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Cracking the Code : "pH-neutral"

scientific explaining pH potential hydrogen colors
Brave yourself, some basic understanding of what is exactly pH is coming

This claim is crafted to convince consumers that the product is generally safe and non-irritating for their skin. One company may advertise its product as "pH-neutral," while another might state that it is "pH-adjusted for your skin." What is the difference ? Both companies undoubtedly seek to communicate a specific message to their customer base. However, due to the absence of standardized regulations, there is no consensus on the precise meaning of these terms, they can be employed freely. Nonetheless, grasping the subject matter is relatively straightforward; consumers simply need to gain a clear understanding of what these terms signify.

Featuring this claim prominently on the packaging is perceived as making the product more desirable than those lacking this assertion. For a consumer with healthy skin, distinguishing between a pH-neutral product and a conventionally formulated one may prove challenging. It's important to bear in mind that if a skincare product were genuinely unsafe, it would not be legally available on the market.

We all have different skin types : different logics then apply in term of cosmetic routine
We all have different skin types : different logics then apply in term of cosmetic routine

However, individuals have varying skin characteristics, including genetics, gender, age, skin type, moisture levels, and anatomical conditions. Therefore, the remarkable results a product may achieve on one person's skin do not guarantee the same outcome for another. For instance, natural soaps may not be suitable for everyone, especially when used on the face. Consequently, before incorporating a new product into your skincare routine, it is advisable to conduct a patch test on a small area of skin to assess its compatibility before applying it more broadly.

What is actually pH? (potential Hydrogen)

pH indicates how acid or alkaline (opposite of acid) a solution is in water. On a scale from commonly 1 (very acid) to 14 (very alkaline).

  • pH = 4,5 to 6. This is the pH-range of human skin, which is slightly acidic

  • pH = 7. Neutral pH of 7.0 (pure water at 25°C)

  • pH = 8.5 max. The usual pH of natural soaps, which is reasonably alkaline (or basic)

Some common products of our everyday life and their pH
Some common products of our everyday life and their pH

A jump of 1 unit in pH corresponds to a 10-fold increase in acidic (or caustic) force. This means that the pH scale is not linear (1:1), but logarithmic (1:10). For example:

- lemon juice (pH=2) is 10x more acidic than your favorite soda (pH=3)

- sea water (pH=8) is 100 times more caustic than milk (pH=6).

The greater the difference between the skin's pH and the pH of the product you are using, the more efficiently the protective mantle is removed and the longer it takes the skin to fully rebuild it. An important factor here is time.

The pH of natural soap (in water) is slightly alkaline, and only in this state can the soap molecules do their job effectively. Since it is a rinse-off product, the contact between soap and skin rarely lasts longer than 30 seconds.

Practical example

When you shower or wash your hands with natural soaps, you come into contact with foam that is a mixture of water pH=7.5 (> 95%) and soap salts pH=9.5 (< 5%) and includes a large amount of air. The more extreme the pH of a substance is (far from 7), the more it will affect the pH of the mixture in which it is included. Keeping this following idea in mind and sparing you some calculations. The foam pH of babassu natural soaps is usually between 8.2 and 8.5.

Two different pH papers natural soaps
Two different pH papers used: one showing between 8 and 9, and another more precise one gives an estimation close to pH=8.2

What is the acid mantle?

We cannot talk about the pH of the skin without mentioning the protective acid mantle. Your skin secretes a somewhat acidic fluid and consists mainly of natural sebum (oils), water + salt (sweat), amino acids, etc. Over time, microbes also join this juicy party (and so the "sweaty smell"). Though, this acidity is an essential part of the skin protective function and helps to inhibit the growth of pathogens. After washing hands or showering, this protective acid mantle is largely washed away. The number of pathogens is reset to zero, and sweat and sebum are regenerated from the pores, slowly over time and the skin's natural pH normalizes after 90 minutes. There are individual differences of course, and there have been only some rare examples of seriously ill people in whom this mechanism failed.

How to use natural soap to clean my face?

While using natural soaps for the hands or body is suitable for everyone (lucky you!), facial skin is more sensitive. Before following the advice in this section, please check that you have done your initial exercise: always try on a small area of your face first before more general application. If, like me, you pass the multi-day test with natural soaps on your face, congratulations! If not, please do not change your current habits. The method you use to clean your face is of course a personal preference, but a few tips can not hurt :) Warm (not hot) water helps to open the pores slightly, while cold water tightens them.

Be happy, be soapy
Be happy, be soapy

1. Lathering by hand

We recommend it for sensitive facial skin. Use warm (not hot) water to create a generous lather in your hands.

  • Gently massage the foam over your face with your fingers in circular motions.

  • Rinse with cool water and pat dry to leave some water on your pretty face.

2. Washcloth (soft fibers only)

This method has a light scrubbing effect, helping to remove dead cells. Excessive exfoliation or scrubbing will cause the skin to become red and irritated. If you are prone to acne, better use a clean washcloth every time.

  • Rub the bar of soap on a clean, warm-damp and clean washcloth until a generous lather is formed.

  • Apply it to your face with gentle circular motions.

  • Rinse with cold water and pat dry

For both methods, and especially for dry skin, apply a moisturizer after washing the face.


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  • Ronni Wolf, Lawrence Charles Parish, Effect of soaps and detergents on epidermal barrier function, Clinics in Dermatology, Volume 30, Issue 3, 2012, Pages 297-300

  • Takagi Y, Kaneda K, Miyaki M, Matsuo K, Kawada H, Hosokawa H. The long-term use of soap does not affect the pH-maintenance mechanism of human skin. Skin Res Technol. 2015 May;21(2):144-8. Epub 2014

  • Christine N. Duncan, Thomas V. Riley, Kerry C. Carson, Charley A. Budgeon, Joanne Siffleet. The effect of an acidic cleanser versus soap on the skin pH and micro-flora of adult patients: A non-randomized two-group crossover study in an intensive care unit, Intensive and Critical Care Nursing. Volume 29, Issue 5, 2013, Pages 291-296

  • Baranda, L, et al. Correlation between pH and irritant effect of cleansers marketed for dry skin. International Journal of Dermatology. 2002, vol 41, pg 494–499.

  • Mirela Moldovan and Alina Nanu. “Influence Of Cleansing Product Type On Several Skin Parameters After Single Use.” Farmacia, 2010, Vol. 58, 1

  • Takagi, Y., et. al. [2014], "The Long-Term Use of Soap Does Not Affect the pH-Maintenance Mechanism of Human Skin" in Skin Research and Technology


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