How I learned not to hate high pH cleanser levels

The title says it all!  Several years ago, I was on the low pH bandwagon, not really knowing WHY, as I have used high pH cleansers since I was a wee girl.  Then I started to do a little research into it, and found that maybe it’s not something I really need to care about ~ that it isn’t the level that is the issue for me, but how the cleanser makes my skin feel. 

Disclaimer:  This is my personal research and also talking to my dermatologist, and I am by no means an expert.  Skincare and skin types are so personal and whereas I, with my naturally oily and healthy skin that is prone to hormonal acne, can use a high pH level without any fear, others cannot.  Those with dry skin, sensitive skin or skin that has been compromised so badly that it is apparent that you shouldn’t go near it.  If you are interested, please read on!  

Ahh yes, high pH cleansers. They get such a bad rap and I was even into this for a brief while until I realized that my dermatologist has prescribed high pH cleansers for me in the past ~ my doctors aren’t quacks, ignorant or know less than me.  And I cannot discount personal experience ~ for decades of my long life, I used high pH cleansers and my skin has not been irreparably damaged from a cleanser. I look at my mother’s skin (she of the bar soap)  ~ soft, glowing skin with age appropriate wrinkles.  Now that said, I won’t force a high pH cleanser down someone’s throat, but then again, I won’t automatically speak evil of it. Like all cleansers, low or high, I have to try it out first before I can say yeah or nay.   

The lovely blogger Sample Hime had a great blog post back in 2015, which has been archived now as she no longer runs a blog, but I did some screen shots here.

Japanese skincare blogger Ratzilla tweeted out a study that showed that the skin’s pH level was not significantly raised by with cleansers, regardless of the cleansers pH level. 

The long-term use of soap does not affect the pH-maintenance mechanism of human skin study by Yutaka Takagi at Josai University · Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Doctor of Medicine had more to say on this topic as well.

The pH at the surface of healthy human skin is around 5. Cleansing the skin with soap increases the pH of the skin, which then returns to a more acidic pH within a few hours. However, the effects of skin cleansing with soap over a long time on the pH regulatory system is still unclear.

We compared the pH of the skin between users of a soap-based cleanser and of a mild-acidic cleanser prior to and following the cleansing.

This study had two groups of subjects, one group who had used a soap-based cleanser for more than 5 years and the other group who had used a mild-acidic cleanser for more than 5 years. The pH on the inner forearm of each subject was measured prior to and for 6 h after cleansing with a soap bar.

There were no differences between the pH of the skin these two groups prior to cleansing, immediately after cleansing or in the pH recovery rate for 6 h. These results suggest that long-term continuous use of a soap-based cleanser does not affect the pH-maintaining mechanism of human skin. 


Handcrafted cold processed soaps are a huge culprit in the high pH level category. Cold processed soaps are produced through the saponification process. They are naturally alkaline and its pH level can range between 8.5 and 10.5.  However, from my research, and remember, I am not an expert,  that doesn’t necessarily mean it is harsh.  What makes a high pH soap harsh is something called “free alkali”, which is a leftover alkali solution that was used during the saponification process ~ excess alkaline that didn’t get removed after the soap making process.  Mass manufactured soap can have this problem.  This “free alkali” will take your natural oils in your skin and leave your skin dry and squeaky clean. If you face feels squeaky clean after cleansing, your soap is too harsh.  Quality handcrafted soap shouldn’t have this issue ~  A high pH organic handmade bar of soap can be safe so long it has a triglyceride and free fatty acid (FFA) content.  In other words, it comes down to ingredients and process.

There are times when I love a cleanser that by chance is low pH, such as Ciracle TeaTree Anti-Blemish  and hate it when it is low pH, such as cosRX Good Morning.   Same with high pH cleansers ~ some I love ~ Missha Fermentation Cleansing Foam in Citron and others I loathe ~ the reasons were not “high pH ~ curses!“, but for other reasons that made the cleanser a loser.  There will be people who have tried everything to help with their skin concerns and they turned to low pH cleansers for help ~ that I will not deny ~ that is what worked for them based on their skin needs.  Everyone’s skin care needs are different and I do not subscribe to “high pH is automatically bad“.

That is just my opinion, based on what I have used and works for me.  Reviews are to help you decide if this is a product that you wish to use or not.  It’s all copacetic and I don’t profess to be a skincare expert at all.  Now off my soapbox.   



2 thoughts on “How I learned not to hate high pH cleanser levels

  1. Thanks for bringing this up! I never thought about it this way. I have found 2 HG cleansers that I like and will stick to, one is low pH, the other one – I don’t actually know and thanks to you I can be ok not knowing. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.