Alkalising skincare: what it all means
Stronger healthier skin? Skin that stays hydrated and radiant throughout the day? Can all this be achieved by something as seemingly simple as switching to alkaline skincare products? Yes, and here’s how!
In order to understand the process behind alkalising skincare, it’s important to get your head around two main things:
2) Human skin.
In this article, we’ll take you through each section above and explain simply why we believe alkalising skincare is the skincare so many people have been searching for.
What do we mean by 'alkalising'? Let's talk Alkaline vs acidic
You may recall learning a bit about pH in science during school, but if not fear not, we’ll keep this as simple as we can.
Most people know what ‘acid’ is, so it’s easier to talk about the term ‘acidic’ first. To measure how acidic something is, we would use what is known as the pH scale. This pH scale goes from 1 to 14, and the more acidic something is, the lower on the scale it will be.
The opposite to acidic is alkaline, and the more alkaline something is, the higher on the scale it will be.
So anything from 1 up to 7 is acidic, 7 is neutral, and anything from 7 to 14 is alkaline. That’s the pH scale!
Hydration is key!
Now to understand more about what the numbers of the pH scale mean, let’s quickly take a look at what pH is in more detail. The term ‘pH’ stands for ‘potential of Hydrogen’ and hydrogen is what’s known as a chemical element, referred to on scientific tables as ‘H’.
The ‘H’ we see here is the same ‘H’ in H2O - also known as water! When we use the pH scale we are measuring the amount of hydrogen ions in water. In pure water, the molecule H2O splits equally into two ions, H+ and -OH, and has a neutral pH of 7. If we add more Hydrogen to the solution it becomes more acidic. And if we remove Hydrogen it becomes more alkaline.
What’s important to remember here is that to be able to measure pH, we need it to be in a ‘solution’. Basically, we need water to measure somethings pH!!
The ph of our skin
Now we’ve worked out what pH actually stands for, it’s time to take a look at our skin.
Our skin essentially has three layers. Like a cake. Or a winter outfit. Each layer sits on top of the the previous, and each layer has its own function.
The top layer is what we’re going to look at today. This layer is called the Epidermis.
Epidermis or outer layer of skin
This layer of skin is responsible for making new skin cells, giving skin its colour and most fundamentally, for protecting your body and keeping you staying healthy. The new skin cells are created at the bottom of the epidermis. The skin cells travel up to the top layer and flake off, about a month after they form.
So many layers!!
If we look very closely at the epidermis...you guessed it...there are more layers! The epidermis has 5 layers, and the distance between those layers is just the quarter of the thickness of a human hair. So it’s very, very thin.
The deeper the layers, the higher the pH
The fascinating thing is that even though the epidermis very thin, it actually has a different pH for each of it’s 5 layers.
Layer 1: Stratum corneum or outermost layer
The stratum corneum (outermost layer of our skin) is made up of dead skin cells and keratin (a protein). This layer has been shown to have an acidic pH of ~5.
We can only measure the pH of this level by dissolving it’s salts, fatty acids and oils into water. Without using water to dissolve these molecules, this layer would not have a PH and therefore is not acidic in it's regular dry state.
Layer 2, 3 & 4: Stratum granulosum, stratum lucidum and stratum spinosum
As we go deeper into the skin we begin to reach living cells, these have plenty of water and so their pH’s can be accurately measured, Once the stratum lucidum is reached the pH is about 6.9 (functionally neutral).
Layer 5: Stratum basale
This is the lowest layer of the epidermis and it sits upon the dermis, which is made up of lot’s of connective tissue. The pH for this stratum basale is around 7.5, which is the normal pH of the rest of our bodies.
We can see then, that the deeper you go into the epidermis, the more you will find skin cells that are alive and have a higher pH. Focusing on improving the health of these deeper skin cells and the connective tissue beneath them, is what produces healthier skin.
Why would we alkalise our skin?
For our cells to be in their best health they need to be within an alkaline environment. Using products that help alkalise your connective tissue has the following benefits for our skin:
Supports Natural Cell Health
Creating an alkaline environment for our cells (and our skin) ensures that cells are thriving and maintaining optimal health. This has the following benefits:
- Promote and maintain the bodies normal pH (7.4), allowing the cells to function in the best conditions.
- Keep cells less stressed! By balancing and allowing for optimum conditions, cells are under less environmental stress. This means they won’t need to be replaced as often, allowing each cell to focus more on the job of maintaining itself rather than replicating itself!
- Provide cells with more trace element nutrients. All cells in the body are held together with connective tissues. It’s through the connective tissue that nutrients are transported from our bloodstream to the cells, and toxins and waste are removed to the lymphatic system.
If our connective tissue contains too many toxins and is too acidic it isn’t able to carry out this transportation function effectively. This causes a huge amount of stress on the individual cells, interfering with their ability to take in nutrients effectively.
Alkalising Your Skin Keeps it's Natural Defence Strong!
One of the reasons our products alkalise the skin cells is because they contain natural alkalising salts. These help promote and protect the natural defences of the skin because most microorganisms cannot survive in these high salt concentrations.
Alkalising The Skin Strengthens The Connective Tissue
The connective tissue of our skin is what keeps our skin looking supple and smooth. Proteins in the connective tissue such as collagen are at their strongest when their pH’s is close to 7.4. It keeps them stronger for longer. When we make drastic changes to pH it causes proteins to bend out of shape irreversibly, and once this happens the proteins are only replaced when the whole layer of cells is.
At a pH of 7.4 there is a higher concentration of both H+ and OH- ions, which allows proteins like collagen to form more hydrogen bonds which boosts their strength.
Alkalising The Skin Reduces Dehydration
As mentioned above, when you balance the skin’s pH, you allow the connective tissue to function better. One of the improved functions is keeping the skin more hydrated. This is because it improves cell to cell adhesion, which boosts the functionality of the excretory glands in the skin. This improved cell to cell adhesion helps the skin maintain it’s moisture.
What about the acidic mantle I've head so much about?
Many skincare brands place a lot of importance on maintaining the ‘acid mantle’ of your skin. They say it is required to protect the skin as an acidic environment is unfavorable for many species of bacteria and fungi. This is why most skincare products are acidic with a pH of 5.5.
However, the term acidic blanket is misleading because, as we mentioned above, pH can only be measured when it’s in a solution. The stratum corneum (outermost layer of the skin) is made up of dead cells that have very little moisture so don’t actually have a pH.
To measure the pH water is applied which mixes with the acidic compounds making an acidic solution. This means that in it’s ‘normal’ dry state our skin isn’t acidic and doesn’t provide protection against bacteria.
That’s why it’s our focus to create skincare products that work to alkalise the deeper layers of the skin. The top layer is mostly dead cells, while the deeper cells are still alive, and these living cells need to be kept healthy.
What benefit is there to putting alkaline products on the acidic top layer of my skin? are there any?
Although the top layer of the skin (stratum corneum) has a lot of acidic compounds there is a benefit to balancing these with alkaline ones. The main function of this layer is to protect the layers underneath, by stopping moisture from escaping.
Sensitive or damaged skin can occur where the layer of dead cells has been either removed entirely or stretched thin by inflammation. When this happens, the dead cells and oils that work to prevent the skin losing moisture can’t do their job properly. The escaping moisture then interacts with the acidic compounds causing an acidic pH. This can cause even further irritation and damage, as the skin's ability to protect itself becomes weakened.
By balancing out the acidic salts with basic (alkaline) ones you minimise this acidic damage happening to sensitive skin.
I've heard that alkaline products will dry out my skin?
A common claim is that anything alkaline will strip away natural oils and dry out the skin. Most often when this claim comes up, people are thinking of, or talking about soap.
If you look at soap specifically, it contains ingredients known as ‘emulsifiers’. Emulsifiers allow oils to be be surrounded by water particles, creating the ability to wash off the oil. Emulsifiers are always alkaline, however it is the emulsifier itself that causes the dryness, not the alkalinity.
How long will it take for my skin to start showing that it's becoming more alkalised?
It differs with everyone, but often there can be immediate changes seen due to the alkalinity of our products calming the skin. However bigger changes are seen after 28 days as this time it takes for the natural turnover of skin.
Alkalising skincare is a fundamentally different approach, and that’s why so many of our customers have been able to achieve results with our products that they’ve never been able to achieve before.
We would always suggest that anyone trying to improve the health of their skin should try alkalising skincare and see the results for themselves.
View Sönd Alkalising Products
The top of the stratum corneum is between 4.5 - 5.3, this gradually increases to pH 6.9 to 6.8 once reaching stratum luciem. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7817676
An alkaline pH, with a steep increase of about two pH units in the first 100 microm of the DSL and a plateau of this level was thereafter detected. Neutrality is reached about 10 µm below the skin surface, and at the stratum basale the pH is about 7.5-8 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12551704
10 µm - average hair thickness is about 80 µm https://hypertextbook.com/facts/1999/BrianLey.shtml
The normal values of pH in intact skin range from 4.8 to 6.0 due to presence of the acid mantle, while the interstitial fluid is characterized by neutral values. Maibach, H. & Rovee, D. The Epidermis in Wound Healing, p.133 – 135