sake of 'drying out a spot'. And of course, they will dry out the spot, but many people promote these masks are a nighly or weekly thing, and that means that whoever does this is damaging their skin beyond repair... every night.


pH 1 battery acid 
pH 1.5 -2 = gastric (stomach) acid 
pH 2.5 = cola soft drinks 
pH 2 = lemon juice
pH 3 = vinegar 
ph = 3.5 orange juice 
pH 4.5-5.5 = healthy skin
pH 6.5 = milk
pH 8.5 = baking soda 
pH 9 = sea water 
pH 9.0-10.0 = hand soap, detergents 
pH 10.5 = milk of magnesia 
pH 11.5 = household ammonia 
pH 12.5 = household bleach 

You can see why people get confused by what is good, and what is bad.

PH & CHEMICAL EXFOLIATION
Chemical exfoliators such as glycolic, lactic, salicylic (AHA/BHA) need to be at a pH of 3-4 to actually be effective as acid exfoliants. Anything higher will neutralise the acid and do.. well, nothing. And if you think that you can trust your favourite brands, you can't.

Pixi have released a glycolic acid product in the form of their famous 'Pixi Glow Tonic' - but the pH is 5. (The last time I saw this tested)
Nip & Fab claim that their glycolic acid still works at a pH of around 4 - 4.5. I've not tested this myself, but I'm leaning more toward 4.5 if they can't pinpoint it.
Garnier claim that the salicylic acid in their "Sensitive" Anti-Blemish range is going to combat spots.. but what is the pH of those products? If a cleanser needs to be at a pH of around 5, and the acid needs to be at a pH of around 3.5... Well, you get me... Useless.

PH AND CLEANSERS
Often, people think their skin is oily, dry, or a combination of the two.... But you can't possibly know your skin type unless you stop using harsh cleansers that are stripping away at your skin every day. Your skin isn't your skin if it's in a state of turmoil. Our skin naturally holds a pH of anywhere between 4.2 - 5.6. Cleansers should be no higher than a pH of 6.

Think of it this way, when you keep using cleansers that are the wrong pH, you (every morning and night) strip the delicate skin of absolutely everything - both good and bad. So sure, there won't be a scrap of make-up left on your face, and it'll feel tight and clean.. but it means that over time, your skin struggles to produce the correct amount of oil; Cleansers aren't selective, no skincare product is. As much as brands claim to have developed "smart" products, they're not alive. They don't know what part of your face needs healing or extra moisture, they just strip the skin over and over again, and do the job that they were formulated to do.



My recommendations for cleansers that won't strip the skin:
All skin types: Kiehls Ultra Facial Cleanser - This cleanser is my all-time favourite. It is super thick and hydrating and it doesn't foam a lot, which believe it or not, is ideal in a cleanser. It's also the right pH levels. It's never usually on offer anywhere, but the price tag is always worth it. (Plus, it lasts forever!) £16.50

All skin types: Garnier Micellar Gel Face Wash - If you're on a budget, this is the product for you. It's not the most hydrating cleanser of the bunch, but it does the job if you're pinching pennies and need to have an affordable skincare regime that won't dry out the skin. Almost always on 1/3 off at Boots. £3


Dry skin: Simple Cleansing Grapeseed Oil - Non pore-clogging and it easily emulsifies with water (goes milky and doesn't stick to your skin like olive oil on a frying pan) and it's almost always on offer in Superdrug or Boots. £3-£6 (This is a first cleanse/make-up remover - you'd need a gentle foaming face wash after this product)


All skin types: Hylamide High Efficiency Face Cleaner - A beautifully formulated product from Deciem. Hylamide is the sister brand of The Ordinary (Read my review here!) and with higher prices, come far superior formulas - the "cleaner" being no exception! It hydrates whilst removing all make-up without a trace. Gentle but powerful. Also stocked at Beauty Bay, ASOS, Boots and Cult Beauty. £19 (This is a first cleanse - you'd need a gentle foaming face wash after this product)


Dry skin: Vitamin E Hot Cloth Cleanser - Gentle, and the perfect first cleanse. It's also a great dupe for the Liz Earle C&P. It's fantastic for dry skin and is a very gentle product that won't foam, it has the consistency of a very thick moisturiser. £4.99 (This is a first cleanse - you'd need a gentle foaming face wash after this product)


My recommendations for acid exfoliants with the correct pH:
Oily/Combo skin: Paula's Choice 2% Liquid BHA - Although best for oily and combination skin types, this product can work well on dry skin too. It's a god send in a bottle, and at £25 for 118ml, it should be. It's the correct pH, and you don't need much to transform your skin. I use this every single night. Find this product on LookFantastic or Paula's Choice official website. (I perfer LookFantastic, as it has better shipping options!)

All skin types (arguably): The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution -  The best skin re-texturizing product you can get for the price. I was shocked when I saw this initially released from Deciem for a mere price of £6.80! It works wonders for producing even and radiant skin, and it's suitable for many different skin types.

Be sure to use SPF50 every single day whilst using acids. Your skin will become more sensitive to the sun.
I really hope you guys enjoyed this post! I've been wanting to take my blog in a different direction for a little while, but been a little "scared" to make that transition. I want to move on to being more skincare focused. Of course, I still love make-up, but skincare is probably my biggest passion right now. I love researching and finding out more about products, ingredients and formulations. I'm no expert (I wish!) but I do enjoy helping people to understand more about what brands, ingredients and products you should be avoiding. Did this post help you?



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10 comments

  1. This is the best blog ive read 8n a long time! Welldone natasha, you explained exfoliants and cleansers in such an honest detail which was easy to understand.

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    1. Thanks so much. Glad you enjoyed it! Xx

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  2. Love this post! It's very helpful and has helped me understand the difference between different pH balances!
    Maya x | Vogue By Maya

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    1. Thanks so much for reading lovely! Xx

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  3. This was very informative. I am a. Skincare junkie and even have a skincare blog but I haven't ventured into the pH subject yet. I have a chemistry background and all but This was definitely a good intro as it pertains to skincare

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    1. Thank you for reading! It can be a real minefield, can't it. Xx

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  4. Natasha - I loved this post! So informative and goes into great detail, but easy to understand too. Love your recommendations too, will definitely be adding a few into my routine :) Looking forward to seeing more posts like this!

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  5. This post by LabMuffin will help explain why it's possible for Nip and Fab to still do something at pH 4-4.5: http://www.labmuffin.com/fact-check-friday-why-does-ph-matter-for-ahas-and-bhas/

    Kath
    x
    http://bendybeauty.com

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    1. Thank you :-) I have seen her handy calculator before actually! I've just seen only around 17% of the AHA would be active in the Nip + Fab range, wheras something like The Ordinary can have around 68% active - a huge difference. Technically it does 'nothing'. Xx

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  6. I needed this. It's very educational :)
    I personally don't pay much attention to this when buying stuff, but I usually see the downside very soon after starting to use it.
    I just tried Kiehls cleanser and it's really great!

    xo Honey - blog Royal Lifestyle - Twitter - Instagram

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