Skin pH, while a hugely important topic for baby skin health, can be one of the least understood subject matters by new parents. This is a scenario where some of our most basic tenets of healthy body function can be overlooked due to the influence of popular marketing ideas, combined with a solid dose of parental fear when baby cries.
In a parent’s search for the perfect cleanser for baby’s skin, I often hear them focusing on wanting a tear free cleanser and reciting popular marketing claims like “no more tears™”. Whenever I hear this, I ask parents to consider shifting their focus from whether or not baby’s eyes will tear, to the bigger picture of eye and skin health – which largely comes down to pH.
The reasons it is important to maintain the ideal skin pH range from preventing serious skin infections to treating and avoiding unsightly and uncomfortable skin rashes. pH refers to the acid-base scale, with water and most internal body fluids – like the eye fluids – being at or near a pH of 7. Acids are low on the scale and bases are high on the scale. The ideal baby skin pH is slightly acidic at about 5.5.
Tear Free Cleansers and pH
Now, lets get down to brass tacks. Since the pH of eye fluids is about 7 and the pH of skin is about 5.5, doesn’t it make sense that when something slightly acidic (like a skin cleanser that is the correct pH of about 5.5) gets into the eye, the eye will water or tear? If we accidentally get a bit of wash or shampoo in baby’s eye, the absolute best outcome is for baby to experience some discomfort and cry. Tears are the natural, healthy body response to get a foreign substance out of the eye.
To be clear, baby’s wash should not hurt the eye physically or be unsafe or potentially damaging, but it should be felt and then rinsed if it gets in the eyes. Tears and blinking are our body’s solution to flushing the eye. For the skin to stay in balance with a strong barrier and a healthy, infection fighting surface, baby’s cleanser should have a pH of about 5.5 (slightly acidic) and should be rinsed out of the eyes when accidents happen. Instead of first asking if a cleanser is tear free, consider asking if it is pH balanced for skin.