Prior to learning how to professionally formulate botanical body care products, I never really cared about pH levels. As Aromatherapists, as long as we’re using castile soap as base–that’s known to be ‘natural’–then it must be good. BUT, did you know that castile soaps are actually high alkaline products? Using products that are high alkaline (pH of 9-11) for a prolonged period of time can be too harsh on your skin, stripping it off of its natural moisture and disrupt the skin’s natural balance.
Our skin is naturally slightly acidic, with a pH level of 4.5-5.5–this is something that I have learned from my sister, while listening to her teach our soap making class. If the pH goes below 4.5 then your skin becomes too acidic and if it’s beyond 5.5 then it’s too alkaline. This translates to dryness, itchiness, skin flaking, and all sorts of skin woes–same goes with your scalp!
That is why it’s important to use a pH balanced body wash or hair shampoo. Using soaps or shampoos that are low pH or slightly on the acidic side can be gentler on your skin or scalp and may be more beneficial in the long run. In fact, a slightly acidic skin reduces flaking and provides greater moisture retention because of its improved lipid layers. Skin that is too alkaline may experience skin sensitivities like eczema, dermatitis, dry rough patches, and even fungal or bacterial infections. As for the hair, the slightly acidic nature helps smooth out frizz, closing the cuticles per hair strand, making it look more tamed, smooth, and shiny.
This is the reason why, whenever I formulate, I check the pH level of my hair and body care products–if it’s orange, it’s good. If it’s still green, we need to adjust the pH to bring it down. Also, it is good to note that some additives and preservative systems can be pH sensitive, so it’s not really enough for a botanical beauty formulator to be content in using ‘all natural-souced’ ingredients. Sometimes, a strong knowledge and foundation in cosmetic formulation is needed to supplement our knowledge as an Aromatherapist.