Low pH Cleansers

What is a Low pH Facial Cleanser?

Low pH cleansers have a pH of less than 5.5 and make the skin's surface temporarily more acidic. The acidic pH affects the benefits and side effects of the products that follow in the skin care routine steps.

The best low pH cleanser for you depends upon your Baumann Skin Type.

You should always match your cleanser and build your skin care routine to match your skin type.

You can take our quiz, find out your Baumann Skin Type, and get a custom skin care routine and see if a low pH cleanser is good for you.

pH testing sticks

Which cleansers are low pH?

There are 3 main categories of low pH cleansers:

  1. Alpha Hydroxy Acid Cleansers (AHA)
  2. Beta Hydroxy Acid Cleansers (BHA)
  3. Polyhydroxy acid Cleansers (PHA)

Low pH cleansers make the skin’s surface more acidic. This can help improve the skin’s health by making it stronger and less inflamed. It can also help other skin care products work better. However, some people may feel uncomfortable using these products. There are three main types of hydroxy acids: alpha, beta, and polyhydroxy acids.

The ability of a hydroxy acid cleanser to remove dead skin cells depends on its pH and pKa. The pKa is a measure of how strong the acid is. A balance between the acid and salt forms of the hydroxy acid is needed for it to work well without irritating the skin. It can be hard to make a product that contains both alpha and beta hydroxy acids because they have different pKa values. This is why hydroxy acid cleansers are often divided into three categories.

Alpha Hydroxy Acid Cleansers

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) can attract water to the skin’s surface. Then help remove dead skin cells and make the skin smoother.

AHAs are good for people with dry skin because they don’t dry out the skin like some other cleansers can.

Beta Hydroxy Acid Cleansers (BHA)

Salicylic acid (SA) cleansers, also known as beta hydroxy acids, have a pKa of 2.97.

They can reduce inflammation and can get into pores to unclog them.

This makes them good for people with oily or acne-prone skin.

However, people with dry skin may not tolerate SA cleansers as well as they would alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) cleansers.

Polyhydroxy acid Cleansers

Polyhydroxy acids (PHAs), such as lactobionic acid with a pKa of 3.8, were made to provide the same anti-aging benefits as alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) without causing irritation or making the skin more sensitive to sunlight.

PHAs have antioxidant effects.

benefits of low pH cleansers

Low pH Cleanser Benefits

Why should you use a low pH cleanser?
Low pH cleansers can be used to lower the skin’s surface pH temporarily.

The low pH only lasts for minutes after rinsing off, but can help prepare the skin for the products in the skin care routine that are used after cleansing.

Five reasons to use low pH cleansers:
1. Loosens attachments between keratinocytes in the stratum corneum
2. Increases absorption of products that follow
3. Increases absorption of Vitamin C serums
4. Makes the skin microbiome less hospitable to can causing bacteria
5. Exfoliates helping increase light reflection increasing skin radiance

What are low pH cleansers good for?

Low pH cleansers are not right for every skin type. However, they are good for acne-prone skin, dry skin, aged skin and hyperpigmented skin.

Can I use a low pH Cleanser for Acne?

Low pH Cleansers for Dry Skin Types with acne

Dry skin acne types should use two different cleansers, one in the morning and one at night:

  1. A low pH Cleanser made from AHAs
  2. Non-foaming Cleanser or a noncomedogenic creamy cleansers

The best low PH cleansers for acne-prone skin types with dry skin are AHA cleansers.

They have humectant properties and hydrate skin.

AHA Cleansers help acne by:

Regulating keratinization

Preventing clogged pores

Normalizing the microbiome

Cutibacterium acnes, the bacteria known to cause acne, is less likely to grow on skin with an acidic pH.

AHA cleansers are hydrophilic and no not penetrate through sebum as well as BHA cleansers. So while AHA is better for dry skin, BHA is better for oily skin.

Low pH Cleansers for Oily Skin Types with acne

Dry skin acne types should use two different cleansers, one in the morning and one at night:

  1. A low pH Cleanser made from BHA (Salicylic acid)
  2. Foaming Cleanser

The best low PH cleansers for acne-prone skin types with oily skin are BHA cleansers.

They are lipophilic and are able to penetrate through sebum and unclog hair follicles.

BHA Cleansers help acne by:

Regulating keratinization

Preventing clogged pores

Unclogging pores

Reducing inflammation

Normalizing the microbiome

Lowering levels of Cutibacterium acnes on the skin

Is a low pH cleanser good for sensitive skin?

Low pH cleansers are not good for certain types of sensitive skin.

Do not use acidic cleansers if:

You have rosacea

Your skin stings

You have retinoid dermatitis

Skin is irritated from excessive cold

Skin has been over exfoliated

You are beginning a retinol for the first time

How many times a day can I use a low pH cleanser?

If you do not have the sensitive skin issues listed above, you can use a low pH cleanser once a day.

Start once a day and when you have become accustomed to the exfoliation, you can increase to using it 2 times a day.

However, keep in mind that you do not want to use more than 3 types of exfoliation per day.

So if you use your acidic cleansers twice a day, do not also use a facial scrub or facial brush.

You may not be able to tolerate low pH cleansers twice a day if you are using a retinoid or any hydroxyacid creams, or benzoyl peroxide.

Can I use a low pH cleanser every day?

Most people can use a low pH cleanser every day. We suggest using it in the morning so it will help your protective serums penetrate better.

Low pH Cleanser List

Ideally the low pH cleanser should be close to 4.5 or 5 to lower the skin's pH Lower than 4.5 can irritate the skin.

Most cleansers that say they have a low pH are actually a pH of 5.5 which is close to the skin pH, so they really don't make the skin more acidic.

See below for lists of cleansers that claim to be low pH cleansers.

Best low pH cleansers for skin

List of cleansers with a pH below 5.5

CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser pH = 5.3

Essopi Glycolic 10% Moisturizing Cleanser = 3.9

Medature Plantract Cleansing Gel pH= 5.16

Nolio Salicylic Acid Cleanser pH = 5.4

SkinCeuticals Glycolic Renewal Cleanser = pH 3

Here are some of the best low pH cleansers:

List of cleansers with a pH of 5.5- 5.8

Although pH balanced is not a scientific term with a set definition, the cleansers that claim this are usually in a pH range of 5.5 -5.8.

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser pH = 5.5

Corsx low PH Good Morning Gel Cleanser, pH= 5.5

La Roche Posay Effaclar Foaming Gel Cleanser pH=5.5

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Foaming Gel pH= 5.5

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Face Cleanser pH= 5.5

Paula’s Choice Moisture Boost Cleanser One Step Face Cleanser pH= 5.5

Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Oil-Reducing Cleanser pH= 5.5

Repleniz Antioxidant Hydrating Cleanser pH= 5.5

SkinCeuticals LHA Cleanser pH = 5.5

SkinCeuticals Purifying Cleanser pH = 5.5

Cleanser with pH above 5.8

These cleansers have hydrating fatty acids which slightly raises the pH.

As long as the pH is below 6.5 thee can be used on sensitive skin

VMV Hypoallergenics Red Better Deeply Soothing Cleansing Cream = 6.0

Zerafite Creamy Cleanser and Shaving Cream pH= 5.85

If you want to be certain that your entire skin care routine is right for your Baumann Skin Type, take the quiz and build your regimen step by step with our dermatologists to guide you.

Its the only way to be certain you are buying the best low pH cleanser for your skin.

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