If your skin is chronically dry, tight, and irritated, you may be the victim of a damaged skin barrier. And when we’re talking about the skin below your neck, bar soaps and other harsh body washes are Public Enemy Number One of your skin’s pH level: A crucial, but often overlooked, component of maintaining proper skin barrier function. The best pH-balanced body washes will help return your acid mantle to its ideal balance, resulting in calm, properly hydrated, and gently cleansed skin.
As you may recall from chem class (apologies for the flashbacks), pH scales measure the acidity or alkalinity of a substance. One is the most acidic, 14 is the most alkaline, and 7 (where water lies) is neutral. “The pH of your skin lies between 4.7 and 5.75, which is mildly acidic,” Dr. Morgan Rabach, board-certified dermatologist at LM Medical, tells Elite Daily. According to Dr. Rabach, that slightly acidic environment helps keep bacteria in check, aids moisture retention, and generally keeps your skin barrier in good working order. She says that using products with a high, alkaline pH — i.e., stripping body washes, which are most body washes out there — can compromise your skin barrier and allow harmful bacteria to make its way in, or cause an overgrowth of endogenous bacteria. In turn, that can trigger irritation and water loss, or skin conditions like rosacea, acne, and eczema.
It makes sense, then, that cleansers with a pH level equal or close to the skin’s are the most beneficial. (Cleansers that are marketed as “pH balanced” typically have a pH level of around 5.5.) These pH-balanced body washes tend to be free of synthetic fragrances, alcohols, and aggressive sulfates, which can strip your skin. Instead, they’re loaded with barrier-building ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid, and rely on gentle, plant-based surfactants to do the cleaning work.
Coddle your skin with the best pH-balanced cleansers for your body, listed ahead.
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1. The Best-Seller
This Puracy Body Wash gets wildly positive reviews on Amazon — it's been awarded over 5,000 thus far, to be precise. Customers with dry, sensitive skin confirm that the hypoallergenic formula leaves their skin feeling hydrated when they step out of the shower, rather than tight, itchy, and immediately craving a gallon of lotion. People also like that it works up into a lather, courtesy of moisturizing surfactants derived from coconuts — a great option if you feel strongly about suds. Natural fragrances are responsible for its light, citrusy scent.
2. The Drugstore One
PH-balanced body washes are still a little under the radar, but you can find some great ones from drugstore brands. Case in point: This pH-balancing face and body wash from Eucerin. It’s formulated specifically for dry skin, so it’s free of stripping agents like fragrances and dyes; and the mild, creamy texture leaves your skin feeling plush and comfy. It's a total failsafe. At about $9 for this big, 16.9-ounce bottle, it's a steal, too.
3. The Korean One
Atopalm is a go-to Korean brand for people with highly sensitive skin, or those contending with more severe skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea. This body wash is powered by the brand’s signature MLE technology, a patented blend of ceramides and fatty acids that mimic, repair, and protect the skin’s natural lipid barrier. Mild, coconut-derived surfactants cleanse your skin without stripping it of its natural oils (or throwing your pH out of whack), while a healthy dose of hyaluronic acid and panthenol work to attract and seal in moisture. This fragrance-free, hypoallergenic cleanser is even gentle enough for babies.
4. The One With Lavender
Luxuriate (safely, without harming your acid mantle) in a calming lavender aroma with this Tree To Tub body wash. This scent, along with their other fragranced body washes, is created using essential oils, rather than synthetic fragrance, so the formula retains a solid 5.5 pH level. They also contain soapberry juice, a tree fruit containing a surfactant that naturally creates a creamy lather — a genius replacement for harsh cleansing agents. Other botanical-inspired scents like Sunkissed Citrus and Awakening Peppermint are also available on Amazon. (There’s an unscented version, too.)
5. The One With Manuka Honey
Applied topically, Manuka honey is an incredible natural salve for treating inflammation, dryness, itchiness, and skin conditions triggered by bacteria, like acne and eczema. And since it boasts an acidic pH, it’ll help preserve your skin’s ideal pH level, too — hence why the miracle ingredient is the headliner in this pH-balanced Honeyskin Face & Body Cleanser. According to Amazon reviewers, the miracle works. One person reported that this cleanser tempered a persistent psoriasis flareup, and another wrote that it cleared their daughter’s delicate, acne-prone skin. This works wonderfully as a face cleanser, too.