The best way to balance your skin barrier pH…and WHY I fell in love with organic apple cider vinegar.
There are all kinds of products that claim to balance your skin barrier pH. By balancing the skin barrier pH, these products help to acidify your skin.
Why is it important to have an acidic skin barrier pH?
- To prevent moisture loss
- To prevent infection
- To prevent inflammation
- To prevent allergy
- To help with normal exfoliation
I set out to determine the best way to acidify the skin barrier.
This simple question ended up becoming a three year long experiment.
When analyzing the pros and cons of the most commonly used acids in skin and haircare products, I looked at the following:
- the relative frequency of allergy
- the photosensitizing potential
- any associated systemic toxicities
- the ease by which the acid turns into an irritating salt on the skin
Let’s look at the acids that are commonly found in skin and hair care products, where they originate and their pros and cons:
- Citric acid: found in Citrus fruits. Citric acid is a relatively uncommon allergen, but can be a problem for people who have Citrus fruit allergies. Citric acid easily turns into a salt when the acid solution is applied to the skin. This is probably the major drawback to citric acid. Citric acid also tends to burn and sting when it is applied to broken or cracked skin—more so than the other acids do.
- Ascorbic acid also known as vitamin C. Ascorbic acid has some wonderful antioxidant qualities but can also easily crystallize into a salt when a solution is applied to the skin. (Just like your sweat does when it dries on your skin). When this happens it is very irritating to the skin. You may have noticed this when your vitamin C serum dries around your eyes and then you work out and sweat—it can become very irritating.
- Benzoic acid–also known as sodium benzoate, potassium benzoate, and many other similar-sounding names. This acid is naturally occurring in many foods (especially berries), but is also used as a preservative and flavoring in many processed foods. Benzoic acid is a very common allergen though it is often used in “hypoallergenic” moisturizers. Benzoic acid is among the top five most common contact allergens in the world—hardly fit for people who have sensitive skin. When benzoic acid is combined with a hydroxide like sodium hydroxide or calcium hydroxide in a high heat environment, it can actually convert benzoic acid into benzene. Benzene is a potent carcinogen. For this reason it is a good idea to avoid personal care products that contain sodium hydroxide and products that contain benzoic acid.
- Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that is widely used as an exfoliant to benefit the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic acid are great for exfoliating, but unfortunately glycolic acid and other alphahydroxy acids are photosensitizing. Which means if the acid is on your skin and exposed to sunlight, it can cause damage to the DNA in your cells which can lead to the development of skin cancer and, of course, wrinkles. In fact, if you apply glycolic acid to the skin, go out in the sun and then take a biopsy of the sun-exposed skin, you will see what we call ‘sunburn cells’. Sunburn cells are cells that have completely abnormal looking nuclei–the part of the cell that contains all your DNA. So, this pretty much rules out the prudence of using alphahydroxy acid’s on your skin–it might make you look younger now, but in the long run it will make you age faster.
- Salicylic acid a beta-hydroxy acid that is FDA-approved for the treatment of acne. Salicylic acid is great for exfoliating skin, but it has two cons; the first is that it can be an allergen for some people and the second is that it has systemic toxicity when absorbed through the skin. The systemic toxicity, among other things, includes problems with the conduction of your heart. The first sign of systemic toxicity from salicylic acid is ringing in your ears. My first experience with this was with a patient who had chronic kidney disease who I met in my first year of practice. He applied salicylic acid to a wart on his foot and within an hour had ringing in his ears. When he washed it off the, the ringing went away. Even small amounts of salicylic acid can be dangerous for people who have problems with their heart, liver, or kidney. If you are healthy, it isn’t a problem as long as you are not applying it to large surface areas of your skin.
- Sorbic acid. Also called sodium or potassium sorbate, is an antifungal preservative used in many personal care products and foods. Sorbic acid. Sorbic acid is an effective anti-fungal agent. It is not carcinogenic but, unfortunately, it is a relatively common allergen. The type of allergy caused by sorbic acid is called contact urticaria—hives that appear upon coming in contact with the skin. Sorbic acid can also cause what we call ‘systemic contact dermatitis’ which is a form of eczema that can cover the entire body. Both topical or oral ingestion of sorbic acid can cause this problem.
After spending over three years experimenting with these acids and combination of the acids, I found that none of the above are ideal or can safely be applied to your entire body.
What I did find is a perfect combination of organic apple cider vinegar along with two other acids called gluconolactone and lactobionic acid. This is what led to my love affair with vinegar. Vinegar contains acetic acid. Acetic acid does not turn into an irritating salt on the skin, it is not carcinogenic, it is not photosensitizing and it is naturally antibacterial. Acetic acid has been shown to break down biofilm and to kill bacteria including MRSA and other forms of Staph. Acetic acid also kills P. acnes; the bacteria that causes acne—and it kills Candida albicans, the yeast that can cause problems on your skin, mouth, gut, and in the vagina.
Gluconolacctone and lactobionic acid are a type of acid called polyhydroxyacids. This group of acids is excellent at exfoliation but does not cause the irritation or the photosensitivity that glycolic acid or other alpha-hydroxy acids do. Polyhydroxyacids have been shown to repair your DNA after sun exposure and, in addition to this, they have been shown to prevent the loss of water from your skin. Polyhydroxy acids also have significant chelating effects—the ability to keep heavy metals off of your skin and the ability to balance your levels of calcium in the skin barrier—the key to perfect, natural exfoliation.
To experience the benefits of the perfect combination of organic apple cider vinegar and polyhdyroxy acids, check out the new patent-pending TrueCider serum–available now! And stay tuned for more TrueCider products that are coming soon!