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The role of pH in skin health

A crucial aspect of skin care that is often overlooked is the acidity of your skin. The right pH level is essential for maintaining radiant, healthy skin and controlling sebum production and acne. Skin naturally has a slightly acidic pH value, usually between 4.7 and 5.75 . This acidity protects against harmful microorganisms and supports the vital barrier function of your skin. It's important to realize that the relationship between pH levels, sebum production and acne is influenced by several factors, including your genes, diet and lifestyle .

Smoking and vaping

It will come as no surprise that smoking and vaping are bad for your skin. Tobacco and vape smoke are full of free radicals, which are known for their damaging effects on the skin. This damages the collagen and elastin fibers, which are essential for the firmness and elasticity of the skin. The breakdown of these fibers not only disrupts the structure and appearance of the skin, but can also affect its pH balance. A healthy skin structure is important for maintaining the correct pH value. In addition, the small blood vessels in the inner layers of the skin constrict due to the nicotine present. This phenomenon reduces blood flow, preventing essential nutrients and oxygen from reaching the skin properly. What applies specifically to vaping is dehydration of the skin because the propylene glycol and glycerine in the liquid of e-cigarettes remove moisture from the skin. All of this can disrupt the pH of the skin.


Alcohol has a similar effect as smoking. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production and has a dehydrating effect. And as we know, dehydration has a negative impact on the skin. This reduces the effectiveness of the skin barrier, which can also affect the pH value. In addition, Alcohol inhibits the body's absorption of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins essential for skin health, such as vitamins A, C, and E. These nutrients are important for maintaining the skin barrier and pH balance. A deficiency can lead to a weakened skin barrier and possible changes in skin pH. Alcohol can also disrupt hormone balance, which affects the skin condition and possibly the pH value.


Medical treatments often have unexpected side effects that are overlooked. From the subtle shifts in our skin's acidity to increased sensitivity to everyday irritations. Chemotherapy, dialysis, diuretics (e.g. water tablets), and even lipid-lowering medications for cardiovascular diseases, can disrupt the balance of our skin. Chemotherapy, for example, is known for its wide range of side effects, including an impact on the skin that can lead to dryness, itching and rashes. These symptoms are not only unpleasant, they also indicate a deeper problem: a disruption of the skin barrier and a change in pH value. And diuretics and laxatives can weaken the natural protective barrier due to their dehydrating effects. Even treatments that don't seem to directly affect the skin, such as radiotherapy and dialysis, can lead to dryness and itching. It is crucial to be aware of these possible side effects because medical treatments can reduce skin hydration and affect sebum production, resulting in a higher pH (less acidic).


Cold: when the thermometer drops and winter sets in, our skin switches to an impressive defense mechanism. It tightens the blood vessels to keep our precious body heat inside. Although useful for our internal thermostat, an unexpected side effect also occurs: the sebaceous glands switch back a notch. These natural skin oils, normally our allies in keeping our skin supple and hydrated, are becoming scarcer, causing our skin to become insidiously dry. This affects the barrier and pH of the skin.

Heat: in tropical places or the sauna your skin can dry out, because sweating leads to moisture loss. Without a drink of water to refuel, your skin can feel tight and dry. Which is an indication of reduced protection by your skin barrier and a fluctuation in pH. Besides, those beads of sweat do more than just cool you down. They can temporarily raise the pH of your skin by leaving behind a cocktail of salt and waste products that have an alkaline nature. Not to mention the sebum production is stimulated, sometimes resulting in shiny skin or clogged pores. But also, showering or bathing too often and for too long with water that is too hot leads to loss of the skin's natural moisturizing components and surface lipids. The skin dries out.

Young children, older people and special professions

Young and old skin have less resistance, because the activity of the sebaceous glands needs to develop further or decreases. Professional groups such as hairdressers, painters and people in industry or healthcare, for example, also regularly come into contact with cleaning agents, disinfectants and/or solvents. These are all substances that are harmful to the skin, which also makes them more vulnerable and possibly also lower skin resistance.

pH and Acne: A Delicate Balance

A balanced pH level supports healthy skin flora, which is essential for regulating sebum production. However, skin that is too alkaline – with a pH value above the natural level (>5.75) – can lead to dryness and increased sebum production to compensate, which in turn increases the risk of clogged pores. Acne and the disruption of the natural skin flora are therefore closely linked to changes in the pH value of the skin. A higher pH promotes the growth of the acne-causing bacteria Cutibacterium acnes (formerly Propionibacterium acnes) which can cause inflammation, a crucial factor in the development of acne.

Strategies for treatment and prevention

At Medicadermis we recommend the use of skin care products that match the natural acidity of the skin. Maintaining the skin's ideal pH level is fundamental to preventing acne and promoting healthy skin. At Medicadermis we understand the complexities of skin care and offer expert guidance and treatments tailored to your personal needs and circumstances. As you have read, these circumstances can vary enormously from person to person. Discover today how we help optimize your skin health. Schedule a free intake interview for your specific skin condition!

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