I Tried Korean pH-Balancing Skincare & I'm Never Looking Back

August 19, 2019

Do you know the acidity (or alkalinity) of your face cleanser? What about that of the water you use to wash your face?

These are questions I’d never bothered to think much about until recently, but there’s a good chance that the pH of both your tap water and cleanser may affect the overall health of your skin over time. Our skin has its own optimal acidity (which is slightly acidic with a pH of around 5.5), and that optimal acidity fosters what’s called the “acid mantel,” a.k.a. skin barrier. A healthy acid mantle helps prevent skin from becoming dry (tight and uncomfortable), sensitive, inflamed, and reactive. It’s also there to protect skin from environmental damage. In short, healthy acid mantle = better resiliency of skin.

I Tried Korean pH-Balancing Skincare & I'm Never Looking Back

Soap, traditionally, is alkaline. Alkaline soap lathers beautifully and gets things clean. But we don’t want to scour and strip our skin the way we would our dishes or the bathroom floor—regardless of our skin type. Not only does this disturb skin’s natural oils, harsh cleansing can damage the acid mantle. As the theory goes, we should therefore seek cleansing products that are “pH-balanced” with a pH of around 5.5. Fortunately, many skincare companies are aware of this and formulate their cleansers accordingly. (You can even send an email to a brand to ask about the pH of its products if it is not listed on the packaging or online storefront.) Also, if you sense that a cleanser is lathering too much (no dish soap suds allowed) or just feels like its leaving skin too tight for your preference, it may be time to switch cleansers.

In my case, I’ve noticed that having a gentle, pH-balanced cleanser wasn’t enough, however. I live in an area with very “hard” water (mineral-dense), which means that it’s alkaline thanks to its high concentration of minerals. This isn’t such a bad thing when it comes to drinking water (alkaline water is trending because our internal system is slightly alkaline!), but alkaline water can leave skin feeling drier or more prone to irritation (especially if it’s not allowing the soap to fully leave your skin—or hair as the case may be).

Recently, I could tell that my skin was feeling tight a few hours after cleansing, despite the fact that I religiously layer my hydrating and moisturizing products, including hydrating serum, thick thick face cream, and facial oil. I hypothesized that I needed to address the alkalinity of my tap water rather than add more moisturizing elements (honestly, there just wasn’t any more room to be even oilier). Because I have no plans to install a home water filtration system anytime soon (though it’s easy enough to attach an inexpensive filter to your showerhead, and I do recommend that if you live in an area with hard water) nor do I want to purchase special water with which to wash my face—no, no, no—I decided to try a toner and essence set specifically designed to right skin’s pH level after cleansing.

And I’m so glad I did.

I Tried Korean pH-Balancing Skincare & I'm Never Looking Back

The Acwell Power Duo Licorice Set includes both a toner and an essence to help restore optimal skin pH. Hailing from Korea, this gentle combo has a pH of 5.5 and eschews potentially irritating ingredients, including fragrance. In my own experience, the duo does what I thought regular cleansing ought to do in addition to removing impurities—that is, lightly plump skin with water to be sealed in with moisturizers after you blot dry, etc. Now, my skin no longer feels tight after cleansing, and I find that I need less of my super-rich cream to quench my skin.

How it works: The toner is applied to a cotton round, and you gently sweep the cotton all over your face. This extra cleansing step seems to help remove any residual cleanser and pesky minerals from my skin (at least, my skin feels free from whatever was once irritating it). Next, the essence, which is watery and milky, can be misted onto skin to further hydrate and plump skin while soothing it with botanical extracts that are pH-balanced, of course. I love immediately applying moisturizer on top to seal everything in.

While I haven’t adopted the entire 10-step Korean skincare regimen, I’m more than happy to add a few extra steps to foster my skin’s acid mantle with the help of one of the most innovative branches of skincare, K beauty!

Have you looked into the pH of your skincare products?

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Photo: Ana Francisconi on Unsplash, Soko Glam

Peaceful Dumpling Beauty Editor and creator of Bisou du Jour, Mary Hood Luttrell lives with her husband in Corpus Christi, Texas. Mary is a freelance writer and writing and blogging consultant. A lover of whole foods, Mary delights in learning new ways to prepare vegan dishes. Mary also enjoys reading and writing poetry, art journaling, running, and practicing yoga and ballet. Follow Mary on her blog Bisou du Jour, Instagram and Pinterest.


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