Low pH Facial Cleansers: What works, What won’t- Trending to Underrated picks
Low pH facial cleansers can be a game changer in your Skin care goals. No matter your skin type, your skin pH holds the reins for a healthy vibrant look.
You may follow a 10 step skincare routine or limit it to 1 step unless you maintain your skin pH you can’t see the results.
Interestingly, if you care to maintain your skin pH to its natural level of 4.5-5.5, then it may even reduce irritancy experienced with Retinol and Vitamin C serums.
This perhaps, decreases your chances of throwing away the newly bought serum. Also, you may no longer feel guilty for splurging on trending skincare products.
Whatever I have said above will make more sense to you if you read my previous post on balancing skin pH
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Furthermore, of all the products you use, cleansers hold a prime place in managing your pH.
As much as I obsess over maintaining skin pH, I have come to realize that just because a cleanser claims pH balanced doesn’t imply it works as expected.
How to pick a low pH Facial Cleanser: General tips
It goes without saying the first and foremost to check is whether or not the cleanser tube reads pH balanced.
“Low pH” or “pH balanced” adds value to the cleanser so most of the brands make it a point to advertise the added advantage in buying their cleanser.
However, there are can be few exceptions. For example, I never expected Himalaya’s Neem face wash to be a low pH balanced cleanser but it turns out to be one.
Secondly, the shorter the ingredients list the better. Don’t get tempted by those fanciful names of herbs on cleanser bottles the marketers use to lure you into buying them.
Update 2021:What if I say, skincare science has come a long way and now you can not only have a low pH cleansing but also benefit from the goodness of clinically studied herbs?
Power of Leaf – Super Charged Anti-Oxidant: Masque & Powder Cleanser-50gms₹700.00 – ₹730.00 incl. GST
So that is why my favorite remains Sebamed. Just look at the ingredients- they are just to the point and no nonsense.
Water, Cocamidopropylalbetainamide MEA Chloride, Cocotrimonium Mthosulfate, Sodium Lactate, Panthenol (Vitamin B5), Fragrance (Parfum), Phenoxyethanol.
Don’t get scared by the two lengthy names mentioned next to water. (Highlighted in bold)
The former one is a very gentle cleansing compound that has mild anti bacterial properties.
But, it imparts even mild foaming properties to the cleanser which may be the reason for dryness experienced when used in dry weathers.
The latter one- Cocotrimonium Methosulphate conditions the skin.
Your takeaway: Irrespective of your skin type this cleanser is best for maintaining your skin pH in humid weathers.
In dry weathers, I mix two of my favorite oils and cleanser then use the mix for cleansing.
Low pH Facial Cleansers may or may not be mild:
It doesn’t matter what your facial cleanser claims about mildness. Unless the label reads “pH balanced”, the claims of mildness can be overlooked in many cases.
Although mild cleansing agent was used to formulate the cleanser, if the final pH exceeds the skin’s normal pH then the cleanser cannot fully show its mildness towards the skin.
On the other hand, low pH of facial cleanser doesn’t guarantee having mild cleansing agents.
For example the Himalaya neem face wash is pH balanced. But if you look at the ingredients the main cleansing agent of the face wash is Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate, younger brother of SLS (Sodium lauryl Sulphate) known for harshness and drying out the skin.
Although the other supporting ingredient, Cocamidopropyl betaine imparts mildness to a cleanser, it can’t fully protect the skin from harshness of main cleansing agent within a cleanser.
Recently, I came across Dermavive Hydra cleanser (Now available in India)- One of the best low pH facial cleansers.
It is a pH balanced Cleanser with 3 mild cleansing agents (Disodium lauryl sulfosuccinate ,Sodium cococyl isothionate and Cocoamidapropyl betaine).
However, presence of Disodium Lauryl Sulfosuccinate may cause dryness after washing. Therefore, to balance the dryness it has colloidal oatmeal.
I am pretty impressed with the thoughtfulness of makers of this cleanser. But, the strong medicinal smell though fades away quickly, it puts me off.
What makes a Cleanser mild?
Oils and fatty alcohols (not denatured alcohol) such as Cetearyl Alcohol, Paraffin, Octyldodecanol, Lanolin alcohol when present in a cleanser minimize the harsh and drying nature of cleansing agents aka surfactants.
Cleansers that have oils and fatty alcohols reduce the moisture loss from skin experienced after cleansing.
Furthermore, they replenish the lipids lost due to washing the skin.
For example the First Aid Beauty Cleanser– Not only pH balanced but also has fatty alcohols that maintain the moisture levels of skin.
Ingredients of First Aid Beauty Cleanser:
Water, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Glycerin, Stearic Acid, Stearyl Alcohol, Allantoin, Chrysanthemum Parthenium (Feverfew) Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Tocopherol, etc
All the ingredients highlighted in bold work towards replenishing the lipids lost due to cleansing.
Also, the best part of this cleanser: Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate – very gentle mild cleansing agent used even in baby products.
Look beyond the packaging of the bottle:
The beautiful green color of green tea cleanser and lavender color of lavender cleanser doesn’t complement the same in the ingredients. In reality, botanical extracts usually have dirty brownish kind of mud color.
In many instances, the amount of botanicals present is negligible to show any benefits to your skin. Also, when it comes to rinse –off products, it just goes down the drain.
In simple words, look beyond the aesthetic appeal of the bottle and ditch it if you stifle a yawn while checking the never ending list of ingredients on the bottle.
For example the Cosrx Low pH Good Morning Cleanser:
Sadly, this cleanser didn’t live up to the hype created by other Cosrx products. Many said that it not only dried their skin but also gave terrible acne breakouts to some. This may be because it didn’t confer to below three checkpoints:
- Shorter Ingredients list
- Oils or Fatty alcohols
- Few botanical extracts (It has lot many extracts than needed)
Though it has 2 mild cleansing agents, the hell lot of extracts in the cleanser needs emulsifier and other chemicals to mix well and remain stable.
You’ll find polysorbate 20 (emulsifier with cleansing nature often found in cleansing oils for deeper cleansing) within the first 4 ingredients. This could possibly be the reason for excessive drying effect of Cosrx Low pH Good Morning Cleanser.
Instead, the PURITO DEFENCE BARRIER PH CLEANSER – has balanced amounts of botanical extracts (just 2) with hydrating ingredients such as Allantoin, collagen and Royal Jelly.
Not to forget, the 2 mild cleansing agents present with no added emulsifiers and other surfactants – Cocamidopropyl Betaine and Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate.
Not-so-surprisingly, Purito defence barrier pH cleanser receives rave reviews and vouched by many.
Just because the bottle says “For oily skin” it doesn’t really work that way:
I have observed that whenever a skincare product (not make-up) specifies “for oily skin” it either dries out the skin or triggers breakout.
Time and again I stress on the fact if you have oily skin, you need to balance the oil production by the oil factories present in your skin, not get rid of it.
For example, the CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser for Normal to Oily Skin though a low pH facial cleanser has more than necessary dehydrating cleansing and foaming agents with emphasis on ingredients that enhance the skin feel.
On the other hand, CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser for Dry to Normal Skin has not only the skin conditioning ingredients but also has a mild cleansing action which in fact suits even oily skin.
Be your best judge while considering reviews:
Be critical while considering the highest and lowest ratings of the product. It could be that the ratings given are too good to be true.
Therefore, give importance to those reviews where the customers have detailed their skin type, skin concern and changes they have seen after some time of using the product.
This may sound funny to you as I am a blogger too but as a matter of fact, don’t blindly go by what your favorite beauty blogger has to say about a certain product. Instead do your own study.
Go for it if the cleanser bottle reads “pH balanced”. Much better if it even specifies the pH of 5/5.5
Read the ingredients’ label and see if the list is short. Don’t bother going for it if it has way too many fanciful sounding extracts.
Mild cleansing agents could be 1 or combination of any of these – Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate
If the names look unfamiliar then google the top 4 ingredients and the chemicals should fall under the category of “non-ionic surfactants” or “amphoteric surfactants”
Foaming doesn’t mean better cleaning, truth to be told highly foaming cleansers dries out the skin for example- Heimish PH 5.5 Green Cleansing Foam. Remember this and prefer non-foaming cleansers.