Video: Why pH matters for AHAs and acids in skincare

Video: Why pH matters for AHAs and acids in skincare

I’ve been a little frustrated with what scientific concepts I can get through in words and crudely drawn illustrations on this here blog. When I teach at my day job, I do a lot of hand-waving, emphatic underlining, symbolic gesturing and smashing together of whiteboard markers, and not having the ability to show movement sometimes feels a bit like I …

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How to Mix an Aztec Clay Mask Without the Smell

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aztec-clay-citric-acid-1

Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay makes a great mask, but it’s alkaline so you need to mix it with apple cider vinegar to bring the clay to a skin-friendly pH. But then you slap it on your face and try to relax, but you can’t because all you can smell is vinegar. What can you do?

I was stuck with that conundrum, when I realised that there’s a safe, non-stinky acid you can buy at the supermarket: citric acid! Citric acid is used for baking, jams and making bath bombs. It comes as sugar-like crystals, and only costs a few dollars. It smells extremely mild, so you can do your mask and feel pampered and not like you’ve stuck your head into sauerkraut. It’s a win all round!

(Technically, citric acid is also an alpha and beta hydroxy acid and has nice effects on skin, but it doesn’t seem to be as effective as glycolic or lactic acids, and there’s only a tiny chance that it’ll do anything with the concentration, pH and application time we’re using.)

Recipe

I picked myself up a shaker of citric acid, did some calculations (skip to the bottom of the post for those) and played around with proportions. A ratio of 1:8 acid to clay worked well – that is, 1/8 tsp acid for 1 tsp of clay. I added enough water to get the consistency I wanted (about 1 tsp), and the final pH ended up as ~5. This recipe gives a pretty thin mask – double it if you prefer a thick layer.

I also tried 1:4 acid to clay (1/4 tsp acid mixed with 1 tsp clay), which gave a pH of 4-5. While it was OK going on, the mask stung a little by the time it was dry, though it didn’t leave the redness I usually get with 1:1 clay/ACV. My skin also looked particularly nice afterwards. If your skin is pretty resilient to acids (e.g. you’ve used chemical exfoliants a lot), you could perhaps cautiously try this stronger version out.

If you decide to try these recipes, please be cautious the first time you do it – either test the pH with strips, or patch test it behind your ear, or at least be ready to jump into the shower and wash it off your face immediately if you feel an unusual amount of irritation. It’s quite likely that our measuring methods and our ingredients are a bit different (different degrees of packed down, levelling scoops etc).

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New Cleansers from Jurlique, Skin Theory and Boots No 7

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There have been quite a few skincare launches in the past few months, and I’ve been busy trying out all the new cleansers! Jurlique have been around for a while, but Boots No 7 and Skin Theory are two brands which have just launched in Australia which is super exciting. Here’s what I thought of the cleansers: Jurlique Purely Age-Defying …

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The pHs of some AHA products

I have a little collection of AHA products now, and since I also have a bunch of pH strips lying around at home, I thought it’d be a good idea to test all the pHs out, since they’re pretty important when it comes to choosing an AHA, and companies rarely state what they are. If you can’t remember, this post …

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Make Your Own Soap! Part 2: Let’s Make Some Soap!

It’s the second part of my soap making post! Last time we looked at the chemistry behind soap making (also called saponification) – today we’re looking at how to actually make a bar of soap, using ingredients from the supermarket. From the previous chemistry post, we know that we’ll be mixing some oils with sodium hydroxide to form glycerin and …

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Make Your Own Soap! Part 1: The Chemistry Behind Soap Making

In the middle of teaching some high school students about the chemistry of soap-making, I realised that I really, really wanted to try making some soap myself and write about it here. My write-up ended up being really long, so I’ve made it a two-parter – Installment 1 is all about the chemistry, and Installment 2 is about the actual …

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Do pores really open? And all about thermal cleansers

I’ve recently started trying out thermal cleansers. These are special cleansers that heat up when you rub them on your skin and add water. What’s the point of them and how do they work? I’m glad you asked, hypothetical reader! Do pores open with heat? Heat makes muscles relax, while cold makes muscles contract (you may know this from treating …

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Fact-check: Why does pH matter for AHAs and BHAs?

Continuing on my pH and hydroxy acid kick, today’s Fact-check is on the influence of pH and alpha and beta hydroxy acids. Hold onto your hats for this one – it gets a bit technical – but hopefully I can translate it to something understandable. Further questions are welcome and I will try to answer them as best I can! …

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