Resolving dry skin may be as simple as balancing your pH, and it’s easy to do. Resolving dry skin and eczema sometimes requires internal and external treatment. Even a really great dry skin care product isn’t going to get great results if an internal condition is working against it. Expecting your skin condition to improve when you’re loading up on junk food and sugar is a good example. However, there are some factors much more subtle than junk food diets: one of the most basic is pH. Maintaining both internal and external pH is vital to any dry skin or eczema treatment protocol.
Although most of us are familiar with the term pH, not many really understand its full significance. Here’s how it works:
When your body metabolizes food it leaves a residue. When the residue mixes with bodily fluids, it has both acid and alkaline properties. Protein and carbohydrates usually form acid residues, and fruits and vegetables usually form alkaline. When the body is acidic, there is a higher level of hydrogen than oxygen. If it is alkaline, there is more oxygen than hydrogen. pH is an abbreviation for 'power of hydrogen.'
The scale that measures pH goes from 0 to 14. The number represents the balance between acid and alkaline and is called the pH factor. Inside a healthy body, the acid and alkaline are approximately equal: the pH is between 7.3 and 7.4. Below that is too acidic, above is too alkaline. Even slight changes can affect the body negatively.
When the body is too acidic, for example, the body treats the acids like toxins. Imagine the damage that could be done by an acid traveling through 60,000 miles of arteries, veins and capillaries to every cell in the body and you’ll understand why.
To avoid this damage, the body stores excess acid in fat tissues, but it can only store so much. When it goes beyond the normal storage capacity, the body leaches acid-neutralizing nutrients like calcium from other parts of the body – which can cause osteoporosis – or holds onto fat cells so the toxins won’t be released into the rest of the body. If you’re overweight or having trouble losing weight, by the way, this might be a factor.
When all attempts to neutralize the acid fail, the acid penetrates vital organs and is excreted through the skin causing dry skin, eruptions, rashes and eczema.
High pH, too alkaline, also causes problems.
The pH of normal skin is slightly acidic: it ranges from 4 to 6.5. This acidic environment is referred to as the skin’s ‘acid mantle’, and contains a number of different acids including lactic acid, amino acids and free fatty acids. One of the major functions of the acid mantle is to protect the skin and body from the absorption of bacteria: bacteria cannot survive in an acidic environment.
If the acid mantle is disrupted, the skin becomes more susceptible to damage. Although acid and alkaline are on opposite ends of the spectrum, either disrupts the pH and either can cause dry skin and cause or exacerbate eczema.
Alkaline stronger than pH 8 is very irritating to the skin and, unfortunately, the majority of skin care products, even those formulated for dry skin are far too alkaline. Most soap has a pH factor of 9 to 11. Household cleansers are even worse – many range between 10 and 12, and oven cleaners are around pH 13 – which is why someone with dry skin should protect their hands even when just washing the dishes. You can use rubber gloves, or try a shielding lotion. A good shielding lotion bonds with the outer layer of the skin to form a protective layer that doesn’t wash off.
Balancing your pH both internally and externally should be the first step when trying to resolve dry skin or eczema. You can test your internal pH with kits available at drug stores. If you find the balance is too acidic, eat more fruits and vegetables. If it’s too alkaline, increase proteins and carbohydrates. Supplements that balance pH are also available.
To maintain proper pH balance on the skin, check the packaging of products before you buy them and look for a pH value of 4.0 to 6.5 or the statement “pH balanced”, which means it has been formulated especially for the skin.
The combination of changing your diet appropriately and using dry skin care products with the right pH balance may be all you need to protect against, and even heal, dry skin and eczema.
About the Author:
Lisa Benest MD is a board certified dermatologist. She is the CEO a medical skin care clinic in Burbank, CA and is the spokesperson for the National Skin Care Institute. For more information on natural skin care and shielding lotion visit www.glovesinabottle.com.