I received a phone call from a woman this weekend who used to use a high end bar of soap that is no longer being made. She stated that she was looking for something similar and read me the list of ingredients. Of course there were chemicals in it but what she was most impressed with is that is has low PH. I stated that to my understanding a low PH breeds bacteria. I spoke about my products (she found me via google search and my website came up) and explained what made mine different. I told her I would send her 2 samples with some information so she is more informed. I guess what would be interesting is to read an article or learn more about why companies are claiming low PH and the truth behind that. Sorry for the lengthy email, just wanted to give context.
The skin has a naturally acidic pH that varies from pH 4-6. This acidic pH, often called the acid mantle, is an important defense mechanism the skin uses to keep pathogens such as bacteria and fungus from settling in and causing infection. Bacteria in particular do not like acidic pH. When this acidic pH is disrupted it is easier for infection to occur. Because the pH is maintained by normal secretions from the glands, healthy skin will naturally return to this pH.
True soap has a high pH of between 9-11. So washing with soap will disrupt the normal pH of the skin somewhat. Again, healthy skin will return to normal but you can hasten this return by using a toner that is slightly acidic following washing. Most skin care products such as lotions and creams are in the range of 3-6 so that they match the pH of the skin.
Real soap has a high pH because it is made with lye – a strong base. This base is what splits the triglycerides to form the sodium fatty acids which are the soap. Soap does not have to have an ingredient list but if it did, a real soap bar might read: sodium olivate, sodium palmate, sodium cocoate, etc to represent the sodium salts of the oils used.
Many commercial bars such as Dove are not actually soap, but detergent bars that contain synthetic surfactants.
Dove’s ingredients read:
sodium cocoyl isethionate, stearic acid, coconut acid, sodium tallowate, water, sodium isethionate, sodium stearate, cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium cocoate or palm kernelate, fragrance, sodium chloride, tetrasodium EDTA, trisodium etidronate, BHT, titanium dioxide and sodium dodecyl benzene sulfonate.
The first ingredient, sodium cocoyl isethionate, is a synthetic detergent, although it is derived from coconut oil. It is a high foaming yet gentle surfactant. When surfactants other than soap are used in a bar it is easier to keep the pH lower. These detergent bars first came about with marketing claims that they are more gentle on the skin than soap. While this may have been true a long time ago, most handcrafted soapmakers do what is called ‘superfatting’ their soap. This means adding extra oils than what is necessary to react with the lye which makes the bar very moisturizing and not drying like Grandmothers soap used to be.
But if you are concerned about using real soap on your face because of the pH you can use a syndet bar such as Dove, or other types of facial cleansers on the market that also have a lower pH than soap. Or you could use handcrafted soap followed by a slightly acidic toner.